Tag Archives: library hiring

I did a virtual interview this year where the candidate was playing a video game at the same time

Librarian stands at bookshelves talking to a teen
Image: Librarian with young reader in Browsing Room of the Nathan Strauss Branch for Young People From The New York Public Library

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Library Administrator

Titles hired include:

Librarian, Library Assistant, Clerk, Access Services Assistant, Security Manager, Library Administrator 

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Supplemental Questions

√ More than one round of interviews

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

Recruitment – alternating between internal and external, screened for minimum quals, randomly selected pool of about 20 at a time sent to interview panel (3-5 people), panel interview creates a list of ranked candidates based on score, names are referred out to hiring manager based on score and location/FTE preference, second interview is done at local level (3-4 people usually), selection is made. 

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

demonstrated leadership in answers,  complete answers, good sense of humor, thoughtful and prepared (we send questions at least 24 hrs ahead of time)

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Because we send questions ahead of time, someone who is obviously unprepared (doesn’t have an answer) is kind of a deal breaker. I did a virtual interview this year where the candidate was playing a video game at the same time. Poor answers to diversity and equity questions. 

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

references, and sometimes resume – only the initial hiring panel who makes the list sees the resume generally 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more  

CV: √ We don’t ask for this 

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

incomplete question answers, answers that are too SHORT. If you have 30 minutes for the interview and you are done in 10, you need to rethink the details in your answers. 

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

yes. Don’t be afraid to communicate issues you have – poor internet connection or equipment, etc.  Otherwise, just relax. We are mostly taking notes and sometimes don’t even have you on our main screen, 

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?

It doesn’t take a lot to convince me. Candidates who can show parallels are actually my favorite because it takes skill to show how you have the skills without having worked in a library before. I try to have some questions to encourage this as well – ie. Tell me about a time you had to teach yourself something complicated, how did you go about it? What did you learn? What would you do differently? – Advice – have an awareness of how the library is part of a larger system, its own type of environment – think about public access on a bigger picture level. Say more than “I love the library” – tell us what a library means to you.  ASK IF THE PERSON HAS SEEN YOUR RESUME.  I tell people if we haven’t, which isn’t uncommon, but others might not think to tell you that before the interview starts. When you answer questions, answer every part – an incomplete answer is the easiest way to rank someone lower in a large candidate pool. When you are finished with your answer, go back and summarize your answer as it pertains to each part of the question – make there be no doubt.  

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad

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

√ We only discuss after we’ve made an offer

√ Other…

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

random selection pool of applicants, training on bias. Where bias still exists – in my org it does not exist as much for race, sexual orientation, or gender – but it’s very prevalent with older age and weight. 

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

Ask what an average day looks like, how promotions occur (although sometimes asking about this can give a bad impression that you don’t want the job you’re interviewing for so be careful about your wording). Most people ask what we like about working at the library. This is an ok question. Ask what our challenges are as a system or branch. Ask what success looks like for someone in this position after 6 months. Ask what type of employee the manager finds the easiest to manage and the staff the easiest to work with.. Benefits questions are best asked to HR. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western US

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 201+

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

Again – answer COMPLETELY.  Talk about teamwork, problem solving, and highlight your previous work experience. We do love to hear that you love the library, but make your answer larger than that – why? What does it mean to you? What do you think it means to the public or country at large?  If there’s something specific you need – ask about it – but also be careful. For example, we sometimes have people asking about very specific schedule needs around other responsibilities (school, children, etc). Weekends and evenings are part of public library life and jobs that don’t include one or both are few – so be prepared for that. 

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 200+ staff members, Public, Urban area, Western US

Skills are transferable, so I would rather see a candidate understand their capabilities rather than have exact experience.

Headshot of Beth Walker

Beth Walker (she/her) is a Senior Librarian at the Haymarket Gainesville Library in Prince William County Virginia. She received her MLS from UNC-Chapel Hill and her undergraduate degree from St. John’s College, which is known for its distinctive Great Books program. 

She lives in Haymarket with her spouse and two cats.

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

The supervisor of the position creates a hiring profile, laying out the main duties of the position and desired qualifications/experience. An ad is created and posted. HR uses an automatic screening system for minimum qualifications. Then an HR subject matter expert additionally screens the remaining applications to verify qualifications. All remaining applicants are interviewed. The interviews are scored based on responses demonstrating skills and experience. The top scorer is sent a “ban the box” question via email, and then references are called. References must be current and/or former supervisors. If the references check out, the top candidate is offered the position. Alternates may be selected by the hiring manager, so if the top candidate does not accept the position or leaves within 6 months, then the alternate may be considered.

Titles hired include: Librarian, Library Assistant, Library Technician, Library Page

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ The position’s supervisor

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

√ Online application

√ References

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes

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

Provided good, clear examples in the interview of their skills, even if they did not have direct experience for the proposed questions. Skills are transferable, so I would rather see a candidate understand their capabilities rather than have exact experience.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One! Note: We accept cover letters and resumes, but mainly focus on the electronic application submitted

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more

CV: √ We don’t ask for this

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

Not providing enough details to answer the question. Also, repeating the same examples or going into too much detail about one aspect and then neglecting other areas (saying “I don’t have an answer for that” after spending 10 minutes on the previous question). It also helps to show enthusiasm for something other than “loving books”. Don’t rely only on your resume to demonstrate your skills. 

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

Have a good internet/audio setup. Otherwise I don’t really factor in setting (to the extent that I don’t even care about how a person dresses, or what the background looks like). I prefer not to have interruptions (animals, people), but you can always let me know if you are in a space that might not afford the same level of privacy as an in-person interview. 

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?

