Tag Archives: LIS careers

Job Hunter’s Web Guide: CLIR and DLF Job Board

Today I am pleased to share a job board that reaches beyond libraries and archives. While you can visit the site anytime, they also send a weekly digest that includes a short note featuring a resource or item of interest. They’re friendly and responsive to feedback – I recommend checking it out!

screenshot of the CLIR DLF job board website

What is it?  Please give us your elevator speech!

The CLIR (Council on Library and Information Resources) and DLF (Digital Library Federation) Job Board is a place for job seekers in the galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (GLAM) fields to find current positions posted by CLIR sponsors, DLF members, and non-member organizations. Listings are active for 60 days and require minimum salary to be included. Each week, a job board digest is sent out with the latest listings to digest subscribers. When requested by an employer, we actively promote listings on CLIR and DLF social media.

When was it started?  Why was it started?

The DLF Jobs Board began in 2011 when the DLF staff began posting positions on the DLF blog. In 2015, an email digest of current positions on the board started going out to subscribers. In July 2016, the standalone site – jobs.diglib.org – was started and DLF member institutions could post unlimited jobs for free. During this time, CLIR also had a similar job message board titled “Jobs Connect,” which provided job posting services for CLIR sponsors.

In 2019, the DLF Jobs Board and CLIR’s Jobs Connect combined to become the “CLIR+DLF Jobs Board,” allowing DLF members, CLIR sponsors, and other non-member organizations to post jobs in one location.

In 2020, the board was renamed the “CLIR and DLF Job Board.” Another important change that year was the requirement that all jobs posted specify a minimum salary amount or range. In July 2022, a resource section was added to help job hunters consider issues of cost of living, social issues, and civil rights access as they looked for a new position.

Who runs it?

The job board is run by CLIR and its Digital Library Federation program. The job board is administered by a CLIR staffer (that’s me!), who reviews and approves each job as they are submitted by employers. I also handle any technical issues or problems with payments, when they occur.

Are you a “career expert”? What are your qualifications?

I am not a GLAM career expert, but I have worked in libraries, museums, and IT recruiting, and I am fortunate to be surrounded by colleagues at CLIR and DLF who have extensive experience in the fields.

Who is your target audience?

Our current audiences are employers and job seekers in the GLAM and MLIS fields. Most of our sponsors and members are in higher education, but I would like to reach out to organizations of all types that hire people in the GLAM fields.

What’s the best way to use your site?  Should users consult it daily?  Or as needed? Should they already know what they need help with, or can they just noodle around?

I hope that using the job board is straightforward, and I recommend checking periodically during the week. Job postings are lighter during the summer months, so checking more regularly starting in the fall is a good idea.

I am always interested in hearing from job board users! During the pandemic, we made a change in how long jobs were listed, thanks to a user who wrote and shared how depressing it was to see so many job links on the board, but to have most be dead links or jobs that were no longer taking applications. My colleagues and I agreed, and decided that jobs would be active for 60 days unless requested by employers to go longer.

Does your site provide:

√ Job Listings

√ Links  

Should readers also look for you on social media? Or is your content available in other formats? 

Readers can find jobs listed at jobs.diglib.org and subscribe to the CLIR and DLF Job Board Digest to receive a weekly email newsletter with the latest jobs posted.

Do you charge for anything on your site?

CLIR sponsors and DLF members are able to post unlimited jobs for free. Non-sponsor or member organizations are able to post jobs for $200 per job.

What are your standards for job listings (e.g., must include salary)?

We do not post or publicize unpaid positions or internships. We also require employers to include a minimum salary amount and support fair employment practices. I review every job posted to be certain it is a real position and meets our listing requirements.

Can you share any stories about job hunters that found positions after using your site?

I would love to hear from job board users! I often hear kind messages from job board digest readers about my introduction to each digest, which I greatly appreciate. It would make my day to hear from someone who found their next position using the job board. 

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

There is a lot of information about the GLAM fields online, sometimes positive and helpful, sometimes negative and discouraging. My goal with the job board and the digest is to provide links to jobs and information about professional development opportunities through CLIR and DLF, with a dash of care and hopefulness.

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Filed under Job Hunters Web Guide

Always share that you speak another language

headshot of Rachel Schmidt

Rachel Schmidt loves all the facets of being a librarian. In her current role, she serves as the Supervising Youth Services Librarian for the Santa Clara City Library. Growing school and local education partnerships, leading story times and providing access to learning opportunities for ages 0-18 are her main priorities. 

