Tag Archives: librarians

Further Questions: Does a candidate’s social media presence ever influence your hiring decisions?

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

A lot of the interaction I get with blog readers nowadays has been on Twitter, and with all the upheaval (in other words, the terrible new owner) I’m exploring other options such as Mastodon. This leads me to this week’s question:

Does a candidate’s social media presence ever influence your hiring decisions? Do you Google applicants, or look through Twitter or LinkedIn, etc? Any hair-raising stories or do you think it’s not something for people to worry about?


Jimmie Epling, Director, Darlington County Library System: Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, TikTok, and other social media sites have allowed us to, in a sense, share ourselves freely with the world. By making such information readily available to the public, you should expect it to be examined as part of the hiring process.

Social media technology has allowed all of us to share ourselves with others in ways not possible a few decades ago. There is no ethical dilemma I can see as the information was made available by the candidate for anyone to see. The burden is on the candidate to control their social media presence and content.

What you discover in a search could solidify your decision to interview or not interview a candidate. You never know what you will discover about a candidate.

A candidate for a high level position in a library I worked for submitted an application in which the candidate indicated current employment in a particular management position. When a routine look at that library’s website revealed the individual was not employed by that library, a red flag was raised. Further investigation, via a Google search, revealed a single reference noting this individual was employed in the top leadership role in a library in the recent past. That job was not included on the applicant’s application or resume. A second, and more serious, red flag was raised.

Because that candidate had all the proper credentials on paper, an interview was offered. Knowing about the previous, unnoted job going into the interview, the candidate was asked some questions in such a way the candidate realized we knew of the job. The candidate then admitted that as we knew about the short stint, six months, at that job, “this is what happened.” When the candidate’s references were called, it was revealed the candidate wasn’t totally candid.

The lesson learned here was, “yes, sometimes jobs just don’t work out.” Many have gone into a job only to leave after a short time, going on to success in another job. My advice to a candidate is don’t try to hide a previous job, hobby, activity, or belief in this age of Google and social media because it will likely be discovered and come out in an interview resulting in an awkward moment when you have to explain it on the fly. Interview situations like this do no end well for the candidate.


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: The HR department at my college is very clear in instructing search committees not to look for job candidates’ social media presence. Obviously that doesn’t mean people don’t ignore the instructions and check anyway. I’ll admit that I don’t think I have ever checked on the Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any other social media presence of a candidate. I’m just not that interested. Of those, a peek at Twitter might be the most tempting. It (for now) is the most open. People opt in to follow without any gatekeeping so anyone with an account knows they can be read or followed by anyone they don’t block. But really I’m not sure it’s the best use of my time when considering candidates.

I’d like to be able to say it’s not something people should be concerned about but I am not sure that’s true. Which is why it is probably a good idea to have a policy or practice in place of not checking social media for candidates. I don’t want to read their diary and I’m really not interested in what they had for dinner last night or where they went to party last weekend.


Anonymous: As a library director, I almost never checked somebody’s casual social media presence unless there was something really in my face. We all make mistakes when talking to friends and I never felt it was relevant. I would, from time to time, look at a Linked-In profile in case there was a detail that might be illustrative. It never, to my memory, disqualified anybody.

There was one time, however, that was outside of librarianship. I am on the Alumni Board of my Alma Mater. We had voted to give a “Young Alumni Citation” to  who we thought was a deserving recent grad. I hadn’t heard of this gentleman and I wasn’t on the committee for that award. So I did a quick Google Search to satisfy my curiosity. I was certain that I would read of great things that would be a credit to our college. That day there were headlines in the local paper that he had been arrested for defrauding the city he worked for. We quickly withdrew the award. At least he hadn’t been notified of the award yet.

Protip: Don’t steal from your employer.


Anonymous: I don’t think a person’s social media presence (unless it has some murder-y, rape-y, or blatantly hateful stuff to it) should matter or influence anyone’s hiring decision. This all looks good in writing, but who is to say that I wouldn’t look someone up on Linkedin or FB/Insta/Tweeter/TikTok/ETC.

I mean if one is posting to social media and their accounts are not private, I say it is totally acceptable.

At my first library job someone discovered that I was in a bunch of rock bands. I was not hiding it, nor had I left it behind; it just wasn’t something I wanted to bring up to my new colleagues. Some folks gave me grief about it.  There is nothing on social media that I am aware of that I care if people see. I think that to use social media (even LinkedIn) one must have their thesis statement, thought process, intention, whatever you want to call so that the way you are represented works for them. My kid is very sophisticated with the way they use social media. Nothing is put up without consideration and they are very aware of what they support or criticize. I was in college when FB became a thing and I watched people expose themselves to this faceless platform and share painful and embarrassing secrets to whomever they had “friended.” 

If there is something upsetting about the candidate then maybe it does matter. But maybe it doesn’t matter if there is a drunk photo of them at a college party from 9 years ago. 