Again, skills are transferable, so try to give examples of what you have done that are similar to what the hiring manager is looking for. You may want to think outside of the box and maybe write out in advance some examples to refer to. I also accept personal life experiences as examples, even though it can’t necessarily be verified via references. Anything related to volunteer work, involvement in community organizations or church activities, or even jobs you may have had previously that were not library-related. We are always looking for people who are good interacting with other people, are able to follow instructions and relate that to other people, and have some experience with technology. 

When does your organization *first* provide 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?

Managers in our organization are required to take an Equal Employment Opportunity training every year to identify the various kinds of discrimination and how to avoid it. Hiring managers don’t see the applications until they are screened through, then all qualified candidates are interviewed. We try to score candidates based on only their responses, but obviously this is where potential discrimination can occur. Like many libraries, ours trends heavily white and female, which can contribute to implicit bias. However, hiring panels always include at least two managers and the scores must agree within a certain range. We use a competency matrix to score, so if the scores are too far apart you have to justify why the candidate’s responses scored higher or lower. 

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

Ask about the team and growth opportunities. Also, ask any questions you really want to know, because you are also interviewing our organization for fit. Since our library is a part of the county government, there can be quite a bit of bureaucracy involved, so if you are unfamiliar with that type of work environment ask about it. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Other: Certain positions can occasionally telework, but it is mostly in person

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 201+ Note: Our system has 11 branches; the larger branches have about 20-30 staff, and the smaller branches around 5, supplemented by volunteers

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

Don’t underestimate your own worth! It can be uncomfortable to talk about yourself, especially if you are worried that you are not exactly qualified, but sell up everything you can think of that is relevant to the job description. Particularly in the paraprofessional positions, managers can see your potential if you give good examples of skills. If you are applying for a public-facing position, make sure to highlight any customer service experience you may have. Write down some examples of things you have accomplished and are proud of, and use it in the interview. If you are more experienced, don’t be afraid to show the full extent of your knowledge, but be willing to demonstrate that you still enjoy learning. 

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 200+ staff members, Public, Southeastern US, Suburban area

Further Questions: How do you view catalogers/tech services departments?

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

This week’s question is from Twitter. She asks, With increasing reports of outsourcing, I am interested in how hiring managers view catalogers/tech services departments and, if possible, how a job seeker with experience in this area can best convey the worth of their skills.

While we only have replies from a few of our pool of hiring librarians this week, there was some really good discussion on Twitter.

You should head over there after you finish up here!


Katharine Clark, Deputy Director, Middleton Public Library: I have worked in libraries where Cataloging was outsourced and ones where there was a dedicated TS Department. The last library I worked at the TS/Cataloging Department was right behind the Public Services Staff area and they helped cover shifts on the public service desk. There are many aspects of TS/Cataloging work that can be done by paraprofessionals, so having this type of flexibility of staff can benefit a small or short staffing situation. As someone that is seeking a job as Technical Services or Cataloging Librarian, I would say being open to the idea of helping cover service desks would definitely make a potential employer see you as a team player. Having skills that go behind Cataloging would definitely be seen as an asset in my opinion.


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

With increasing reports of outsourcing, how do hiring managers view catalogers/tech services departments? I would not move to outsource our Tech Services department – primarily because TS – unlike what many think is actually happening – is a fast-paced, constantly changing environment. For example – if I tried to outsource “for a year” there is almost no way I could write a position description for activities that have taken place in TS roles and responsibilities in the past year….examples include: TS support of our assessment of print holdings vs. our media/online ebook patron-led purchasing collection; our integration of online database content opportunities in our online catalog to match the now-100% online coursework; our tracking local subject heading changes that must be made to match curriculum; the assessment of the special collection (Texana materials) for determining copy or original cataloging matches with other online local, statewide or national resources; our integration of our resource choices and interfaces with our LMS; and the growth of our librarian-led design of content interfaces to name a few areas. In addition, our TS employees work in teams to assist in collection development processes overall, the design of a iPad periodical load to expand size of collections in smaller locations; moving personalized metadata aggregating to dashboard formulas; and, their assistance in assessing uses of existing online resource use for data to support decision making for AY’23 resource subscriptions.

How might a job seeker with experience in this area best convey the worth of their skills? A job seeker with experience in this area (or related areas) can best convey the worth of their skills or their marketability by having a diverse portfolio of roles and responsibilities through specific projects where their successful outcomes are clearly articulated. Examples of proactive ideas of what TS staff might do besides “the usual” include pilots; resources usage comparisons; data providing context to frame questions and possible answers; and, flexibility for supporting not only Tech Services – but also and as needed – the ability to select collections, assuming the design of guides or user pathfinders, and the ability to provide content/infrastructure to information literacy curriculum designed for librarians to integrate into classrooms.

In the absence of experience in an organization, librarians should seek out workshops and training on different software packages and systems to have at least a rudimentary understanding of how a variety of systems work and have content they have designed themselves for association committee work, support supplied for other organizations and solid general knowledge on the design of content using the more standard approaches like LibGuides, Google “school” packages, and online freeware. In addition, any new librarian in general or any librarian moving to other environments need to have a good, in-depth understanding of “open education” concepts as well as copyright. Finally, an area that many librarians avoid is grant writing (significantly different from fundraising or friendraising) and librarians seeking maximum employability should become knowledgeable about the infrastructure of grantsmanship and grant writing itself.

Finally a realistic and highly desirable second or equal primary skill set besides Technical Services is a set of assessment competencies that move far beyond “counting” or “flat” data but instead into multi-leveled assessment beginning with knowledge of data availability in databases/online resources, the design of data aggregation through the design of outcomes and standardized processes for inputs to feed into outputs and outcomes.