Rachel also loves to collaborate with other librarians. Feel free to reach out!

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

1. Application submissions

2. Oral Board (Outside Panel)

3. Interview (Library Staff Panel)

4. Ref check

5. Possible 3rd Interview

Titles hired: Librarian I, Librarian II, Library Assistant, Intern Consultant

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

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?

1. Passion and love of serving community

2. Demonstrated Problem solving and leadership

3. Excited to learn and demonstrate flexibility

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

1. Bad story time demo

2. Not friendly

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

Their compassion for all walks of life.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more

CV: √ Two is ok, but no more

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

Not preparing. Not studying the organization. A little nod to the organiztion goes a long way. Like “ I really love how your Library uses social media to connect with your community” or “One of the main reasons that I applied for this position is that I found that EDI Is deeply embedded into the organiztions strategic plan”. 

Practicing general interview strategies beforehand can really help a candidate warm up for the interview. I suggest revisiting LinkedIn for Learning or any other basic interview courses to get a reminder on the basics. When I am gearing up for an interview, I tend to practice answering questions in my car during my commute so that I can make my answers sound more succinct and I can avoid too much repetition in my experiences/statements. 

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

You need to have a strong internet connection and be able to show friendliness and professionalism. Zoom interviews are very difficult. Also, make sure to take notes and ask a few thoughtful questions after the interview to get more engagement with the panel. 

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?

Great customer service is great customer service and we can learn that anywhere. Demonstrate how they go above and beyond and serve with equity. Being welcoming. Skills and job processes can be learned.

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?

Use a rubric and have multiple interviews

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

Work culture. What is a regular work day like? What are your organizational goals? Strategic plan? What would you like to see accomplished in 5 years? How does your Library support professional development? How do staff have fun and bond at work? 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western US

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

You need to show a confident version of yourself! Show passion. And it’s always great to demonstrate how you have built relationships in your work with partner organizations. Always SHARE THAT YOU SPEAK ANOTHER LANGUAGE…this always gets overlooked.

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

Further Questions: What are your tough interview questions?

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

Luckily, this is easily solved for librarians.

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

and obviously 

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

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

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

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

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

Why can’t applicants answer these questions?

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


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

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Filed under Further Questions

Not thinking about EDI even though it is in the job description

men move crates of records
Unloading War Department Records at the National Archivee. From the National Archives Catalog.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Archives

Title: Processing Archivist

Titles hired include: Distinctive Collections Head, Archivist for Collections, Metadata Operations Engineer, [Project] Archivist, Metadata Librarian

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)

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A whole day of interviews

√ Other: Presentation, some positions may be a half day of interviews

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

Applications get narrowed by HR, hiring committee decides who gets phone interviews and conducts these interviews, committee decides who comes for in person (or virtual) final round interviews, candidates meet with committee, stakeholders, peers and/or reportees, higher library admins, and may give presentation to the entire libraries. A casual lunch is usually part of the interview day, but feedback isn’t given for that session. Assessment forms go to anyone that participated in the interview or viewed presentation. Committee assesses feedback and makes recommendation. Ultimately committee chair makes the decision on who to recommend (committee chair tends to be the person that will be reported to) which has to get approved by the library director. I have served as a hiring committee member or stakeholder in searches.

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

They had been actively involved with professional development through volunteering on committees, despite being relatively new to the field.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

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

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

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

Not thinking about EDI even though it is in the job description. (Or having too narrow a view of diversity)

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

Yes. When giving a presentation, be aware of how you look when delivering it. (Please don’t be obviously reading from the screen, when it is easy to do it surreptitiously.) Understand the platform, test it out beforehand if possible.

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 think by tailoring how you describe these positions to play up the relevant experience. If you understand what is relevant and show it, it helps.

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?

Generally we try to have feedback forms that quantify how well a candidate does as compared with the job requirements. We also are encouraged to read an article on bias before starting reviews. We also try to give every candidate the same experience, from questions to schedules. Some decisions are very much up to the opinions of a small few. Phone screens are subject to the greatest bias.

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

Questions that show interest in the position or are aimed at better understanding expectations. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern 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?

√ 101-200

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

Stats and Graphs: Personal Professional Websites

Hello!

Last month I put out a survey for LIS folks who have their own personal professional websites (kind of a mouthful, but it still seems like the best way to say it – I welcome your thoughts). 27 people responded, providing information about how, why, and what they put online. I’m working through the responses slowly, but I wanted to get up some initial aggregated results.

