Tag Archives: library careers

It’s ok not to ask questions if the candidate feels they have all the info they need.

Story time at Kenilworth Branch. By Flickr user Local History & Archives Hamilton Public Library

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: Customer Experience Librarian 

Titles hired include: Home Library Librarian, Marketing Officer, Library Technician, IT Support Officer, Library Assistant, Librarian, Children’s Librarian

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor 

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume 

√ References

√ Proof of degree 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

1. Online application with responses along with cover letter and resume. 

2. Interview Round – 2-3 person panel & behavioural questions, + practical exercise if it’s a children’s programs or cataloguing role.

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

Client-focused answers in interview that are recent and off the cuff rather than rehearsed examples. Written applications with persuasive writing that expresses why they want the role. Great interpersonal skills that translate to customer service during interview that are natural and not rehearsed or formal.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Poor/average interpersonal skills in interview. Candidates who aren’t current and not aware of library best practice/other libraries. Candidates that don’t express that they want the job.

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

Why exactly they want the job and how do they think it will be a good fit for them. Short term career goals – Where do they see themselves in 5yrs

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One! 

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

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

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

Not expressing how/if they want the job.  Waffling too much – not keeping focussed on the question. Not working on/ developing their interpersonal and empathy skills.

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

None so far

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?

Seek to gain a work placement, casual work or volunteer in the new library sector. 

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?

For customer service work, sometimes a written application may not be a strength for someone with English as a second language, so they may not make it to the interview round. Our panels are not required to have a mix of genders or an independent panel member from another department.

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

It’s ok not to ask questions if the candidate feels they have all the info they need. It depends on the role and what has been disclosed in the ad and interview. If there are obvious gaps in info and the candidate hasn’t probed the panel – I may think they are either nervous or not that serious about the role.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Australia/New Zealand 

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? 

Candidates need to be “people people” to work in libraries. Every role is client-focussed whether it’s cataloguing, IT or management. Put people at the centre of all your responses and application.  

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, Australia/New Zealand, Public, Urban area

About a Decade Later: Former Job Hunter Kevin Maloney

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. 

Headshot of Kevin, who is wearing a button down shirt and backpack

Kevin Maloney filled out the original survey in 2013 and his answers appeared as A Failed Application or Interview is Much Less Painful When You Take a Learning Experience Out of It. At the time, he was volunteering at a college library and had been job hunting for somewhere between a year and 18 months.

When I checked in with him recently I learned that he’d had an unexpected career path and is now working outside libraries. He seems to still take a learning perspective, and has continued to grow in his new field. 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 career path veered far more than I expected. Two years after graduating, I was briefly a weekend manager at a public library, though regrettably that position did not last long. After some five years of searching fruitlessly for a further library position, I briefly took a human resources course at a community college; afterwards I joined a legal transcription firm as an editor and reporter, and now am working with one of the four major banks in Canada as a payment analyst.

Were any parts of your journey completely unexpected?

Practically all of it. It has been an unexpected, uncertain and often difficult professional journey. Quite often I simply ended up giving up on finding anything relevant to my degree, though I would still often go back and try to continue the search.

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

The last time, I had mentioned that I felt the secret to being hired is “staying positive and never giving up.” Aside from the fact that I’ve discovered just how hard it can be, I can also say never be afraid to find a position through word of mouth, through the aid of an agency. I have also discovered that informational interviews can be hugely beneficial for narrowing your career path.

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

I have never had the chance to hire anyone, even though, with my brief turn to HR, I would have been more than qualified to do so.

Do you have any advice for job hunters?

Be prepared to endure frustration and disappointment, and do not be afraid to go out of your comfort zone if need be.

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

None, other than that us LIS folks are out there and eager for interviews

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

These past ten years were a significant learning experience for me. In part, it forced me to learn to deal with disappointment and adapt to adversity. They also taught me to look for LIS aspects beyond the traditional library setting, and to go out of my comfort zone when searching for a position. Above all else I’d like to say that even now, with my career path having been what it was, I still think my LIS and the learning experience involved were more than worthwhile.