Laurie Phillips, Interim Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: This is a difficult question because we’re all struggling with it. Fewer and fewer people go to library school who are interested in cataloging or technical services. What I’m seeing is that, when we’ve had positions open where these skills would be useful, it’s very difficult to recruit, so we have moved to staff positions to fill those needs. I am personally trained as a cataloger and I find that background to be very useful on a number of fronts – managing and configuring data in and for the catalog and discovery system, understanding information retrieval, configuration of systems, etc. I have an excellent staff cataloger, but that person does not have my broad background in cataloging and metadata management. I’ve kept a hand in cataloging and systems because we don’t have that expertise anywhere else. I think there are definitely ways to show how this experience and background is useful to many different areas in the library. You just have to be able to express that value.


Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your comments…

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Filed under Further Questions

How often is the Library open? What kind of activities occur in the Library? 

Kathryn Levenson has been the Librarian at Piedmont High School for 6 years. Her passion as CSLA Chair for Freedom of Information is providing resources to Librarians with book challenges. 

She also loves mysteries, travel and cats. 

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

Update job description. Internal Posting. External Posting on EdJoin. Form hiring committee. Review applications. Interview panel. Contact references of 2 to 3 finalists. Committee members rank their choices. Some Discussion. The Librarian makes the final decision after consulting with the Principal.

Titles hired include: Library Assistant 

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

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

√ Other: Principal

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

√ Online application

√ Resume

√ References

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes 

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

Our choice was between someone like me in terms of skills, but with accounting skills as well and someone totally different: more creative, great with kids, had worked as a para educator for many years at the elementary school in our district. Good at working with SPED students and already knew many students. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Arrogance. Rehearsed answers.

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

Dedication. Love helping students. Creative problem solvers. Additional talents.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ We don’t ask for this  

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more

CV: √ We don’t ask for this 

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

Not really listening to our questions. Saying they can fix our system. Not trying to connect with the panel.

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

We did not pre Covid.

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?

Be flexible, caring, willing to work around each others’ schedules, and be supportive when the Librarian has last minute meetings.

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?

Be open to all kinds of people. My most recent assistant is the only male in our library system. In our oral interviews, we had 3 female and 2 male candidates, all white. We have a DEI Administrator for the District and a commitment to hiring diverse staff. I especially appreciate people continuing their education at the same time.

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

How flexible are the hours? It is a 50% position but requires extra days at the start and end of the year. How often is the Library open? What kind of activities occur in the Library? 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western US 

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

√ Other: Next to a large diverse urban area.

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 50-100 staff members, School, Suburban area, Western US

You have to know yourself before you know what you’re looking for

A graduate of Kenyon College and Case Western Reserve University, Joan Baldwin is Curator of Special Collections for The Hotchkiss School where she works under the umbrella of the School’s Library. In 2020/21 she served as its Interim Director, serving as point person during the search for a new director. 

The co-author of Leadership Matters: Leading Museums in the Age of Discord, and Women and Museums: Lessons from the Workplace, she has spent her career in the museums,museum service organizations and libraries. 

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

Either as lead or as a team member craft job description, develop questions, participate in interviews. 

Titles hired include: Director, cataloguer, Circulation desk

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ Library Administration

√ A Committee or panel

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A meal with hiring personnel 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

Paper can be deceptive. Interviewing is a dialogue and sometimes what seems like perfection on paper falls apart in conversation. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Someone who says they won’t or can’t do tasks everyone is asked to do. 

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 are too buttoned up and give pat answers or they don’t ask the kind of questions that make you think they care about your organization. 

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

Only during Covid. Make sure your IT works. Don’t carry your phone around the room. Your interviewers will feel dizzy.

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?

Concentrate on skills learned and qualities developed. Demonstrate some humility. The fact that you love books isn’t enough. Are you a good team player? Do you like people, college students or teens or whoever the organization defines as its audience? Enough to deal with them on their worst day?

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?

Names are removed in first reading so resumes are read blind. They pronouns used. DEI program part of every interview and much more.

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

Too often candidates either ask questions based on minutiae on our website rather than questions about how things actually happen—like how ideas develop.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Rural

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 0-10

Note: although as an academic library we are part of a faculty/staff of 500+

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

You have to know yourself before you know what you’re looking for.

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, Academic, Northeastern US, Rural area

Further Questions: Do you send questions to interviewees before the interview?

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

This week’s question is from a reader. She asks, “Do you send questions to interviewees before the interview? [and I’d love to know why or why not] How long do you give the interviewees to prepare? Also, does that influence how you evaluate the answers/responses?”


Hilary Kraus, Research Services Librarian, UConn Library: I am a huge advocate of sending questions ahead of time, especially for phone or video interviews. We did this the last time I chaired a search committee, and many of the candidates told us it made the interview much less stressful. In addition to reducing anxiety, we found the answers we got were more thoughtful and substantive, which helped us make more informed decisions about which candidates to invite for the next round of interviews. I would recommend providing questions at least 24 hours before the interview; 48 hours would be even better. Candidates already have very full lives, and are taking time out of their day to speak to you. Providing questions earlier will make it easier for them to also carve out enough time to prepare.


Jaime Taylor, Discovery & Resource Management Systems Coordinator, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts: I’ve just started sending questions ahead of time with the most recent search I’ve led. We send them between a few days and maybe a week ahead of time (I try to make sure there’s a weekend in there), making sure that each candidate has the same amount of time with the questions before their interviews. I think it takes some of the anxiety out of interviews, which can help level the field, since some candidates do well in that situation and some don’t, and the high-stress environment of a job interview usually has nothing to do with the position we’re hiring for. It also helps reduce bias on a socio-economic basis, as some candidates may have gotten formal or informal coaching for job interviews in school or their family and others have not – and, again, that has no bearing on the position.

