Tag Archives: library careers

I wish I could know if the job was a stopgap or stepping stone, or if they really were ok with working for such low pay.

Antoinette Humphreys Hollabaugh, from a 1911 newspaper. No photographer credited., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Library Manager

Titles hired include: Public Services Assistant, Youth Services Assistant

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor

√ Other: The position’s supervisor and one other manager in the hiring department

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

√ Online application

√ Resume

√ References

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc) 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

HR screens applicants based solely on their qualifications matching. Those that are qualified are passed on to the hiring manager who decides who to interview. I am the hiring manager at my branch. 

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

Before we opened, I saw him on the steps engaging in casual conversation with the homeless men who were waiting to come inside and warm up. It was a good indication that he had the right attitude for this library and its clientele. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Failing the alphabetization test. I let that slide once and regretted it. 

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

Honestly? I wish I could know if the job was a stopgap or stepping stone, or if they really were ok with working for such low pay. (I don’t control the pay rate.)

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ We don’t ask for this 

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?

I’m tired of hearing vague claims about how much candidates value the library. If they are really a library user or advocate, I want them to tell me something that demonstrates that. If they aren’t, that’s okay! Tell me something else that shows me that they’re a kind, helpful, socially aware, critically-thinking and/or tech savvy human that is interested in learning how awesome the library is. 

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

Yes. Candidates seem to grasp what’s needed virtual interviews. 

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?

Since I hire paraprofessionals rather than librarians, I can’t answer this. 

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the information provided at the interview 

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

Nothing, as far as I know. 

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

I just like questions that show they have given the position some thought. It’s important for them to know that they need patience and that not everybody is nice to you at the library. It’s a customer service job. 

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?

√ 101-200 

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, 100-200 staff members, Midwestern US, Public, Urban area

Stats and Graphs: How many pages should a resume/CV/cover letter be?

It’s Staturday!

In the old survey, this was two questions, “How many pages should a cover letter be?” and “How many pages should a resume/CV be?” Invariably, people wanted to explain that the second question was invalid and resumes and CVs were *not* the same thing, and the question was *terrible.* And those people were basically right, but at that point I had already published the question and couldn’t think of a way to make it better anyway.

So when I was testing the current survey I was so blown away when Marleah Augustine suggested I should just make it a matrix question. What a simple and elegant solution.

The question is:

Question from survey. Text reads 11. How many pages should each of these documents be? Choices on the Y axis are Cover Letter, Resume and CV. Choices on X axis are We don't ask for this, Only One!, Two is ok but no more, As many as it takes but keep it reasonable and relevant, and As many as it takes I love reading.

As of August 4, 2022, 182 people have responded to this survey. Their answers to this question are:

Bar chart of question answers. Chart explained in text that follows this.

For Cover Letters

We don’t ask for this | 23 (12.6%)

Only One! | 90 (49.5%)

Two is ok, but no more | 54 (29.7%)

As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant | 17 (9.3%)

As many as it takes, I love reading | 0 (0%)

For Resumes

We don’t ask for this | 14 (7.7%)

Only One! | 19 (10.4%)

Two is ok, but no more | 68 (37.4%)

As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant | 76 (41.8%)

As many as it takes, I love reading | 2 (1%)

For CVs

We don’t ask for this | 79 (43.4%)

Only One! | 4 (2.2%)

Two is ok, but no more | 12 (6.6%)

As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant | 76 (41.8%)

As many as it takes, I love reading | 4 (2.2%)


This is one of the few questions that doesn’t include a write in option. But, I’d still love to know what you think! Comment or tweet at me, and don’t forget to like and subscribe to this YouTube channel.

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

Further Questions: What’s the Worst Job Search Advice You Ever Heard?

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.

This week’s question is:

What’s the worst job search advice you ever heard? Why was it bad? Bonus info: who said it and when/where did you hear it?