As with all of my surveys, it’s still open! If you have your own website and would like to tell us about it, please go to the form here.

15 of the 28 questions are closed-ended. Here are charts from 3 of those:

Pie graph of responses to "Did you pay someone to design and build your site?"

Did you pay someone to design or build your site?

I paid for a template (or templates) 4 (14.8%)
No 22 (81.5%)
Other 1 (3.7%)

Bar graph of responses to "Which of the following content do you have on your site (check all that apply)?"

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

Resume or CV 15 (55.6%)
Descriptions or list of services you provide 8 (29.6%)
Blog about personal topics 6 (22.2%)
Blog about professional topics 10 (37%)
Book reviews 1 (3.7%)
Work Samples 11 (40.7%)
List of publications 16 (59.3%)
List of presentations 17 (63%)
References, testimonials and/or press 6 (22.2%)
Twitter or other social media feed 17 (63%)
Your Bio 22 (81.5%)
Your photo 21 (77.8%)
art 1 (3.7%)

Bar graph of responses to "Is having a personal website a must?"

Is having a personal website a “must”?

Yes, for job hunters 6 (22.2%)
Yes, for librarians 2 (7.4%)
Yes, for people looking for speaking gigs 7 (25.9%)
Yes, for people who are independent contractors/freelancers 8 (29.6%)
Yes, for new LIS graduates 3 (11.1%)
Nope! Not at All! 15 (55.5%)
Other: 5 (18.5%)

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Filed under Personal Professional Websites, Stats and Graphs

DO NOT tell me “well, I’ve never been here before.”

Headshot of Michael Sauers

Michael Sauers is currently the Technology Manager for Do Space in Omaha, NE. 

Throughout his 25+ year career, he has been a technology trainer, library trustee, a bookstore manager for a library friends group, a reference librarian, a technology consultant, and a bookseller. He has also published more than 15 books on technology and other topics.

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

Positions are posted by our marketing manger to our Web site and various social media sites and online job positing services such as Indeed, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Applications all go to a single email inbox set up for this purpose and whichever manager is hiring a position is responsible for the rest of the process. For positions reporting to me I review all applications and choose which candidates to interview. Depending on the position, there may be a second interview with other staff included and/or a short meeting between the final candidate and the director. Final hiring decisions are made by the hiring manager unless there is a direct objection to a candidate from the director.

Titles hired include: Community Technologist, Membership Clerk

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 

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?

For most positions I’m looking for four specific things. Their commitment to customer service, a willingness to learn, the ability to work with little direction, and the willingness to ask for assistance/direction if needed. This is all because we’re a very small organization with high expectations when it comes to a member’s experience.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

My biggest issue is when an applicant has no clue as to who/what we are as an organization. We’re open to the public seven days a week totalling 90 open hours. If you’re not going to stop in at least once to look around at least research us online. But in your answer to my first question (“If someone asked you ‘what’s Do Space?’ how would you answer that?”)  DO NOT tell me “well, I’ve never been here before.” At least look us up online before the interview.

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

Nothing I can think of.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

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

CV: √ We don’t ask for this  

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

Lacking knowledge of the organization and being unable to communicate about themselves clearly.

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

We did this a few times during the height of COVID but I’ve not done this enough to have any advice in this area.

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?

I’m not sure I can point to anything specific however, we do collect anonymous demographic data separate from the application and do a semi-annual demographic survey of staff. In general we’re at least as diverse if not more than the population we serve.

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

Salary range is posted on the job description but we’re generally going to hire at the bottom of that range. Almost no one asks about salary when given the opportunity in the interview.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Midwestern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

√ Suburban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50

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

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

Further Questions:  What’s your most horrifying hiring horror story?

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

This week’s question is:

What’s your most horrifying hiring horror story? Either as a hirer or hiree. If you have incorporated lessons learned in your current hiring practices, it would be great to hear about that too.


Anonymous: As a hirer, I’ve had a few. One person, during phone interviews (years before Zoom) started her answer to each question, “Well, I don’t really know, but…” then proceeded to ramble on for what seemed like hours. We couldn’t find a way to politely end the interview. I had one candidate who said to me, during the tour of the library the afternoon before her interview, that undergraduates are stupid. We are primarily an undergraduate institution and were even more so back then. I knew she wasn’t going to get the job, but had to continue. We got to dinner to discover that she was a vegetarian and hadn’t said anything and we had scheduled dinner at a restaurant that had no vegetarian option. They made something for her, and I’m sure it was lovely, but definitely lesson learned there!