I don’t think you need to worry that candidates will getting them ahead of time to prepare bullshit answers to your interview questions. My experience so far is that good candidates continue to answer questions well, and less good candidates still don’t have solid answers. If anything, it highlights the differences between candidates; some candidates will have taken time to thoughtfully consider and prepare their answers, and others will clearly have not, which may provide you with information about how those candidates approach important work assignments. And, of course, there’s always the opportunity for us to ask on-the-fly follow up questions or have discussion based on a candidate’s response to a question. I think I expect a little more of our candidates now that we’re sending questions ahead of time – if you know what we’re going to ask you but haven’t prepared a response, it doesn’t look good.


Laurie Phillips, Interim Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: I have never sent questions to interviewees. I guess I’m curious now about what the difference would be. We have already given you some things to respond to in writing, in the ad, so it seems like the interview should be about your ability to answer questions about the job on the spot. If you are really prepared for the job, you should be able to answer interview questions. There are some situational questions that may take a minute to think of an example, but that’s okay. I’d rather have you take your time and answer the question well rather than rambling until you find the answer. I think, yes, we do take that into account when evaluating responses. We may follow up or try to put the person at ease. Honestly, we’re trying to get the best version of you and your ability to do this job.


Katharine Clark, Deputy Director, Middleton Public Library: I’ve never been involved with an interview before where candidates were given the question beforehand. Part of the interview process is seeing how well potential employees can think on their feet and be prepared to give off the cuff elevator pitches to anyone they meet in a professional setting. The only time questions are given ahead of time in my experience are essay questions that are part of the screening process. Use your colleagues and network to find out what types of questions they have been asked in the interview process before and you can certainly come with notes about what parts of your career/job history you want to share with those interviewing you.


Larry Eames, Instruction Librarian, Kraemer Family Library, University of Colorado Colorado Springs: Yes absolutely! I advocate for sending the questions about 24 hours in advance of the interview (shout out to the ability to schedule emails in outlook) so that every candidate has the same amount of time to prepare. I believe in sending the questions in advance because it gives the candidates the opportunity to be their best selves in the first round of interviews and to highlight their talents and accomplishments so that we can make an informed decision about the next round of interviews. It’s also good accessibility practice; you never know how choppy someone’s connection might be or how well they hear over the phone/over zoom. When I get push back, I point out the accessibility element and that we want to make the best decision we can about who we bring to campus and this gives us the opportunity to gather the data we need to do that. I’ve only been unsuccessful in advocating for this practice in one instance. For that search we instead told the candidates what themes each question would touch. Ultimately I think it was better than nothing but would have been far better to share the questions in full in advance. Knowing that the candidates had the questions in advance only influences my evaluation of their responses in that if a candidate is evidently unprepared in that scenario it weighs more heavily in my assessment of their answers.


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: We have sent questions in advance for both library faculty and other staff positions for phone interviews although I am not sure we have done that for the in-person interview. I think about this the same way I think about giving students exam questions in advance. Any kind of assessment should not be an attempt to find out what people don’t know, or ask questions which are a surprise. With limited time we should be interested in doing our best to learn about candidates through thoughtful responses to questions. I’m guessing most, if not all, readers have been a candidate and have experienced that silence that seems like hours when you are frantically trying to think of an example or other response to a question from a search committee. Having time to think and prepare may improve the performance of most candidates (which is a good thing, right?). But students who have exam questions in advance don’t all get an “A” on the exam, and candidates will still vary in their overall performance.

I would want to give questions to candidates at least a few days in advance. A week is a good lead time, but sometimes a search is moving quickly enough that we want to schedule the first phase of interviews as quickly as possible. I think supplying questions in advance is very helpful for the phone/video interview and can make what is often a very stressful and awkward experience a little more comfortable and productive for everyone involved. There would be no reason, in my opinion, to evaluate candidates differently when given questions in advance.


Ben Van Gorp, Manager, IT & Digital Experience, East Gwillimbury Public Library: Our library currently offers two questions for each interview candidate. If I had my way I would give the full interview list. It’s an accessibility issue, especially for people who suffer from anxiety.

I would much rather have people coming in with confidence, able to fully show of the abilities they would bring to their role, than just the nerves that comes with job hunting.


Christian Zabriskie, Executive Director, Onondaga County Public Library: My answer is…it depends entirely on the job. For frontline staff I don’t do this since I am looking to see what skills they bring to the positions that we have that are honestly not all that flexible. Sure, I love it when reference librarians come up with new stuff, but it is not a daily requirement of the job. When I am interviewing people for “C Suite” jobs on my personal admin team I absolutely give them the questions ahead of time. Often this will entail doing a presentation or addressing a specific issue. This is another place where I can check for emotional intelligence. For a recent interview for our head of facilities I asked “You have been handed a plan for a redesigned library that you can tell will absolutely not work. Your boss (that’s me), loves it. How do you convince them (me) that this is a terrible idea”. The person who got the job had a great answer that showed her ability to “manage up” and she’s been an incredible asset to the org ever since.


Randall Schroeder, Director, Retired:

I have never as a supervisor sent the questions ahead, nor as a job seeker have I ever received the questions ahead of time. The only mild exception is if we expected, or I was expected, for a presentation to be given for an audience. Interesting question though.


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: What an interesting question! When I read it I first thought of the current Instagram meme of “hard no” or “absolutely not” superimposed over an animal, usually a dog…and said repeatedly! So the simple answer IS a hard no for my organization’s hiring today, but the concept brought back my days teaching in Library School Graduate Education – specifically “Management” in Library School. My general curriculum included a unit on hiring with a major emphasis on the interview itself and part of this was a collection of “ways to handle interviews” including ways for organizations to interview as well as ways for interviewees to prepare. In those days (too many to count) there were many more ways to interview than now but times have changed. Practices have morphed, processes have been automated and federal, state, local and organizational guidelines, rules and regulations have been infused with much needed equity, diversity and inclusion content, with measurement and assessment metrics embedded in processes. So while there are libraries with freedom in interviewing and hiring, there are many more who need to and should conform to a process that is consistent and provides a standard platform for applicants to engage with interviewers.