Personally a candidates social media presence has never been an issue, even the (over) 40 student workers that I have hired in my tenure as a librarian. 


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

Does a candidate’s social media presence ever influence your hiring decisions? 

Speaking as a Dean and as a college manager who abides by the college’s hiring guidelines, we do not include a social media search be conducted in the vetting process or during the committee process as part of the vetting or hiring decisions. AND – a social media presence absolutely does NOT and has not – for me as Dean or for me as an individual committee member – contributed to any final decisions.

Do you Google applicants, or look through Twitter or LinkedIn, etc? 

I do review the application and resume content closely (obviously)… AND if I have questions I can’t answer, I will do a more thorough web search to find answers if at all possible. Examples:

  • I visit any links on the applicant’s resume or application (ex. blog, websites, an organization’s website they may reference.)
  • I compare titles if they are unclear – by going to – if there is one – their current place of employment.
  • I try to – if there is a question in my mind and I require supervision for the position – see if anything is in the resume, etc. specifically says the person/their position supervises people and – if possible – how many. (If I can’t tell, and it is required, we will email to ask a possible candidate if and if so how many people they supervised (ex. signed timesheets.)
  • If a candidate’s email address does not indicate their name in any way, I will try to match the email addresses to make sure the content I am looking at is for the specific candidate. 
  • Although professional association activity is not required, it might be important for aspects of our position such as leadership experience, project management, training, etc. so I might look to see if a membership also includes activity.
  • Although publication is not required, I will read any publications based on citations or links on an applicant’s resume. 

If selection committee members wish to share information about an applicant with me or the committee, I typically ask them to wait until we are through with our first round of interviews. I also ask them to – if at possible – limit their information to content that will help us match a candidate to the job. 

Any hair-raising stories or do you think it’s not something for people to worry about?

Not for our hiring processes, no!  


We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, over at Mastodon @hiringlibrarians@glammr.us, on Twitter @HiringLib, or via old fashioned postal mail. If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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Can’t remember a wow yet.

Rivington Street, line waiting for easy books, 1923: Librarian holds up book and those who want it raise their hands. NYPL Digital Collections.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: Technical Services Manager

Titles hired include: Technical Processor, Paraprofessional Cataloger, Library Receiving Processor, Bindery Associate

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ The position’s supervisor 

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

√ Online application

 √ References

√ Proof of degree

√ 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:

As manager I:

1. Decide on posting position and update job description if necessary.

1a. Create screening and interview questions.

2. Review applications.

3. Screen applicants by phone.

4. Conduct in-person interviews.

5. Make final decision.

6. Offer position.

7. Complete hiring paperwork for HR to do their background check.

7. Schedule start date.

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

Can’t remember a wow yet. Very good candidates were able to explain intellectual freedom and to have questions ready to ask about the role and the library.

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

Nothing. 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

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

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?

Only saying what they think the interviewer wants to hear. 

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

We don’t for these positions.

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?

Having that direct experience myself coming into the library, I am cognizant that non-library experience can translate well into libraryland, it is just a matter of nomenclature and environment.

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?

HR is working on updating gendered language to neutral language in Job descriptions and policies. HR is also retraining and working closely with managers on avoiding hiring bias. Stories abound of managers using home addresses to decide if a person lives too far from the job location or what kind of neighborhood the applicant lives in.

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

What does retention look like in the department/branch? What is positive about the library? What is the library working on for the community?

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Midwestern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

√ Suburban

√ Rural 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 201+ 

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 200+ staff members, Midwestern US, Public, Rural area, Suburban area, Urban area

About a Decade Later: Former Job Hunter George Bergstrom

Back in 2012/2013 I ran a survey of job hunters (co-authored by Naomi House of INALJ). It had over 500 responses, including 117 people who were at least initially willing to be non-anonymous. In this series, we check in with these respondents to see where they are about a decade later. 

George Bergstrom filled out the original survey in 2013 and his answers appeared as Doing the Research. At the time, he was a part time Instruction Librarian and Adjunct Instructor and had been looking for full time work for more than 18 months. We followed up with him in 2014 and found that he was still looking for full time work, but had slowed his search due to having multiple part time jobs. 

When I checked in with him recently I learned that he is currently working in professional development at his State library. He was kind enough to answer my questions below:

Where are you now? What’s your work situation like, and what path did you take to get where you are?

My current role is Southwest Regional Coordinator, Professional Development Office – Indiana State Library. I assist any library in my region of the state with professional development and other statewide services. All public libraries have to engage with myself and the other coordinators (since there are certification statutes in state law) and academic and school libraries can choose to engage with us. I also work with the correctional institutions in my region to provide services to the inmates. Since the last interview I have worked at a private for-profit university as well as the transition to working for the state library.