As a hiree, I have been put in campus housing of some kind for my interview. This has really become a pet peeve for me. The last time, there would have been no way to make coffee (if I hadn’t brought some things for myself) or have breakfast before my interview started at 8:30am. I was the only person there and had no idea about thermostat, wifi, etc. It is really not great for a candidate to feel comfortable and be able to sleep. I looked and felt tired the next day, which was a second day of a gauntlet of meetings with various constituents. I also, very early in my career, had an interviewer ask me about one of my grad school professors. Uuuuuuuuugh, this person was horrible to me and made me cry almost every time I went in his office. I froze and didn’t know what to say. The interviewer (who really was an awesome guy) leaned over and quietly said, “it’s okay. We can’t stand him either.” At my most recent interview, no matter what we did, I could not log in to their guest wifi for my presentation, which was simultaneously in person and via Zoom, with Google slides. After trying and failing and getting help and having to give up, someone brought me a laptop to use. Huge relief. It was all fine, but more stressful than it should have been – and I had even discussed all of these logistics with them in advance!


Ellen Mehling, Job Search Advisor/Instructor and Brooklyn Public Library’s Job Information Resource Librarian: My horror story actually happened twice. It was at two different workplaces, but was basically the same story.

I was on the hiring committee both times, but not the hiring manager for either position. In both cases the applicants interviewed very well, but lied about their experience, claiming to have years of specific experience crucial to the position that they did not actually have. Beware the slick applicant who seems “just perfect” for the position!

In one of the positions references were checked but only in a superficial way, and in the other case, references weren’t checked at all.

In both cases it became clear early on that the person hired did not know what they were doing – within weeks. Also in both cases, the new hires made up “best practices” to try to cover for the fact that they did not have the experience they claimed to have, and doubled down when confronted, insisting that the way they were doing things was effective, and the way things should be done.

As you can imagine, this caused a lot of problems as the work they were hired to do was not getting done properly, and their managers struggled to supervise and hold accountable these employees who refused to follow policies and procedures in favor of their own fictional “best practices”.

The moral of this double horror story: always check references and check them thoroughly. Don’t just go by the info on the resume and cover letter, and an impressive performance in the interview. Skipping this step in the hiring process can lead to disaster, endless headaches, and lowered morale among other staff. Ask probing questions of references, to (perhaps) uncover some red flags you would otherwise miss. It is best to contact “unofficial” references too (others beyond just the references provided by the applicant), if it is at all possible. The more info you have about the applicant, the less chance there will be of hiring someone who turns out to be a problem.


Anonymous: We hired a new librarian a number of years ago. The interview went very well and the individual arrived and it was quickly apparent that they had all of the skills and qualities that we were looking for. The person worked well with their library faculty colleagues including team teaching and long overdue work on some collections. I began to get the impression that this person and one other librarian were spending a lot of time together. I am not usually very perceptive about this kind of thing but I had a feeling.
At the end of the most recent hire’s third year, the other librarian came to me to say that they were each leaving their spouses and also taking a separation incentive package from the institution and leaving. I also found out they were pregnant. So this hire resulted in the break-up of two marriages and the departure of two librarians. And both positions were then eliminated. Clearly more of a horror story for me than for them.


Jess Herzog, Director of Adult Services, Spartanburg County Public Libraries: My assistant director and I were interviewing an internal (already in our department) to move up from one role to another, and the head of HR was in the interview as well. The four of us were seated at a round table, and at one point I crossed my legs. I am what most would consider A Large Human, and the table is what most would consider On The Smaller Side, and I whacked my knee pretty hard on the underside of the table. As one often does when one is shocked by a jolt of pain, I forgot where I was, and said “ow, f**k!” 

Silence.

And then the head of HR and I both turned beet red while my two staff began cackling. Oops! I apologized profusely and counted my lucky stars that everyone in the room was internal. Lesson learned: keep the legs crossed at the ankle, Herzog.


