Tag Archives: LIS careers

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.

Leave a comment

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

Folks looking to break in, you must know how the libraries really work.

Retirement of supervising librarian Leah Lewison of 115th Street Branch. Left to right: Regina Andrews, Carolyn Trumpass, Rosa Zubilaga Montera, Leah Lewison, an unidentified woman and Tiffany (?) NYPL Digital Collections

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: Head of Childrens and Teens

Titles hired include: Library assistants, Children’s and teen librarians 

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

√ References 

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?

Personable, chatty, had good experience. Almost finished degree. Made you feel like they would be fun to work with.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Very short answers are not enough. Please take your time and elaborate. 

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

Their work ethic; how much energy and enthusiasm they have. Whether or not they initiate projects or just wait around until they are assigned something.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

Resume: √ Only One!  

CV: √ We don’t ask for this  

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

When people are too brief. We want to hear you talk a bit with each response.

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

We do not conduct virtual interviews.

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

Folks looking to break in, you must know how the libraries really work. Study up on wherever you are applying. Have good follow up questions. Run a program, volunteer with any group of people. Find a way to relate normal activities to the library world. Talk about customer service from both viewpoints.

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?

Nothing that I am aware of.

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 most important qualities for the candidate. Ask about library climate.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50 

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

Leave a comment

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

If you’re stuck though, ask people what they like about working there. Long hesitation is telling.

Photograph of Society of American Archivists Study Tour, Vatican, Rome. National Archives.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library

√ Archives 

Titles hired include: Collections archivist, archives director, librarian

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

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A whole day of interviews

√ A meal with hiring personnel

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

Committee crafts job description, admin approves, committee reviews all applications (resume, cover letter) and culls to 6-9 phone interviews, then 3-4 full-day interviews (usually in person but have been via Zoom recently). 

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

They made a good case for their ability to contribute to a team and they understood why they worked, not just how to follow instructions. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Too much reliance on a manager telling you what to do, lack of curiosity

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

How they handle disagreement or adversity.

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?

Answering questions with a yes or no. This is your chance to tell us about your work and ideas!

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

It’s hard not to talk over people in a Zoom meeting. Take a brief pause before speaking if you can. Don’t worry about avoiding awkwardness. Everyone feels a little weird!

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?

Never apologize for your experience or try to hide it! Lots of people have the degree, but very few have other experience and make a great case for how it makes them a better, more well-rounded candidate. Explain yourself as a whole person with a unique perspective, because you are! 

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: Pushing to put it in the ad, but it’s not always done

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

There is an HR training and we try to anonymize a bit in the first round. Improvements certainly possible.

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

Your questions are always best if you do a bit of research first. If you’re stuck though, ask people what they like about working there. Long hesitation is telling.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Midwestern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Urban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100 

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

Leave a comment

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

About a Decade Later: Former Job Hunter George Bergstrom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Job Hunter Follow Up

Hiring Librarians News and Miscellany

Here are a few things I want to spotlight:

Are you interested in joining a Hiring Librarians run community of practice for people who are job hunting?

I am exploring creating a private online group of maybe 20 folks for mutual support on things like resume review, interview prep, mental health, etc. I would provide organization, moderation and advice. If you are interested, how would you feel if it was pay-what-you-can? Or come back and make a donation later when you get hired? If this is something that appeals to you, please email me.

Actual picture of a community of practice

There’s a new mini-survey on Cover Letters!

If you hire LIS workers, please consider filling it out. It’s useful to hear from both folks who have opinions about cover letters and also those whose organizations never consider them. I’m also trying something new with this – rather than posting individual replies on the blog, I am making the responses publicly viewable.

man with a beard and hat sits at a table smoking and marking survey documents
Taos County, New Mexico. Jim Barns, surveyor with New Mexico Re-Assessment Survey. National Archives.

We’re (re)starting a series in collaboration with Hack Library School (HLS).

Next week you’ll see the first new post in the Library School Career Center. This is a series that interviews staff at library schools to find out what career support they provide to students and alumni. Next week’s interview looks at the University of Iowa and is by HLS writer Kellee Forkenbrock, who you may also know from Further Questions. I’m excited!

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.