Were any parts of your journey completely unexpected?
My time at the for-profit was a bit unexpected. For the first few years it felt very similar to both my past experiences in public and academic libraries, and it was different from my perceptions of what for-profits are like before I began working there. It was smaller (only five locations in two cities) and family owned/run, but after the first few years I began to notice/experience some of the negatives of the for-profit side of the industry. On the positive side I did gain experience in working with using games in education, which prompted me to join ALA GameRT and I am now the president-elect for the roundtable.

Looking over your past answers, what pops out at you? Has anything changed?
I noticed one of the questions asked about salary listings in job ads, which seems to be an issue that is again in the job hunting zeitgeist. I still feel that these should be required, especially as I again begin to contemplate a new job search. In the past I had been unwilling/unable to move, but I am now very interested in moving and not knowing the salary range makes it a big gamble to apply for a job that might not pay enough to justify the move.
 

Have you had a chance to hire anyone? If so, what was that like?
While at my previous job (for-profit, academic) I was on a few search committees. This allowed me to work with a group of colleagues to do the initial review of applicants and make recommendations on which candidates to move to the next phase of the interview process. This is an interesting experience as it allows some input without having the responsibility of making the hiring decision. Knowing who this side of the hiring equation works has provided some valuable insights for my on job searches. It has helped reinforce the importance of customizing both resume/CV and cover letter to best match the position applying for.

Do you have any advice for job hunters?
As always, do as much research as you can about each position. Learn what you can about the library, the unit/department (if the library/system is large enough to have units), the larger institution the library is within (university or the like) if applicable, and any of the coworkers/possible supervisors. Knowing what they already do can help you position your skills and abilities within their situation and explain how you would benefit their institution. Now even more than 10 years ago, you will also want to research the area you might be working (city, region, state, etc.) to make sure you will feel comfortable in this new location. It may be a great job, but if you won’t feel comfortable in that location then ultimately you may not be successful. Work-life balance is very important and should be considered when job hunting.

Do you have any advice for people who hire LIS folks?
Same advice as last time, please communicate as much as you can with your candidate pool. Let them know when you are reviewing, let them know if they have made that first cut, and let them know after all interviews are complete as well as if they were selected or not.
 

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If I put my pen down and stop taking notes, don’t talk for five more minutes.

Photograph of Card Catalog in Central Search Room. National Archives.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: Branch Manager

Titles hired include: Librarian, Associate, Materials Handler, Manager

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor 

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

√ Online application

√ References 

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Other: We did in the past but it wasn’t equitable with hiring so we have turned it off and am reviewing every application. 

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

Post position, review applications, send out SparkHire interviews, review SparkHires, email for in-person, offer position. Depending on my role in hiring, I would be organizing the entire process or stepping in at reviewing and/or in-person. 

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

Cover letter stated experience in their natural voice and fully answered questions in the in-person interviews – and I mean tying the answer back to an experience they had and how it relates. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

For a professional position, no cover letter. In interviews, rambling while not answering questions. If I put my pen down and stop taking notes, don’t talk for five more minutes. 

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

Honesty. Let’s say the schedule is set and they are “Yep, can work that” and then after hired want changes. 

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?

Not answering the question completely!!!

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

We do if location is an issue. Job hunters should know that technical difficulties happen and to not let it fluster them. We expect it and can work through it but can’t work through you getting thrown off. 

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?

Customer service experience is a huge plus. I have hired staff with zero library experience but customer service experience because the skills are transferrable. I am looking for someone kind. Library skills can be taught but kindness and patience cannot. 

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 require “education OR similar experience.” Getting a degree can be a barrier which is why we look at every application. 

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

They should ask about the team and environment. What they can expect with training. How they will be evaluated. I’ve offered people that I have offered the position to to talk with my staff for an honest view as me as a supervisor. Job seekers know they will be happy in a position so interview the hiring manager. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Midwestern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Urban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100 

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

How important it is to attach a cover letter and explain how your skills would be a good fit with my position. And insert personality. 

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, 50-100 staff members, Midwestern US, Public, Urban area

About a Decade Later: Former Job Hunter Mark Hall

headshot of Mark Hall. He has brown hair and beard, and wears a maroon shirt with suspenders.

Back in 2012/2013 I ran a survey of job hunters (co-authored by Naomi House of INALJ). It had over 500 responses, including 117 people who were at least initially willing to be non-anonymous. In this series, we check in with these respondents to see where they are about a decade later. 

Mark Hall filled out the original survey in 2014 and his answers appeared as At this point, I’m leaning towards blood sacrifice. He was working as a Library Service Specialist and had been looking for positions which better suited his MLIS for about 18 months. 

Mark is still in libraries, and has found that librarian title in a new location. He was kind enough to answer my questions below. 

Where are you now? 

I have since changed cities, working for a public library as an Adult Services Librarian/Assistant Manager, under the job title “Librarian II”. For a time at Houston Public Library, I was one of three degreed librarians in my branch working as “Library Service Specialists”… essentially, non-degreed librarians, working on a non-leadership track, for a lot less money. For 2017 and most of 2018, I worked in the Pasadena Public Library as the Teen Services Librarian, but left that and eventually came here in September of 2018. I’m now at my second branch in the system; the new one was much closer to home.

