Tag Archives: librarians

If I have an anatomy professor on the hiring committee, they may not be able to connect the dots between managing retail operations and providing front-line library services

Ruth Castillo is the Director of the Library at Emory & Henry College in Virginia. Prior to coming to Virginia, she was a library department head at another private university. 

In these roles, Ruth has chaired numerous librarian and library staff search committees and served on faculty and administrator search committees for positions outside of the library. 

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

I chair search committees for library positions at the college. For all types of positions, candidates must apply online with a resume/cv, cover letter, and references. For staff positions, the committee typically does in-person interviews with the top 2-3 candidates before making a decision. For librarian (faculty) positions, the committee does a video call first-round interview with the best 5-10 candidates then recommends 1-3 candidates for an on-campus interview day. The interview day involves 5-8 different interviews, meetings, and often a teaching demonstration and includes meetings with the Provost, the library staff, and the Faculty Hiring Committee. After the on-campus interviews, the search committee and the Faculty Hiring Committee make independent recommendations to the Provost who will make a final decision regarding offering the position.

Titles hired include: Technical Services Librarian, Technical Services Specialist, Technical Services Assistant, Health Sciences Librarian, Public Services Librarian, Circulation Assistant

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ A Committee or panel

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A whole day of interviews

√ A meal with hiring personnel

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

The most impressive candidates I have seen are all able to articulate why they want to join us and what they would bring to the library.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Coming to an interview and asking no substantive questions.

What do you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?

What the candidate needs to know to determine if this would be the job for them (salary, schedules, work/life balance, health care, moving to the community, etc).

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more

CV: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

Not doing their homework. If you don’t know where we’re located, what type of institution we are, and how big the library staff is before I talk to you, I assume you don’t have an interest in working here.

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

We do! The beginning of a virtual interview can be awkward, for everyone. A great way to overcome that is handling the basics, like making sure people can hear and see you okay.

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

Directly reference the job posting in the context of your experience. I intentionally look for these connections, but if I have an anatomy professor on the hiring committee, they may not be able to connect the dots between managing retail operations and providing front-line library services. Utilize cover letters and interviews as opportunities to make these types of connections.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: My institution does not allow us to post salary information. For staff hires, I provide salary and work schedules at the interview. For librarian (faculty) positions, it can be awkward to have that conversation during the interview with the committee present. I typically do a follow-up to the first interview with candidates we’re interested in bringing to campus that opens the door to discuss salary 1-1 before moving forward as a candidate.

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

All search committees are required to do training at the beginning of the search. We also use the same questions for all candidate interviews within a search.

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

What is the first challenge you would ask me to tackle in this position? How does this position fit into the strategic goals/plans of the library? When you started here, what surprised you the most about working here? What does communication within the library look like?

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Rural

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 0-10

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, Academic, Rural area, Southeastern US

You’d be surprised at how many candidates arrive for an on-site interview underprepared

John is currently the Head of Information Technology and Collections at Coastal Carolina University.  He has worked in academic library technology for over 30 years and is a former patent holder and co-founder of Journal Finder, the first OpenURL Resolver and knowledge base to go into production in the United States.  

Throughout his career, John has focused on identifying and implementing innovative uses of technology in the provision of library services, online user privacy protection, and improving the user experience for accessing online resources.  He is an active member of the Coalition for Seamless Access.

You may remember his answers to the survey What Should Candidates Learn in Library School and to the Further Questions feature. I appreciate his contributions!

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

We post the job ad, the committee reviews applicants and conducts on-site interviews.  We then make a final recommendation to the University Librarian, who then approves (typically pro forma).  If the position is in my department, I typically serve as the Chair of the Search Committee, but I sometimes serve as a search committee member on other searches.  

Titles hired include: Collection Strategies Librarian, Electronic Resources Librarian, Library Systems Administrator, Digital Initiatives Librarian, Web Development and Emerging Technologies Librarian, Head of Collection Management, etc.

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ CV

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ A whole day of interviews

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Other: Yes but only for yes/no minimum requirement questions; e.g., “do you have an MLIS,” or “do you have two years experience.  We don’t use this for other questions to avoid having qualified candidates unknowingly excluded from our applicant pool due to a wrong answer or system error.  

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

They obviously knew their stuff and didn’t inflate their knowledge and experience. As importantly, they were able to communicate this in a way that was specific to the position for which they were applying.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Doesn’t meet minimum requirements or has obviously written a boilerplate cover letter.  [Note:  any librarian with search committee experience can easily identify a generic cover letter that has obviously been written and submitted for numerous positions.  If an applicant doesn’t have the time to write a letter that speaks to their experience and knowledge for the advertised job and how the library would benefit from hiring them, then the search committee certainly isn’t interested in considering the application.  

What do you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?

How they’ll interact with their colleagues after 6-12 months on the job – after the honeymoon period is over.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

Resume: √ We don’t ask for this

CV: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

Overstating their knowledge or experience in their application package that they clearly can’t support in the phone or on-site interview. Also, you’d be surprised at how many candidates arrive for an on-site interview underprepared, have a negative attitude, and complain about their current place of employment and the people with whom they work.  Projecting a positive, solutions-based attitude goes a long way in impressing potential employers. 

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

Yes. I’d recommend dressing as if you were on-campus interviewing, and be just as animated and engaging. Virtual interviewees sometimes show up overly comfortable or just flat/disinterested.

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

For all candidates, take any knowledge and experience you’ve  learned along the way and translate its appropriateness to the job for which you’re applying in the cover letter. Simply listing a list of jobs you’ve held (in or outside the industry) w/o articulating how it speaks to the current position is of little benefit to the candidate.  For paraprofessionals, it’s important to get as much experience in as many operational areas of the library as possible.  Opportunities typically abound in their current places of employment to allow them to volunteer for time-limited projects in other departments, or to sit at the reference desk or teach one-shot library instruction classes.  Not only will that enhance one’s knowledge, but this strongly indicates a person who is motivated, takes initiative, and is willing to get outside of their comfort zone to make themselves a well-rounded librarian with a broad, marketable skill set.  

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ We only discuss after we’ve made an offer

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

DEI and EEO training.

