Tag Archives: library careers

Library School Career Center: San José State University

This series is a collaboration with Hack Library School (HLS). HLS is written by library school students. In this series, the students interview their schools to dig deeper into the resources provided for job hunting and career support. We are cross-posting here and on Hack Library School. This post is written by Lauren Bauer, who is the current managing editor for HLS.

By the way, if you are an employer looking to get your job ad out to library schools, Hilary Kraus (who you may also know from Further Questions) has created a very helpful spreadsheet with best process to reach each of the 63 ALA continually accredited library schools.


This interview is with Kim Dority, iSchool Career Consultant for Students and Alumni. Kim Dority is the founder and president of Dority & Associates, an information strategy and content development company focusing on researching and writing print and online content to help advance client goals. During her career, she has worked in academia, publishing, telecommunications, and the library fields, in for-profit and nonprofit settings, for both established companies and start-ups.

Additional information was also provided by Nicole Purviance, iSchool Director of Marketing and Communications.

Career Center Information

What does the school do to support students and alumni as they look for jobs?

From iSchool career advisor Kim Dority to the faculty, administration, student support service advisors, and the students and alumni themselves, all iSchool stakeholders are focused on helping our “LIS professionals in training” graduate with knowledge, applicable skills, and job opportunities.

To that end, the program has developed a multi-pronged approach to sharing LIS career information and insights:

  • The iSchool has created and continues to expand a rich collection of career resources in a broad range of formats, including online career workshops, practitioner-interview podcasts, how-to guides, descriptions of various career pathways, articles, and career checklists, among others, available in the Career Development section on the school’s website. Career-coaching workshops and a career-insights newsletter for students and alumni alternate monthly, focusing on topics ranging from job-search strategies to information interviews to creating LinkedIn profiles and similar “how-to” subjects. In addition, a student career blogger posts weekly insights and information from the student’s point of view.
  • Even before students start the program, once registered for a course they immediately have access to career advisor Kim Dority, who is available to them on an individual basis throughout the program and after they graduate. As students progress through their courses, they may have questions about types of LIS work, potential career paths, emerging opportunities, how to gain professional visibility while in grad school, library culture, job hunting and landing, or even who pays what salaries. These and hundreds of other questions are all part of exploring students’ “best-fit” options, and they are encouraged to reach out at any point to brainstorm answers that work for them.
  • Career advisor Kim Dority also regularly presents LIS career-related insights as a guest speaker in various courses and alerts faculty to new career materials of potential value to their students, especially practitioner interviews. The goal is to integrate real-world insights from those in the field with scholarship and theory, so that students regularly have an opportunity to see how various types of knowledge translate into actual LIS jobs.
  • All students are encouraged to join at least one LIS professional organization and if possible, to take a leadership role in the association student group. The iSchool pays for each student’s membership in one LIS association, and students are encouraged to actively engage with fellow members locally and nationally to help broaden their professional networks (and the job opportunities that come with them). In addition, the iSchool is currently in the process of creating a career-mentoring program led by career advisor Kim Dority for all students in school chapter leadership roles.
  • Recognizing the importance of professional-level internships for student success, the iSchool has developed and maintains a robust and ever-expanding database of internship opportunities, both in-person and remote, that reflect the broad range of information work and employers open to LIS professionals. In addition to the internship database (and in recognition of students’ time constraints) several articles in the Career Development section deal with how to make the most of internships, the benefits of internships, and ways to find time for internships.
  • Students who are or will be job-hunting have access to Handshake, San Jose State University’s job-listing platform where employers post jobs of interest to both students and alumni. In addition, the program’s liaison with the campus Career Center works regularly with iSchool students on perfecting their resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and cover letters. Through the main Career Center, our students can also practice their interviewing skills, complete self-assessments, and learn additional job-search strategies.

Are there “career experts” on staff?  What are their credentials?

Yes. Career Advisor Kim Dority is the author of Rethinking Information Work and creator of an MLIS course, “Alternative LIS Careers,” which she taught for 20 years. An independent information professional, Kim has been advising LIS students and career transitioners regarding how to find or create “best fit” work in all types of information environments for decades in addition to the client-based information work she does via her company, Dority & Associates, Inc. (See her interview with Hiring Librarians here.) Carrie McKnight, SJSU Career Center liaison for the iSchool, is an expert career development practitioner with over twenty years of experience in counseling, training, and teaching.

Does the school have a job board or an email list with job postings? 

The school provides multiple channels for letting students/alumni know about job postings. The primary job-listing platform is Handshake. New job postings are also noted via the various student-outreach communications (e.g., career newsletter, student career blog, weekly student alerts, etc.) based on newly posted Handshake jobs of interest.

In addition, the Career Development site has an entire section devoted to Job Search and Agencies, including Job Listing Sites and Resources (which identifies dozens of general and specialized LIS job sites) and Placement Agencies.

If so, how can employers get their job listing included?

Handshake has information for employers posting job openings here.

Do you require that a salary be included on job listings?

Although not required previously, California state law SB 1162 stipulates that any employer with at least 15 employees must include the salary or hourly wage range in all job postings. This requirement takes effect January 1, 2023.

Are there any other requirements for job listings?

No.

Does the school provide any of the following:

General career coaching – Yes. Kim Dority is available to all students and alumni for individual career advising on all aspects of LIS careers.

Resume/CV review – Yes. The iSchool Career Development website has information and examples for effective resumes, CVs and cover letters. Both Carrie McKnight and Kim Dority are available to critique final draft versions of each of these documents and provide detailed feedback to students.

Help writing cover letters – Yes. The iSchool Career Development website has information and examples for effective resumes, CVs and cover letters. Both Carrie McKnight and Kim Dority are available to critique final draft versions of each of these documents and provide detailed feedback to students.

Literature/articles – Yes. The iSchool Career Development website provides links to many relevant articles, job sites, blog posts, and journals. In addition, the career newsletter often includes reviews of relevant LIS career books.

Interview practice – Yes. Big Interview, which enables students to practice and perfect their interview skills, is available through the SJSU Career Center.

Networking events (virtual or in-person) – Yes. Because the iSchool understands the critical role networking plays in career development, it provides numerous opportunities for networking:

  • Student chapters: All new MLIS students receive a complimentary one-year membership in their preferred professional association, including the American Library Association, Special Libraries Association, American Society for Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T), and ARMA International. Students also benefit from the opportunity to participate in the iSchool’s active professional association student chapters. Students interact with their peers and professional leaders through virtual networking events, workshops, and conferences, as well as blogs and online discussion forums. Our student chapters have won numerous awards recognizing their excellence and their innovative approach to serving online students, including the 2009 and 2010 ALA, the 2012 ASIS&T, and the (multiple years) SLA Student Chapter of the Year. 
  • Professional conferences: The iSchool participates in professional conferences and meetings held all over the U.S., Canada, and internationally. We host networking receptions at many conferences, and our students and alumni are always welcomed. It’s a great way to reconnect with colleagues and make new contacts.
  • Internships: Student interns gain real-world experience for building their resumes and make new contacts with potential future employers. iSchool students have the option to complete an onsite internship located near their home or a virtual internship, where they interact with a host organization that may be located nearby or across the continent. Our expansive internship program gives students the opportunity to engage in exciting learning opportunities that fit their career aspirations, regardless of where they live. The iSchool offers more than 200 virtual and physical internship opportunities each semester.
  • Career podcasts: Our practitioner podcasts feature information professionals and hiring managers from a variety of professional settings. They discuss their work, the skills and experiences required to pursue a similar career pathway, and recruitment opportunities. If students have questions, they are often able to contact speakers directly by email and phone.
  • Student assistantships: Many iSchool students work as student assistants with the program, helping faculty and staff while gaining hands-on experience with research and professional projects. Student assistantship opportunities vary each semester. Student assistantships are paid part-time positions.