Were any parts of my journey unexpected? 

Pretty much all of it. In 2014, I assumed that getting a degree in Library Science would allow me to move up in HPL, my organization at the time. I left HPL because they were unwilling to promote from within; as mentioned, we had 3 of us getting underpaid for Librarian work, with Librarian credentials. Pasadena was a poor fit; incredibly long commute, and a system that did not support professionals, nor acknowledge infrastructure and demographic changes (i.e. they stopped having busses to get kids from the high schools, and cheaper internet meant fewer kids drawn there after school). My new city was hiring, however.

Was blood sacrifice actually necessary?

On the advice of my attorneys, I am invoking my 5th amendment rights against testimony that may incriminate me.

Looking over your past answers, what pops out at you? Has anything changed? 

I don’t think much has changed. I’ve said for years that librarianship is, in many ways, a gerontocracy… It’s the kind of job you can do into your 80s if your mind stays sharp, and so getting a new job is pretty much a matter of waiting for someone to die… or get hired elsewhere. One thing I did not note was how big of a place governmentjobs.com played in my application process… I know I was reluctant to apply somewhere I had to fill out a paper application and mail it in.

Have you had a chance to hire anyone? If so, what was that like?

I’ve been involved in a couple interview panels; you read your assigned questions (assigned within a group, in a round-robin situation), and make notes, then collaborate with the panel as to who should be hired, and why, and by whom. Since we’re a good sized city, it’s a matter of doing an interview then making a recommendation, rather than direct hire. Also, as a city, all of the salaries are relatively accessible; jobs have a job code, which corresponds to a salary range.

Do you have any advice for job hunters?

You want an r-selected strategy… throw out TONS of resumes and applications for any library job that meets your needs. Most will not get back to you. Don’t be afraid to talk about your accomplishments and hobbies in “professional” language… there’s nothing wrong with calling D&D an exercise in strategy, tactics, and logistics. When they ask about experience, interpret broadly if the requirement is 3 years or less. Worked as a sub? That’s education. Take some kids to the library while subbing? Shoot, that’s some library experience. Your purpose is to get to the interview.

Do you have any advice for people who hire LIS folks?

Be honest about experience requirements and salary. We may like the work, but we’re here for the money.  While salary codes are great, numbers talk better. Realize that some people are going to be entry-level, with little experience. Promote from within; I know it means you then need to fill the vacant slot but, for fucks’ sake, your internal hires know the system, and promoting from within breeds loyalty.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

  • Join a union. Public Library work is usually municipal, and a union will protect and promote you. 
  • Make sure to know your policies, and where they bend and where they break. 
  • Never piss off your city’s fiscal department.
  • Document the fuck out of everything you do; when reviews come around, be able to say “I ran this program and collaborated on these things.”  
  •  Don’t kill yourself for work; there’s a job posting next week if you do. 
  • Don’t tug on Superman’s cape. 
  • Don’t spit into the wind. 
  • Develop strong opinions about one or more parts of the Dewey Decimal System; I love that 973 is often code for the US, even in other sections (i.e cookbooks are 641.5973 if they’re about American cuisine), and think the 200s need to be aggressively reorganized, no matter the manpower cost. 
  • Don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger
  • Have a signature program that works everywhere; mine is D&D. 
  • If you’re a public librarian, remember that is ALL of the public. If you think you can’t put books on the shelf about trans people, if you’re not willing to look for diverse fiction, go fuck yourself, and find a church library to rot in. You have no place in public libraries, and everyone else makes fun of you.
  • It is impossible to be moral and a Republican (or Tory, or insert-your-country’s-ethnofascist-party here).
  • Always smile at babies and wave. Not only is it good practice and makes them happy, it makes parents happy, and they’re the ones who vote and write glowing reviews to your supervisors.

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How’s the Math Now? Looking at the lack of library job growth over the last decade

Back when I was first writing Hiring Librarians, and a very early career librarian myself, I had some anxiety that there wouldn’t be enough librarian  jobs for all the people who wanted librarian jobs. I wrote a couple posts, Tell Me My Math is Wrong, Because I Don’t Like These Numbers in 2012 and Library Jobs Math in 2014, exploring some of the available statistics. It didn’t look good to me – it looked like we were turning out too many graduates for the rate of growth, even considering that the boomers were supposed to be retiring and creating a librarian shortage (there was also supposed to be a shortage of sea captains, according to Forbes).

Now that I’m back at the blog and it’s about ten years later, I’m curious how things have shaken out. So, I thought I’d take a look at some of the statistical sources to see what’s changed. 

The change in predicted rate of growth.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides some key information for potential future librarians in its Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), and it is the source I used for predicted job growth. The predicted growth rate for librarians and Library Media Specialists was 7% for 2012-2022, compared to growth rate for all occupations predicted at 11%. 