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

Take the time to read a library’s strategic plan/mission statement, observe what library systems and platforms are in production, and what major initiatives are being undertaken.  This will enable the candidate to ask more intelligent, relevant questions about the job/library/university, and lets the search committee know that they took the time to prepare for the interview.  

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50

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Filed under 10-50 staff members, Academic, Southeastern US, Suburban area

Sometimes I fear they don’t know where we are located

Image: Bibliotecárias_nas_Biblioteca_Popular_de_Botafogo,_Rio_de_Janeiro,_1957 via Wikimedia Commons

This interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Assistant library director

Titles hired include:

Librarian. Library supervisors. Library aides. Library generalist. Lots of stuff.

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Other: Supervisor recommends, director has final approval.

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Online application

√ Supplemental Questions

√ More than one round of interviews

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

Review job post and supplemental questions to make sure we are presenting job well/getting info we need. Post/promote. Review applications. Phone screen top 5-10. Interview with 2 people 3-5. Final interview with director, more casual meeting with more stuff 1 or maybe 2. Call references. Sent to HR for hire, background check, etc.

What are your instant dealbreakers?

1) Incomplete application. Blow off online application and say stuff like “see resume”.

2) Lots of errors. I once had a candidate spell their own name wrong (multiple spellings of their name in application process)

3) Application and resume don’t match. Say you have 5+ years of customer service, doesn’t translate to anything you listed.

4) People who say stuff like “I want to work in a quiet and calm library because I love to read.”

What do you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?

If you live far away, acknowledge that and say, “I want to relocate.” Sometimes I fear they don’t know where we are located. Or they just want any job, not this job. Or not this location. Do you WANT to live in this state?? Do you understand the cost of living here? Does this region of the country interest you? Why are you even applying?

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more

CV: √ We don’t ask for this

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

They don’t come with questions for us. They haven’t even looked at our website to find out about us. Challenge me- ask why I like working here. Ask how we responded to COVID. Ask about our new building project. Ask about something that relates to the job. Ask to see your future work space. Ask me something!

Talking super negative about former employers. Think ahead about how you want to frame stuff. You know there will be some kind of questions that touches on your past work. If you don’t want to work for “a jerk”, try to ask questions that get to what matters to you. Ask what they do to try and help employees succeed. Ask what they do if an employee is struggling. Ask how they respect work /life balance. Interviewing is like dating. You don’t want to marry the wrong person as much as they don’t want to marry the wrong person.

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

We did for sure during COVID. And will for distance candidates for first round of interviews. They should still put in effort. Don’t wear a baseball cap and T-shirt (real example). I know it is not ideal or fair, but try to get a neutral background. Seeing a closed door right behind you is better than a messy kitchen. If we want a second interview we expect you to come in person. And I expect that you will be able to make an in person interview happen within a 2 week(ish) period. (See long distance applications issues above)

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

Work on tech skills. You don’t have to have a degree. You can learn excel from online stuff. Customer service experience is highly valued. If you have worked waiting tables you for sure can deal with someone fighting about a $0.10 fine. Don’t be afraid to lean in on those past experiences. I value those experiences. So should you!

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

Working on this. Have really been pushing staff about how they view (for example) education. If job calls for high school diploma or equivalent- that is either met or not met. You don’t get “extra points” for a college degree or masters. Very much trying to figure out how to get our job ads out to our diverse community. Would love article about this!

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

I address this above.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southwestern US

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50

Is there anything else you’d like to say, either to job hunters or to me, the survey author?

If no one is calling you, your application is probably boring or generic. You can set yourself apart by valuing your past experience and bragging on it. The only person who is there to tell me how awesome you are is YOU! You didn’t work as a waiter from 2015-2019 at Denny’s. You worked in the 15th busiest Denny’s in the state. You were promoted to shift manager. You talked your boss into getting a second soda machine. You regularly juggled up to 8 tables. You have a customer satisfaction rating of 4.4, which was the highest at that branch. Tell me how awesome you are!!

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Filed under 10-50 staff members, Public, Suburban area

I build opportunities to discuss failure into all of our interviews

Headshot of Christian Zabriskie. A kid sits on his shoulders reading a book

Christian Zabriskie is the Executive Director of the Onondaga County Public library that serves the City of Syracuse and supports 22 independent member libraries in Central NY. 

He is also the Executive Director of Urban Librarians Unite which he founded with business partner Lauren Comito in 2010. He and Lauren were Library Journal’s 2020 Librarians of the Year. 

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

We use Civil Service Lists to determine reachable candidates then interview based on resume from the list of candidates we are given.

Titles hired: Director of Communication, Programming Coordinator, Director of Operations

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

We use Civil Service Lists to determine reachable candidates then interview based on resume from the list of candidates we are given.

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

They exuded energy, were confident yet self-deprecating, and had a deep knowledge in the area that they wanted to use on a larger canvas…and had good ideas for what that looks like.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Finding fault in colleagues, I build opportunities to discuss failure into all of our interviews. If the applicant cannot see themselves in a failure but pushes it off onto teammates out of the block then they are not a good fit for our organization.

What do you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?

Their emotional intelligence

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!

Resume: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

CV: √ We don’t ask for this

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

Oversharing and not seeing space for personal growth.

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

No, but I am not opposed to them. Do NOT judge people on their backgrounds! I run a large multi-million dollar library, my background through most of the crisis was a mess of reports, papers, printouts, and maps. If you looked at it without knowing my background or work habits then it would look like I was a disorganized hoarder.

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

Speak to the work of the library at a level above the work they are doing now. Get past transactional definitions of the work.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

We work with the local office of diversity. We actively recruit as diverse a pool as is possible.

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

What are you looking for to move your organization forward? Referencing any 1-3 specific programs, locations, or collections that we have. I don’t care about the questions, I care about them doing the work to research our organization.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

√ Suburban

√ Rural

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 101-200

Is there anything else you’d like to say, either to job hunters or to me, the survey author?

Bring your brightest energy and passion to the interview. I look for “the bright spark”. I can train staff to do pretty much whatever they need to know to be successful but intellectual curiosity and an agile mind are the essential starting point. Probation is important, give us an idea of what it would be like to work with you not just in this moment but a decade from now.