Jaime Taylor, Discovery & Resource Management Systems Coordinator, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts: Literally anything and everything from my mom, who tried to give me advice when I was a new librarian struggling to find a job in 2009-2010. She hadn’t job searched since the early 1980s & everything she said was out of date & useless. (No, mom, no one keeps a file of promising resumes that they will pull out later, so sending mine to orgs that weren’t hiring – on paper, no less – wasn’t going to go anywhere but the trash.) So – the worst advice comes from anyone who has neither job searched nor hired lately, doubly so if they have never worked in your field and are therefore unaware with the field’s norms. That person might care about you and want you to succeed, but that doesn’t mean they have good advice.

(Yes, you can put my name on it.)


Ellen Mehling, Job Search Advisor/Instructor and Brooklyn Public Library’s Job Information Resource Librarian: The worst job search advice I’ve ever heard is that you should lie or mislead others in order to get a job, and that includes presenting a resume or cover letter that someone else wrote as if it is your own work. Employers don’t want to hire people who are dishonest and/or desperate, and who don’t actually have the required experience and skills for the job, or for the job search(!)

Anyone who gives this advice is telling you that they are dishonest and they are comfortable enough with lying that they recommend it to other people. If they are employed they probably lied in order to get their job. I would keep that information in mind as you interact with them. 


Randall Schroeder, Director, Retired: The worst piece of career advice I received was cumulative. Too many suggested that if you stay in one place and one position, your career is static and you could become irrelevant. I knew of one small college director who claimed when hiring a new librarian, the new librarian was expected to move on after three years and that after five, the library would start working to make them want to move. I hesitate to think what they might have looked like.

Sometimes, you are, in fact, where you need to be. Some of the happiest people I have known in academe knew early on that where they landed with their first or second jobs was where their bliss was. Not participating in campus politics or professional politics to climb to the next level was of no interest. They seemed to be very happy.

Don’t be ambitious if it doesn’t feel authentic to you. I felt pressured to move to the next levels and I regretted it. Where I was in my first and second jobs was where I wanted to be and I was good at it. Don’t let outside pressure sacrifice you from your authentic happiness to your misery. To me, the object of the game is to serve your community, patrons, clients, or students, not your ego.

“What do you want to be when you grow up, Linus?

Outrageously happy.,” – Peanuts


Laurie Phillips, Interim Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: I have friends (who don’t know libraries) trying to get me to apply for every job that’s out there, not really understanding how library jobs at my level are so siloed (public universities vs private/small vs. large/collections and systems and access vs. Learning Commons or teaching, etc.) My experience is varied, so I have a little more leeway, but it’s a total waste of time for me to apply to jobs outside my niche and expertise. If you don’t meet the qualifications and can’t even make your experience work, don’t bother. It’s a waste of time for you and the people who have to review applications. Academic applications take a tremendous amount of time to put together, if you do it right. I’m very careful about choosing jobs that are a good fit. Also, job openings run on a cycle for most academic libraries, especially at the higher levels. Fiscal years start on July 1 or August 1. Deciding to apply for everything in the fall isn’t really going to get you very far. 


Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College:

I have heard people recommend trying to negotiate your starting salary, but most of the places I’ve worked have had a static chart based on qualifications and years of experience with no room for variation.

If you try to bargain at a place like that, you will probably come across as arrogant and entitled. 


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: Let me start with the last “bonus” question “Who said it and when/where did you hear it?” In short, the bad answers I am including are coming from years of reading articles, books and blogs on both commercial and non commercial content to determine not only specific paths (the best EDI questions, recommended organization of the room, online-only interviews, etc.) but also best practices for overall HR hiring practices. The worst advice includes “ask this question” and “give this answer” typically but also includes advice for length of resumes. 

I have two bad questions: “Where do you want to be in five years?” and “Please identify three of your strengths and three of your weaknesses.”

The first or “five year” question is a no-win for everyone. There IS no right or genuine answer. If someone outlines their retirement you don’t want to invest time in them only to leave. If the applicant says “I want to be in your job” it doesn’t show “your vision for the future” or the fact that you want to assume a leadership position and it certainly doesn’t signal ambition the way some think. If the organization wants to determine if an applicant is interested in moving up eventually or if they are trying to determine if the applicant will – for example – hopping from job to job there are better and more direct questions to determine an applicants next role or if they are possible successors or have an interest in succession planning.