Today, the growth rate for librarians and library media specialists is predicted to be 6% for 2021-2031.1 The growth of the job market for all occupations is expected to be 5%. So our current growth rate is lower than was previously predicted, but closer to the total for all occupations (and in proportion to the total for all occupations, the rate of growth has shrunk less).

Was the 7% growth prediction accurate? 

It doesn’t seem like it. 

In 2014 I reported on the number of librarians listed on the statistical chart entitled Employed persons by detailed occupation and age, 2013 annual averages (data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey). The number was 194,000. 

In 2021 the chart Employed persons by detailed occupation and age, 2021 annual averages (data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey) lists the number of librarians as 158,000.

194,000 minus today’s number of 158,000 equals 36,000 fewer librarian jobs.

That’s a loss of 18.55%.

Before we all freak out, let’s look at another source to compare. The BLS’ OOH actually has different numbers. When I went looking to find out why these numbers differ, an ALA generated PDF told me that:

“The data represented in the OOH comes from the Occupational Employment Statistics Survey. The semiannual mail survey of 200,000 employers gathers employment estimates and wages. The Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey (CPS) provide the number of librarians, including age ranges, as self-reported in interviews of a sample of 60,000 households in 754 sample areas.”

Thanks, ALA!

The OOH tells us that in 2021 there were 138,400 librarians and library media specialists. In 2012 the OOH told us there were 148,400. So that is only 10,000 fewer librarians, and a loss of 6.7%. Not as bad. Note I’m also not measuring the same time period – this is all pretty rough. 

Let’s look at another source. The AFL-CIO put together a 2021 Fact Sheet entitled Library Professionals: Facts & Figures. Using data from the  U.S. Census Bureau. Current Population Survey Microdata. 2020, they say

“Cumulative employment among librarians, library technicians, and library assistants dropped severely in 2020 to 264,270, down from 308,000 in 2019. This is most likely due to the widespread health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the vast majority of libraries to close for at least part of the year. Before the pandemic, employment of professionals had been gradually declining after hitting a peak of 394,900 in 2006.”

So yeah. We most likely did not grow 7% since I last looked in 2014.

Ok, are we still graduating too many librarians?

Data USA tells us that in 2020 there were 4,965 Masters degrees awarded in Library Science in the US. Library Journal also has some numbers. Their current Placements & Salaries survey used data from 34 of the 58 US-based ALA accredited library schools and they “reported that LIS master’s degrees were bestowed on 4,931 graduates, a 9 percent increase over 2020.”

In my 2014 post I used the Library Journal number, which was 6,184. I’m unable to backtrack to their survey methods for that year (2013), but it looks like they gathered data from 41 schools. So, maybe we’re getting fewer graduates or maybe it’s just that they looked at fewer schools in 2021. It’s hard to compare.

The Data USA site does tell us that the number of library degrees awarded (all degrees, not just Masters) is declining by 5%. It is unclear what time period they are referencing. This number apparently “includes STEM majors.”

So the number of librarians has declined, but rate we are minting new grads is also declining…

Let’s do a brief dive into that number of librarians leaving the profession. 

I’ll just take a look at the extensive research that’s been done there.

Ok, not a lot has been done. I looked through the LISTA database and couldn’t find much. Then I checked my work on Twitter and had some good conversations about why this is a difficult subject to research, possible places to draw numbers from, anecdotal evidence, and a skosh of actual research. 

What about those boomers? Are they retiring?

We can do some speculation there. In 2014 I looked at the number of librarians who were aged 55-64, the number of librarians who were 65 and older and then mathed out a few possible scenarios in terms of number of retirements. 

The Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population survey breaks down librarians by age group. The current survey (2021) tells us 20,000 librarians are in the age group 65 years and older (12.6% of total) and an additional 40,000 are between the ages of 55 and 64 (25.3% of total).2

In 2013 there were 194,000 librarians reported in this survey; 17,000 were 65 and older (8.76% of total) and 53,000 librarians were between the ages of 55 and 64 (27.3% of total).

There are 10,000 fewer librarians aged 55 and over than there were when we last checked.

So, some of those boomers did retire! Or maybe they left for high paying corporate jobs, who can say?

This is kind of interesting. Let’s look at both the 55 to 64 age group and the 65 and over age group in aggregate. In 2013, 36% of librarians were 55 and over. In the current survey, 37.9% are 55 and older.

So, given that there are 10,000 fewer librarians over 55, but they represent a slightly higher percent of the total librarian population, could it be that those retiring boomers were not replaced?

In Conclusion

I look at the number of 36,000 fewer librarians and I am alarmed.

But, the math here is pretty fuzzy. I am not a statistician or a data wonk, so please feel free to tell me what I’ve muddled up.