Does the school provide any of the following in-person career services?

Appointments: Yes. Individual appointments with Career Advisor Kim Dority and/or Career Center liaison Carrie McKnight via phone, Zoom, or email are available upon request.

Speakers, or programs that present experts: Yes. Students hear from LIS professionals via iSchool podcast interviews and occasional career newsletter and student career blog interviews.

Mixers or other networking events: Yes. Many iSchool student chapters host virtual social gatherings/mixers. In addition, the program also hosts networking receptions at professional conferences where current students can mingle with alumni, faculty, and friends of the iSchool.

Does the school provide any of the following online career services?

Website with resources: Yes. The Career Development section of the iSchool website comprises hundreds of resources within the broad categories of career direction, networking, job search and agencies, social media for the job search, resumes, CVs, and cover letters, career e-portfolios for landing a job, and interviewing, among others.

Blog (if so, how often is it updated): Yes. The iSchool hosts a weekly student career blog, written by a current program student.

Webinars: Yes. The iSchool offers archived presentations on career strategy and tactics as well as online workshops on career topics with Career Advisor Kim Dority.

Podcasts: Yes. The iSchool hosts an ongoing series of practitioner interviews.

Social Media: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook

Newsletter: Kim Dority writes a career newsletter every other month that is distributed to all students.

What do you think is the best way for students to use career help provided by the school?

The iSchool recommends that students use its career development resources and services “early and often.” By that it means that students should think about and focus on their professional career paths throughout their time in the graduate program. It’s important not to wait until they’re ready to graduate. Instead, the iSchool encourages students to get started in their first semester by exploring the career development site, and using the tools to help determine how their course choices can help them pursue their future career ambitions. Learn how to conduct informational interviews and to network while they are in school. Take advantage of opportunities to increase their understanding of traditional and non-traditional work settings where they can use skills learned in their courses. The iSchool encourages students to use the resources and to contact the Career Advisor Kim Dority if they need help, have questions, or just want to learn more about the possible career paths open to iSchool graduates. We want students to be successful!

May alumni use the school’s career resources?

Alumni may freely use all of the resources publicly available on the website and the career advising provided by Career Advisor Kim Dority.

Are there any charges for services?

The iSchool Career Development resources, all archived podcasts and recordings of career workshops are freely available on the website. The Handshake database and individual career consulting and materials review is free to iSchool students and alumni.

Can you share any stories about job hunters that found positions after using the school’s career resources?

We receive emails from alumni who credit our career resources for helping them land professional jobs. Our students are also very enthusiastic about our career development web pages. Here are a few quotes from students:

“This site is so incredible!”

“This is by far one of the best, if not the best, resources for students that I have seen.”

“I would recommend to anyone in need of career advice, not just iSchool students.”

“The information is tailored to the iSchool making it a one stop guide.”

The iSchool publishes Community Profiles and Career Spotlights about working alumni.

Anything else you’d like to share with readers about your services in particular, or about library hiring/job hunting in general?

In addition to our career development resources, the iSchool curriculum is constantly evaluated and updated to align with today’s job market and emerging trends in the library and information science field. As a graduate put it, “I entered the job market with usable skills.”

It’s also very important for students to think broadly and keep an open mind when job searching. The MLIS skillset is transferable to a wide range of organizations and industries. iSchool graduates work at medical facilities, law firms, public libraries, academic libraries, high-tech companies, schools, and more. Their business cards carry titles such as Information Architect, Usability Analyst, Librarian, and User Experience Designer – just to name a few exciting job titles.

Students’ Career Paths

Can you share any statistics about employment rates after graduation?

Yes! See here.

Can you talk a little bit about the school’s approach to internships, practicums and/or volunteering?

While internships are not required, the iSchool strongly encourages all students to take advantage of their time in the program by registering for one (or more) of the approximately 200 physical and virtual internships offered each semester. Even if students are currently working in an information center or library, doing an internship in a different work environment provides them with new experience and information – and allows them to “test” or “practice” working in a new environment without much risk. Many graduates have stated that internships were the most valuable part of their master’s education because internships lead to expanded professional networks and also often provide the critical lead to that first job.

Does the school have a stated approach or policy on helping students to find careers?

Our approach is to provide excellent career resources and services to our students, and to encourage students to take advantage of those resources “early and often” during their graduate program.

Believing it is an integral part of the iSchool’s mission to provide relevant and comprehensive career resources, the program supports these resources by assigning faculty and staff to develop and maintain them. While the faculty and staff strongly encourage students to make use of the iSchool’s career resources and services, it is a student’s individual choice to do so.

Does the school have any relationships with organizations that offer fellowships or other post-graduate opportunities?

Not at this time.

Demographics

How many students in the library school? 

We average about 2,000 active MLIS students per semester.

What degree(s) do you offer? 

See here

Is it ALA accredited? 

Yes

What are the entrance requirements? 

For the MLIS program, see here.

When was the library school founded? 

See here

Where are you?

As part of San Jose State University, the iSchool is physically located in California (Western US), but the online program is offered nationally and internationally.

Anything else you’d like to share?

All of the iSchool’s resources are focused on supporting online students, including its career counseling, academic advising, and technology support team.

iSchool instructors use emerging technology in their courses to enrich student learning in an engaging and interactive online environment. They exchange ideas and perspectives with students via live web conferences, recorded audio lectures, screencasts, emails, online discussion forums, blogs, Zoom meet-ups, instant messaging, and social networks. The multimedia format enlivens the learning experience while introducing students to the same types of tools they’ll use in their future careers.


This interview was conducted by Lauren Bauer, a current MLIS student at SJSU and the Managing Editor of Hack Library School. Lauren Bauer is a lifelong Los Angeleno and is in the all-online MLIS program at San José State University. She works with circulation, ILL, and course reserves at a community college library, and hopes to stay in the academic library world after graduation. Her academic focus is on instruction, information literacy, student worker management, resource sharing, and cataloging. Previously she worked as a page and public library assistant, wrote and edited for the LA Zoo magazine and website, and loaned people her corkscrew as an usher at the Hollywood Bowl. She likes Star Wars and indoor cycling, plays trombone in the Lancaster Community Orchestra, and posts rarely and mostly about movies on Twitter at @darthbookworm3.

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Further Questions: Do you have any etiquette tips for candidates who have received an offer?

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.

Do you have any etiquette tips for candidates who have received an offer? How quickly would you expect a response? Do you expect candidates to negotiate things like pay and benefits? Can a candidate decline your offer without burning a bridge with you?


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: Response time to an offer depends a bit. For a library faculty position I think two weeks is probably the maximum I would prefer to wait. That should give a candidate time to consider the offer, think about what else they have out there, and make reply. Quicker is always better but two weeks seems fair. For staff positions I usually ask the person to communicate back within the week. It’s not uncommon for some staff candidates to accept at the time I offer. I always tell them to think about it for a day, double check benefits, and then get back to me.