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Filed under Job Hunter Follow Up, Uncategorized

We are currently using Teams.

Whitman County rural library branch librarians, circa 1965. Note: names read left to right front to back as subjects appear. Branch librarian and location as follows: Mrs. McKenzie, Almota; Mrs. Shields, Pine City; Mrs. Van Tine, Penewawa; Mrs. Wilbourn, Riparia; Mrs. Holway, Palouse; Mrs. Armstrong, LaCrosse; Mrs. Redman, Library board member; Mrs. Bradley, Elberton; Mrs. Warwick, Tekoa; Miss Bowles, Colfax; and Mr. Hughes, Winona. Names: McKenzie, _, Mrs.; Shields, _, Mrs.; Van Tine, _, Mrs.; Wilbourn, _, Mrs.; Holway, _, Mrs.; Armstrong, _, Mrs.; Redman, _, Mrs.; Bradley, _, Mrs.; Warwick, _, Mrs.; Bowles, _, Miss; Hughes, _, Mr.
Whitman County Rural Library branch librarians, Colfax, Washington, circa 1965. Whitman County Library, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library  

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Other: Panel recommendations are reviewed by Director 

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

√ Online application 

√ Proof of degree 

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Other: Combination.. application is reviewed by County HR for minimum qualifications

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  

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

Not speaking to the terms of the question, not looking at our public face… website and social media before interviewing 

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

We are currently using Teams. 

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?

Emphasize customer service experience and ability to learn and use software.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Other: Mid Atlantic US

What’s your region like?

√ Other: Large County system serving a diverse County with urban , suburban and rural settings

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, Public, Rural area, Suburban area, Urban area

Feel free to take notes in the interview and ask to repeat or go back to other questions if you need more time.

Luther Harris Evans presiding over the Librarian’s Conference. Library of Congress, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Public Library Reference manager

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

HR screens candidates and does a first round interview. Next a panel including the potential supervisor interviews the candidate. Sometimes the candidate is recommended for another position, then they’ll have another panel interview.

Titles hired: Reference Associate

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ More than one round of interviews

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Other: Unsure

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

They had a good attitude about library service.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

No customer service experience. Talking badly about underprivileged people.

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?

Acting disinterested, not asking good questions

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

I have not

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 like bartending or barista will always impress me.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad

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

What are the patrons like.

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?

Feel free to take notes in the interview and ask to repeat or go back to other questions if you need more time.

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 50-100 staff members, Midwestern US, Public, Urban area

We wouldn’t be interviewing them if we didn’t think they could do the job.

Helsinki School of Economics, library. Photo by Flickr user Aalto University Commons

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: Supervisor: Adult & Teen Services

Titles hired include: Librarian, Library Associate 

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel 

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume 

√ References

√ Proof of degree 

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc) 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes 

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

HR sends me and the interviewing committee (IC) all application packets. IC makes suggestions, but the decisions on who to interview ultimately rest with the department supervisor. After interviews, the interviews are scored, references are called, IC again converses about who to hire, but the decision ultimately rests with Supervisor. 

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

Their genuine enthusiasm. They asked questions about what we do and how they would fit into that. Asked if we would be open to trying new programs we haven’t tried before, and just generally were really excited about what we have to offer and how it would fit with what they have to offer. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Answering phones, interrupting, Saying they wouldn’t help find information they might find objectionable 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

Resume: √ Only One!  

CV: √ We don’t ask for this 

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

Dial back their enthusiasm

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

We aren’t currently, but we have. I think that just letting their enthusiasm shine through is so important. They have the interview because we already are convinced of their qualifications. We wouldn’t be interviewing them if we didn’t think they could do the job.  

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, both internal and external, is the most important skill in this job. Be thoughtful about the answers to those questions. 

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?

I *think* the scoring of the interview might possibly do something for this, but I wonder if it really is biased toward folks with more privileged educational opportunities. 

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

What are we doing to help underserved populations in our communities? This is a thing I am always looking for. I wish they would ask what the job is like day-to-day. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Midwestern 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 

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, Suburban area

We send the interview questions in advance. If a candidate doesn’t have their answers prepared, I am very unimpressed.