Considering causes, we certainly lost librarians due to COVID related reasons, or great resignation related reasons, or any number of the-last-few-years-have-really-made-folks-make-drastic-changes reasons. And those positions might be replaced when things are more stable. I know the position I left at a public library in January 2021 has only now, in October 2022, been filled. PLA’s recent Public Library Staff and Diversity Report notes that “More than a quarter (27%) of all public libraries report they lost staff positions in the prior 12 months. City (32.7%) and suburban (33.2%) libraries were slightly more likely to have lost staff positions than town/rural libraries (21.1%).” This seems to indicate that a significant portion of the loss I’m seeing over the last 8 years may have been concentrated in the last 12 months. 

So maybe there’s a reason to temper my alarm?

There’s another aspect of the MLIS degree holders versus jobs equation that I don’t think I’ve paid enough attention to: some people graduate with their MLIS never intending to work in a library. Data USA tells us that only 35.5% of Library Science graduates go on to work as Librarians and Media Collection Specialists, although this number does include undergraduate degrees and PhDs. So the loss of librarians doesn’t necessarily translate into disappointed, unemployed library grads. 

There’s a lot that’s unclear for me in the forecast. While I do think that the BLS’ prediction of 7% growth the last decade turned out to be bunkum, they are professionals, and they might end up being right about the next decade.  

Footnotes

  1. Note that if you remove Library Media Specialists and look instead at job growth for Librarians, Curators and Archivists, the growth rate is only 4%.
  2. Compare with all occupations: 6.6% are 65 years and older and 16.9% are between the ages of 55 and 64.

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Know yourself and your service philosophy.

Fifteenth Annual Institute on Preservation and Administration of Archives. National Archives.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: Children’s Services Librarian 

Titles hired include: Library Assistant, Librarian, Assistant Director, Director

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

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ Other: Depends on position.  Professional positions require resume and cover letter, non professional online application, demonstration if skill will be regular or main focus of position.

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

Online application, review of applications, interviews, hire or repost.  I have helped whittle down applications for coworkers, sat on interview committees, and been in charge of the entire process from posting position to hiring decision.

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

They knew what organization they were interviewing for, it was obvious they had done their homework, and were prepared.  Showed passion and how their service philosophy aligned with organizational philosophy.  Not afraid to show personality, they were genuine.  Could relate past experience to position interviewing for.  Were curious and asked good questions.  

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Show need to follow rules to the letter, no flexibility, no empathy.  We used to have a question about a five cent fine (before we went fine free).  If the person must collect the fine at all costs because it was a rule and were not able to waive the fine even with permission/prodding, deal breaker.

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: √ We don’t ask for this  

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

Not being prepared.  I don’t mean having an idea of what questions will be asked and having perfect answers.  I mean knowing even a little bit about the organization and the position.  Not being themselves and saying what they think the interviewer/s want to hear.

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

We have in the past and will do so if needed.  Not sure how to answer this question.  Being willing to do a video interview over a phone interview is helpful.  

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?

Lots of different types/range of previous experience can be relevant or helpful in a library setting, especially customer service.  Show willingness to learn.  Be able to see and articulate the connections.  Know yourself and your service philosophy.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: Salary Range in job ad, specific salary with job offer

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

Not advertising open positions outside of traditional avenues to reach a wider candidate pool.  

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 organizational culture.  This can be helpful in learning if the organization is a place they want to work.  Ask why people on the interview panel like to work for the organization or why not.  What is a typical day like for the person in the position. Whatever is important to them and will help them make a decision about whether the organization is a good fit for them.  

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southwestern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Other: Not a suburb but not rural.  

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

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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Neurodiversity and physical ability aren’t even on people’s radars as indicators of diversity.

Photograph of the Visit of Mrs. Gladys Sheriff, Librarian of Fourah Bay College, University College, Freetown, Sierra Leone, to the National Archives, 7/23/1964. National Archives

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: Department Head

Titles hired include: Most positions don’t have titles, just profiles

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor

√ Other:  Department head (who is usually the supervisor for the position).

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

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ Other:  It depends. We usually have one round of interviews; two if there are 2+ good candidates. The second round will come with an assignment. 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

See comment under #5 (Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?). The hiring process is somewhat simple and structured and governed by policy. The writing of the job description and getting approval from the director is a long, less structured process.

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

Having a good cover letter, honestly. And in the cover letter, demonstrating that they’ve done a close reading of the job description and have a clear understanding of what the job entails. So few applicants do that – it makes the ones who do really stand out. Also, this has meant, in the majority of cases, a smooth transition into the new function – not to mention a good interview with a concrete foundation. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Maybe this makes me a jerk, but at the application stage, poorly formatted or unusually formatted resumes/CVs can be deal breakers (and by ‘unusual’, I don’t mean like the amazing comic resume/CV one candidate submitted).