So why send them out in advance? Standardized questions present the library’s values. Questions in advance allow the applicant to focus on what the expectations are for specific positions in the organization. Questions in advance can emphasize organizational priorities such as customer service relationships, teamwork, flexibility, etc. Questions in advance provide interviewers a standard for comparing answers to organizational expectations.

And what are the prevailing views for NOT distributing questions in advance? Interviewers ask the same questions of each applicant NOT to determine if the applicant “got the answer right” but instead to try to determine what the applicants’ thought processes are, what critical thinking skills they might have, and to find out if applicants DID prepare for the interview. Other reasons for not distributing them can include: do applicant’s bring experience or education to the interview or both? Are they succinct in answers? Can they speak extemporaneously? Do their answers to questions match their resume? What gaps are there in their overall application process, that is, does their resume match the answers to questions but not their resume?

Final thoughts on not sending questions out in advance really focus on the need for more data for a comparison process. There are so many self-help environments for interviewing (beginning with this excellent web environment) applicants often show up with pat answers and generalities while interviewees are left to seek as much data as possible on applicants in trying to determine how applicant one is a better match to the position than applicant two is.


Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject…

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For those on the job market, hang in there!

Hilary Kraus is a Research Services Librarian and liaison to kinesiology and psychology at the University of Connecticut. She has worked as a reference and instruction librarian, focusing on the health and social sciences, at universities in the Midwest and New England. 

Hilary holds a BA in English and Creative Writing from Northwestern University and an MSI from the University of Michigan.

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

At most places I’ve worked, the job description is generally written by admin and reviewed by the hiring committee or written/revised by the hiring committee and approved by admin. This is around the time the hiring committee is selected and charged. The job is posted for a period of time, typically around 4 weeks, and then application review begins. The committee agrees on first round candidates and does phone or video interviews, then clears a short-list for campus interviews with admin. Campus interviews (pre-COVID) included dinner the night before and then a full day interview. The hiring committee submits strengths/weaknesses for who they consider qualified candidates among those who visited campus. Admin makes the final decision.

Titles hired include: Reference/instruction/liaison librarians

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ A Committee or panel

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A whole day of interviews

√ A meal with hiring personnel

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Other: I don’t know

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

They really expressed themselves well in their cover letter, not only highlighting relevant qualifications but also emphasizing why this job appealed to them. I get that people want a job because it means money and security, but as a hiring committee member and future colleague I still want to know why this job was on their list, and that they are actually interested in doing the work.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

I try to extend all possible grace, so I ignore minor errors in application materials (up to and including putting the wrong institution name at the top, because I have to say, as a candidate, I would never get over the mortification, so they’ve already been punished enough for that mistake). For me, it’s a deal-breaker if there’s no indication anywhere in the letter that they have any real investment in this specific job.

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

I can’t think of anything specific. We already demand people share so much information in the application process!

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more

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

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

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

I think mistakes in interviews are very candidate-specific. I also don’t like to think of what they do as “mistakes,” but just as not being as successful as they could be. That said, I guess the only one I can really think of that’s helpful is not allowing themselves enough time to think of an answer to a question they didn’t anticipate. Stalling is fine! “What a great question! Give me a moment to consider my answer.” It’s also ok to ask for clarification or elaboration of a question if you’re not sure how to approach it.

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

Yes. This is hard, because not everyone has a good space that meets these requirements, but if you can, try to have: a comfortable chair where you’re sitting up relatively straight, decent lighting, a quality microphone or headset you’ve tested in advance, and a background without too many distracting elements. It’s fine to blur your background or put up a virtual one. Wear something you’re comfortable but professional-looking in — no need for anything extra fancy, especially since mostly the interviewers will just see your upper body.

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?

Lean into what you already know and have done! Many parapros have more library experience than new MLS grads, plenty of skills are applicable in multiple types of libraries, and many non-library folks have lots of transferable skills. But you have to be able to make the connection for the hiring committee, you can’t depend on them to figure it out themselves. As unfair as it seems, they’re also juggling a lot of different responsibilities and probably reading through a ton of applications, so help them see why your background is relevant.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: It depends, but at my current place of work, we now put it in the ad.

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

I wish there was a way to scrub the application docs to make it impossible to assume gender, race, etc., but there really isn’t in academia. Several places I’ve worked used a matrix to ensure that everyone was evaluated in a well-documented fashion, and had hiring committee members write up their notes/reactions for screening and campus interviews without discussion to reduce groupthink. I think those types of things help, but honestly, implicit bias is obviously a real thing at every stage.

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

Ask what people like about working at the organization, where they see it heading (even the rank and file folks have opinions on this!), what would make someone successful in the role.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100

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

The academic job search process is such a hazing ritual. Thanks for trying to make it better and more transparent.

For those on the job market, hang in there!


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 50-100 staff members, Academic, Northeastern US, Suburban area, Urban area

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ A Committee or panel

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A whole day of interviews

√ A meal with hiring personnel

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

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

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Coming to an interview and asking no substantive questions.

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

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

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Rural

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 0-10

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

It’s important that candidates know we are part of active unions governed by collective bargaining agreements, and that we are state workers.