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Filed under 100-200 staff members, Northeastern US, Public, Rural area, Suburban area, Urban area

Further Questions: How has COVID affected hiring and staffing at your organization?

Each week (or thereabouts) I will ask the same question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you’d like to be part of this group, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

This week’s question is:

How has COVID affected hiring and staffing at your organization? Were there any layoffs? Hiring freezes? Did staff participate in “the great resignation”? How many interviewee pets did you get to see on Zoom? Please share whatever you think might be interesting.

Jess Herzog, Director of Adult Services, Spartanburg County Public Libraries: No layoffs here, thankfully. We saw a lot of retirements and moving to greener pastures while we were in the depths of COVID. Our hours were limited through April 2021, and we were in a hiring pause through March 2021, but at that point we began to hire to replace the staff that had left. We’ve seen a ton of internal movement across the system since hiring restarted; lots of new MLS graduates filling spots left open by retirements, new branch head installments, and so on. We’re finally to the point where external hires are filling open positions instead of more internal movement overall, and that’s really great news for the system–I think fresh faces are always a benefit to the work we do. Unfortunately mostly for me, if anyone saw anyone else’s pets on Zoom, it was folks getting a view of my giant cat bombing across the screen!


Anonymous: We have lost most of our staff due to layoffs and attrition. It is difficult to hire even when positions are approved, as job-seekers are very sparse here. So I guess that means it’s a good time to be looking for a job!


Headshot of Laurie Phillips

Laurie Phillips, Interim Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: We did not have layoffs due to COVID. We did have one person who was furloughed because they had no possible work to do remotely. When they were meant to return, they didn’t understand that we would have reduced hours and that their new hours were not compatible with their other obligations. That person resigned and we were able to hire to replace them in that position, which would have been late night hours, if not for COVID. Once the desk reopened and our hours returned to normal in fall of 2021, that newly-hired person did not want to work the later hours. We were able to move money around and hire a nighttime desk staff member. It’s worked out very well because we rethought having a staff member in the building until 2am. We are open until 2am, but the desk closes at midnight. People who worked until 2am tended to burn out very quickly.

Our hiring freezes were lifted right before COVID, so we were able to move savings from retirements and resignations around and make new positions and hire in the past year. We didn’t have mass resignations, but we did have a couple people decide to retire due to the stresses of dealing with COVID, hybrid classes, etc. One person left because she could take a job based in another city and continue to work remotely. We have a lot more flexibility to work from home than we did pre-COVID, which has been great when we’ve had variant surges, or even weather events.

This past year, we were able to hire some wonderful library faculty and staff . We’ve hired great people and we’ve brought greater diversity to our organization, which is one of our organizational goals. During the national search for a librarian, we did see a cat or two. The interviewees were horrified, but we reassured them that we always want to see pets on Zoom, even in interviews. It’s just part of the nature of how these things go when you’re working or interviewing from home. My cat would want to be right with me, crawling around on tables, misbehaving, etc. while I was working, so she made many Zoom appearances. There were times when I would have to excuse myself to go get her out of trouble, but generally not while I was interviewing someone!

Now, most of the interviews that would have been over the phone, are conducted by Zoom. I would say to dress well from the shoulders up, check your lighting and technology, be sure audio and video are working and that your name is correct in Zoom, and use a background (or blur), if necessary.


Anonymous: Between March and June of the pandemic, I was hemorrhaging staff. Some of it was the great resignation and some of it was circumstances. In fact, the Board tried to hang the resignations on my neck, and even after they had “exit interviews” with the staff to see if they could get somebody to blame me, it still came down to…husband took job in California, working conditions during a plague, and poor pay, especially while endangering their lives. Board still decided to blister me about it, although I noted that after I left, they continued to lose staff. Isn’t that interesting? A couple of them quit after catching Covid-19, probably at work. It was a fascinating and, frankly, upsetting journey to go from the City Council passing a resolution of thanks and praise for putting together safe library services (e.g. curbside, virtual storyhour, etc.) in March to being the pandemic villain in July. I’d love to be a working librarian again, but never, ever a library director. Well, maybe not never, but there would have to be some understanding in a contract before I would touch it.

Anyway, we did some Zoom interviews. Never met any pets, but that would have been fun.


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: Here at Mason Library we have not done any hiring in about three years, predating the pandemic. The college has been facing some steep budget deficits and the pandemic exacerbated the situation. At the end of the last academic year we had given separation incentives to about 25 faculty and 50 staff and then another 18 or so faculty were retrenched (tenured faculty positions were eliminated and the faculty let go). The library has less than 50% of the staff we had in 2018. Two faculty and three staff left in this latest round.

The library has not had any additional resignations but the college continues to see people leave. There have been some staff and a few faculty hires. Those searches were completely virtual. I participated in a few and did not see pets, children, or stray adults during any interview sessions. I think one of my observations just confirms a trend out there which is that people are increasingly interested in whether flexible work schedules that include some remote work are possible. Ours is a public residential liberal arts campus where most staff worked remotely for 18 months. Our library never closed and there were four of us working there for that 18 months. But the college has been slow to address requests for remote work. I will be interested to see whether that affects our hiring success moving forward. In the meantime we are looking carefully at our staffing so we will be ready with our priorities when the college moves beyond our current fiscal challenges and we can rebuild.


Anonymous: Staffing was a major issue during 2020 and 2021 and not just because of COVID. Prior to COVID University budget issues caused a number of staff to be moved from 12 month contracts to 10. One staff position was also lost. Then COVID hit. With the exception of the end of spring and summer 2020, the library remained open with only rotating skeleton crews in the building while others worked from home. This gave us time to work on projects that could be done anywhere. We also have a very large online Nursing and Education programs which also could be supported from anywhere.

The staff returned to the building as budget cuts continued. Another staff position was lost and two Technical Services librarians decided to leave. Both were from the Midwest and decided that they’d rather return home.