Reason 1: I want my team to have good teammates. My team specializes in information and data literacy, which includes presenting info and data clearly and with/within certain professional standards. So, to me, the format alone already gives some indication about whether the applicant is at the expected level – and in some cases, if they are tech or information literate themselves. 

Reason 2: We process, review and respond to every single application ‘by hand’ so anything that makes a resume or CV harder to read and get through (like dates in weird places, inconsistent or odd formatting or fonts, missing email addresses, etc.) means it can get overlooked in favor of those without issues. 

That said, a good cover letter and some enthusiasm will almost always win the day.

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

If they’re going to drop out after getting tenure and/or make things harder for the rest of the team.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

Resume: √ Only One!  

CV: √ Two is ok, but no more 

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

Being too nervous or putting too much pressure on themselves to do everything ‘right’. I’m just trying to have a conversation to get to know the candidate & I’m not trying to trick anyone or pull any gotcha moves. I want to know who the candidate is and how they think and what they want from the job. I want to see if there’s a connection and if we can work together.

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

Yes! I’m not sure, honestly. 

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?

There are at least two levels for me here. 

#1 is organizational awareness or sensitivity or understanding of working in a large or complex organization. One interviewee talked about her experience organizing a volunteer event with the city, but she forgot to inform an important party about something and ended up causing some hurt feelings and mistrust. She was able to resolve things but learned a lot of lessons about stakeholders and hierarchies. Her example was convincing and worked for me.

#2 is content knowledge. This is a little trickier, perhaps. I’d be convinced by someone demonstrating some research and/or asking good questions. For example, one fresh graduate from a non-library program asked which information literacy framework we followed and then drew upon her experiences as a student to connect to the job description and tasks. “After I saw the framework, I thought back on the library skills training we did as freshmen and I realized how well the training fit with the framework. I never knew!”

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 are required by policy to have diverse interview teams (usually 3-4 people in any interview process). ‘Diverse’ has very little meaning here as 95% of the library staff are white and local to the region. A ‘diverse’ interview team generally means we have to have men + women, preferably from departments outside of our own. Neurodiversity and physical ability aren’t even on people’s radars as indicators of diversity. Strangely, LGBTQ+ people are so accepted as to be almost invisible, hence the return to man + woman as indicators.

Discrimination is still crazy. In one application round, we had a fantastic application from someone who grew up in Vietnam. He had an amazing cover letter, too. My former boss said, “Guess we’ll have to pass on this one.” I asked why. He said, “You know how they are. No respect for women. We already have enough turmoil in the department.” (The turmoil being me, the first new employee in 10+ years, and an immigrant to boot.) After picking apart his weak ‘argument’, I took the issue to HR. 

In what contexts does discrimination still exist? Well, that ^. Also in what I wrote above about semi-dismissing messy resumes/CVs. We could very well be rejecting good candidates who just don’t know how things work here (not that we get many applications from people from diverse or international backgrounds), even with lax language requirements.

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

Ask me anything! It’s important to know that we, like all other university libraries in the country, work with profiles and not with strict job/task descriptions. That means that in 3 years or 5 years or whenever, people can be asked to do different tasks that fit their profile. I see it as an overall positive, though it was very confusing when I started my own job.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Other: Mainland Europe

What’s your region like?

√ Urban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

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? 

To you: good questions – good food for thought! Thanks for the opportunity to reflect!

To job hunters: I’d rather hire a person with potential who fits with the team and has a growth mindset than a stick in the mud with experience.

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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Reminder: Interview Questions Repository & Salary Info

Have you been on a library interview recently? Or are you prepping for one?

Sounds like you could use The Interview Questions Repository!

This resource holds questions that people were asked in interviews from more than 500 respondents over nearly a decade.

Click on the upside down triangle to the right of the question in the header row to sort by things like interview type, position, etc.

Please help this resource grow! Share the link widely with your friends and colleagues and if you’ve had a library interview recently, report the questions you were asked.


Interested in viewing Salary Info from more than 270 LIS workers? The second page of the Interview Questions Repository shares that data. If you are interested in adding your own salary info, please use this form.

If you have feedback, I’d love to hear it. Please feel free to email me or use the contact form.

Please note: The links should give you everything you need – please use and share those rather than requesting access through Google Drive. You can always find these links in the static pages listed in the tabs up top (Interview Questions and Salary Info).

yellow compact shelving
A View of the Yellow Repository. The National Archives (UK), CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Further Questions: What questions would you ask job hunters?

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

I’m working on a new Hiring Librarians survey which will be a reboot of the survey of job hunters that ran from December 2012 to January 2016 and gathered 587 responses. This week’s question is designed to help me write it:

If you could survey a bunch of job hunters about their needs and experiences, what questions would you ask (and why)?


Anonymous Federal Librarian: If I could survey job hunters, I would ask them about how they view the job postings. Is there anything on a posting that stands out as being attractive? Anything that they see that is a red flag and means they won’t apply? Are they more focused on what type of library it is or what the job is? Does the reputation of the library play any part in their decision to apply or not? If the candidate applies and gets an interview, what makes a good interview for them? What tactics have hiring manager or hiring panel made the candidate feel at ease and confident?  I would want to know these things so that not only would our library stand out, but that we are ensuring that we are representing our library in the best way possible.