Our library faculty are members of the faculty union so there are minimum salary levels for all ranks. Benefits are non-negotiable because they are in the union’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. That’s where the negotiating happens. I could offer start-up funds (well, I could if had any discretionary budget) and it used to be that we might offer a new faculty member some reassigned time (course release) in the first year if they asked for some benefit we could not provide or we really wanted to sweeten the pot. That is also no longer an option, at least for the foreseeable future. I have had a library faculty candidate ask for a higher starting salary. At the time I offered some additional faculty development funds (the librarians also have annual funds for this through their contract). That was acceptable to the candidate.

How we might consider a candidate who turned an offer down is mostly a hypothetical. I don’t think, in over 25 years with hiring authority, it has ever happened to me. I have had people reapply for positions when they were not offered a position the first time (or two). If I thought a candidate was promising enough to make an offer, I’d like to think I would do it again if that person turned out to be a top candidate again. There are a lot of reasons why someone might turn down an offer.

My etiquette tips are for the hiring side to communicate clearly and accurately about time line (and keep in mind that candidates are waiting while you are, too), follow up if things take longer than anticipated (following whatever HR guidelines you need to), and try not to drag any negotiations on for too long. My tips for candidates are to try to reach a decision within a reasonable time, to ask and negotiate for what you want once you understand the parameters of what might not be negotiable, and to consider all of the pieces that go into making a big decision like this.


Anonymous: I have received some really good tips from mentors in the past and am happy to share them! Unless someone has a very good reason to wait longer, I think 2-3 days would be the latest that I would expect a response. I don’t necessarily expect someone to negotiate pay and benefits, but they should if they feel that the pay should be higher. The best piece of advice that I received was when I was offered my current position. I really wanted it but wanted higher pay than was offered. My mentor suggested that I respond by thanking them for the offer, tell them that I was very excited about it and excited to join the institution, and would like to discuss a higher salary. Be prepared with a counteroffer and data to back up your request. In my case, I was able to use ARL salary data to back up my request. Another option to consider if the employer is unable to budge on salary is to ask for additional benefits, such as extra funds for conference travel, hiring assistance for spouse/partner, etc. People accept or decline offers for a variety of reasons, so no, I would not see a candidate declining an offer in a bad way.


Dr. Colleen S. Harris, Librarian, John Spoor Broome Library, CSU Channel Islands: We always hope for a response as quickly as possible (the relief of completing a successful search after racing against the ever present possibility of losing the position, a reality working in a public organization during budget crunches), but of course expect the candidate to consider for a few days. Yes, we expect candidates to negotiate pay, but in higher ed I also expect them to negotiate startup packages (office technology & software, travel/professional development funding, specific office furniture if needed, not everyone realizes you can ask for these). And yes, of course candidates can always decline an offer without burning a bridge. A lot of things go into taking a new job, and even if it’s a good fit professionally (not always the case), life circumstances can always intervene and prevent a candidate from accepting. That’s just the way of work, it’s not personal.


Alan Smith, Director, Florence County, SC Library System: There’s nothing wrong or unprofessional about a candidate asking to consider an offer before accepting. We know that we aren’t the only employer they are considering, and they have families and other jobs and school schedules and all kinds of things to consider. I’d rather them take a day to be sure than accept and then decide it wouldn’t work out. However, once they have all the information from us, I generally expect a response in one business day. Anything longer than that usually indicates that they’re waiting on an offer from an employer they prefer, and will leave once something else is available. 

Of course there are extenuating circumstances sometimes. If someone’s relocating, waiting on a spouse’s job, etc., they may need longer to know whether the position will work out. In those cases just be honest about what you’re waiting for, e.g., “I’ll know next Monday whether my partner got the job they were applying for and then I’ll know whether I can accept.” For me, this shows you’re taking the position seriously and communicating openly. Note that some employers may feel differently, and prefer employees who are too desperate to even consider another offer or delay acceptance! But discovering that before accepting an offer might be a good thing. 

It’s fine for candidates to negotiate pay, and I’d estimate that about one-third of our new hires do it. Unfortunately, as a county department with a fixed budget we usually don’t have that flexibility. We do give information about starting salary and benefits upfront at the time of the interview, so at least there are no surprises. 

As far as declining offers, it does happen occasionally, and it’s up to the candidate to decide whether to burn the bridge. Just don’t ghost us! If the pay isn’t enough, if the interview made you think the job duties weren’t what you expected, etc., just say that. Not only does it leave a positive impression if you ever apply here in the future, it helps us make changes to the position to make it more attractive, and changes to the advertising and interview process to make it more transparent and informative. 


Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: We obviously want someone to be excited about our position, so we would love someone to respond quickly, but that’s not realistic. Just be honest about needing more time and how much time you need. Remember, others have interviewed for this position and are waiting to hear back, and your decision may affect the outcome for them. Benefits, in our case, are not negotiable. We all get the same benefits and even our vacation is contractual. I would say that, if you don’t know the salary at the time of an interview, you should ask. I have had situations where I had to specifically ask a candidate if they understood the salary and would take the job at that salary. We generally don’t have a range. We have an amount we have budgeted and we would not offer less, and we can’t offer more. You could negotiate start date. Yes, I would say that a candidate could decline an offer without burning bridges. We want to know if the job isn’t right for you before you accept and things don’t work out. 


Gregg Currie, College Librarian, Selkirk College: A prompt response is always appreciated, even it is just to say “I need to think about/talk with my partner first”, and a time frame in which to expect a firm answer.

One of the benefits of working in a unionized environment is that pay scales are pretty much set so there is not much to be negotiated. Librarians are paid at scale based on years of experience so some room for negotiation there, and post pandemic we might now be negotiating some work from home days.  Otherwise things are set.

A candidate could decline without burning bridges as long as it was done professionally, and a good reason for declining was provided.  


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

Do you have any etiquette tips for candidates who have received an offer?

While it certainly isn’t required, it is helpful to get a follow up note from a candidate who hasn’t said yes or no yet but are confirming their interest in a position, identifying why they think they are a great match for the job, clarifying an answer to a question or adding new information they fell pertinent to the search Notes can also clarify why they can’t answer immediately or speculating on a date for getting back to you to solidify when you *can* expect a specific answer.

How quickly would you expect a response? I think my response of “within a week” is colored by our current urgency to fill our vacancies. So perhaps it isn’t fair, but I have lost second choice candidates when the first choice takes too long. If we didn’t have such a push to hire, probably two to three weeks is more reasonable; however, the reality is:

  • I expect applicants to make some decisions or gather information prior to an interview about the community etc.
  • The best applicant – taking too long – can often cause irritation within the hiring group or the rest of the institution as the process remains ongoing.
  • Applicants hoping to turn this position down but reapplying when their situation has changed may “burn their bridges” by leaving the organization waiting too long.

Do you expect candidates to negotiate things like pay and benefits? I don’t handle this part of the hiring process – our Human Resources department does – but there is possible discussion given the parameters such as: Did my second masters get counted? Is the dollar amount the maximum relocation dollars available? Were all of the years of relevant experience included in the offer? 

Can a candidate decline your offer without burning a bridge with you? The easiest but most accurate answer is “it depends.” And it depends on some obvious things to all of us…what could make us lose interest for future work or reapplication? 

  • the applicant waits too long to consider the offer
  • the applicant appears to be less than honest with their reason for turning us down 
  • the applicant is told what our negotiation can’t include but tries to negotiate and then turns us down when we can’t meet the requests
  • the applicant says they will accept but don’t want to go to a specific location and seek another location within our system instead (which – sadly – means we will not hire them as I think it is critical that managers get to build their own teams)

We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, over at Mastodon @hiringlibrarians@glammr.uson Twitter @HiringLib, or whistled in the style of Andrew Bird. 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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I don’t think job hunters need to do anything extra.