Staffing had been reduced to the point that the administration realized that the two librarian positions had to be replaced in order to support the mission of the library and hiring was expedited. While the candidate pool was of a decent size, there were fewer qualified applicants than we anticipated. We did our typical number of phone interviews, although we switched to Zoom for these. All the candidates were very professional in these Zoom calls – no pets. We decided that Zoom was a much better format for these interviews and will only do Zoom in the future.

We invited five candidates to the campus for onsite interviews. Two of these dropped out at this point which was a first for us. Both indicated that they had other offers closer to where they currently resided. The three remaining candidates, all excellent librarians, were brought to campus to interview. Another dropped out citing that they decided not to leave their current position – another first for us.

Offers were made to the two remaining candidates and both accepted, and are doing very well.

The final pool of applicants were interesting. Smaller than we usually have, but all highly qualified. What we took from this process was that really good applicants will enter searches, but are now choosier in taking positions. They have a greater degree of freedom in deciding where they want to be, and are only going to move if they determine that a position will enhance their careers and wellbeing.

This search also showed us that we had to really work harder in selling ourselves to the candidates. We always did a good job at this, but we quickly learned that we can’t take anything for granted and had to up our game in showing candidates why they wanted to come work for us.

We are still adjusting to the loss of the support staff positions. This did cause us to shorten library hours.


Jimmie Epling, Director, Darlington County Library System

How has COVID affected hiring and staffing at your organization? The Library was closed for periods during the period from March 2020 through January 2021. During that time, some positions were not promptly filled. The closings provided an opportunity to review our real staffing needs. The duties of those open positions during this period were reviewed and changes made that impacted the number of positions needed.

Were there any layoffs? No. Early in the COVID pandemic closing, staff were paid in the belief the closing would be for only a very short period of time. When it became obvious we would be closed for an indeterminate period of time, efforts were made to find work for the staff that could not work remotely so that there would not be a reason to lay off staff due to a lack of work. Hiring freezes? No.

Did staff participate in “the great resignation”? While “the Great Resignation” and “the Great Regret” may turn out to be more media hype than reality, staff did leave during this period for a variety of reasons. Those reasons cited by staff that left our library ranged from the personal, family issues, to the economic, needing a full time job with benefits. If “the Great Resignation” revolved around the desire to find a new job more to the individual’s liking, one would believe there would be an increase in the number of applicants for openings at the library. That proved NOT to be the case. Like so many businesses and organizations, we continue to encounter a shortage of applicants for our openings, leaving us all wondering where did they all go?

How many interviewee pets did you get to see on Zoom? We did not conduct any interviews via ZOOM.


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College:

How has COVID affected hiring and staffing at your organization? A great deal. We began to conduct any and all interviews as completely online experiences and ended up having to finish our spring 2020 in-progress pre-pandemic searches in an online mode. In fact, in summer of 2020, we hired two people (one faculty librarian and one Senior Library Assistant) completely online, then started them whereupon they worked for almost a year until we returned to some in-person services with reduced hours but full services fall of 2021. The hybrid – some online, some in-person training for our materials pick up service that so many libraries offered – had to be handled completely differently for these new “virtual only” hires and ultimately most of the overall training, all mentoring, and most meet and greets, etc. were online…and btw, wonderful hires!

Now, we can have interviews in-person or a combination of online and in-person; however, we are staying with all online probably until fall 2022. Partly because – as so many have discovered with online interviews – for even part of the interview process – broadens the field, increasing EDI opportunities and for vetting longer lists of applicants into finalists. Also, the teaching segment of the hiring process for our faculty librarian or Head Librarians/faculty is challenging and very helpful in determining the successful candidate as we continue to support our own instruction sessions both on demand online in multiple formats as well as in person.

Were there any layoffs? No, we retained all employees and for the first year – and for some employees throughout the pandemic – we kept all of our hourly employees with some employment even though they might be doing other things or had reduced hours of work. As an aside, I remained concerned – as I kept up with our profession and many other work environments – that I often saw the most vulnerable employees – our hourlies with no benefits – used to staff the frontlines during the worst of the pandemic. We avoided that when possible, but when necessary we provided all PPE and had greatly changed working conditions to try to safeguard staff members health and reduce areas of concern.

Hiring freezes? Did staff participate in “the great resignation”? No freezes, but I ended up with a number of openings I am filling now. These vacancies were due to primarily retirements, but also someone went to a better and higher level job and ultimately one and possibly two went to online-only jobs outside the profession. So although we didn’t have a job freeze during the pandemic, critical positions had to be justified “on paper” and submitted for vetting to the college Administration for their case-by-case approval.

How many interviewee pets did you get to see on Zoom? Far fewer interviewees actually showed pets or had pets interrupt them on screen. In fact during this past time period, none that I can think of although in one interview we HEARD constant howling and barking and am assuming that was a pet! He apologized once – which was all that was needed and we never mentioned it and it never interfered with his exchanges.

Anything else? What did surprise me were the backgrounds people used or didn’t use. Thought must be put into where you “are” for interviewing and the best bet people have is to use backgrounds available through the software you are using to avoid either downloads or applications not working or not working on some browsers or in some online software products . BUT – for interviews – no French cafes, or driveways with RV’s or cartoon underwater scenes. Instead, interviewees should choose colors with depths indicated so no flat spaces or 1. walls with simple artwork, 2. a business center, 3. a generic workplace office or 4. the “home office” with shelves of books. I must admit; however, I loved the Oval Office background someone used as well as a lovely, simple boutique hotel lobby with individual desk and chair. I also don’t like and find distracting most if not all blurred backgrounds and – because I am guilty of it myself – I don’t like looking into someone in front of a window (glare) and – while I understand most people do NOT have a sophisticated home office – a blank background is preferred over a bedroom with an unmade bed or open closet doors, or the ever-present exercise machine used for hanging clothes. Finally, avoid garages, basements with low ceilings and coffee shop backgrounds either real or “imagined.”

The obvious thing I should end with is; however, if you are being forced to end up with something like a blurred background or a coffee shop because that was all that was available to you, apologize, state you had no choice and drop it. Ultimately, those interviewing you should understand that – in many cases – you are not currently employed and have limitations and few opportunities to pick the “perfect setting.” One of the least expensive enhancements for online discussions is the ring light…and the 15 or 20 dollar one work perfectly and enhance spaces – making almost any environment “work” or look better.