The second question of strengths and weaknesses is – obviously – an opportunity for applicant self-assessment. As the first question – it doesn’t typically produce authentic answers but instead – if applicants have thought about it – strengths identified might be valuable, but weaknesses are strengths re-positioned such as “I pay too much attention to detail.” If the organization needs to know specific elements they should instead – list some strengths and list some weaknesses and ask applicants to rank these as they pertain to their potential roles and responsibilities. 

Finally some ideas not recommended include:

  • Don’t feel obligated to squeeze your resume into one page or less as we often hear. Clearly a lengthy resume is too much but it is better to be accurate, organized and specific to the position being advertised and that is seldom able to be reduced to one page.
  • Resumes that lead with a single job goal quickly become out-of-date. It is best to state areas of work interested in and map education, experience and competencies and attributes against job descriptions/job advertisements identified in cover letters or in attached documents such as a statement of professionalism or a values statement.

and finally and most importantly

Job seekers should be very, very careful about the content a search firm or professional employment consultant creates to represent you on a resume or document packet or specific position or job search. Specifically – positions held, job titles, specific roles and responsibilities, length of employment professional goals, values, promotions or job trajectory in one or more organizations, or products produced as exemplary of education or experience. 

Why? I can recall more than one situation where documents didn’t parallel, answers to questions didn’t jive, job titles were similar but inflated, reference check information wasn’t the same as applicant paperwork had implied and – literally – the applicant’s narrative about their work life was simply not accurate. It is also obvious to say that with today’s alternate avenues for finding out about applicants through web resources and often an applicant’s own web-published content – great care must be taken to be accurate, to be proactive about possible discrepancies and to be forthcoming about addressing appropriate interview questions. Simply put, advice to inflate or better represent oneself or to stretch the truth is never good advice.


We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, on Twitter @HiringLib, or in the faint burbling of a mountain stream. 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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Filed under Further Questions

Personal Professional Websites: Brittni Ballard, Learning Technologies Librarian – Higher education, eLearning, and disability justice

Brittni is a fat, White woman with shoulder-length wavy brown hair and blue-framed glasses. She holds her pug-beagle mix Rupert. He is mostly fawn with a black mask and ears and a white chest.

Brittni Ballard is the Learning Technologies Librarian for Towson University’s Albert S. Cook Library in Baltimore County, Maryland, USA. She came to academic librarianship after experiments with classroom teaching, video game development, and non-profit work.

When she’s not working, she can be found collecting photos from villager friends in Animal Crossing: New Horizons while sipping coffee, snuggled under fuzzy blankets with two dogs and one cat on their chaise sofa.

What is your site’s URL? 

https://www.brittniballard.com/

Briefly, what is the current purpose of your site?

The site is a way for me to share my work, notably my scholarship (writings and conference presentations), in one central space while highlighting what makes each piece special. Specifically, I include my favorite quote from each piece so that, even if folks don’t read the entire thing, they still have a better idea of what I value, think about, and do. Ideally, even these brief glimpses will facilitate new conversations with others interested in the same kind of work.

Was the original purpose of your site different from this current purpose? If yes, how and why did it change?

To some extent, as might be expected, this site was created as I was job searching, and if / when I look for jobs in the future, I’m sure it will be a useful way to better share who I am and promote my efforts to search committees. However, it is now primarily a way to connect and even build relationships with fellow library workers. This is why I explicitly name my positionality, values, and interests on the homepage.

Are you actively looking for work? (check all that apply)

√ Other: I am actively curious about new opportunities, places, and people, including formal and informal teaching / learning / speaking engagements

Has your site brought you any work? And if so, what?

 No, it has not.

About Your Site and Sites in General

Did you pay someone to design or build your site?

√ No

Which of the following content do you have on your site (check all that apply)?