Headshot of Jamie Taylor in front of a white board, wearing a bike cap

Jaime Taylor is the Discovery and Resource Management Systems Coordinator at UMass Amherst. Her professional interests include the racialized and gendered nature of librarianship, rethinking librarian education, flattening institutional structures beyond what is currently fashionable, and providing library services in unconventional settings.  Her non-professional interests include bicycles, cats, and old houses. 

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

I have chaired two search committees at my current organization. At my library, hiring is done via committees, which work with library admin to conduct the search & interview process, then make recommendations to the hiring authority (that is, the Dean of Libraries) about which candidate to offer the position to. Committees have 3-5 members, and include both librarians and paraprofessional staff, per our union contracts. For librarian positions, we usually have a phone interview round & then a finalist round of on-campus, full-day interviews, including a presentation by the candidate to library staff. We have recently begun revamping our processes with a DEI/justice lens, and so this process is under renovation. 

Titles hired include: ILS/LSP administrator; collections analysis librarian

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ A Committee or panel 

Note: The committee makes recommendations, but the Dean of Libraries has the final decision.

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A whole day of interviews

√ A meal with hiring personnel

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

They had thorough answers to questions about soft skills — the why & how questions; questions about justice, inclusion & equity; and demonstrated through their answers introspection about their work. They showed a growth mindset, through the research & other professional development they do, as well as through their interests inside & outside the library. They showed interest in cross-departmental connections & shared library/university governance. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Since I work for the state & hire other state workers, if a candidate does not meet the minimum requirements listed in the job description I *cannot* hire them, even if they make a very compelling argument that would be convincing in another setting.

Displays of subtle or overt bias or discrimination, especially against existing library staff. I have hired a young trans woman, for example, and we have workers of color and queer workers thorughout the library. I will not endanger my coworkers through my hiring decisions.

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

I wish I had better ways of sussing out which candidates will actually be able to quickly grow into a role that is a step up the career ladder or involves a new skillset. I’ve had libraries take that chance on me, and I think it worked out well for both me and the institution, so I’d like to be able to extend the same when I’m doing the hiring. Anyone can say that they are lifelong learners & relish a challenge, but it’s harder to concretely prove that someone will be successful at something they don’t yet know how to do.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

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

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

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

Note: Two pages max each for resume/CV & cover letter is probably the sweet spot for early to mid-career positions. In a digital environment, keeping each to only one page isn’t important.

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

Not answering the questions I am actually asking! Please find a way to give a substantive answer to my actual question, even if you don’t have the particular qualification I am asking about. I want to hear specificity and details to know that you know what you are talking about.

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

We are actively trying to make this as equitable and stress-free as possible! As long as we can hear each other, it’s all good.

Virtual or phone interviews make it much easier to have notes on hand to refer to as you speak — take advantage of that!

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 a convincing argument that your skills & experience translate. Tell me why it makes sense. Be confident in them and sell it to me. Customer service experience is always relevant, for example, even if you are only communicating with coworkers.

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 rewritten job descriptions to allow for more kinds of experience to be applicable. We actively advertise in places that are relevant to wider, more diverse audiences. I personally cultivate a diverse professional network & use it when hiring. We have an orientation session for the search committee at the beginning of the process to reinforce methods of bias reduction & have checklists & exemplars to refer to. 

But, since the library is largely staffed by white people, the collective networks of staff are mostly also white. We see names & other possible ethnic identifiers on applications. We are currently understaffed & in a rush to hire, so we may not think we have the time to slow down a process enough to give it proper attention with an anti-bias lens.

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

Please ask something, anything! It looks bad if a candidate has zero questions. Ask us about the culture and supervision style of the unit the position is in. Ask us about what kind of professional development opportunities there are. Ask us why we chose to work at this library. Ask us what exciting projects or changes are on the horizon. Use your questions to show us that you are curious & forward thinking & are aware of trends in the library world.

It’s important that candidates know we are part of active unions governed by collective bargaining agreements, and that we are state workers. These two facts govern the choices a candidate has once they’ve been offered a position – negotiation, selection of benefits. Candidates should also know that unions are only as strong as their members, so expect to be involved in making our institution the best workplace it can be. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Rural 

Note: New England rural, not flyover state rural, though.

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100 

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

Don’t apply for positions that aren’t a good match to your experience & skills. It’s a waste of your time & ours. Instead, spend more time honing your application materials & interview skills for positions that are a close fit.

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, Northeastern US, Rural area

Further Questions: What are your thoughts on age?

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

This week’s question is from Twitter:

A reader asks: “What are your thoughts on age? How open or closed are library hiring managers to women over 60? Thanks.”

I add: To expand this a little, please give us your thoughts and observations for any folks who are worried about their age (older, younger, or in the middle) affecting their ability to get hired. Any tips for strategies to mitigate bias?


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: This is always tricky because we have a natural tendency to think about age even just looking at a resume or CV. I have noticed more and more that people leave off the degree granted date on credentials which can be effective although including dates of previous employment still provides some indication of age. In some cases I think it depends at least in part on the position. If someone is applying for a more senior position that requires experience then I would expect candidates who are older. I think it is interesting that the reader specifically mentions women over 60. I’m assuming the reader is a woman but I also wonder if more women have concerns over age than men.

We need to move away from making assumptions about age based on information we receive in documentation. Not everyone goes to college at 18. Not everyone who is over 60 looks like they are (or under). We can ask every candidate about how their prior experiences inform their thinking about this new opportunity. And about what they hope to accomplish. Given the departures from my library over the past five years I’d say a colleague in their 30s or 40s is just as likely to consider leaving as someone over 60 might be to retire. I wonder if the reader with the question meant the question of how long she would stay in a job, or whether she is still able to do it well. In 30 years I would say ability and interest have much less to do with age than any number of other factors


Anonymous: This is a question that has been much on my mind of late. Of course, an institution is best served by saying nothing when a candidate does not make the cut. What I have noticed, however, is that before I turned 60, which was on the eve of the pandemic, I was a valued candidate and could get an interview within a month or two of starting to look. I was published and a sought after national speaker on Information Literacy. There was no obvious problem with qualifications.