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: One of the first questions I think I would like to ask job hunters is what specific step of the job search process do they wish would go away and why? This includes submitting statements (teaching philosophy, etc.), phone/video interviews, in-person interviews, or even smaller components like the “dinner/breakfast with search committee members,” or “meeting with XXX.” I have probably missed others. We talk about which of those pieces we don’t find useful, or perhaps even enjoyable. It would be helpful to know what active job seekers think. If I, as someone doing hiring, thinks a particular part of the process is really critical, it would probably help me to have a more up-to-date understanding of how that same request or activity might be stressful. When I applied for my current position I had been a library director for twelve years. I experienced being a candidate in a very different way than I had early in my career.

A few other possibilities:

  • What is one piece of information that would help you during the process, or that you would want to take away, that you almost never seem to get and that you find it awkward to ask about? I am thinking here that salary is probably the response that some people would give. But it could be a range of topics.
  • How do you interpret minimum qualifications and preferred qualifications and have you ever been encouraged or discouraged from applying for a job based on either category? Here I am not thinking of someone doesn’t meet minimum qualifications, but the gray areas (education + work experience, how much the preferred qualification might “count,” etc.).
  • If you are closer to the start of your career, how often do you encounter entry-level positions that also ask for experience? This one is a pet peeve of mine. We can certainly take into account all kinds of work/practicum/internship experience that people have, but entry-level should mean just that.
  • Do you have a long-range plan for the arc of your career or a sense of how long you anticipate staying in a new job? This one just interest me. We talk a lot about how a resume looks when someone changes jobs frequently. I remained at the same institution for 22 years directly out of library school before changing job (and only applied for one).

These questions don’t lend themselves to Likert Scale, or multiple choice responses, but they make me curious.


Alan Smith, Director, Florence County, SC Library System: 

I’d love to hear from job hunters what you consider a red flag. Is there anything in a job posting (or missing from a job posting, like salary information) that discourages you from applying? 

I’m also curious about the applicant’s perspective on the details of interviewing. We try to make the interview process friendly and comfortable, both out of courtesy and respect for the applicant’s time, but also because a less stressful interview tends to produce better and more thoughtful answers. Is there anything about an interview that would make you turn down a position, or anything that would make you even more interested?


Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: I would want to know from them what they struggle with in these processes. Where are we unclear or giving seemingly conflicting information? When I was in library school, my Academic Library Management course covered the hiring process, including writing a resume/CV and cover letters/letters of application. I was the only student in the class applying for/interviewing for jobs at the time and the class followed my whole process! I think the hiring processes are so different in differing types of librarianship that it would be difficult if you were applying at different library types. For example, in academic jobs, you don’t need to have an objective in your resume and your resume and letter should/can be more than one page each. I think most academic hiring managers would welcome an email from an applicant asking for clarification, but applicants may be afraid of doing that.


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: These are the questions I would LOVE for someone to answer!

When seeking professional positions – do you have a “formula” for identifying the ones that look good for you? 

If you have a formula for identifying positions for application, are these formulaic pieces of information prioritized?

What are deal breakers for you in seeking employment? 

What keywords do you look for in job advertisements? Is there a keyword – when seeing it – that makes you avoid applying? Is there a keyword – when seeing it – that makes you apply for that job? or any job with the organization?

Does anyone ever say (anymore) “I want to go to that organization because I want to work for x.” (Someone you have heard speak? Someone whose reputation is exemplary in general? in an area of expertise you want?

Do you assess the tech opportunities in organizations before applying? (Example – Do you look for organizations known to be “high tech” or “cutting edge?” Do you determine if you get new equipment in a timely manner? The software you need?)

Given that almost every applicant I have every interviewed asks if they will be supported in their professional development AND given that very few organizations – and especially now – provide “it all” or are able to honor requests – how important is that “ask?” 

Are there sources you limit your search to? That is, only professional association publications? only specific online e-discussion groups or e-lists?

Do you see the mega-job banks as advantageous to you? helpful at all? (Example – Indeed? Monster.com? Linked In? 

Is there value in the new job seeking registration services higher ed is using in their career initiatives? (Example – Handshake?)

How much research do you do – as you decide what job to apply for – on an institution prior to applying?

For recent graduate school graduates – what is the best advice they have given you in your search? (Do you use the career center? Work with your professors?)

If you choose to network to find positions, what is the best approach you have used? or heard about? (Example – Using Linked In?, Contacting alumni? Field experience/internship/capstone contacts? What else?)

Do you plan out your next five to six years of employment or do you focus on “your first (or next) job?”


We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, on Twitter @HiringLib, or chanted under the full moon. If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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