√ Resume or CV

√ Work Samples

√ List of publications

√ List of presentations

√ Your Bio

√ Your photo 

Which of the following personal links or connection methods do you provide on your site? (Check all that apply)

√ Email 

√ ORCiD 

√ Twitter 

√ LinkedIn  

Is your site strictly library/archives/LIS related?

√ Yes 

When was your site last updated?

√ Within the last month 

What causes you to update your site, and about how frequently does that occur?

Whenever I publish a new piece, I add it to the site.

Does your site use any of the following platforms/services?

√ Google Sites

How much do you pay annually to run your website? (for numbers not in American dollars, please use other)

√ $10.01-$20.00 

Do you allow comments on your site?

√ No

Do you have advertising on your site?

√ No

Do you have analytics on your site?

√ No

About how many people visit your site in a month?

√ I don’t know 

Is having a personal website a “must”?

√ Nope! Not at All! 

Do you have any privacy concerns associated with sharing your personal information, resume, etc., on a public website? If so, what measures do you take to feel safer?

To avoid having crawlers collect my email, I hide my email address behind the display text “Email me.” Because my work profile is public, and includes my work number and work email, I do include my institutional affiliation (in my online resume). However, I don’t mention my affiliation on Twitter. If my site was being used regularly, I may switch from including an email to just using a Contact Me form.

What advice would you give someone wanting to create their own personal professional site?

Have fun with it! I enjoy thinking about how to present my work in a public way that emphasizes visual organization, standard American English, and values rather than productivity. 

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your website? Or personal websites in general?

Google Sites works nicely with other Google products, like Drive and Photos. That makes it easy to maintain.

Demographics

What is your job title?

Learning Technologies Librarian

What types of organizations do you work for or with? (Check all that apply)

√ Academic Library 

If you work for someone besides yourself, does that organization have rules about what you can share on your personal site?

√ No 

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US 

Anything else you’d like to say, to me or to the readers?

Thanks for investigating personal web usage among GLAM workers and students!

Thanks for reading! If you have a personal professional website that you’d like to talk about, please fill out the survey.

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Filed under Academic, Northeastern US, Personal Professional Websites

We ALL feel a lot, your level of maturity is reflected in the library-twitter world you inhabit.

Exterior of the University of Exeter Library, with students entering and exiting the building
The University of Exeter Main Library, Benjamin Evans, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: Dean & Director

Titles hired include: All of the library faculty and staff in our university library

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

√ CV

√ References

√ Supplemental Questions 

√ Other: DEI Statement

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

Depends if it is faculty or staff. We have search committees, DEI expectations, training and meetings before the job description can be approved by HR. We have a very strong procedure to ensure that we are fair and accommodating to all applicants.  

Faculty run the faculty search, but the dean makes the final decision (provost must give approval)

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

They had a strong sense of self and understood the value they would bring to the workplace. An openness to experience and to joining an academic environment. An understanding of our student-centric campus ethos.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Yes! You can be the smartest person in the room but if you have a low EQ and can’t work with others the hire will not be successful.

One must come with a well formulated concept of self in regards to DEI work and evidence of support/knowledge for our campus population. As a majority under-represented campus, we require a DEI lens/mindset.

If your priority is to work 100% at home. We allow telecommuting, but we are a F2F campus and that requires equal focus on site.

Negative angry-twitter postings. We ALL feel a lot, your level of maturity is reflected in the library-twitter world you inhabit. You do not have to say everything you think. It is called being a grown up

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

what their career goals are. I consider growing people my responsibility and knowing what people want re: knowledge acquisition would be useful

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?

They don’t consider their fit with the campus. Do your homework. 

Sell what you bring to us. 

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

We have. Practice a solid presentation. Two years into COVID/online work there is NO EXCUSE for a lousy presentation. Make sure the lighting is good, sound, your entire face!  I just had an interview for an instruction position and one candidate only had 1/3 of her face visible.

Bring the energy – it is more difficult for us to get to know you. Show interest and excitement.

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?