After I turned 60, I get crickets, even for jobs that I might have been over-qualified for.

To be fair, that might be part of the problem. Librarianship seems to have this weird thing going that if you want to step back from a top-leadership position to something with less pressure but doing something you love seems to be inconceivable. I was, in fact, told by a colleague and friend who was a college library director, “if, after being a director, you wanted to go back to being a public service librarian and the pay cut, we would probably want to know why.” It was suggested my candidacy would be a hard sell to voluntarily step away from administration. It is somewhat frustrating since if I were asked, I would tell them that I didn’t mind the pay cut. I can afford it, I want to go back to doing what I loved, and you would get an experienced public service/instruction librarian who was pretty damn good at what they did.

Is that age discrimination? I’ll let the reader draw their own conclusions.


Dr. Colleen S. Harris, Librarian, John Spoor Broome Library, CSU Channel Islands:

TL;DR: Yes, discrimination against older women applicants exists, but there are some ways to combat it.

This is a good question. Our most recent dean is a woman over 60 who the University-level committee hired, and is a dynamo of energy and advocacy; I’ve seen this a lot in libraries from our older colleagues. When I’m on a search committee, I look for the best talent and most potential—the balance of these shifts just a little depending on the position in that an early career growth position can be written in such a way that it attracts those with passion but not much experience, while a position requiring skills we need immediately applied might focus more on factors of experience. You should be able to tell by the way the position is written. I think women over 60 can (and do) easily market themselves with the vast amount of life experience they have compared to younger or earlier-career applicants.

If you have this concern as an older applicant, I would consider the following – all with a dash of salt, of course, because they’re largely drawn from my own experience as a search committee member. Some of these will seem silly and “of course don’t do that,” but after seeing cover letters where these things happen, some do/don’t/depends tips to not knock yourself out of the pool prematurely:

  • Do: concentrate on the position and how it is written, paying careful attention to those bullet points of requirements and responsibilities. Focus on what you can bring to that position and institution in terms of your previous experience (both library and non-library), professional development and/or passion. Most of the committees I’ve been on actually use the position description’s bullet points as their candidate rating rubric. Focus on bringing as many of those as you can into your cover letter without sounding stilted. Nota bene: the committee WILL NOT scour your CV/resume for details related to those requirement bullet points, you have to do that labor in your cover letter. Even if it’s a brief mention of how you meet the requirement and then a “more details on my responsibilities in my CV,” it helps you.
  • Do: focus your labor on the important documents: especially writing that cover letter, and the diversity statement. Your CV/resume is very rarely the make-or-break document.
    • N.B.: Your cover letter is the key to the kingdom, at least in academic searches I’ve been on in the library, in other academic departments, and when I’ve been on search committees for administrators (CBO, CFO). This is the space where you can make your age work for you in terms of experience, demonstrated learning over time, mentorship of younger or earlier-career colleagues, and broad skill set development.
    • N.B.: The diversity statement…very often these are very terrible. As in seriously terrible. As in, “I like diversity and have Black friends” terrible. Take some time to really sit and think about the prompt (they vary slightly by institution) and offer a meaningful answer. (If you have one, if you don’t you should reflect on that, too.) If you are an older applicant, you again likely have more experience to draw from in terms of approaching how your philosophy of librarianship has changed over the years (if at all), how your teaching/management/coaching style has changed, and how you can actively exploit the benefit of your age in terms of length of learning curve and practice in this area.
    • N.B. for applicants of all ages: if an institution says the diversity statement is required, it is required as a separate document. And we mean it when we say required. If you do not include a diversity statement, you are out of the pool (at least at my current POW). Even if it’s an optional document, consider it required. It’s important. In the past decade I have been on a committee where an applicant loudly and in print refused to submit a diversity reflection statement.
  • Don’t: say that you want the position at that institution because you want to retire in the area or because you want to live in a particular city for [insert non-library, non-institution reason here]. The institution and committee likely want to hear how you will be engaged as their employee and colleague, not focusing on ending the job before you’ve even gotten it. (That may seem obvious but it has happened in many a cover letter I’ve read for librarian searches as well as searches for faculty in other departments I’ve served on.)
  • Depends: Related to the previous, a more gray area is mentioning if you have family/children/grandchildren in the area. Some committee members will see this as a bonus in terms of locking you in geographically and likely keeping you for longer than folks without ties in the area, but it can also backfire because to others it will sound very similar to “I want to retire here.” Unless your family is somehow directly related to your professional experience (lots of practice at storytimes as a grandma, for instance), I would leave them out. Focusing on the professional is the safest bet, for the most part. (There are good ways weaving in family can be done, and some folks will say I’m wrong here. My focus in this answer is to advise as best I can how to maintain a strong presence in the pool and impress each committee member as much as possible. I lean towards a “Don’t” on this one because I hesitate to give bad actors any ammunition against a candidate, but I’m also mindful that we bring our whole selves to work, with all of our intersecting identities that inform our experience, and those intersecting identities are relevant to the ways in which we work with people and do the work. I wrestle with this one, and I’d probably land at “have multiple someones read over your cover letter to make sure everything is oriented to how you can benefit the institution in that position and how the institution can benefit you” (good advice for applicants at all ages).
  • Do: indicate how you are keeping current in the profession, especially in the area of the position you’re applying for. It’s illegal to discriminate based on age, but we know it happens, and the listed degree dates on your CV/resume or other parts of the application can bring age to a bad-actor committee member’s attention. If you can very briefly address how you have kept current on your knowledge of whatever the position is, that gives other committee members an ace in the hole if a member brings up the date of the degree and indicates an age bias by claiming that someone’s education may be “out of date” for the needs of the position.
  • Do: be confident in your application. At 60 and over (heck, at 40 and over), you have a wealth of life experience under your belt even if that experience isn’t in libraries, and much of that may be relevant to the position you are applying for. I think of my mother, who didn’t work until later in life, but managed a scratching-to-lower-middle-class household of five with one income for 20 years doing all of the budgeting/invoicing and reconciling, arranging for transportation for multiple actors to all different places, ensuring 3 squares a day, doing building maintenance, handling vendors (doctors/health care, the oil company, the electric company, cable, etc.), researching to save costs (the reams of coupon fliers she went through weekly), dealing with cost ebb and flow (new school clothes in August, presents at Christmas)…