Hack Library School Logo, the letters hls

We seem to have lost 36,000 librarian jobs over the last 7 years

Remember when everyone thought the boomers would retire and create a huge shortage of librarians? I revisited some statistics and found that we actually have fewer available positions than we did a decade ago, and more than a third of all librarians are still over the age of 55.

blackboard, education, chalk, classroom, school, mathematics, writing, formula. Pixino.

I’m adding Mastodon to my socials

Hiring Librarians can now be found at: @hiringlibrarians@glammr.us Right now it’s mainly cross posts from Twitter, which is mainly auto feed from the blog. So, it’s maybe not too exciting right now but we’re trying it out cause that guy who runs the bird app is a big old jerk. My Mastodon handle is in my Twitter profile. If your Mastodon handle is in your Twitter profile and I’m following you, I’ll follow you on Mastodon too okay? (using Debirdify: https://pruvisto.org/debirdify )

Drawing of a mastodon skeleton
Image from page 140 of “Cuvier’s animal kingdom : arranged according to its organization” (1840). Internet Archive on Flickr.

Leave a comment

Filed under Op Ed

Nothing is more frustrating than finding an amazing candidate, and then they realize moving is not feasible once we’ve made the offer.

Archivist Joseph B. Howerton. National Archives

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Archives

√ Public Library 

Title: Executive Director

Titles hired include: Assistant Director, Archives Librarian, Cultural Engagement Coordinator, Library Assistant, Programming & Outreach Librarian

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

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

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

Applications are submitted via online application, with resume’s and cover letters being emailed to myself, Executive Director.  Hiring panel comprised of myself, positions supervisors, and sometimes peers review and rate applicants.  Hiring Panel conducts interviews, often via zoom.  Top candidates have references checked, before offer is made.  

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

Excellent hiring packet, including application, cover letter and resume.  Good communication throughout process, but not overburdening.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

incomplete application, too informal cover letter (like less than a paragraph total), with no greeting or closing.

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

why they want to move to our community, we usually ask, but few if any have an answer. The ones that do stand out.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more

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

CV: √ We don’t ask for this 

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

not knowing anything about the community they applied to work in.  

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

We do almost all supervisory level via virtual platform.  Have a non-distracting background, and expect a few hiccups, despite good internet connections, sometimes we miss things and may ask you to repeat, it’s ok to ask us to repeat as well.

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?

Focus on transferrable skills, if you are good at working with people, in a variety of settings, tell us!  We need people who are adaptable and willing to learn!

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad

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

I like it when they ask questions related to research they’ve done about our organization, or what the immediate need it for the position.  Those come off better than immediately asking about benefits, which are listed in the job ad.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Midwestern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Rural 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50 

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

Please consider whether you are willing/able to move before you apply.  Nothing is more frustrating than finding an amazing candidate, and then they realize moving is not feasible once we’ve made the offer.

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.

2 Comments

Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 10-50 staff members, Archives, Midwestern US, Public, Rural area

About a Decade Later: Former Job Hunter Jessica Olin

headshot of Jessica Olin, a white woman with long hair. She is smiling, but not broadly.

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. 

Jessica Olin filled out the original survey in 2013 and her answers appeared as Being Yourself at Every Stage of the Process, But the Best Version of Yourself. At the time, she had just finished her job search, landing in a position as Director of the Robert H. Parker Library at Wesley College in Dover, Delaware. You may recognize her name as she was also the author of the popular blog, Letters to a Young Librarian (2011-2019).

She is no longer in libraries, and her jump to project management has provided good work-life balance and a feeling of being appreciated. 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’m a project coordinator at a large-ish telecom company. I mostly work from home, using computer equipment that was provided by my employer. I work with some great people, but best of all: I’m not in charge of anyone anymore. I work with people who all seem to appreciate my opinions and the value I bring. Plus I only work 40 hours per week. It’s great! The path I took to get here consisted mostly of finding a tech recruiter who saw my transferable skills for what they are and then found an opportunity that suited.

Were any parts of your journey completely unexpected?

The part where I got laid off from libraries and needed to decide whether to move to stay in the same field or find a new career to stay in the same area.  