Connect the dots. I hired a Home Depot manager who strongly connected her skills to running a service desk. She’s awesome

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: we finally got our campus to share. As a state institution, there is one solid number. But it is uneven.

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

So much. 

All search committees have training and overview by the Inclusive Excellence office. HR and the Dean looks to highlight and be aware of all diversities.

1) pre-search mtg

2) mid-way through mtg

3) post-work mtg

We have standard questions and a strong process that enforces an open mind and process

We have rubrics so that we are rating the same skills

We have changed our minimum standards of requirements

We try to present a diverse search committee, as much as 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 DEI work are we engaged in?

What is the strategic plan and how is it incorporated into regular work? It is great to have values and goals, but are they important enough to accomplish!

What new, exciting projects is the library involved in?

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western 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? 

Have hope, empower yourself, align your priorities/goals with the institution. There are many good jobs and some bad ones. Be picky even when it feels like you can’t be. 

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, Academic, Urban area, Western US

Further Questions: What are your tough interview questions?

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.

This week’s question is from someone who hires library workers:

Are there one or two questions you have routinely asked in interviews that few if any applicants seem to answer successfully? And – of those you identify as “seldom successful” – why aren’t they successful? What’s missing?

There was an outpouring of anti “tough question” sentiment when I asked this on Twitter – particularly in the quote Tweets.

Please join in the conversation – from either side of the interviewing table – there or in the comments.


Laurie Phillips, Interim Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: I would say probably not, at this point. We have had interview questions, over the years, that were not successful, so we took those questions out and found different ways to get at what we wanted to know. We used to ask people about their most rewarding experience as a teacher or trainer and people who didn’t have direct experience found it difficult to extrapolate to informal teaching or training that they had done. We also used to ask how a person would handle giving feedback to another employee doing work for them who was not a direct report. Many people didn’t understand what we were trying to get at with this question, which was mainly what you would do if you supervised the Learning Commons Desk and someone from another department was staffing the desk.


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: I like to ask a question that provides the opportunity for a candidate to explore a project or idea that did not conclude as planned. It could something the person labels a “failure,” or just something that went in an unexpected direction. I don’t always even feel the need to include a request to explain how they might do it differently because I think there is a great likelihood that they would follow the same path regardless (depending on how terrible the outcome actually was).

My experience is that this type of question really takes some thought and that is time that we don’t always make room for in an interview. I don’t think candidates are always being disingenuous when they say they can’t think of anything, particularly because they know we are not looking for a specific incidence of a mistake, but something a bit more complex. I think what I am usually interested in is the reflection and in the conversation a candidate can have with search committee members. So I am always considering how to include a question like that without feeling as if we are putting the candidate on the spot.

Another question I like but I think is a bit tough because people tend to be very careful when talking about their jobs is to ask people what they especially like and don’t like about their work. I’m pretty sure no one likes every single aspect of their work. But describing what you don’t like to do to a group of relative strangers you are trying to convince to hire you is tough. So sometimes I think it’s better just to stick with asking people what they like. This question is more revealing than you might think. Some candidates are really very thoughtful with their responses.


Kathryn Levenson, Librarian, Piedmont High School: We give them a scenario involving student discipline but because they haven’t worked in our school environment and community, they have trouble answering it. My successful candidate had been a para in our elementary schools for 16 years. He is super interacting with the kids.


Alan Smith, Director, Florence County, SC Library System: To me, a successful interview question is one that gives me useful information about a candidate, and gives the candidate useful information about our library — not a question that always gets the “right answer.” I especially dislike “gotcha” questions that seem designed to stump the candidate and often don’t have any connection to the work itself. Even if they come up with a clever answer, it makes the interview adversarial instead of collaborative. So with that in mind, if I had a question that was seldom answered correctly, I would rephrase it, add context, or otherwise ask differently until it started giving me useful information. 