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He gave one of the best untrained booktalks that I’ve ever seen

Jess is the Director of Adult Services at Spartanburg County Public Libraries, where she started as a page 13 years ago. Jess has planned and facilitated hundreds of programs including dozens of author events, offered reader’s advisory services to thousands of readers, and has even managed to squeeze reading a book or two into the process.

When she’s not at the library, Jess can be found riding her horse, Max, or rapidly downing a small bag of Cheez-Its.

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

Our process is usually a four step test for candidates: the application, pre-employment testing, a live interview, and credit/background/reference check. I am involved in the review of applications and one of the interviewers, along with my Assistant Director. The pre-employment testing is computerized and administered by HR; it’s required for all applicants before an interview as an equalizing test of knowledge. My AD and I are responsible for selecting a top applicant after interviews, but we can (and often do) request input from our hiring specialist, who sits in on all interviews with us.

Titles hired include: Assistant Director of Multimedia & Fiction, Media Assistant, Multimedia & Fiction Assistant

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Proof of degree (if applying for an MLIS-required position)

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc) (my department usually requests a program idea)

√ Other: Paper application (we’re working on getting it online)

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

One of our recent hires came into the interview a few minutes late, which had dropped him a few points for all of us. But once he was in the room, I was really struck by his personality and his ability to take things in stride: from the jump he explained how he navigated the unexpected traffic jam he was stuck in to get to the library more quickly, and he was open, honest and expansive with his responses to our questions. One of my favorite interview prompts is “tell us what you’re watching right now and why we should watch it too”, and he gave one of the best untrained booktalks that I’ve ever seen. His passion and enthusiasm for the show (Ozark) clearly came through, and that’s a standard that I now hold other applicants to. (He’s proven to be a great employee!)

This was before I was in a position that included hiring responsibilities, but one weekend I was working the desk and a patron came in and asked my coworker and I a ton of questions about what we did–the environment, what our responsibilities were, and so on. It turned out that she was interviewing that Monday for a job in our department. I was really impressed that she came in on a Saturday to talk face to face with possible future coworkers, and she asked really thoughtful questions. My coworker and I told our supervisor about it, and she was impressed too, and ultimately, this candidate ended up getting the job.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Total lack of personality, including sense of humor. It might seem weird, but it’s essential when working with patrons to have a sense of humor. Being late without warning or not showing up is a big dealbreaker. And although it isn’t INSTANT, it’s hard work for an applicant to overcome “I love to read” as an answer for why they want to work in my department.

What do you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?

Their true capacity for providing extensive customer service over a long period of time. That’s something we really only learn once someone is in the environment.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more

Resume: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

CV: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

Assuming that we read at work and that the environment is quiet! We also very often talk to candidates who have never been to a program as an adult or perhaps have never really even used the library. They know nothing about what we offer. Learn what we have available before you walk into the interview! If you work at a library, the patrons think you’re a librarian, no matter what degree you have, so show that you’re ready for that by researching the place where you want to work before you’re in the environment.

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

As needed, yes. Sometimes candidates live pretty far away or have a medical issue pop up at the last minute, and we try to accommodate that. It’s usually over Skype or Zoom, and of course the environment is subpar. I always, always recommend to anyone applying for any job, but especially via virtual means: let your personality shine through. We can teach you how to use the ILS and the difference between HDMI and XLR, but I cannot teach you to have a good personality and an ability to let things roll off your back. Be expansive with your answers, and try to make the interview into more of a conversation. That’s especially helpful virtually, where the back and forth can be painfully stilted.

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

Think really hard and really broad about how your experience CAN be relevant. For example, I majored in Latin (and my parents still hold that one over my head). I never thought that my knowledge of Latin would amount to anything in the public library setting, but I’ve been sent multiple patrons over the years for reader’s advisory help because no one else knows what to give someone who just read Edith Hamilton’s Mythology. Similarly, I wanted to be an architect as a kid, and I ended up harnessing my drafting skills to design miniature houses that patrons could put together and decorate for the holidays, which came to be an immensely popular program.

I can’t speak for other library types, but in public libraries (or at least MY public library), we will really work with you to harness your passions and turn them into something for our patrons. Virtually anything you do that could be considered “project management” (like planning a wedding, a trip, or a big move), “data analysis” (tracking your personal budget, extensive healthcare paperwork, or tracking your car mileage), or “customer service” (helping your partner’s mother with a TV input issue, looking for a good book for a friend, or making cold calls for a local nonprofit) can all be spun into something relevant to library work.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

Well, we’re a southern library in a fairly conservative area, so we’re working uphill on this. But we are working on it.

Hiring staff have all gone through training regarding bias in the interview process, and that was helpful for me, especially when it comes to communicating about bias. My AD and I work very hard to reflect on our biases and openly call them out on ourselves and each other during the deliberation process. We are both operating through the lens of managing all of the past staff we’ve managed and we have to be V-E-R-Y careful about putting those biases into context.

I also try to show at least one of my tattoos in the interview setting and my AD has purple hair, so I’m hoping that is a signal that we are stylistically speaking a more open, accommodating and relaxed atmosphere.

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

Please, for the love of all things great and small: ask us SOMETHING. You’re interviewing us as much as we are interviewing you, and not asking any questions is a signal to me that you aren’t thinking analytically about the role, the organization, or your future supervisors.

I think it’s always a good idea to ask about our benefits package–we say on our postings that we have an excellent benefits package, but not what it entails, so that’s a gimme. I like when staff ask what a typical day looks like for the position, and what parameters are for success in the role. Asking questions about our strategic plan is nice too, because it means they know we have a strategic plan in the first place. A candidate of yore asked what the library’s ultimate relationship with the community was and how we worked toward that, which was a very smart question that showed that the candidate was thinking about how to make the library work within the larger scope of our county.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Other: Urban city and rural county

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ Other: Currently, 189, but on a fully-staffed day, we have 229. (One branch is closed for rebuilding, and we have a lot of open positions right now.)

Is there anything else you’d like to say, either to job hunters or to me, the survey author?