Returning Books to their Places. National Archives

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: Department Director

Titles hired include: Liaison librarian (multiple), scholarly communications librarian

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration 

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

√ Cover letter

√ CV

√ References 

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A whole day of interviews 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

We have two rounds (a phone screening then the full day interview). We usually bring 3 people in for full interviews, but it can be anywhere from 2 to 5. The search committee doesn’t include the position’s supervisor. The committee writes a report summarizing the pros and cons of each candidate. This is submitted to Admin as the hiring authority. Admin checks references, chooses the candidate and negotiates the offer. Search committee chair is responsible for all other communication with candidates.

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

They were well prepared and confident in their public presentation, and able to respond effectively to the audience’s questions. They were able to address multiple aspects of the role, and draw on their own experience.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Lack of preparation for the parts of the interview day we give advance notice of. We send the interview questions in advance. If a candidate doesn’t have their answers prepared, I am very unimpressed.

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

Our required qualifications are absolutely requirements. If you don’t show that you meet them, we can’t interview you. 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more 

Resume: √ We don’t ask for this  

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

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

Make sure you’ve shared your screen/slides before you start presenting, check in that the volume is okay. If possible, try to share a phone number or alternative contact method in case the internet drops.

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?

Don’t rely on the committee to make the connections. Draw out the relevant stories and aspects of any previous work. Paraprofessional to professional roles can be hard in a single organization (which is stupid). You might need to leave and return in order to make that transition

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: We just started providing ranges or minimums in ads this year

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

Honestly, we do very little. We have HR telling us our targets for diverse hires, but that’s about the only formalized process

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

Why is this position available? How are decisions made in your organization? What internal communication channels exist? 

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?

√ 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, Midwestern US, Urban area

Author’s Corner: How to Thrive as a Library Professional

Welcome back to Author’s Corner! This series features excerpts or guest posts from authors of books about LIS careers. In this installment, we hear from Susanne Markgren and Linda Miles, who have provided a post with detailed information about the content of their book on thriving as a library professional.

Susanne and Linda represent some pretty serious chops in LIS career development. You can see from this post that they’ve got a concrete understanding of both the issues at hand and are able to translate that into practical steps and exercises. They have also generously provided a coupon for a 20% discount, if you are interested in purchasing the book. 

The citation for their book is: 

Markgren, S. & Miles, L. (2019). How to thrive as a library professional: Achieving success and satisfaction. Libraries Unlimited. 

And for more of their insight, they have co-authored two recent chapters in edited books: 

Miles, L. & Markgren, S. (2022). Combating burnout: Positive/transformational leadership and organizational culture. In C. Holm, A. Guimaraes & N. Marcano (Eds.),  Academic librarian burnout: Causes and responses. ACRL Publications.

Miles, L. & Markgren, S. (2023, forthcoming). Taking advantage of opportunities for informal leadership. In B. West & E. Galoozis (Eds.), Thriving as a mid-career librarian: Identity, advocacy, and pathways. ACRL Publications. 


In our book, How to Thrive as a Library Professional: Achieving Success and Satisfaction, we focus on what professional practice means for working librarians—the tasks we do routinely to support our patrons, the realm of influence in which we operate, and “where the rubber hits the road” as theory and action come together in the workplace. Topics include: figuring out where you want to go in your career and how to get there; cultivating multilateral relationships; understanding and successfully navigating organizational culture; developing proactive habits; using narrative and storytelling to define yourself as a professional, to advance your priorities, and to get the work done; employing mindfulness and self-compassion to support well-being and satisfaction; and practicing reflectively with an eye toward continual growth. Each chapter offers discussion, concrete examples, practical advice, exercises, and research, and reflects influence from a variety of fields of study.