Interior of the Chatham Square Branch of the New York Public Library. NYPL Digital Collections.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: Director of Discovery and Delivery

Titles hired include: Software engineer, ILS Service Manager, Data Analyst, Systems Analyst, Director of Collections, Finance Manager

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 

√ More than one round of interviews 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

Very bureaucratic process involving the library division and hiring manager, our HR liaison, and multiple people in HR reviewing, vetting, and pushing the process forward (e.g. only they can post the position on certain hiring sites, writing an offer letter, etc.). Internally, we typically phone screen applicants first, then do two rounds of interviews.

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

She had all the experience we requested, even everything marked “preferred.” She was easy going in the interview and asked excellent questions of us.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Unable/unwilling to work on a PST standard workday timetable. Also, extreme ego/cockiness–will not mesh well with the team.

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

Their ability to work in an ongoing, stable team environment.

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?

They don’t take the opportunity at the end of the interview to ask us questions.

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

We do. I don’t think of it as that different. I don’t think job hunters need to do anything extra.

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?

Pull what you’ve done that is connected, even slightly, to the new institution’s mission and goals.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad 

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

We have done blind hiring (everything redacted) until the final interviews. We are encouraged to take diversity into consideration in our hiring decisions. I think people still consider candidates for “fit” which is biased in its very nature. 

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

They should know the org structure, mission and vision, the work being done by the team they’re going to be working with.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western US 

What’s your region like?

√ Other: We’re a digital library so we cover all the UCs in the state of California, so many different environments.

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Always 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100  

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, Western US

About a Decade Later: Former (and Current) Job Hunter Michael Grutchfield

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. 

Michael Grutchfield filled out the original survey in 2013 and his answers appeared as I Want to Put my Training to Use. We followed up with him in 2015 and learned he had found not just one but two jobs! Since then he’s had an interesting path and is currently back on the job hunt. 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?

Right now, I’m actually more or less where I probably was when this survey first came out: living in Portland and looking for a library job. I brought that on myself, however. My path has been a complicated one.

For the past eight years, up until the end of September, I’ve been living in Southern Oregon, working over that time in three different libraries. This began with a job offer from the library at Rogue Community College for a part time reference/instructional position. In order to sweeten the idea of moving for a part time job, the director mentioned that the local public library in Grants Pass was looking to hire a part time collection librarian.

I interviewed for that job in May, 2014 and got the job offer while I was down for a visit. So, I moved to Rogue River with two part time jobs – one in an academic library, one in a public library. The public library, Josephine Community Libraries, was at that time managed by a nonprofit after the voters had voted to shut down the County-run system in 2009. We were also heavily involved in campaigning for a library district, which finally passed in 2017. I was then offered the position of Collection Development Librarian full time, and immediately got to work heavily weeding a collection that had been sustained on donations for eight years and upgrading the collection.

Then, in 2019, I learned that the library in my town was looking for a manager, and the draw of being able to walk to work was too much to resist. In 2019, I got the job of Area Manager for Jackson County Library Services, supervising five of the branches in their 15-branch system and working from an office in the Rogue River branch. They were undergoing a similar transition, as they had been managed by the for-profit library company LS&S since a shutdown, and were just putting their district back in charge during 2020, which happened to be at the height of the pandemic. I got to do a lot of different kinds of management work during my time there, including managing the Sub Pool and being on the team to plan expanding hours across the system.

And then, towards the end of this Summer, I got the bug to move back to Portland, where an old friend had space in her house to rent to me. I made the move about a month ago, and have been actively searching for jobs in libraries since then.

Were any parts of your journey completely unexpected?

Most parts! I never thought I would take to Public Libraries, customer-facing jobs, or managing lots of people. But, that’s how it has gone.

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

One thing that pops out is where I said I wanted a job in or near Portland! That hasn’t changed, but I spent 8 years building my resume to make it (hopefully) possible.

One thing that has changed is that I no longer find INALJ (I Need a Library Job) to be the most useful resource. Luckily, there are a lot of resources for finding jobs. In my area, being aware of the local library associations and their job listings and networking with friends are the most useful ways to proceed now. I never seem to lack job openings to apply for!

What I remember from those times is how often I had to re-type every part of my resume into an online application. More and more libraries and hiring institutions have software now that “grabs” the basic info from your resume and plugs it in automatically, which at least reduces this to an editing process, rather than data entry. This is good. It might not be a bad idea for someone to put together tips on how best to format your resume so that the software can recognize the data accurately.

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

I’ve been on quite a number of hiring committees, including some for my own direct reports. It does give you some perspective on why the process can take too long, and how hard it is for employers to get a handle on your qualifications, and who you really are, from the typical hiring process. It’s a huge leap of faith to invite someone into your workspace (effectively 1/3 of your life!) when all you have is some paper and a very contrived conversation to base the decision on.

The long process of hunting for work gave me (I hope) a good deal of empathy for the people on the other end of it. I tried to be respectful of their time and the stressful process they were going through.

Do you have any advice for job hunters?

Most of what you have already heard: really do craft your application materials (especially cover letter) to the specific job posting, really do follow all instructions and make sure your application is complete, and really do apply only for one or two jobs per employer at one time – it sends a message of “I’ll take anything!” if your name comes up for every open position.

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

Just remember what your applicants are going through. Looking for work is a full time job (and some of them are doing it on top of a full time job), and they will appreciate your consideration, even when you can’t hire them.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

Just that I have loved working in libraries ever since I started, and it’s been a pleasure working with very different communities (and in different jobs!) than I expected to.

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highlight previous customer service experience and really sell what you are going to bring to the library that they may not already have.

Ottendorfer, Librarian standing at desk, NYPL Digital Collections

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: Librarian II

Titles hired include: Library Technician, Library Assistant, Librarian 

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

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes 

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

We post the position for 2 weeks, review the applications, interview 3-6 candidates,  make the offer, send information to HR for background check, set start date, and let other candidates know the choose someone else. As a hiring manager, I do everything but the steps that HR completes.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Candidates that don’t have conflict management skills. 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

Resume: √ Only One! 

CV: √ Only One! 

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

Answering that they like quiet places and to read. That’s great but we do so much more than that. Make sure to really look at the library’s website and social media.

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

We have conducted virtual interviews in the past but are now back to in-person.

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?

Make sure to highlight previous customer service experience and really sell what you are going to bring to the library that they may not already have. 

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad 

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

We have multiple people choose the candidates 

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

What duties are specific to this position? (We have the same job description for everyone with that title.) What will the first 6 months in this position look like?

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?

√ 51-100 

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, Public, Southwestern US, Suburban area

Further Questions: How do you cope with hiring decisions you might not agree with?

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.

How do you cope with hiring decisions you might not agree with? How might this affect working relationships later on, either with current colleagues or the new hire? If a candidate you think was amazing was not hired, do you have the ability to reach out afterwards to connect them with other libraries/later openings in your organization?