For the job hunters: Don’t give up. The jobs are out here. You’re going to have to LOOK for them, though, and look beyond the typical places. There are a lot of libraries hiring right now, but not all the jobs end up on the ALA Joblist or other big sites (some of them require that libraries pay to post their positions, and we don’t all have the money for it). Do some digging, research libraries in multiple areas, and go to their actual websites. 

For the survey author: So glad you’re bringing HL back. I’m very happy to see this resource return in full force; it’s been helpful to me as an applicant time and time again, and I’m happy to return the favor by sharing info from my perspective as a hiring manager now that I’m in that part of my career.

Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not trying commenting or sharing? Or are you somebody who hires Library, Archives or other LIS workers? Please consider giving your own opinion by filling out the survey here.

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LGBTQ+ status. There aren’t enough of us in the field and we need more diversity.

Image: Librarian Working in the Stacks, 1950s,
Duke University Archives
on Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Director

Titles hired: Circulation clerk, maintenance and programming librarian

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

Department managers hire with my oversight. I hire positions outside of departments (maintenance, It, etc.) and managers. I run background checks as well.

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

Breadth of experience, passion for their work and strong interpersonal skills.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Unwillingness to change, grow and learn. Bigotry.

What do you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?

LGBTQ+ status. There aren’t enough of us in the field and we need more diversity.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more

Resume: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

CV: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

Treating the interview as a test rather than a conversation.

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

I have not personally. When I was the one interviewing, I was struck by the fact that not only do you have to present yourself as professional, but your surroundings as well. Furnishing my room with photos and bookshelves to show up on camera was an odd experience.

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

I am of the belief that most, if not all work can be considered relevant at the library. The advice I would give is that getting hired outside of your field (public to academic libraries, especially) is honestly about making the right connections. Rub shoulders and make friends as best you can.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

Personally, I always try to take the whole of applicant experiences, be they career, culture, identity or anything else. I encourage staff to see the full story of the people they hire. Discrimination can still unfortunately bleed in as we don’t know people’s full experiences if they don’t open up about them, so certain negative points are attributed to their personality and manner when they might be struggling with mental health issues, neurodivergency and other factors that aren’t transparent. The best we can do is keep an open mind and try to see the best in people.

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

Ask about the community. Ask about the big projects and dreams of the library you’re applying to. Ask how you can bring your passions to bear in the service to your work. Stand out and make yourself known for exactly who you are. I want applicants to know that they are cherished for their unique skills and gifts and that we strive to be a team and empower workers to help shape the direction of their workplace.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Midwestern US

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 0-10

Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not trying commenting or sharing? Or are you somebody who hires Library, Archives or other LIS workers? Please consider giving your own opinion by filling out the survey here.

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, Midwestern US, Public, Urban area

Stats and Graphs: Quick and Dirty Results

TL;DR We need more responses from folks who hire in school and special libraries, archives, and for non-library LIS workers. If you have contacts in those areas, will you please help spread the word? People who do hiring can fill out the survey here. I also welcome ideas for places that I can post a call for responses.

Hi! It’s Staturday! Welcome to a Stats and Graphs post, in which I examine survey responses through stats and graphs!

The survey that I am calling Return to Hiring Librarians opened on March 25th, 2022. As of today, April 2nd, 2022, we have 145 responses. They are primarily from folks who hire in Public and Academic Libraries. There are 23 questions in the survey. 13 are open-ended and 10 are closed-ended. Of the closed-ended questions, only one measures an opinion (How many pages should a ___ be?). The others are primarily demographics but do also ask for things like when salary information is first shared and what materials/tasks are asked for in the application and interview process.

I hope you have found, and will continue to find, the individual responses interesting and useful. I’m very interested in any feedback or observations you might have. You can communicate with me here via comment, on Twitter @HiringLib, or by email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

Thanks for reading!


Chart of responses to What type of organizations do you hire for? Responses detailed in post text

What type of organization(s) do you hire for? (Check all that apply)

145 responses

Academic Library 48 (33.1%)

Archives 14 (9.7%)

Public Library 82 (56.6%)

School Library 1 (.7%)

Special Library 7 (4.8%)

Other 8 (5.5%)

Chart of responses to Who makes hiring decisions at your organization? Responses detailed in post text

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization? (Check all that apply)

145 Responses

HR 31 (21.4%)

Library Administration 85 (58.6%)

The position’s supervisor 96 (66.2%)

A Committee or panel 81 (55.9%)

Employee’s at the position’s same level (on a committee or otherwise) 24 (16.6%)

Other 21 (14.5%)

Chart of responses to Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates? Responses detailed in post text

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates? (Check all that apply)

145 responses

Online application 108 (74.5%)

Cover Letter 98 67.6%)

Resume 101 (69.7%)

CV 43 (29.7%)

References 124 (85.5%)

Proof of degree 44 (30.3%)

Supplemental Questions 42 (29%)

Written Exam 8 (5.5%)

Oral Exam/Structured Interview 53 (36.6%)

Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc.) 56 (38.6%)

More than one round of interviews 29 (20%)

A meal with hiring personnel 22 (15.2%)

Other 20 (13.8%)

Chart of responses to Does your organization use automated application screening? Responses detailed in post text

Does your organization use automated application screening?

144 responses

Yes 23 16%

No 110 76.4%

Other 11 7.6%

Chart of responses to How many pages should each of these documents be? Responses detailed in text that follows image

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter – “Only one!” followed by “Two is ok, but no more”

Resume – “As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant” followed by “Two is ok, but no more”

CV – “As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant” followed by “We don’t ask for this”

Chart of responses to When does your organization first provide salary information? Responses detailed in text that follows image

When does your organization first provide salary information?

145 responses

It’s part of the job ad 104 (71.7%)

We only discuss after we’ve made an offer 14 (9.7%)

It’s part of the information provided at the interview 6 (4.1%)

Other 21 (14.5%)

Chart of responses to What part of the world are you in? Responses detailed in text that follows image
What part of the world are you in?