Chapter 1: Forging a Path: Career Vision

Excerpt: Developing a vision and taking meaningful steps on the path toward that vision are exercises rooted in commitment and action. Whether you’re a student just beginning to think about your future as a working professional or you’re looking for a new path and wondering if there’s a different position in your future, developing a sense of where you want to go and visualizing a path forward may help you do the best, most energized, and rewarding work of your professional life. This chapter will help you build self-awareness: What do you know about yourself as a professional or professional-to-be? What work is most meaningful for you? As you contemplate these questions, it is important to visualize a destination: Whom will you work with? As a librarian, what constituency will you serve or support? What will you help them accomplish? How will you use your time and energy to reach that destination? What are the first steps on the path that will allow you to cultivate the future you envision?

Topic Discussed: vision, action, and momentum; getting started; “boots on the ground,” or what the work in various library settings looks like; and moving forward with a plan

Selected Exercises:

  • Current Contexts
  • Informational Interviews
  • Future Contexts
  • Future Task/Responsibility Journaling
  • First Steps

Chapter 2: Gathering and Lending Support: Relationships

Excerpt: Relationships can play important and varied roles in librarians’ professional lives. They exist in many forms and at many levels. There are people we work closely with and those we may never meet in person. There are relationships we seek out and those that find us. They all have purpose and meaning. What roles can professional relationships play across a career? How do overlapping and networked relationships help an individual develop professionally, succeed, get ahead, and provide satisfaction and meaning? And what can a librarian do to foster these connections in their own practice?

Topics Discussed: how strong relationships contribute to “flourishing”; the structural view–social networks and social capital; types of supportive working relationships; and positive networking behavior.

Selected Exercises:

  • Relationship Journaling
  • Network Mapping
  • Roles and Types of Support
  • Networking Behaviors Worksheet 

Chapter 3: Getting Your Bearings: Understanding Organizational Culture

Excerpt: When a librarian is newly hired and is entering the workplace for the first time, it is important that they spend some amount of time observing and listening, in order to “decode” the workplace culture. This is an equally valuable exercise for longtime members of the workplace community wishing to “take stock” of an environment to which they may have grown accustomed. What are the collective values in play? How do people behave and talk in the workplace? Where are the tensions and points of convergence? How do individuals, collaborative partners, and teams get work done? How are decisions really made? How is change introduced and implemented? How do you know when to go with the flow and when and how to resist or stand your ground? Every workplace is different, but awareness of some common challenges, a set of questions to help librarians interpret what they observe around them, and profiles of organizational dynamics in action will support those working to cultivate a professional practice in often complex library environments.

Topics Discussed: organizational cultures as complex systems; resistance to change; decoding organizational cultures; the roles of empowerment and engagement

Selected Exercises:

  • Basic Organizational Culture
  • Focusing on What Matters
  • Organizational Empowerment Assessment
  • How Engaged Are You?

Chapter 4: The Choices We Make: Creating Habits for Professional Growth

Excerpt: Habits have the potential to help us focus and stay productive even as the pressures of our jobs seem to increase continually and our responsibilities shift and diversify. In part because automatism can dull awareness, it’s a good idea to periodically review and revise habitual practices and perhaps identify opportunities for developing new positive routines. Remember that habits can help determine the course of our work and careers, so making sure that those we choose to develop are right for us, in our work context and with our priorities and goals, is very important. Consider which habits will support improved focus, productivity, and thinking based on the specifics of your own personality and situation.

Topics Discussed: clearing the decks; habits for focus, time management, and productivity; mindsets and habits of mind; making it stick

Selected Exercises:

  • Habits Checklist
  • Five Steps to Getting Things Done
  • The Eisenhower Matrix
  • Mind Mapping
  • What’s Your Mindset?
  • Six Step Habituation

Chapter 5: Telling our Stories: Using Narrative for Self-Promotion, Professional Development, and Influence

Excerpt: Working in libraries, we are surrounded by stories on the shelves, stories of our patrons and clients, stories of our colleagues, stories of our stakeholders and our leaders, and our own stories—narratives that can help us understand who we are, what we want, and where we are going. Through narrative we create stronger networks while bridging divides and flattening silos. We enhance reality and help contextualize and humanize information and data. We are able to better understand and share our organization’s structure and vision. By taking control of our own storyline, and strategically sharing bits and pieces of it in a variety of situations and for a variety of audiences, we can better control our present, and steer our work and careers toward the future we envision.