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

The biggest thing that’s changed is that I’m no longer in the field. I’m still a little bitter about how it happened (getting laid off the way I did, towards the beginning of the pandemic, was kind of a nightmare) but I’m much happier out of libraries than I had been for a long time. 

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

I was the director at two different academic libraries, and at one of them it felt like I was constantly in the process of hiring/interviewing/on-boarding. It’s a difficult process, especially when you’re not only dealing with the task of presenting the institution and yourself to best advantage but also the vagaries of internal politics.

Do you have any advice for job hunters?

My old advice still stands (“Being yourself at every stage of the process, but the best version of yourself.”), but also remember you’re interviewing the institution as much as they’re interviewing you. You should be looking for whether or not the place is a good fit for you, not just the other way around. True, it can be hard to stick to that when you really need a job and sometimes any job is better than no job, but toxic work environments can hurt you for years even if you leave. There are good, even great, libraries out there. You deserve to work at one of those. 

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

More transparency at every stage. I’m a huge fan of the trend of giving people interview questions to candidates ahead of the interview. Also, be willing to pay for transportation ahead of time instead of just reimbursing. 

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

A librarian really is a project manager, and I know plenty of people who made the same or similar transitions as the one I made. Not everyone will see “librarian” on a resume and agree, but the right position will.

Leave a comment

Filed under Job Hunter Follow Up

some of my colleagues also ask “why do you want this job” and it irks me because we’re IN A SCENARIO.

Original caption: The Librarian Carefully Enters the Consignment Into Her Books, 12/1952. National Archives.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library  

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 

√ CV

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions 

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A whole day of interviews

√ A meal with hiring personnel 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

For librarians (faculty): search committee, of which I’ve been a member and a chair

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

Well thought-out, well-written cover letter that was exactly what we were looking for. It showed the candidate really, really understood the role and would be amazing in it.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Not understanding, in the foggiest, what the role entails. Things like talking about an aspect of library work that isn’t within the realm of the position. I understand that you can’t know what it is for sure, but if I’m hiring for an instruction librarian and all your examples/things you’re excited about are technical services, I’m a bit concerned.

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

How well they would actually fit the position. 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ 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?

A personal pet peeve: if we give you a presentation topic and fake audience, pretend we are the fake audience. Do not talk librarian shop if we are supposed to be faculty in a different college. To be fair, some of my colleagues also ask “why do you want this job” and it irks me because we’re IN A SCENARIO. This is petty, I know. 

Getting basic facts (the name of the institution) wrong!

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

Yes! When I’m on the committee, I advocate for the first round to be a phone and/or no video meeting. That way candidates can look at their notes. Rehearse so you can highlight your strengths without reading. You got this – we contacted you because we think you could be the person we need. This is a conversation where either party can say “yes” or “no.” For video-on calls (portions of the all-day academic interview during covid), we planned breaks and the like. Turn your camera off, mute yourself, or leave the room during breaks. It’s awkward. Interviews are awkward, Zoom is awkward, together it’s really awkward. Try to make the best of it. We’re trying too. Remember that the committee wants you to be the answer to their open position. Have your examples ready in your mind, be yourself, and be curious about the folks talking to you. 

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?

I had success couching it in librarian-type terms. I love when folks have been paraprofessionals or worked in tough customer service jobs, because that means they will handle the weirdness of an academic library likely quite well. 

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?

It depends on the search committee chair. We redact names & identifying information up until phone interviews, we require a good diversity statement (beyond “libraries are for everyone!” and more along the lines of “neutrality isn’t real and libraries can be racist so… here’s what I’ve done to get better”)

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

Whatever you want to know! Do you want to know things about living where we are? About the culture of the library? If there’s something that would be a dealbreaker for you, ask about it. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western 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?

√ 11-50 

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

Leave a comment

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

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

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

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: Department Head

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

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor

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

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

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

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

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

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

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

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

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

Resume: √ Only One!  

CV: √ Two is ok, but no more 

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

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

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

Yes! I’m not sure, honestly. 

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

There are at least two levels for me here. 

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

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

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Other: Mainland Europe

What’s your region like?