Anonymous: I have pretty good instincts about hires and I should have known that this particular one was a mistake. We interviewed three people for a librarian position. Both had worked at the library at the university in close proximity to our campus. One had been a librarian who, for whatever reason, had not been offered a continuing contract. The other was a staff member who had just finished library school. I felt that the young man who had just graduated from library school was a far better fit for the position. His interactions with me were spot on and I felt like he would excel at the position. The other person was more experienced but, to me, just wasn’t connecting with the challenges of the position. This position reported to me, but both my colleagues and the Vice Provost (who interviews all faculty candidates) insisted that the young man who had just graduated was somehow immature and less desirable. We had another meeting with the more experienced person and I still had reservations, but I went along with it. Sadly, I was correct. The new librarian got another job elsewhere and thrived, but the person we hired was not a good fit and ended up not being offered a contract a few years later. I spent a lot of time attempting to develop and mentor this librarian and I don’t think my feelings at the time of hire affected my ability to work with this librarian, but it just wasn’t ever going to work. I look back on that any time someone is pressuring me to hire a particular candidate. I trust my instincts. In another case, we didn’t hire someone for one position, but I really liked him and had in the back of my mind that I thought he would be great working for me (rather than the job he had applied for). About a year later, we had a staff position open in my area and I hired him and he has been amazing. In fact, he is moving into a librarian role in January. That one was a win! 


Ellen Mehling, Job Search Advisor/Instructor and Brooklyn Public Library’s Job Information Resource Librarian: Bad hiring decisions can have a disastrous effect on workplace morale and productivity and turnover. This is why it is so important to check references thoroughly, to have diversity on hiring committees, and to encourage/ensure that diverse candidates are applying and are actually considered.

When employees see someone hired who is not qualified, or whom they know – or discover later – to have lied about their experience and qualifications, they can lose hope in general at that workplace. They may resent and distrust the new hire. When fully qualified applicants (internal or external) are not considered, that can have the same effect.

It actually makes sense for people to give up when they see these things happening again and again – why put in effort when there is no reward or recognition for hard work and dishonesty is rewarded? Or when they see someone hired for reasons other than their skills and experience? Having a workplace of demoralized staff who are less engaged than they could be (at best) or running for the exits (at worst) is bad for everyone, though.

If an amazing candidate was not hired at my workplace, I would advise them to apply elsewhere. If they’d already been rejected once it would be a hard sell to convince them to apply there again.


Anonymous: This is a great question. Thank you for asking.

Years ago the library I was working for hired a technician who I did not think was qualified or a good fit for the team. Politics played a bit in the hiring so that annoyed me further.

This person turned out to be a terrible fit with the team and barely did the job that was required. Because of the politics we worked with the staffer as much as we could to engage them and bring them up to speed and it did not go well.

After 2 months of trying (and hearing the support staff complain A LOT) we had a meeting and told the individual that we were going to have to see x,y,z improvements before the 90 day review. I think they worked one more week before they gave notice. Lucky for us there  was not much damage to the team that had to be repaired. The managers understood that we had to try and make it work and hear the staff’s concerns. 

A few years ago my favorite candidate was not chosen for the job. I was super bummed. In my eyes they were the best person for the job and any other person would be a far behind second choice. The hiring committee did not feel the same way and the person they hired is actually really amazing and is a good fit. There are no solid rules about reaching out after the job has been filled, so I sent an email. The candidate was surprised and said that it was nice to know that they didn’t totally mess up the interview and that the committee actually felt that the other person was better suited. We actually collaborated on a project and are colleague-friends. They got another job before another job posting came up at my organization, but I would have told them to apply and I would not have gotten in any trouble. 


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: I am hopeful the process used by the organization has enough “process” and “procedure” and the right people involved to make sure there isn’t two much discord over a hire. To avoid this or to minimize this I suggest:

  • reminding people of the process and who makes the final decision in advance of their accepting membership on the hiring committee
  • a discussion with the committee outlining guidelines with a review of decision making and the concepts of the process together
  • taking good notes during the interviews so that justification for internal members is clear at the point of selection (and yes — personal notes made during interviews are confidential within committee discussions and destroyed post interview)
  • good communication throughout the process with the committee so that they know likely outcomes as candidates are interviewed, then discussed
  • if possible – confidential sharing among committee members when deciding, with – instead of verbal voting – confidential voting for finalists/a finalist
  • as much as legally possible – discussing aspects of prioritizing candidates
  • as appropriate – weighting areas of importance to indicate why some areas are more important than others

There is often a fine line between or among candidates and anything the chair can do to capture discussion and then voting to illustrate choices with weighted scores, the better the process. 


We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, over at Mastodon @hiringlibrarians@glammr.us, on Twitter @HiringLib, or delivered as a nagging feeling of guilt that I just can’t shake. 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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Author’s Corner: Six things you should not do when applying for a library job

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 Deloris Jackson Foxworth, who wrote Landing a Library Job.  

In this post, written just for Hiring Librarians, Deloris discusses application materials. She identifies six key things to avoid and offers alternative practices to pursue when applying for a library or information science job.   

I think you will find her perspective interesting. For more of Deloris’ insights, the citation for her book is:

Foxworth, D. (2019). Landing a Library Job. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers 


Application materials can reveal a lot about an applicant. While there are many important things to include, there are also some things you should not include (or do) with your application materials. 

Tip 1: Do not include references unless they are requested. You can provide those at a later time. Instead use the space you would devote to references on your resume to highlight your skills or experiences and use your cover letter to mention any significant connections to the company or the industry. You could include a name of a current or former employee of the organization. See two variations of this below. “I learned of the children’s librarian position at ABC Library from assistant director John Doe. We agree that my knowledge of children’s literature and experience in a daycare make me a great candidate for the children’s librarian position.” “When John Doe told me of the position, I knew I would be a good fit because my experience managing the circulation system at XYZ University Library has prepared me to succeed as the next circulation manager at ABC Library.” 

Tip 2: Do not include personal social media links. Instead create a professional profile on LinkedIn and provide a link on your resume, cover letter, or both. Be sure to complete your LinkedIn profile and add your recent employment history. Consider adding key tasks or accomplishments with each position. You can even indicate you are currently “open to finding a new job” under your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn can also be used to demonstrate those connections mentioned in tip 1. You can request recommendations from other LinkedIn users and those will be highlighted on your LinkedIn profile. 

Tip 3: Do not make your cover letter more than one page. Instead use your resume or CV to give a more complete picture of your experience. The primary purpose of a cover letter is to show your interest in the position and peak the interest of the hiring professional by briefly introducing your qualifications. Simply highlight some of your key skills or experience that relate directly to requirements in the job description. 

Tip 4: Do not include hobbies on your resume. Instead focus on key skills from previous (and current) employment, awards and honors, education, professional memberships, volunteer opportunities, and other recognitions. The one exception to this rule may be if your hobby shows experience you don’t have in your professional work. For example, if you are applying for a programming position but have never worked in that type of role as an employee your hobby may be a great way to demonstrate your potential. If your hobby is cake decorating and you organize a community cake show each year then you may want to include your work in organizing the show. Those skills can be very valuable in demonstrating your program planning experience. 

Tip 5: Do not submit word or google docs unless the application specifically asks for that format. Instead submit your cover letter and resume as a PDF. PDFs are device-agnostic meaning they will display correctly regardless of the device being used to open the document. This is important since many computers and apps use different fonts that may not be available on all devices. This will ensure the screener sees your application materials as you intended. 

Tip 6: Do not be generic in your cover letter. Instead be sure to tailor your cover letter to the specific job and hiring library. At a bare minimum this means identifying the position you are applying for and the hiring organization in the introductory paragraph and the closing paragraph. This shows your intention of applying for that specific position. To further customize your cover letter, identify some of the key skills or requirements from the actual job description you can highlight. Then provide specific examples from your own experience and/or education that demonstrates how you meet or exceed those skills or requirements. If the job description asks for experience working a reference desk but you have not worked in a library yet, consider other customer service or information seeking skills you have gained and highlight how those skills are transferable and have prepared you to succeed as a reference librarian. Consider doing the same thing for your resume. For example, if the job description indicates a library science degree and an additional degree make sure your resume lists all your degrees under education. If the job description asks for experience working a reference desk but you have no direct experience be sure to identify and phrase your duties as a customer service representative as they relate to the reference job. 