Topics Discussed: Structure and elements; storytelling for self-knowledge and self-promotion; storytelling to get the work done

Selected Exercises:

  • Five-Part Narrative
  •  One-Sentence ABT (And-But-Therefore)
  • Let me tell you a story….
  • Professional Biography Outline
  • “You Story” Elevator Speech
  •  STAR Worksheet
  • Write an Opinion Piece

Chapter 6: Finding Your Place: Mindfulness & Self-Compassion

Excerpt: No work environment is perfect, and that dream job may never come to fruition—at least not in the way you imagine it. So what do you do when the frustration creeps in and the position that was supposed to bring energy and fulfillment brings misgivings instead? How do we slow down, assess our state of well-being, and become more aware of what’s going on around us? More aware of how we are responding? How can we cultivate more positivity and better self-esteem? And how can we find energy and satisfaction in our current roles, while minimizing stress. In this chapter, we will explore these questions, and offer ways to enhance confidence, mindfulness, and self-compassion in our professional lives.

Topics Discussed: confidence, mindfulness, self-compassion

Selected exercises:

  • Peaks and Valleys
  • Mindful Meditation – Breathing
  • Self-appreciation
  • Objective and Compassionate Advice to Yourself
  • Gratitude Journal

Chapter 7: Discovering Your True Purpose: Reflective Practice

Excerpt: Reflection involves close scrutiny of one’s own work. Not surprisingly, questioning your own words and actions can be uncomfortable at times. However, through the development of a disciplined, thoughtful, and habitual practice, reflection helps you become more accountable and proactive in decision-making, and can provide agency for shaping your own future. In this final chapter, we will explore the meaning of, and purposes for, reflection in a professional context and offer concrete strategies for using this approach to address day-to-day practices and long-term development. We’ll also consider the role reflection may play in helping you direct and navigate the future course of your career.

Topics Discussed: why take up reflection?, getting started, building reflective habits, reflecting in groups

Selected Exercises:

  • Three-Phase Reflective Process
  • Exploring Reflective Approaches
  • Capture the Context
  • Exploring Practices to Build a Reflective Habit
  • Career Reflection
  • Approaches to Group Reflection

Susanne Markgren

is the director of technical services at Manhattan College in the Bronx, where she oversees acquisitions, electronic resources, cataloging, interlibrary loan, and systems, and serves as the subject librarian for the English department. Prior to this position, she spent eleven years as the digital services librarian at Purchase College, SUNY. She has served on national committees of ACRL, on the executive board of an ACRL chapter, and as the board president of a library consortium. She holds an MLIS from the University of Texas at Austin and an MFA in creative writing from Manhattanville College.

Linda Miles (she/her)

is Assistant Professor, Head of Library Reference, and a liaison librarian for the faculty of early childhood education and the visual and performing arts at Hostos Community College – City University of New York. Before coming to Hostos, Linda served for four years as Public Services and User Experience Librarian at Yeshiva University and she began her career in the library of the Lincoln Center Institute, an arts education organization. Linda is currently Co-Chair of the Community & Junior College Section of ACRL, Immediate Past President of ACRL/NY, and co-convener of a public services special interest group of a regional consortium. She holds an MLS from St. John’s University and a PhD in theatre history and criticism from the University of Texas at Austin.

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Positive energy, evidence of commitment to diversity and inclusiveness, competent about programs and services.

Reader, Reading Room, Mitchell Building. By Flickr user State Library of New South Wales

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: Library Services Supervisor

Titles hired include: Librarian I-III, Library Assistant

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration 

√ A Committee or panel 

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

√ Online application 

√ Resume 

√ References

√ Proof of degree 

√ 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:

Review applications, select candidates for interviews, conduct interviews, rate candidates, make hiring decision, notify candidates.  

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

Positive energy, evidence of commitment to diversity and inclusiveness, competent about programs and services. Smile, eye contact. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Negativity or hostility. Disparaging colleagues, patrons, or negative comments about people with mental illness or experiencing homelessness. Blaming others in teamwork scenarios.  

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 making any effort to research the organization or read and understand the job description.