√ Urban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 101-200 

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

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

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

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

Leave a comment

Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 100-200 staff members, Academic, Urban area

Researcher’s Corner: Power, positionality, and privilege: a study of academic librarian job postings 

I’m pleased to be able to share this post by Joanna Theilen and Amy Neeser which not only describes their research into Data professionals’ job postings, but highlights concrete steps that libraries can take to create hiring practices that support increased diversity in our profession. Thielen and Neeser are frank and persuasive in their writing. The piece draws from their 2020 article focused on Data professionals, and an additional  2022 article by Thielen (co-authored by Wanda Marsolek) focusing on Engineering librarians’ job postings. 

I think you will find this post very interesting. If you’d like to read more, you can find the original articles at:

Thielen, J., & Neeser, A. (2020). Making Job Postings More Equitable: Evidence Based Recommendations from an Analysis of Data Professionals Job Postings Between 2013-2018. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 15(3), 103–156. https://doi.org/10.18438/eblip29674

Thielen, J. & Marsolek, W. (2022). Taking a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Accessibility Lens to Engineering Librarian Job Postings: Recommendations from an Analysis of Postings from 2018 and 2019. Journal of eScience Librarianship, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.7191/jeslib.2022.1212


Background

Librarianship as a profession is homogeneous. And has been for a very, very long time. We, one current and one former academic librarian, want to do our part to help contribute to the diversification of librarianship. Why? Because everyone MUST speak up and act; otherwise the status quo will remain which disproportionately excludes people from underrepresented groups and perpetuates inequities in our society. 

One area we’d observed that is quite stagnant is academic library hiring practices; this is also where we have the most experience. How can the profession as a whole expect to diversify if hiring practices remain the same? Simply put, it’s not going to happen. As Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” 

To contribute to the conversation around ways to diversify our profession, we have done two research projects in this area. The first project looked at data librarian job postings and the second looked at engineering librarian job postings. Huge shout out to our collaborator Wanda Marsolek for their contributions to the latter project! 

Our positionality affects how we approach research in general, including identifying a research project, interpreting results, and making recommendations based on these results. Joanna is a white, heterosexual, female, cisgender, able-bodied person who works at the University of Michigan. She started studying academic library hiring practices while she worked at Oakland University, a mid-sized public university. Amy is gender non-conforming, white, able bodied person who works at the University of California, Berkeley. We acknowledge the immense privilege and power we hold in the world through our positionality and our jobs at large, prestigious, and wealthy doctoral granting institutions in the United States and hope to use this to enact change. 

Our initial focus for the first project seemed straightforward: as data librarianship is an emerging area of academic librarianship, what are the qualifications and responsibilities for these roles? We also wanted to look at salary. We gathered as many job postings as we could in this area that were posted in a five year time frame. After concluding the data librarian job posting project, Wanda and Joanna embarked on a research project that studied engineering librarian job postings using the same methodology. 

After developing a codebook and coding a small sample of the job postings, we realized that some had ridiculously specific requirements (they’re looking for a unicorn) or we, data librarians with over five years combined experience in this area, had no idea what some of these postings were asking for. A data librarian at a university Chicago who 1) does reference, consultation, collection management, and instructional services to support social sciences data discovery, analysis, visualization, and management; 2) is the liaison to the Sociology department; and 3) is also fluent in Spanish or Portuguese. But no salary listed – of course not, why would you need to know salary before potentially moving to one of the most expensive cities in the US!? We also saw an engineering librarian job posting that had 16 required qualifications! How is a single person supposed to meet ALL of those qualifications, nonetheless write a succinct cover letter about them? These two examples are pulled from actual job postings and are incredibly problematic from a diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) perspective. 

This lack of DEIA in the job postings was (and is) maddening. Academic librarianship talks a big game about valuing DEIA but their job postings clearly didn’t reflect it. So we knew we wanted to go beyond merely listing the results in order to interrogate how these results weren’t centering DEIA in the hiring process. Our new goal was to persuade people, using our data and observations, to center DEIA principles & practices when writing job postings. We were so shocked by the lack of DEIA in these job postings that we wrote an editorial piece, prior to publishing our journal article on our data librarian project, in order to share observations and recommendations as quickly as possible. 