Avoiding these six things and focusing on the alternate recommendations may move your application from the submitted pile to the interview pile. Add to these tips the wealth of information found in the book Landing a Library Job and gain control of your job search process. Landing a Library job has chapters devoted to search engines and criteria, alternate careers, interviewing, professional development, and much more.


headshot of Deloris Foxworth. She has a broad smile and wears glasses.

Deloris Jackson Foxworth is currently an instructional designer in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment at the University of Kentucky (UK). She began her career at UK in 2014 teaching information literacy and critical thinking to undergraduate students in the Information Communication Technology program. Before UK, she spent two years as the technology manager for a public library. Deloris holds masters degrees in library science and communication, a graduate certificate in career services, and a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

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About a Decade Later: Former Job Hunter Becca Tansey

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. 

Becca Tansey  filled out the original survey in 2015 and her answers appeared as More library school graduates are going straight from undergraduate into a library program, and might not have three-five years experience coming out. At the time, she was an aspiring children’s librarian, working as a page. When I caught up with her recently, I found that she had taken her career in a different direction! She 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?

I work at the Newburyport Public Library as Head of Borrower Services. I’ve been here at Newburyport for the past 7 years. Shortly after the blog post I was hired as a reference librarian and after 5 ½ years in that position, a department head role was vacant and I was encouraged to apply. I’ve been in that role for a little over a year. I love working in circulation services because it’s often the most positive interaction you’ll have with a patron. I greatly enjoyed my role in reference as well and it’s been nice to have the opportunity to really experience all the different departments within the library world.

Were any parts of your journey completely unexpected?

I thought that I was going to be working in children’s librarianship. I initially saw my job as a reference librarian as a way to gain experience before moving into children’s. I ended up falling in love with adult services and the community so much that I’ve never left! Upon graduating I expected that I would bounce around from library to library, like many of my peers and never in my wildest dreams imagined I would still be working in the same library that offered me my first professional job. A huge part of the reason I stayed was the growth and learning opportunities that were available.

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

I would say that for the most part my answers have stayed the same. I have noticed a decrease in people who are interested in going straight into an MLIS program from undergrad. In my opinion, COVID really changed the landscape of acquiring advanced degrees. Many people are starting off in paraprofessional roles to get a feel for whether or not they want to pursue a library degree, and if they do decide to move forward they are mostly doing online programs and taking courses one or two at a time. I think it’s a smart and sensible way to approach the profession.

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

I have and it was an interesting experience for sure. As Head of Borrower Services all of my staff are paraprofessionals and the job posting only requires a Bachelor’s. This brings out some colorful candidates and I’m always amazed at how many people think working in a library will be a nice, quiet, easy job! Thus far, picking the right candidate has been easy, because they are a clear standout and the best fit for the role and community.

Do you have any advice for job hunters?

I would say my advice is the same as it was years ago, but I would add that it’s important to maintain a professional demeanor during the interview. I don’t know if it’s people just being burned out after COVID, but in many of the interviews I’ve been in and from what I’ve heard from our administration, people are sharing things that are just not appropriate. Trash talking current co-workers, sharing uncomfortable and extremely personal information, and going into rants about unrelated topics. We’ve had a lot of job openings recently at our library, and many rounds of interviews and it just seems like there is an influx of unprofessional conduct that has shocked many of my supervisors who have worked in libraries for decades.

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

I still think it is really important to communicate at every step of the way with applicants. I’ve learned now that many libraries don’t have much say in scheduling interviews and communication with applicants, and that it often falls to town/city HR departments. Unfortunately, this can be detrimental to libraries in that someone from outside of the field won’t see past the black and white qualifications and discard a potentially excellent candidate. We are lucky at my library to have control over the hiring process, and it’s one of the things that impressed me as an applicant all those years ago. Prompt emails and phone calls to inform applicants where they stand at various stages in the hiring process is a courtesy that should be standard practice. I was getting rejection letters from places I’d applied to a year after I had applied! It’s inconsiderate at best, at worst it’s a red flag that the library and community don’t have their act together. If you have the ability to, I would recommend really pushing your town/city HR department to ensure that their actions aren’t creating a negative image of your library to applicants.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

I just want to send good vibes and positivity to everyone who was working in libraries during COVID. I’ve seen a lot of people drop out of the profession because their experience was so terrible and I’ve seen people who have stayed become so burned out that they’ve lost their former passion for library work. It was a tough time and many communities did not handle it well. Also shout out to school librarians and anyone who is dealing with book challenges right now. The library world has been very crazy the past couple of years, but I have hope that we will get through these tough times. 

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Further Questions: Would You Hire Someone with an MLIS for a Paraprofessional Position?

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.

Would You Hire Someone with an MLIS for a Paraprofessional Position? (E.g. assistant, clerk, page)? If so, under what circumstances? If not, why not? Bonus: if you have *opinions* about the term paraprofessional, please feel free to air them here.


Amy Tureen (she/her/hers), Head, Library Liaison Program, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas: 

Of course I would hire someone with an MLIS for a paraprofessional position! People apply for jobs for all sorts of reasons, it’s not my role as a supervisor to gate keep or second guess why someone with an MLIS would want a paraprofessional role.

As for the term itself, I have no particular feelings about it one way or another. In the context of “professional” versus “paraprofessional” the term “paraprofessional” means the role does not require a professional licensure, whereas “professional” means that some form of industry-specific professional accreditation, whatever it may be in a given field, is required. Some people mistakenly assume that the use of the word “professional” implies a skill level, rather than an accreditation required for a role, so I certainly wouldn’t mind changing both “paraprofessional” and “professional” to terms that are less easily misunderstood and/or weaponized.


Gregg Currie, College Librarian, Selkirk College: I have hired candidates into paraprofessional positions.  My college is relatively rural, and for reasons I’m not entirely sure of it has always been a much greater struggle to attract library technicians.  If I post for a full time permanent librarian I get 30 or 40 applicants.  For a library technician position I’m lucky to get 3 or 4 people with a library technician diploma.  So often it is just out of necessity. 

While hiring someone overqualified does have the potential for problems, my experience has been very positive.  Sometimes it is giving a librarian actual experience in an academic library that will help them move up and on in a couple of years, another time it was librarian taking a part time paraprofessional position as a way to ease into retirement. 

As long as one is clear about job duties and boundaries, it can work out well.


Alison M. Armstrong, Collection Management Librarian, Radford University: Absolutely!

In general, a lot of people are overqualified for the positions they are in. Libraries are no different. The job market has shifted recently but your location and local library options may be limited since most libraries have more staff positions than librarian positions.

Our library has had several staff members who hold an MLIS, including me, over the years. I was in a staff position while I worked toward my MLIS and, for a time had my degree until I was hired in my current position. I would have had to move if this position wasn’t open when it was.

I personally prefer the term “staff” versus “paraprofessional”. While paraprofessional indicates a level of work that is assisting professional workers, to me, it sounds like the position is in relation to someone else, which bothers me. In reality, however, my staff member’s position is a fairly true “assistant” in that her work is assisting me in my work.