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

No

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?

Evidence of professional development and training. Be able to communicate relevant experience in an interview setting, for instance, customer service in other settings is relevant in the library. Improving processes is, too. Developing programs in one setting may have similar components in planning, marketing, and implementation.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad  

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

What is a typical day like, what sorts of tasks would be involved, what is the schedule like, what is workplace culture. How does the position fit in the company organization chart. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western US 

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50 

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

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

Further Questions: All About Internships

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(s) are:

Do you expect that applicants with an MLIS should have completed an internship during their studies? What advantages do internships afford candidates? Does your own organization offer internships, and do your interns have a better chance of finding full time work with your organization? Should internships be included in the work experience section of a resume or CV, or somewhere else? Finally, please feel free to share any other thoughts you might have about internships, including any rants about unpaid work.  


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: I think there is a perception that, without an internship, a librarian entering the workforce is at a disadvantage. I also that it depends. If you don’t have any experience working in a library, archives, etc., than an internship can be valuable in a number of ways. The experience can help you decide if this is really the type of work, or working environment, you expected it to and can see yourself in. You can also learn a lot that will help strengthen your resume as you job search. You can also make some professional connections and add a reference contact or two to your list. Of course a lot of this depends on things you may not be able to control. How committed is the internship host to giving you a really robust and meaningful experience that benefits you and the host institution? How much of the work you do goes beyond busywork and allows you really to gain experience and skills? How much mentoring is provided? It might be a good idea to try to connect with someone who had an internship at the same library and to ask for their feedback .

I also think it is important to consider whether (a) you are already working in a library, or (b) you have the time and financial means. If you work part-time and an internship would require you to stop doing that it might not be feasible. No one should feel they have to explain why they don’t have an internship on their cv. If you have had a lot of experience already (I had years of bookstore, public library, and academic library work experience) then it might be less important. That said, almost all applications I have seen in the past few years include internship experience so I think it is important to plan on trying to incorporate one if possible. It doesn’t matter a lot to me where that appears on a cv.

At my current institution we have had a number of interns working in our Archives. We are located not far from two library schools and our Head of Special Collections & Archives is contacted by them and asked to host interns. We put them to work digitizing collections and working, including sometimes participating in conference presentations or helping with primary source literacy classes. My archivist is exceptional when it comes to supporting interns in ways that are mutually beneficial. I know that I don’t have the time or staff to host an intern interested in any other area of academic librarianship, at least not if we really want to do a good job.

I acknowledge that we have really benefitted from the interns we have hosted. I also know that I will never be in a position to be able to provide financial compensation for interns which is, for me, problematic. Our interns have always been enthusiastic and engaged. They are great opportunities for students. And yet the issues around unpaid labor remain. I’m not sure how they will be resolved.


Anonymous Federal Librarian: For federal library positions I think internships could help a lot. To even get through the hiring process, usually there is a need to have done at least something in a library, otherwise the chances of making the list that goes to the hiring manager is slim. While it doesn’t have to be an internship, having experience in a work study situation at a library would help. Even volunteering in a library would set a candidate up to have a better chance at an entry level federal librarian job. There are several agencies that offer paid federal internships, but interns won’t have a better chance of finding full time work with the agency at the end, unless there is an opening.  There are also a couple of government wide programs for internships. The Pathways program allows a work study situation, where current students can’t work more than 20 hours a week while they are also in school. These positions are paid, and the agency is supposed to have a position for the student at the end. It’s always worth applying as library students rarely apply for the program. The other option is not an internship, but it’s an entry level way to get into the government for recent graduates with advanced degrees, and that is through the Presidential Management Fellows program. Once again, there is no guarantee that the candidate will find a placement as there are few library school graduates who apply, so agencies rarely look for candidates, but it’s another program where agencies should have a job available at the end. Any internship experience should absolutely be added to the work experience section of a CV or a resume. Even if it’s unpaid work, it’s still work and relevant to your career goals.


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

Do you expect that applicants with an MLIS should have completed an internship during their studies?