Below we present three major themes and additional recommendations from our research that are applicable to all librarian job postings, including those not in academia. 

Job titles: create inclusive job titles 

We found a lot of job titles in both studies: much more variation in the data librarian job postings than the engineering librarian ones. We speculate this occurred because the data postings are for an emerging area and seemed to be recruiting applicants from more diverse educational backgrounds. The word ‘Librarian’ was used for most of the engineering positions and many of the data positions. Many people with relevant experience might not have the library science degree or consider themselves librarians, so this language could automatically deter them from applying. 

Degrees: avoid ambiguous language and do not require multiple graduate degrees

Many of these positions, especially the engineering postings, required a library science degree. This severely limits an applicant pool to those already inside the profession. We recommend thinking carefully about whether applicants really need this degree to perform their job and which job responsibilities will the library degree help them fulfill. Or is this degree in the job posting because “we’ve always done it this way”? We also found many instances of language such as “equivalent education and experience” which feels inclusive but is actually very ambiguous. Many positions required multiple graduate degrees which is extremely problematic as people from underprivileged groups have more difficulty attaining multiple graduate degrees. We suggest accepting undergraduate degrees or academic experience such as coursework and to focus on applicants who demonstrate that they are willing to learn and grow professionally. 

Salary: be transparent about salary and list quantitative salary ranges to encourage negotiation 

Nearly half of the job descriptions did not include any salary information, and those that did usually only used vague words like “competitive”. This is very troubling as this practice favors those who are already working in the profession. The postings that did list a quantitative salary often listed a single number, whereas listing a salary range would have indicated that candidates can negotiate. Underrepresented groups are less likely to negotiate so this is a way that we can be more equitable. 

Additional recommendations: 

Even though we tried to center DEIA in our own research projects, there were several topics that we didn’t initially think of and therefore didn’t collect data on. Based on our observations during the research project and our own expanding awareness of DEIA issues in the hiring process, we have four additional recommendations: 

  • Limit number of required and preferred qualifications; remind candidates that they don’t need to meet all the preferred qualifications in order to apply
  • Integrate anti-racism into your job postings
  • Write every sentence within a job posting using the lens of DEIA
  • Ask a range of people to be on your hiring committee and to provide feedback on the job posting

Looking at job postings through the lens of DEIA is an opportunity to use our power, positionality, and privilege to help reduce disparities in these positions, our profession, and institutions. This is a complex and evolving landscape; we are continually learning and several years later have thought about other variables we would have liked to include in our study. An example of this is anti-racism; our first paper was published only a few weeks after the murder of George Floyd. This tragic event transformed our world and although we did not originally look at anti-racism in our study, we have since recommended it be included either as a requirement or as a statement from the institution about their demonstrated commitment to it and how the position furthers that work. This is just one example of the future directions this work could take, and we encourage others to continue building upon our studies. Our data is openly available in the Dryad Repository (data librarian job postings project) and the Data Repository of the University of Minnesota (engineering librarian job posting project). We strongly encourage other researchers to further analyze and use this data.


Headshot of Joanna Thielen, who is smiling, blonde and wears a black blazer

Joanna Thielen (she/hers) Data Curation Specialist for Science and Engineering, University of Michigan Library

As Data Curation Specialist for Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan Library, Joanna helps science and engineering researchers make their works openly available to anyone with an internet connection. Previously she was an Engineering Librarian at University of Michigan Library and the Research Data and Science Librarian at Oakland University. Her research interests include DEIA in the academic hiring process and data librarianship. 

Headshot of Amy Neeser, who is in profile. She is smiling, but not broadly, and has a pierced septum and a teal bob.

Amy Neeser (she/they) Consulting + Outreach Lead for Research IT, University of California, Berkeley

As the Consulting + Outreach Lead in Research IT at the University of California Berkeley, Amy coordinates the consulting efforts across the Data Management and Research Computing programs to offer a holistic approach to data and computation. They also facilitate Research IT’s community, partnership, and outreach programs. Amy previously worked at the University of Michigan as the Research Data Curation Librarian and at the University of Minnesota in the Biological and Physical Sciences Libraries.

Leave a comment

Filed under Researcher's Corner