Anonymous: While it isn’t universally evident, oftentimes a workplace suffering from a toxic culture is unable to hide that discontent from candidates. The most obvious example of this I experienced as a candidate was at a parochial institution. About four or five minutes into the interview the search chair referenced a day of particular importance within the organization’s founding religion and noted, casually, that they had always wondered why this event was celebrated on that specific calendar day. Another member of the search committee, one whose aggression and disdain had made me question if I wanted to continue in the search at the phone interview level, immediately snapped and shamed the search chair (who was also their boss!) for not knowing the reason behind the date and, further, remarking that it was amazing the search chair had ever been hired into their position given their “ignorance.” From that point on, I knew I was basically only in town for a free lunch. However, I did continue to pay close attention to the aggressive committee member’s interactions throughout the day. It quickly became apparent that this individual had been with the organization the longest and had a long, long history of being moved from department to department as they wore out their welcome in each unit. They had left a significant, multi-year (multi-decade?) trail of carnage in their wake because multiple leaders were unwilling to take on the admittedly gruelling and often thankless job of documenting and terminating this employee. It further became evident that this person was the primary source of the organization’s current toxic culture as people either suffered their abuse or tried desperately to avoid their attention, even if that meant throwing someone else under the bus. Obviously I didn’t take the job, but I think about it often as a lesson in the harm of not confronting a problem early and, if needed, definitely. 


Anonymous: I was hired for an administrative position over an internal candidate. They informed me on my first day that every single library employee objected so strongly to my hiring that they were actively seeking employment elsewhere. That was when I started perfecting my neutral, flat-affect “oookaaay,” which has come in handy many times since.


Alan Smith, Director, Florence County, SC Library System: This may not be truly horrifying, but as a hiree (in previous positions long ago) I have had experiences where the organizational culture was not at all what it seemed during the interview and recruitment. In interviews now I try to give an accurate picture of what it’s like to work here, both in the questions I ask and also just describing it outright. If a candidate decides it’s not for them I’d rather them do so during the hiring process, not after the first day on the job!

As a hirer, I won’t go into specifics about horror stories, but I have learned that the most likable, charismatic interviewees do not automatically become the best employees. After an interview that feels more like a fun conversation, or reuniting with a long-lost friend, it’s helpful to ask, ‘do I want to hire this person to do a job, or do I want to be their friend?’ Having whatever social charm or spark to make an interview enjoyable does not necessarily mean the candidate has the necessary skills or alignment with the library’s mission. And in a worst-case scenario, a person who breezes through interviews on charisma alone will do the same thing on the job, getting by on likability rather than competence — and that can make disciplinary action as well as co-worker relationships a lot more difficult.


Anonymous: During the hiring process, there are things that don’t always come out because they are things you can’t ask and the person wouldn’t be able to answer you honestly, anyway. Most jerks are unaware of their jerk status. And, while you can ask some questions and watch for signs of jerkiness, it is sometimes undetectable until it is too late. In my experience, “plays too well with others” has never been a concern, however, “does not play well with others” can have some lasting and pretty devastating consequences.

On the hiree side of things, it can be a challenge to see just how dysfunctional a place is until you are on the inside. There is being honest and then there is “airing dirty laundry”. You don’t get to smell the laundry until you are there for a while. I used to have an “ideal” workplace with people who worked together in perfect harmony as a goal. I am an adult now and know that you are better off if you recognize the “odd ducks” for who they are just as you recognize the toxic bullies for who they are. And deal with each appropriately.

As an interviewee, I had the privilege of interviewing for a position I was excited about virtually. For the most part, everyone was very professional. Being completely virtual was a unique experience and, in much the same way a person might be “assigned” to help with the transitions between sessions, they assigned someone to help make sure everything was set up and working properly and there was some friendly chit chat during that time.

Obviously, we all have very different spaces and Zoom can provide a bigger glimpse into someone’s life than one would ordinarily share. I was surprised that there was a giant box of adult diapers featured prominently on the screen the entire day. I was also surprised when I popped into a Zoom room after a break to find this person having a bit of an argument with a family member. Full sound and all of the details. I tried to make my presence known, but it took a while.

It was more than I had signed up for.

A person in an important role that I was looking forward to meeting was a no-show at my first opportunity to meet them. Later, when we were supposed to meet one on one, the person had to be called to be reminded to join the Zoom. While awkward, it didn’t seem “out of the ordinary” to the person who had to make that call. When they “arrived” they were very apologetic but very clearly had been asleep. They volunteered that they did not want to return to campus due to the distinct benefits of being at home (naps, apparently). During the entire interaction, this person referred to me in an overly familiar way. I played along, but was taken aback at how overly casual and candid the conversation was.