Advising for graduate studies should include discussions on what students are bringing to the master’s including – obviously: general interests and specialized interests but also; experience in libraries (type, what level, etc.); professional or other experience in other workplaces – related; professional or other experience in other workplaces – any/not related. These discussions lead to a student’s self awareness as well as provide the master’s advisors/faculty, etc. with the opportunity to discuss programs of study, required and elective courses, if possible – coursework in other graduate programs that transfer/count; review current position postings to see what employers want as well as work together with students to build a personal pathway through the degree.

Am I avoiding answering the question? Not really but kind of as the answer really is “it depends” but it should depend on the student and his or her assessment of where they are and what they want. Also, I should add that many programs already require internships based on not only faculty and student judgement but also based on state or federal guidelines – with an example being some states require school library certification include an internship, etc. In addition, I would argue that although the advising discussion asks a student to self-reflect, the graduate faculty member’s expertise should include commenting on whether or not the experience they have really DOES give them a real look at what a librarian will do in the workplace as well as the need for students to realize the diverse profession we really are – in that “experience is not experience is not experience” and many types of experiences – even in libraries – do NOT transfer with common knowledge or even awareness. And – of course –  most experiences do not have that all-important critical assessment of decisions, etc. that is so important in a professional’s education. 

I am most reminded of this often when I remember that we had an hourly/adjunct librarian who said they wanted to apply for one of our full time librarian jobs as she wanted to take an easier job where she could “just do reference.” My feelings about that lack of professionalism, (possible laziness?,) and that level of ignorance someone has about their surroundings aside – employees in a library literally may often NOT have an understanding about what other staff do as not everyone has to be or should be cross trained. 

What advantages do internships afford candidates? 

I am going to answer this question to include experiences/lessons learned in an internship, then advantages and drawbacks.

Internship Experiences/Lessons Learned

  • Internships might solidify someone’s commitment to a type of library or size of organization or staff role or – even more importantly – show someone this is NOT the job for them after all. 
  • Internships might provide a positive role model to emulate but also might illustrate the way someone doesn’t WANT to be in their job.
  • Internships often educate people on constituent groups they will serve – something classroom experience can NOT do and that is an invaluable lesson learned.
  • Internships can teach someone what they don’t know about libraries or the profession as well as give them an opportunity to showcase or build on what they do know.
  • Internships can provide direction not about the type or size or constituent group but can also lend information on when someone might take a position. I have heard people say …I want to do this, but not yet…maybe my second job after the master’s will include this level or type of work.

Internship Advantages/Disadvantages

  • Internships offer visibility in a system where a student may be seeking a position. AND – this might be an advantage or disadvantage, but typically an advantage.
  • Internships provide networking for a type of library or size of library, etc. which is clearly an advantage. So while the internship environment may not have a position, another – through a network – might.
  • Internships may offer the advantage of an in depth look at an area of the profession, but too much focus might then narrow perceptions by not providing the broad look at the chosen area – that is, someone may feel there is only the one way they learned in the internship.
  • Students challenged by location, timing, etc. should not narrow down their opportunities for work as many internships do NOT translate to other types of sizes of libraries or types of constituents.

Does your own organization offer internships?

We used to offer internships (or capstones, practicums or field experience, etc.) but no longer do. Why? It is hard work and should be treated as such as the host institution should put in just as much as the student does to fulfill their roles and responsibilities. We discontinued this when we were in the middle of building three libraries at one time and opening all three within one academic year. Managers – literally – could not do justice to a student and the experience-required student learning outcomes – much less complete their own work which was significantly expanded. 

We considered adding some experiences back in, but then hit a wall with the pandemic. And yes – the pandemic actually increased the need for virtual/digital internships but we just couldn’t make the daily changes we needed to make and monitor them as well as make sure – as much as is possible – the safety and security of our own, much less an outside student. We have added one back recently – primarily because the student came to us with something VERY specific they could do for us – with our direction – and it was too good an idea and offered too good a “product” for us to turn down. 

Do your interns have a better chance of finding full time work with your organization? 