144 responses

Midwestern US 32 (22.2%)

Northeastern US 32 (22.2%)

Southeastern US 25 (17.4%)

Western US 21 (14.6%)

Southwestern US 14 (9.7%)

Canada 7 (4.9%)

Australia/New Zealand 5 (3.5%)

UK 1 (0.7%)

Other 7 (4.9%)

Chart of responses to What's your region like? Responses detailed in text that follows image

What’s your region like? (Check all that apply)

144 responses

Urban 61 (42.4%)

Suburban 74 (51.4%)

Rural 36 (25%)

Other 10 (6.9%)

Chart of responses to Is your workplace remote/virtual? Responses detailed in text that follows image

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

145 responses

Never or not anymore 70 (48.3%)

Some of the time and/or in some positions 64 (44.1%)

Always 1 (.7%)

Other 10 (6.9%)

Chart of responses to How many staff members are at your organization? Responses detailed in text that follows image

How many staff members are at your organization?

143 responses

11-50 56 (39.2%)

51-100 24 (16.8%)

101-200 24 (16.8%)

201+ 18 (12.6%)

0-10 16 (11.2%)

Other 5 (3.4%)


That’s it for now!

As I say above, I really welcome your comments and feedback.

I would also be very grateful if you could help spread the call for survey responses, especially to folks who do hiring in special libraries, archives, and for non-library LIS workers. If you have contacts in those areas, will you please help spread the word? People who do hiring can fill out the survey here.

Oh also – if you like this kind of thing you might be interested in this effort to collect information about academic job negotiations. Check it out!

Your Pal,

Emily

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, Stats and Graphs

Please wear all your clothes (pants, too!)

Librarian Marie Bracey and another woman look at a book at a circulation desk
Image: Librarian,_Marie_Bracey,_1952, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Director

Titles hired include: All of them from Page to Associate Director

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ Employees at the position’s same level (on a panel or otherwise)

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Online application

√ More than one round of interviews

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

I place an ad in the local paper and on indeed. From applications a pool of applicants is selected. The Manager who will be supervising the new hire and I as director meet and discuss. Interviews are set. The same questions are asked of each interviewee. Depending on the position, a second interview may be set. All candidates receive an interview or letter letting them know the status of the position. Those who were interviewed always get a call in addition whether they were hired or not.

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

They seemed together and organized, not desperate. They asked questions when they did not understand something. That is not to say they were not nervous. I have had extremely nervous candidates do very well in interviews.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

People who are not really interested in the job they are interviewing for.

What do you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?

Actually, part of the reason I usually have two or more people in on the interview is staff sees things I don’t or confirms what I notice. And when a manager makes a call, I let them try someone out–unless I feel very strongly to the contrary. I have a few new managers here, and they need to make supported mistakes.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ We don’t ask for this

Resume: √ We don’t ask for this

CV: √ We don’t ask for this

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

Being late or talking too much–rambling.

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

Yes. I’m horribly not judgmental about this. However, try and look as groomed as you would in a regular face to face, please wear all your clothes (pants, too!) and have a plain wall, a potted plant, books, or something behind you. Keep the tv or radio off–housemates (and pets) out of the room. I only say thins because these are my mistakes. I have interviewed people who have rolled out of bed (literally–in their bedroom) and hired them after a second interview because we saw something valuable to the community there.

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

Know your computer experience–what systems did you work with. What did they do? Did you train people on them. Did you work in retail or customer service? How did you interact with the public? Are you organized. How? Are you familiar with any filing systems? Do you use your library? How? Are you familiar with its shelving system, online catalog, e-materials, anything else it offers? Other work translates well to the library, and we need people from the public sector who understand accounting, marketing, computers, and the like. Be willing to continue your education. I have worked with pages who are now MLS YA librarians, programmers, IT specialists. Managers who have come from marketing and admin assistant positions. All very capable. Several who began as shelvers. I try and cover some of their schooling if I can. Many of them are the next library generation. I need them to be successful here, and go on if necessary to spread the good word.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

We interview anyone qualified. My biggest issues in staffing are people who are retired and looking for part time work (which unfortunately has not worked out in the recent past) and those who think that a rural city is like any other, and do not enjoy living here. I’ll take all comers, they have to accept the place for what it is.

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

What’s the best thing about working here? What is the work environment like? Other than specific duties and hours which are frequently discussed during the interview.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Other: Northern Great Lakes (which sometimes feels like the end of everywhere)

What’s your region like? (Check all that apply)

√ Other: It is a Rural City. 90 miles from the next rural city, but the biggest place with a variety of big box stores (other than Walmart)

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50

Author’s note: Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not try commenting or sharing? Or are you somebody who hires Library, Archives or other LIS workers? Please consider giving your own opinion by filling out the survey here.

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 10-50 staff members, Public, Rural area

Further Questions: What is your final piece of advice for Hiring Librarians readers?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

What is your final piece of advice for Hiring Librarians readers?

Laurie PhillipsThe most important piece of advice I have is probably what I answered to the very first question. Answer the ad! Address the specific qualifications that the library is looking for in that position. If you aren’t sure if you directly meet the qualifications, find something that you can say that shows you have the skills to meet that qualification, even if it’s not in a library. Sell the fact that you meet the specifications of the position. If you can’t sell it, don’t apply. I recently applied for an administrative position and, in my phone interview, I asked what interested them about my particular qualifications. I expected something completely different as an answer, but they said, “you fully answered the ad.” Wow, at that level, I would expect it to be obvious. It should be obvious for anyone from recent grads to seasoned professionals.

– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

Celia RabinowitzMy final piece of advice for Hiring Librarians has two parts.  First, stay optimistic!!  I know that’s easy to say for someone with a job who is closer to retirement than I am to my first job.  I see how stressful the job search is these days, and how the market is changing, but I want to believe the right job is there for you (or else I have been watching too much “X-Files”).  It might not be the first, or even second, job, but it’s there and everything you do can help you be ready for it.

Second, when that dream job is there on the horizon, be READY!  Write a cover letter that stands out.  Tell your future coworkers what you love about the library and institution, and why you think you are the right candidate for the job.  Take advantage of mentors who offer to read your cover letter and CV.  We want to help!

Good luck.  Being a librarian is the best job ever!!
– Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH

Jessica OlinLast piece of advice is that you need to remember advice is that old stand by: your mileage may vary. Job hunting is an evolving thing and what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow, but you’ve got to keep on trying. Oh, and don’t forget: always have someone proofread and/or edit your application materials. Good luck!