That said, there are questions that do have right and wrong answers, and I’m sometimes surprised which ones trip people up. We often ask some variation of, “What do you tell a patron who objects to a certain book in the collection?” A lot of people describe how they would try to explain that the library is for everyone, so they should just ignore it, or even try to debate the merits of the book with the patron in hopes of changing their mind. Someone who has never worked in a library may not know about libraries’ established procedures for reconsideration of materials, but a Librarian or internal candidate definitely should, yet a lot of them still miss this component of the answer. 

Finally, there are positions where technical knowledge is an important factor in hiring: IT, cataloging, etc. Those interviews will involve more specific, detailed questions with definite right and wrong answers (or at least right and wrong approaches). But even in those cases, a question that everyone “gets wrong” would make me re-evaluate some things — Is the job description and job posting accurate? Am I choosing the right people to interview? Am I expecting people to have knowledge of internal procedures that they can only gain on the job? etc.


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: Interestingly, we have three questions that continue to be very hard for candidates. Two questions we ask of all candidates and one we typically ask only librarians at this time. 
1. The first that could be for anyone is “What is the mission of community colleges?” (Note: in essence this should be thought of as “why work here?) This – of the difficult questions – is the one that DOES have more success with many candidates – and often more classified and professional technical are more successful and talk about their own education, friendliness, atmosphere, if the organization is smaller – the opportunity to be closer to students and that they love to be part of a service that might actually make a difference in people’s lives. 
For librarian searches, we ask this first question slightly differently by adding – for example – how do community college libraries or should community college libraries differ from other libraries in higher ed? or in other educational settings such as public libraries or school libraries?” While many of the classified or professional technical provide experiences and possibly very authentic answers, librarians may certainly articulate the mission of libraries – the challenge for librarians seems to lie in the differences between or among library settings. 

Luckily, this is easily solved for librarians.

  • Spending time on community college websites reviewing their mission and then comparing not only mission statements but vision and values statements to other mission, vision and values statements. 
  • Visit the college’s library website/pages and if they have a separate mission, vision and values compare those as well. 
  • Visit state or national association division and section web content where differences and similarities are often covered.
  • Review agendas of conferences to note current programming by type of library. Clearly these are NOT all the same and offerings and differences are telling.

and obviously 

  • Explore research and opinion in the professional literature on differences and similarities. Interestingly – inserting “change” and “changing” into the research process such as “what is the changing role of community colleges” yields much research and opinion. 

Applicants should also consider including similarities and differences between students and faculty, ‘

student support’ and ‘student success,’ ‘information literacy,’ or ‘evidence-based research’ or ‘digital fluency research’ skills – taking the opportunity to bring in basic vs. advanced skills sets, diverse assignments, etc. 

2. The second harder question for librarians is “What is the difference between management and leadership? and “Please provide examples of your education or experience with each.” And while we certainly ask this when interviewing for management positions, it is important for non-managerial librarians to know about their preferences or how they might prefer to be managed. As to asking non-managerial librarians about leadership – we find leadership at all levels in the organization including leading teams, projects, leading in the community and the community of users, etc. 
3. The third question includes content focused on an applicants’ attitudes toward equity, diversity and inclusion and – more importantly – knowledge of its value and role in work life and most important of all – application of techniques to ensure integration into the business of the institution – not only for staff but for all users. Answers to questions that are very open-ended are telling, of course – but more successful ones are:

  • Give two examples of how you have integrated EDI into user education, information literacy or teaching and learning. 
  • What three techniques might be integrated into the reference interview to ensure equitable customer service for this critical service?
  • Have you assessed a library (or other setting) for how welcoming it is to diverse patrons?  If you haven’t, what do you think is important when welcoming diverse users to a library?

Why can’t applicants answer these questions?