I felt like I was playing a game called “Tell Me I Don’t Want This Job Without Telling Me I Don’t Want This Job”.


We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, on Twitter @HiringLib, or whispered on the wind. If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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Facility with language

New Dorp, Seated librarian with costumed children at story hour. From the New York Public Library

This interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Senior Librarian

Titles hired: Librarian, Clerk, Specialist, Supervisor, Page

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

√ References

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ 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:

I participate in panels as SME in children’s services.

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

Facility with language.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Yes

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

Attitude

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ We don’t ask for this

Resume: √ We don’t ask for this

CV: √ We don’t ask for this

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

Assume they can do things alone, not ask for help.

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

Yes.

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 connections with experience to new position.

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?

Reach out to national library associations

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

What teams are like

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western US

What’s your region like?

√ Other: Half rural half 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

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

Unable to articulate what they will bring to the job

View of researchers using the Schomburg Collection From the New York Public Library

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Assistant Director

Titles hired: Librarian, Library Assistant, Supervisor

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?

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ 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:

We post the job ad, review resumes, conduct interviews with 3 to 5 candidates, possibly conduct second interviews with two or three candidates, select one.

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

Well-written cover letter that addresses the specific job, well formatted résumé, solid relevant job experience. Understanding of library work.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Lack of required skills, experience, or education.

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

Whether they plan to stay long term or if this position is just until something better comes along.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

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

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

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

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

Being late, unable to articulate what they will bring to the job.

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

We have, due to Covid. They should be sure to check out their technology before the interview starts to make sure it is working properly.

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?

What I look for in this situation is that they have solid customer service experience, such as retail, restaurants, and the like. Showing us that you understand that Library work is fundamentally customer service-based is important.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: We often mention in the ad that we need the states salary guidelines.

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

We are currently working with a DEI consulting firm to improve in this area.

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

They should ask what a typical day looks like, and what the management style of their supervisor is.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern 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

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

And we are still hiring mostly white candidates for all positions.

Librarian Augusta Baker showing a copy of Ellen Tarry’s “Janie Belle” to a young girl at the library. From the New York Public Library

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Branch Manager

Titles hired include: Library assistant, senior library assistant, principal library assistant, librarian, branch manager

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)

√ Other: County administration, library commission (governing board)

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

√ Online application

√ References

√ Proof of degree 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

I work in a medium urban/suburban county public system. Application required. Typically one interview with a panel of three, the supervisor and two staff at same or higher titles. Successful candidate approved by library commission and county administration. Can take 4-6 weeks to notify candidates. 

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

Expressed empathy, no direct library experience (was for a library assistant job) but demonstrated strategic thinking, problem solving, ability to help patrons figure out our systems 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

I tend to pick out a “most important question” in the interview that really gets to the heart of what’s important for this person for this role. For my branch, it’s the question about what challenges an urban library faces, and how the candidate might address them on a personal and professional level. A weak answer on that question is hard to overcome. 

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

Even though we only require an application, at least a cover letter is so helpful. Please practice responses to likely questions ahead of time. If you’re an internal candidate, pretend we don’t know you. Ask at least one good question of us, and not just “when can I expect to hear back.” 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ We don’t ask for this  

Resume: √ We don’t ask for this  

CV: √ We don’t ask for this  

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

Their only question for us is “when will I hear back.” It’s a fair question! But we’d love to answer more.

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

Yes. Nothing really – I think we all recognize we’re all doing the best we can with this. Some colleagues expect candidates to have video on but I wish we could come to a consensus that this isn’t necessary – we shouldn’t ask about or discriminate based on internet bandwidth. 

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?

Candidates with retail and food service experience are amazing! Talking about how you provided good service in these challenging jobs is the best – please don’t hold back. 

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?

Insist we write down candidate answers word for word as much as possible. We are instructed to base hiring justifications on interview answers and applications, nothing else. I still see age related bias, on both the younger and older ends of the spectrum. The thing about insisting cameras be on for virtual interviews is no good. And we are still hiring mostly white candidates for all positions. 

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

What’s a typical day like, how are staff supported by supervisors, do you feel this is a healthy workplace. Our organization in general does its best, but due to the political climate salaries and vacation for new hires are egregiously low and we have long, long vacancies when people leave. Everyone, especially managers, are stretched very thin. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US  

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

√ Suburban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Other: Only remote for most meetings and interviews

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 101-200 

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