– Jessica Olin, Director of Parker Library, Wesley College

index_slide01My final piece of advice for hiring is relatively simple, yet I find that MANY applicants don’t practice this approach. AND to make it easier to put this in practice — let me state what the simple answer is and then list those things that provide evidence.
Advice
Convince me that you want me to hire you for the specific position posted….rather than applying for a position because you want ANY position.
That being said – employers realize that not every job is not your perfect match …and when you apply for and get interviews for multiple positions we realize that it would be hard and in some ways dishonest to try to convince employers that all three different jobs are each your dream job! So here’s what you don’t do and what you do!
…..Don’t…….
  • Don’t turn in identical applications for multiple jobs at one time. Make your cover letters unique to each job but be honest and say you are applying for all – want to work for the organization (or the boss or the type of library, etc.) in general  – and you have competencies or experience for each and then state what is unique about “you” for each job.
  • Don’t turn in identical applications for jobs advertised at different times. Organizations can ask you if you want your application kept on file and submitted for any open position and although that is fine to do, you need to make sure you provide some unique information so watch those postings and make sure you refresh each package by – as stated above: making your cover letters unique; being honest and saying you are applying for several positions or that you have applied before and why such as you want to work for the organization (or the boss or the type of library, etc.)
  • Don’t think that people don’t remember answers to questions – that is – be careful how you prepare for package your answers so that you come prepared but not unimaginative or too exact in your answer. It’s also okay to reference one previous interview when answering questions for another…that is – you can say you prepared answers for a “mission statement question” but you have updated your information (read articles, talked to librarians, etc.) and you have now broadened your thoughts and answer.
  • Don’t ask questions like “How fast you can apply for another job when it comes open?” (and yes, I have been asked that) or – nicer but still inappropriate – “How long must someone stay in one job before they apply for another?” or “When another position is available must they apply again or can they transfer into it?”
…..Do……
  • Study the job description. If you don’t know what terms mean or you aren’t sure – make sure you check for definitions and examples – either in general in the professional literature, on other library websites or on the organization’s website.
  • Thoroughly review the organization’s website…and not just the organization’s website but the umbrella institution’s web environment. This search may yield good information (do their mission statements resemble each other) or may offer opportunities to ask questions.
  • Choose a journal from the professional literature that is centric to your specific type-of-library and search once year’s worth of table of contents to get an idea of overarching topics.
  • Choose a journal from the professional literature that is centric to your specific type-of-library and search once year’s worth of editorials and opinion pieces as well as any letters from members…. to get an idea of classic and contemporary issues.
  • Review the programs offered in ALA’s conference programming for this type of library and review the programs offered at the state and/or local or regional level association by type of library. These reviews offer you ideas of trends in this area of the profession.
  • Review social media environments re: this type of library.
  • Review architectural awards at the national level re: this type of library.
  • If you can’t visit the library in advance or if you are applying for a general position and the location isn’t specific – do a general web search of the library.
  • Search the professional literature and the general web for information about the staff (managers, middle managers, librarians, other employees, etc.) to see if there are publications, general PR, association leadership, community leadership, etc.
  • Answer honestly. If you don’t have all of the position requirements and they are interviewing you anyway, they are signaling they can substitute some of your information for what is required. …so you might speculate on what those substitutions are – and if you can – ask in advance what “counts.”
  • Be ready with your questions…bring them in writing.
  • Take quick notes during the interview…. especially if you know you will keep applying to that organization.
And the best of luck!
– Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College

 

Emily WeakSo, I don’t really hire librarians, although I’ve been on a few interview panels.  But I did spend the last few years interviewing hundreds of people who hire librarians.  Part of the reason I did so was because I was tired of hearing very authoritative hiring advice from single voices – the truth of the matter is that there are all kinds of people who hire librarians, and they have all kinds of opinions on what candidates should or should not do.

My main advice is: if the advice you’re receiving doesn’t let you be you, then disregard it.  If it feels weird, disregard it.  If the person dispensing it seems to be a pompous d-bag, disregard it.  There is no such thing as an authority on library hiring.  Feel free to ignore every piece of advice you receive.  People get jobs in all kinds of ways.   And there are all kinds of jobs. Find the ones that are best for you and try to articulate as clearly as possible why you would do real well in them.  Go for quality of applications rather than quantity.

One of the most insidious tyrannies in library hiring advice is the concept of professionalism.  Professional is a totally subjective and almost entirely meaningless concept.  It means “wear a suit” to one hiring librarian and “make sure your jeans are clean” to another.  And in a more sinister aspect, it is a code that is a real barrier to diversifying our monocultural field (yes, I mean white white white.  And female. And middle class. And ableist.)   Is an afro encompassed in professional dress?  A sari?  Or to think about something other than clothes, what if you have a learning disability that means you often misspell things in emails?  Is that “unprofessional”?  What if you didn’t get a chance to grow up with professional parents correcting your behavior and etiquette and molding you into an acceptably “professional” human being?  Professional is just a language.  Learn it, but you don’t need to live it. And stamp all over it when you can.

The other problematic concept is “fit”.  On one hand, “fit” is a great concept for figuring out if someone will do well within the specific culture of a workplace.  On the other hand, if

“fit” means “just like everybody else who works here,”  then there we are with our monocultural profession again.  In 2014, 87.1% of ALA members were white.  How can we hope to provide inclusive service to all the members of our community if people of color are so spectacularly under-represented behind the reference desk? This is my advice to people hiring: move beyond fit.  Cast your net wider.  Allow the center of your organization to shift as you invite different kinds of people in.  Is librarianship a dying profession?  It might be, if we continue to be a brigade of nice white ladies.

My final bit of advice, to job hunters and hiring librarians, is to be kind to yourselves and each other.  Job hunting and hiring are stressful.  Kindness goes a long way.  Set yourself up for small successes, and celebrate them.  Take breaks.  Get out in the sunshine.  Enjoy life beyond hiring librarians.

– Emily Weak, Ex-Blogger, Hiring Librarians
Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight!

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