These questions aren’t easy if someone has not prepared, but they are easily researched and it is logical that they would be part of an interview. Also, if they are difficult it isn’t because the candidates don’t value missions, styles and techniques or EDI. Rather it is often hard to articulate specific examples – in simple discussions – much less interviews! 
So in thinking about these three areas:
1. All applicants should expect that organizations want to make sure applicants understand the general purpose of the organization and while overall missions are easy to articulate in general, distinguishing among or between mission statements and identifying what those differences are IS difficult for any type of library applicant. But now more than ever, institutions are building in values to mission and vision statements. In addition, position roles and responsibilities should reflect the institution’s mission statements and it is important that employees need to be aware of expectations of the organization. 
2. In looking at human resources research and statistics on why people leave jobs or move more quickly than expected from one job to another – performance is an issue as well as like or dislike of work – but often the primary reason is that people do not like or get along with their supervisor. The management vs. leadership question attempts to determine if applicants have thought about what is important to them in working for a specific style or type of manager and practiced self-reflection on how they might fit into the organization. Also the leadership addition provides an opportunity to discuss opportunities within the organization for people to experience what might be more than their primary job as well as competency building opportunities. Organizations may be looking for not only existing managers or leaders as well as future and potential managers and leaders – and at the very least are seeking people who have sincerely thought about what makes them choose one environment over another.
3. Clearly not only is concern for and commitment to EDI present in society today, it is critical that awareness of the importance of and willingness to integrate into the workplace is a part of performance expectations. Interview questions set expectations but answers seek knowledge of application of techniques to focus on true integration. In addition, applicants need to know that expectations translate to measurement and assessment of requirements for the position as well as roles and responsibilities. This question provides the opportunity for interviewers to point out revised mission, vision and value statements, organizational and individual outcomes as well as the organization’s  changes to content such as advertising focus for openings, revised position descriptions, job evaluations and overall development and training required. Finally, this question allows an organization to talk about not only the importance of EDI but the PRACTICE of EDI.


We’re looking for more people who hire LIS workers! If you’d like a no-commitment opportunity to reflect on your hiring practices, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail. You’ll get a weekly email which you can ignore or answer (anonymously even). You’ll get to help LIS job seekers & people who hire in LIS fields understand the process better. And I’ll be your best friend!

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In the many years that I have interviewed and selected a new employee, I tend to select on the person’s attitude, staying on point to the questions asked, experience.

Nederlands: Collectie Fotoburo de Boer. Houts, Nils van (UP de Boer), CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Library Branch Manager

Titles hired include: Library Assistant, Library Services Supervisor, and Library Information Services Specialist.

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

√ References

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Written Exam

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Other: Not sure

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

Receive and review applications, conduct interview and make selection.

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

Even though the position is mostly a paraprofessional, the amount of experience in a library setting was very good such as working at a bookstore, volunteer at a library and/or past public library experience. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

If the person does not show much interest in the interview and or is expecting to be selected because of a family member working with our organization.

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

DOB

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?

Disinterest.

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

This year alone we have conducted virtual interviews.

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?

In the many years that I have interviewed and selected a new employee, I tend to select on the person’s attitude, staying on point to the questions asked, experience.

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

Dress code and possibilities for promotion.

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?

√ 101-200

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 100-200 staff members, Public, Southwestern US, Suburban area

Job Hunter’s Web Guide: Library Jobline (Revisited)

In 2013, as part of the Job Hunter’s Web Guide series, I ran a profile of Library Jobline, the job board run by the Colorado State Library (funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services). They still provide listings, and have in fact grown! But of course some things have changed. Below are some updates (and a new question). 

Who Runs It?

It is now run by Network and Resource Sharing, a unit of the Colorado State Library.

What’s changed about your site since the 2013 profile?

The site has grown significantly since 2013 in terms of the number of employers and job seekers that have signed up and the frequency of job postings. In 2020 we partnered with the Rhode Island Office of Library and Information Services and incorporated their job board into LibraryJobline. This has been a great relationship and we hope that it might serve as a model for partnering with other state/regional job boards in the future. More generally we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of employers outside of Colorado to the point that jobs for libraries within the state are now about half of all new posts.

Regarding the website itself, there have been few changes in functionality since 2013. Our focus remains the same: make it easy as possible for employers and job seekers to connect, while providing a platform that encourages collecting, analyzing, and reporting data for library (and related) employment. To that end we’ve stripped away some of the burdensome posting requirements for employers, and we’ve continually refined our email notifications so that job seekers more reliably and accurately receive notifications of new posts.