Headshot of Kathryn Levenson

Kathryn Levenson, Librarian, Piedmont High School: Great question on age. For school libraries, you need a teaching credential before getting your Library credential and MLIS so most people would be older.

I was getting tired of all the work that went along with being a biology teacher, prepping labs, etc. I felt like I could perform Library duties under less stress into older age. I have been at Piedmont High School for 6 years now and am about to turn 64. I plan on working at least another 3 years.

The previous Librarian had been there for 13 years and was retiring. I interned at Berkeley where the main Librarian was probably in her late 60’s and she hired a replacement in her 50’s at least.

When I was hiring an assistant, I considered temperament and ability to work with high school students over any concern for age. Both of my assistants had teaching experience of some kind and ties to the community. There are many active Librarians in their 60’s, in my experience.

I would encourage older candidates to apply providing they can push the carts and lift boxes at times. But, if your Library uses high school teaching assistants, that will relieve much of the physical part of the job. I also had a very active middle school TA program at my previous library.


Jimmie Epling, Director, Darlington County Library System:

What are your thoughts on age?

When approaching an interview, someone older may make a terrific employee. While there may be physical requirements which would eliminate someone, a specific age does not determine an employee’s ability to physically do a job.

How open or closed are library hiring managers to women over 60?

At my library, we hire women (and men) over 60! What older applicants, of any gender, need to avoid is giving the impression the job is “just to get them out of the house” or “give them something to do.” And especially, an employer does not want to get a sense the applicant wants the job as a way to “cruise to retirement” in a short time.

To expand this a little, please give us your thoughts and observations for any folks who are worried about their age (older, younger, or in the middle) affecting their ability to get hired. Any tips for strategies to mitigate bias?

When applying and interviewing for a job, regardless of age, you must demonstrate an interest in the employer and the job, a belief you have something to contribute of value, and NO expiration date. Too often, applicants show little interest in the job, have little idea what they can do for the employer, and give the impression this is only a temporary “gig” for them..


Headshot of Angelynn King

Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College: For the past 15 years, I’ve worked in small academic libraries in rural locations. I’ve served on numerous faculty search committees, and I’ve never heard the advanced age of a candidate discussed or even alluded to. This may be a function of the applicant pools being somewhat shallower in the country, but it’s been my experience that if you’re qualified and enthusiastic, we’re willing to consider you.

Once a member of a committee I chaired said of a young, single applicant that she’d “probably just get married and move away.” I reminded her that we absolutely, positively could NOT take that into consideration. We ended up hiring the applicant, and she did move away — but later she married a guy she met in a nearby town and moved back! So that just goes to show you…something.


Anonymous: My system does not require age information in any application process, but work experience and expertise mean that age is not completely removed from view. Internal policy is to offer openly based on whether or not certain education requirements or expertise requirements are fulfilled. In practice, level of experience can sometimes affect whether or not we look at an application. If someone has a ton of experience and are used to working in multiple library systems, but are applying for a library intern position, we will likely pick a less experienced candidate who may benefit more from getting their foot into libraries. When we’re dealing with librarian level or just more challenging positions, expertise is actually seen as a benefit. So I think this comes down to making sure you’re aware of the kind of position you’re going for and not underestimating your experience.

One issue that I see come up in hiring processes is that librarianship now requires a lot more technical skills. Making sure that that is clear in your resume is honestly more important than anything else. Showing that you know what modern librarianship means is really what’s important. As an example, we actually passed over a younger internal candidate for a position because an older candidate with more experience and a better vision for the position had applied.

If you’ve been in libraries for a while, you probably have a good idea of trends. Take advantage of that long-term vision and make sure the hiring manager can recognize it too


Christian Zabriskie, Executive Director, Onondaga County Public Library: It’s all about the energy. I had a colleague who referred to herself as “the resident Q-tip” because of her white bobbed hair. She had the highest energy, the best attitude, and the most drive of anyone in the work group. Bring your best to the interview, talk about something new you read that you think would work well. Don’t make excuses for yourself in your head when you interview. “I hope they overlook X” is going to make you feel like whatever X may be, it is the only thing that matters.

Older folks who have been in the profession for a while will want to show that they are up on new ideas and are not going to be doing a stale storytime. Younger professionals will want to show where they have shouldered responsibility. Stereotypes stink but people bring them to the table so make sure you are covering yourself. If you are going for a position with leadership responsibilities it is important to show that you are around for a period of years. This is less of an issue for front line work and part time desk/cataloging coverage work, those are longer term skills that are fairly interchangeable between libraries and locations so lean into your flexibility and classic reference chops.

I once had a new hire ask me what my policy was on tattoos in the workforce, my reply was “they are not required”. Show your best genuine self and that energy and conviction will shine out in your interview.


Thanks for reading! We’d love to hear what you think!

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