I have had a couple of staff members in that position who have had their MLIS and one who was working on his Master’s in IT. I knew that they likely wouldn’t be in the position long term, which was fine. While they worked for me, they were able to do some higher level work however, that is a fine line to walk. While staff members may be capable of doing higher level work, you want to make sure they are not doing what would be considered professional level work for staff level pay. So while I try hard to not exploit workers by labeling work as “experience” for them, I do have conversations with them about work and what they are interested in and whether there is higher level work that they would want to work on. While I don’t want to exploit them, I also want to make sure they are getting some job satisfaction if they have something they want to pursue. The one working on his Master’s in IT was able to use his Access database skills to create a usage statistics database for us. (Sadly, when he left, there wasn’t time/staff for it to continue to grow.)

A great example of this is with one of my staff members who had her MLIS and I saw a need to document library liaison training and we wrote a training handbook together. She was interested in training so she took on the role of introducing the handbook at a collection development retreat to library liaisons. It was shortly after that event that she was hired an instruction librarian. After she had moved onto a librarian position, we were able to collaborate on a book based on the work we did on our handbook, which was great.

Of course, there is potential for judgement and/or resentment. For the staff person I co-authored a book with, she and I had graduated together. She could have been frustrated about not having a librarian position and take it out in various ways, trying to undercut me, out-shine me, sabotage me, etc. but, thankfully, she didn’t.

In my experience, around two years is a good amount of time if the person is actively looking for a librarian position for them to find something and move up. After two years, it can feel frustrating and they may start feeling stuck. It might be useful to be aware of that and have some honest conversations. In the end, I want my staff members to do their best and if they want to move up (or, move on), I will do whatever I can to support them. Knowing the future goals of your staff is helpful so you can try to help them achieve them.

It is also important to recognize that some people have re-considered their positions in all kinds of careers. Some people willing to take a pay cut and a lower position that requires less responsibility and the opportunity to “leave work at work” and forgo some of the daily headaches that can come with upper management positions.

So, someone my look “overqualified” on paper, but they may be looking to get a foot in the door or just get in a position they will enjoy while they look for the right thing. Alternatively, they may be looking to scale back and want a better work-life balance.

If you have an MLIS and are hired in a staff position, I would encourage you to talk to your supervisor (maybe not on day one – but as you build rapport) about what you want to do in the future (assuming this information didn’t come through in the interview – if it did, build on it). After you have learned the position and are on top of everything, you might see areas in which you could contribute – maybe to a committee, or to a project that you would enjoy. Just make sure you don’t feel like you are being exploited because it is important to recognize those feelings early before it affects how you feel about your work.


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: I currently have two staff members with an MLS in PAT positions. These are salaried Professional/Administrative/ Technical positions. They are Access Services Manager and Systems Manager. Neither requires the MLS and neither is a library faculty member or has the title “librarian”. I also had an MLS-holder in my ILL coordinator position which is an hourly-benefitted non-exempt position. That person was an alum (former library worker) and stayed in the position for about two years before finding a job that compensated her for her credentials.

In two cases the hire had an MLS before starting the job. In one case the person earned their MLS while working here and continues in the same position. The degree did provide the opportunity for the person’s salary to increase. In all cases we selected the right person for the job knowing they were over-qualified. We knew the ILL staff member needed a full-time job with benefits, she was familiar with the library, and campus, and we hoped that she would eventually find something else (which she did). The other two individuals in the more skilled positions may be here longer even though they are not recognized or compensated as library faculty.

I would consider hiring someone with an MLS again for any position for a number of reasons. Jobs are not easy to find, individuals may be re-entering the workforce, needing to say in the geographical area, or more interested in a staff position than in being library faculty with all of the work that entails. My biggest concern with almost any staff hire these days is that people do ask about opportunities for advancement and my staff has been reduced to the degree that there are even fewer opportunities than in the past for changing positions at least inside the library. And, I am also unable to send any staff off for professional development (budget was eliminated about five years ago). So I would like to get those two PATs to ACRL, ALA, or other conferences and would be happy to do that but have no resources. That has implications and consequences that go beyond just helping them stay connected to the profession.

I am not a fan of the term “paraprofessional.” I’m not sure I have a reasonable substitute other than just saying staff member. The college makes clear distinctions between the PAT staff and the Operating Staff (those hourly paid full-time folks). The status gap is really between faculty and staff. I am a staff member, not a faculty member. So we refer to library faculty and to staff. There are differences between expectations for PATs and Op Staff folks including level of education, workloads, etc. People are aware of those and we don’t refer to people as either PATs or Op Staff unless it’s necessary. So I don’t use the term paraprofessional at all. I think it would add confusion and isn’t necessary.


Anonymous: We have hired multiple staff with an MLIS for paraprofessional positions. In my department, they are all library assistants. Two have been at the university for decades, two are recent hires. For the latter, both want or need to stay in the area. I can’t promise promotions, but if they are interested in moving up, I will work with them to give them the opportunity to do so. I believe that, if someone with an MLIS wants a library job and decides to apply for a paraprofessional position, that’s their decision. But I have one librarian in my department who strongly disagrees. They regularly mentor MLIS students to only apply for librarian positions. I have told them that making such a pronouncement doesn’t account for an individual’s life situation.

I have worked as a page, a paraprofessional, and a professional in librarianship. I’m not sure that any of the wording for positions that don’t require an MLIS is adequate or fair. The responsibilities of these positions have changed SO much in the last decades that the title needs to change with it. Calling them an assistant or paraprofessional feels incomplete.


Donna Pierce, Library Director, Krum Public Library: I am currently considering doing this very thing! I have had part-time people with their MLS working in “paraprofessional positions” – though in a small library we wear so many hats the lines really blur! I would look for someone who is willing to gain experience in libraries even though the position doesn’t require a degree. In the case I am considering the person actually was a director at one time, took time off due to family health issues and is wanting to get back into library work but not necessarily as a director. My biggest factor, with all new hires, is how well they will work with current staff and are they willing to do anything that is needed.

I like the term “paraprofessional” as it lets people know that the person has experience but not necessarily the education. (And education does not mean they can do the job better than someone with experience!)


Jennie Garner, Library Director, North Liberty Library: We’ve hired candidates with MLS degrees to fill part-time support staff positions multiple times. As long as they are able/willing to work the required hours and interview well, we are happy to welcome them to our team. There is no guarantee, just because a candidate possesses an MLS, that they have practical knowledge of day-to-day library work or the skills that sometimes requires. Having new staff at various levels of education and experience can further bring new eyes to our operations. I ask new staff to bring forward questions about why we work the way we do and offer new approaches that may help further operational goals. Some of our best services have come from new staff with innovative ideas at all levels.

It is often a win-win situation when we hire an employee with formal library training and are able to offer someone the chance to hone their library experience. The reality is that working in a library and developing those soft skills often differs from the training we receive in grad school coursework. As part of onboarding, all new staff spend time with each full-time staff person to help them gain insight into the work we do and the services we provide. Additionally, I ask new staff members if they have particular areas of interest and encourage them to share that with us if they’d like cross train. If someone is interested in youth services, collection development, or other areas of librarianship, we try to offer them opportunities to perform tasks related to those positions. My goal as an administrator is to create a learning environment and give staff prospects for growth. Helping someone achieve new skills adds to a positive work culture.

We don’t use the term paraprofessional. All of our staff members are expected to deliver professional customer service and are able assist our patrons with their needs. Patrons care about receiving good service and I’d hazard a guess that they consider all of our staff to be librarians. In 25+ years of library work, I’ve never had a patron ask to speak only to someone with an MLS. We regularly receive compliments from patrons about our staff – part-time and full-time with various backgrounds and education levels.


Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: Well, we have both hourly positions and administrative (professional staff) positions that are not librarians (or library faculty). We have applicants with an MLIS for both. They often think that it’s a stepping stone to becoming library faculty. I can say that sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. We will consider someone with an MLIS for either type of staff position, but more likely for a professional staff position. In fact, we’ll soon have a position open for which we fully expect to receive applications from people with an MLIS. For hourly staff, it’s less likely that there is mobility within the organization and I think we’re pretty aware that someone with an MLIS wouldn’t stay long in one of these positions. If someone with an MLIS has no academic library experience, it’s possible, but I think we’d be more wary. For professional staff positions, it needs to be clear why the position is not library faculty. I don’t want someone to be angry or resentful about their status when they have the degree. 


Heather Backman, Assistant Director of Library Services, Weymouth (MA) Public Libraries: I would consider hiring someone with an MLIS for a paraprofessional position, but they would need to make a good case for their planned longevity in the role as part of their initial application (this is what cover letters are for!) and during the interview. I don’t feel great about that on one level, knowing that the job market for degreed people is often tight. But the unfortunate reality is that as a manager, I need to do my best to avoid frequent turnover, and I would expect that most MLIS holders would greatly prefer a higher-paid, degree-required position and would probably keep job searching. If my new hire leaves before or just as they are starting to hit their stride in the job, that’s a lot of time and energy we’ve invested in hiring and training someone – not to mention the burden on other team members who may have had to carry a heavier workload while the position was not filled or the person was still learning the job – that has now gone to waste. Unless it becomes clear that someone I hire is just not the right fit, I hope that new employees will stay with us for at least a couple of years, so an MLIS holder applying for a non-degree-required position would have to convince me that they would want to stay for that amount of time.

And yes, I *do* have opinions about the term “paraprofessional”! I do not like the divides that can exist in our profession between degreed and non-degreed workers, and I think the term is often used to emphasize the difference between people’s education in a negative way. The ability to pursue higher education is often a function of privilege and resources rather than talent, intelligence, or hard work. The people I’ve worked with, by and large, have done solid work, contributed meaningfully to their libraries, and demonstrated commitment to customer service and giving patrons a great experience regardless of whether they wanted or had been able to earn an MLIS. I prefer to refer to people who work at my libraries as “[department] staff” or “the team” rather than “librarians” and “paraprofessionals”, to emphasize that all have equal value as workers. If there’s a real, meaningful need to talk about people according to their educational level I’ll say something like “(non-)degreed positions/staff.”


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

Would You Hire Someone with an MLIS for a Paraprofessional Position? (E.g. assistant, clerk, page) If so, under what circumstances? If not, why not? Our goal is to find the best match for the job AND given the fact that there is no such thing as “overqualified” in HR terminology – we do not exclude applicants – given level of education. Interestingly, many people do not understand that a master’s in librarianship or information science, etc. does NOT prepare you for every job in the organization. For example – having worked on a circulation desk prepares you for circulation desk work NOT the master’s. And this applies to professional positions as well – that is, your systems personnel positions might require (given the software or hardware expertise needed or the level of knowledge needed) additional education or experience in technology rather than library and information science education or training.

(And I am adding the heading/question)…..Are there any examples of problems when someone with an expanded or additional or different degree has been hired in a position other than the one that is the best match for their credentials?

Sadly yes, I have seen examples where additional or different education can cause problems and – I should say it doesn’t always happen…but….besides the usual accreditation issues for academic libraries….

  • We are in a profession where many consider themselves for most of our positions – and understandably so – in a “helping” profession. It is difficult; therefore, when someone who has been educated or trained to be in that helpful mindset is then not allowed or supported for providing a specific service.
  • In the absence of well-defined public services desks, users not reading or understanding signage, single service or one-stop desks, no name tags OR “name only” name tags or a lack of distinguishing other clothing or designation, clients or patrons are upset when it isn’t clear what some can and can’t do at near or similar desks.
  • Understandable resentment builds up when someone ends up doing some or many parts of other people’s roles and responsibilities when they may well be being paid significantly less.
  • Administrators do not “see” vacancies or “need” as readily when multiple levels of people populate desks.
  • Users often identify everyone in a library they see behind a public service desk – a “librarian” and this might communicate people are NOT doing what they are supposed to be doing if people are having to wait for someone to come out to assist when it appears that someone is already there….
  • If managers let others – no matter the credentials – perform tasks that are not in their position description – issues of “keeping current,” “staff development,” “training,” etc. are problematic as not everyone can or should be trained on everything.
  • Tech issued to librarians (iPads, laptops, etc.) – for example – might not be available to all employees, therefore, staff – with credentials different from their position requirements – will not get issued technology to assist users.

And finally our HR department follows strict guidelines for placement on scales. If we hired someone – with a master’s – for a librarian position who had been in a classified position before at another location or even internally – because is they were not hired to work as a librarian before, their placement on the scales is not counted as “professional experience after the master’s degree.” So – for us – it doesn’t help the candidate get placed higher, thus get a salary bump.

Bonus: if you have opinions about the term paraprofessional, please feel free to air them here.

From the list above it’s clear why I don’t offer these experiences – but here are general thoughts as well. Although I have no specific control over my institution’s official titles, we do not use that term in my institution either formally or informally. But it isn’t enough to say “I don’t like it” or “my experiences have shown…” so the “why” of that isn’t as clearly explained…but here is a list with additional information focusing on terminology.

  • There are several definitions for “paraprofessional” so users, clients or patrons may very well see them in a wide variety of ways and – given people’s experiences – previous work with those considered paraprofessionals cause confusion.
  • Many people view “para” as a “lesser” term for a designation.
  • A number of definitions or phrases in definitions are not particularly complimentary. For example some include:
  • an unlicensed person
  • a person who can work in the field but is not a “fully qualified” professional
  • Many definitions as well as postings say assists a professional in “daily tasks” which most may see as boring, repetitive roles and responsibilities.
  • Basic templates for designing postings are lengthy and confusing with much ambiguity as to professional vs. paraprofessional.
  • Our profession has much ambiguity among professional roles and responsibilities, and having another category of uncertainty may cause confusion in compensation, etc.

So – I am not a fan of “too-generic” titles or two specific ones…functional titles should correspond to what HR “counts” as rational for making compensation decisions.


We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, over at Mastodon @hiringlibrarians@glammr.uson Twitter @HiringLib, or left in the attic of your childhood home. 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

They asked excellent questions.

Fairleigh Dickinson College Library, Rutherford, New Jersey. Librarian room. LOC.gov

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Special Library

Title: Director – Library

Titles hired include: Associate Director, Digital Library;  Senior Specialist, Systems Librarian

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 

√ Resume 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes 

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

HR filters the applications and send them on to the hiring manager

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

Excellent interviewing skills; they were well prepared and had taken time to learn about the company. They asked excellent questions.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

No knowledge of the company they’re interviewing with.

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

Gaps in resume

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ We don’t ask for this  

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?

No eye contact

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

Yes, we did during COVID. Just need to be fully engaged in the conversation. I don’t see much difference really between in person and virtual.

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?

The job market is still tight so I’ll take a chance on people who do have a lot of experience in one particular aspect. 

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?

We try to have a diverse interviewing panel. We also have mandatory training on working on removing biases.  

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern 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?

√ 0-10 

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 0-10 staff members, 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, Northeastern US, Special, Suburban area