We can – if someone is successful – pretty much guarantee that hourly work (19 hours per week or less) is available upon graduation as we hire a significant number of hourly librarians. And the bonus for us is that we are relatively sure they are looking for other work so they may not be here long BUT they have a significant amount of awareness with us already so less up-front training is a much easier hire for a briefer period of time!

Should internships be included in the work experience section of a resume or CV, or somewhere else? 

The answer here is – as above – it depends, but if someone identifies their work experience on their resume/CV as paid, unpaid (not volunteer) then it can be included. If – as in our case – our online forms do not make allowances for changing labels, then applicants should label the experience with the position, the location and then the status. Example “Reference Librarian – Intern” x Library, Spring 2022. 3 graduate credits and successful completion of 120 hours on site. Project: xxxxxx with a link to the project completed if at all possible. BE SURE; however, to

  • ask your internship host institution if the wording you use is appropriate (NOTE: nothing is worse than a Linked-In profile where someone has presented incorrect information and even worse – their description doesn’t match their resume nor would it match what they were told if the internship coordinator was contacted;)
  • use approved wording in a cover letter to highlight a particularly successful experience or product a prospective employer can view/link to; and,
  • use the internship coordinator/host institution to serve as a reference – especially if the applicant is a student who has no or very little work experience.

Finally, please feel free to share any other thoughts you might have about internships, including any rants about unpaid work.  

Although I laughed when I read this regarding the “rant,” the reality is if the host institution uses you as an “unpaid worker” it isn’t really an internship. That is, internships – by their definition – indicate a temporary time for training and learning – with on-the-job learning within the parameters of the organization. And while internship participants should have gradual introductions to the work…hopefully culminating with the student being able to work unaided….that student should still be observed at their work to be sure that constituents get what they need while the student gets the immediate feedback they need to make the experience meaningful within the abbreviating timing of the learning project/assignment. 

I feel compelled to add suggestions:

If someone is on a program of study which they feel may be too limiting to them by its type or size of institution or likelihood of openings OR because they might be restricted with no relocation OR their relocation is unknown but probable, one thing they might do is opt for a broader or – in some cases second internship (if they don’t have to have one or if the one they must have a specific/more narrowly defined one.) This broad or general one could be for “adult reference” which might translate to any type or size of library, project management or programming. They might also seek an internship that is generic but much desired – such as a grant-writing activity or mastery of a specific software or something desired and on the horizon such as migration of a system….this would allow the student to go beyond a specific area – such as technical services – to make sure they are more marketable. 

Finally, if there is only the option for the specific internship and it is required, students should request that the student learning objectives include a few more general ones such as “adult reference” or software or system migration to allow for exposure. Another option for the single internship being broader is the one where one travels among departments and instead of picking all departments – which is hardly reasonable given time, staff limitations, etc. the student could focus on two or three departments and visit and work in all OR pick a project that required that the student work with identified departments to not only gain experience but create something that spans the variety of things they need to be more available for that broader job search.

All-in-all I think all students should seek some master’s level activity that is going to put them working with practitioners before they complete their degree. It only enriches the knowledge base and the possibilities. 


We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, over at Mastodon @hiringlibrarians@glammr.uson Twitter @HiringLib, on Post at post.news/hiringlib, or sung along to some New Orleans jazz. 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

Don’t be afraid to ask questions that address your concerns.

Jean Blackwell Hutson, Curator of the Schomburg Collection, and writer Langston Hughes at the Schomburg Collection in Harlem. NYPL Digital Collections

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: Youth Services Manager

Titles hired include: Youth assistant, youth specialist 

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

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

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

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

We grid the applicants by a standard list of criteria that match the qualifications listed on the job description and bring in the top candidates to interview.

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

Energetic, lots of enthusiasm, organized, excellent with children and families

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Not enough experience and needing a schedule that does not work with our staffing needs

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

What inspires them 

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?

Talking too much

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

No

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?

Relate what they have done in other industries to the library and the tasks outlined in the job description 

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?

N/A

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

Ask about the culture and why the last person left (if applicable)

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

 √ Never or not anymore 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50 

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

Don’t be afraid to ask questions that address your concerns. 

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.

Leave a comment

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