The *NEW* Question: What are your standards for job listings (e.g. must include salary)?

We require a few basic pieces of data about the job such as title, employer, location, and a job description. Additionally, employers can have their jobs “featured” by providing additional data for hours, compensation, and benefits. We don’t edit people’s ads but we do occasionally reject ads for jobs which are not within or closely related to the field of librarianship.

What’s the job hunting landscape like for your target audience?

It’s probably not unlike the general economic landscape as a whole: beginning in late 2020 we saw a significant increase in the number of jobs posted, but that has not been accompanied by a change in the number of new job seeker accounts or traffic to the site. For example, we had twice as many jobs posted in 2021 compared to 2020, but just about the same number of new user accounts for both years. It’s early yet, but that trend has continued up to this point in 2022.

We recently published an infographic for 2021 and you can see that here: https://www.lrs.org/fast-facts-reports/2021-library-jobline-fast-facts/

Thank you!

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We hired in person, even during the pandemic.

Group of Librarians in sits on bleachers
A_Group_of_Librarians_in_New_Ocean_House,_Swampscott,_Massachusetts. Creator: F. W. Faxon, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: Discovery Librarian

Titles hired include: E-resources & Scholarly Communication Librarian, Library Associate III: Serials, Senior Project Manager (IT), Assistant ant Director for Education and Research Services

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

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

√ Other: We take feedback from all staff members and have a coffee time where everyone can meet the candidates

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ Supplemental Questions

√ 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? 

√ Yes

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

We have a search committee that reviews resumes, works with HR to determine candidates, and spends either a half day (for Support Staff) or two days (for Librarians) with each candidate. Every staff member is invited to at least one meeting with each candidate, whether that be a presentation, a meal, or a coffee gathering (which is more like an open q&a session). I’ve served on several committees and as part of the general feedback group for numerous candidates.

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

They were prepared, calm, and confident.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Lying.

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

Their ability to work in teams.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

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?

Divulging too much information.

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

No, we hired in person, even during the pandemic.

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?

Transferable skills need to be phrased in the language of the industry one is transferring to, rather than the industry of origin.

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?

Training with HR, lists of “do’s” and “don’ts” and conversations among committee members. However, many opinions (and therefore, much feedback) are based on impressions rather than job skills. We constantly need to refocus on what we’re hiring for, not who we want to hang out with.

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

Office culture, benefits, typical workdays, and “a day in the life.”

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Midwestern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban 

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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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 10-50 staff members, Academic, Midwestern US, Suburban area

don’t look up stuff when answering

Elizabeth H. Bukowsky, a member of the National Archives’ Exhibits and Information staff, standing in front of a National Archives bulletin board exhibit prepared by EI [Exhibits and Information] and LI [Library] and displayed at the meeting of the Special Libraries Association at the Statler Hotel, Washington, DC, June 9-11, 1948. Photo by John Barnhill, NA photographer. National Archives.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Special Library

Title: Manager, Facilities and Shared Services

Titles hired include: Senior Information Coordinator; Library Technician;

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration 

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Written Exam

√ More than one round of interviews

√ Other: Phone screen

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes 

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

I decide someone is needed

I get approval from my manager

I contact HR

I fill out FORMS and FORMS and FORMS with justification

I fill out more FORMS to get job pay range set

HR posts position on job boards, and uses HR software to manage

Resumes are sorted by software and HR (I always ask to see ALL, not just the ones that they think are qualified)

I pick who I want to interview

HR sets up interviews

I fill out more forms to justify my pick

HR offers them the job

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

Understood questions quickly

Easy to speak with

Understood the technology

Second language

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

spelling errors in resume or cover letter

Lack of spoken English

lying

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

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 researching the company

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

be on time

don’t read a script

don’t look up stuff when answering

turn off your phone

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the information provided at the interview 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Canada 

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban 

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 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 200+ staff members, Canada, Special, Suburban area