Tag Archives: Mentor

Reader Response Requested: Tales of Tackiness and Horror

This week’s question was suggested by one of the people who hires librarians, whose job-hunting employee recently received a rejection letter signed by a deceased library director. On top of that, the letter used the director’s former title. So this week’s question is:

What is the tackiest response to a job interview/resume you ever received?  Please give us your ghastly horror stories!
Like last week, I’m going to get you started with a few stories from people who hire librarians, and then I’m hoping you’ll have some to share in the comments section…

A few years ago when I was applying for jobs attempting to move from Upstate NY to Ohio, I applied for the directorship of an area public library.  The whole search was a bit of a horror show, not one particular piece of it, and definitely not “the letter”.  Read on.    After applying for the position and having received a phone call from the chair asking me to call him, I tried several times to reach him.   He hadn’t left a message with his original call, so I wasn’t sure why he was calling.  After multiple tries to the number he had given me, I decided to call the actual library to see if they knew how to get in touch with this man, who was a Trustee.  The librarian said that they had received several calls for him about the search,  and all they could do was to leave him a message that I had called,  as they had with the other calls.  We eventually connected,  and I was asked to come for an interview.  The interview was to start at 7:00 at night!!   I drove the 6 ½ hours from NY to Ohio, and arrived at the library. I was asked to sit right outside the conference room in which the search committee was meeting—as it turned out—with another candidate.  So we, the two candidates,  said hello to each other as he was leaving and I was waiting to go into the room.  Not that comfortable a situation.

I was interviewed by the search committee for a couple of hours, and then was told they would be in touch.  Well, they never got in touch with me at all, not even to say “thanks, but no thanks.”  Needless to say, that meant that I apparently didn’t get the position.  But to this day, I don’t know that for a fact.  🙂  That was 8 years ago and I still joke that as far as I know, I am still a candidate for this position.    I admit that after the 6 ½ hour drive, and a night interview, I probably wasn’t at my best, so I don’t blame anyone for not selecting me.  But “open until filled”  has taken on a whole new meaning for me with that little horror story of an interview.  🙂

– Sharon Britton, Library Director, BGSU – Firelands

Toby Willis-CampJust out of library school with a Saturday morning interview for a special library solo-librarian position – not during regular business hours so was expecting to be buzzed in.  However, the person I was to see was not there, so I waited on the sidewalk.  After 15 minutes past the appointment time, Ms. Ding-A-Ling arrived and asked me for money for the parking meter.  Once her car was taken care of, up we went to the office.  During the elevator ride I discovered that she had quit working there several months before and the person she had hired as her replacement “hadn’t worked out. Say – do you have any hearing or visual problems that make it so you can’t use a phone or computer?” Hmmm……  Three questions into the interview she asked about my salary expectations. As I had no idea what the job even entailed at that point, I deferred answering and said I had some questions.  Then someone wandered into the library, so she stopped and answered a reference question, leaving me sitting there wondering what I had gotten myself into.  She came back and said “I need lunch.  I will answer your questions there.” Off we went to the sandwich shop across the street where she bought herself lunch, then turned to me and said “I’ll let you know what I decide. Bye”  I hadn’t asked my questions yet.  I said “Thank you and can I get that 4 dollars I lent you for the parking meter, please?”  Two days later she sent me a rejection e-mail addressed to someone else. I contacted Victoria, the other rejectee and a total stranger and asked what her experience was with Ms. Ding-A-Ling. We had a good laugh.

Lesson learned? Don’t let others waste your time even if it’s an interview and you are unemployed and desperate (which I was).  What does it say about a company that let this gal conduct interviews this way? Does it show that they give a rip about what goes on in their corporate library? Heck no.  Message received loud and clear – you are a questionable employer and I am going far far away from you.

– Toby Willis-Camp, a former Director of Libraries for a professional association 

Manya ShorrIt can be very difficult to hire in Omaha, NE. No matter how much evidence we put in front of people that Omaha is an awesome, changing community with few budget problems, it’s still hard to get past people’s perception of the Midwest. When we do get people to apply for a job here, they often make it very clear that they are only putting in their time so they can go somewhere else. A recent interviewee told us that he was applying for jobs outside the area, so he’d probably only be able to work for us for a few months. Needless to say, we did not hire him. I refuse to hire someone who doesn’t want to be here for awhile. Do they need to retire from Omaha Public Library? Of course not. But I don’t need to hire someone who makes me feel like we are their last choice.

– Manya Shorr, Senior Manager, Branch Services, Omaha Public Library

Marge Loch-WoutersI can’t top that rejection letter horror story. Wow! Though every rejection I have received for a job has hurt on some level, none have been truly tacky!  I have kept those invariably polite and sometimes curt responses in mind as I now have to write the letters with bad news to all but one of our applicants and interviewees. I think it has helped me try to break the news with a little more care and a little less officiousness.

– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library

Well, readers?  Can you top that?  Tell us your tales of tacky rejection letters, interviewers, etc. etc.!



Filed under Further Questions

Further Questions: Is there a Person Whose Career Advice You Seek?

I hope all my American brothers and sisters had a great Thanksgiving.  It’s my favorite holiday – I appreciate any chance to eat good food and feel grateful.

On to this week’s question!  I asked people who hire librarians:

Do you have a peer, mentor, or other person (or group) that you seek out for career advice?  How did you meet this person?  What makes his/her advice so valuable to you?

Marge Loch-WoutersI have had mentors throughout my career – peers in my cohort; older, wiser librarians with lots of experience under their belts; and networking groups in youth librarianship and feminist library networks (that have members from all types of libraries and career paths). I met most of my mentors at conferences, workshops and gatherings earlier in my career where we discovered our passion for youth services face-to-face; now it’s on twitter and through my blog.

I simply started to talking to colleagues and listening to their answers. It helped me hone ideas, learn how to navigate the culture of the libraries I worked in and spark creative ideas and innovation. All my mentors were and are generous to a fault. Without their input, I wouldn’t be the librarian I am today. This generosity helped to mold me as a mentor to newer librarians. Each time I work with someone I think of how I was helped and it feels like the circle is completed!
– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library

Nicola FranklinI have often wished I had a mentor-figure but I’ve never met anyone who ‘clicked’ in the right way.  I’d love to know how to find someone!  As part of my MBA studies at Henley Business School we were each allocated a ‘coach’, but I found the approach of the lady I was paired with was a bit ‘wishy washy’ and didn’t really help me.  The method she used was basically to turn everything I said back on me and say ‘what do you think about that’ – I felt like I could just as well be talking to a mirror…

My understanding is that coaching is to help achieve a defined goal, for example by improving skills and performance, while mentoring is having a more general guide or someone to bounce ideas off of, and help with decision making about life, career, etc.  While I have had in-house coaching at various workplaces, to improve skills in order to perform the job better, I’ve never had anyone I could call a life or career mentor.

On the other hand, part of my work is with library professionals as a career coach for them, helping them write more effective resumes/CVs, define their career goals, audit their skills or improve their interview techniques, so I have experience from the other side of the fence.  I think that people gain confidence in their own skills and employability from working with someone in that role, as well as learning how to better represent themselves to employers.

– Nicola Franklin, Director, The Library Career Centre Ltd.

Marleah AugustineFirst, my boss is a fantastic mentor. He hired me when I first started here part-time, and we’ve continued to work closely together as we’ve both moved up to our respective positions. I value his advice because I know that he started in the same boat I did — he worked the front lines part-time, just as I did, and he has worked as a department head, as I do now. Now that he is the director, he is not simply an administrator but someone who has worked all levels within the same library. He’s also had varied experiences outside of the library and he realizes that this is a job, not anyone’s life. When giving advice, he is willing to make suggestions but also to listen and defer to others when necessary. I have a lot of respect for him and for how he has handled situations over the years.

Second, I go to my husband frequently for advice. He has never worked in a library — in fact, his background is philosophy, computer programming, and retail. It helps that he’s known me for about 14 years and knows the way I think. Even when it is a library-specific concern, he is great at piecing out what is really important in the situation and being objective. When I have ideas about work, he approaches the situation from the patron perspective. Sometimes all of us professional people get caught up in the library side of things and forget that patrons don’t always see that side, so his non-library perspective is very helpful.

Don’t be afraid to seek advice from someone outside of the library field — they may have some really great insights for you.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Randall SchroederMy mentor was my first library director, Barbara Doyle-Wilch, who I met after my first year as a professional librarian at Augustana College (Illinois). She was the first administrator who let me know that I was a good librarian and that I could do the job and do it well. After a year of being reminded that I was a rookie and did not have much to offer to the veteran librarians, it was a drink of water in an emotional desert.

She moved on to other colleges, but many of us who worked for Barbara have found her career advice worth its weight in gold. Her philosophy of librarianship and native shrewdness made her counsel invaluable. Sadly, she has retired and I have lost track of her.

The last time I was in need of some career counseling, I sought out Jim Elmborg, a faculty member at the University of Iowa, who was not one of my professors, but somebody I have met at various information literacy conferences where I have presented.

In both cases, I sought colleagues whose professional philosophy and temperament were similar to mine. What I have found valuable from both Barbara and Jim is their ability to give me a reality check to see if my perception of a situation is sound. Sometimes perception is difficult inside one’s personal bubble and an outside perspective is helpful. It is also incredibly valuable to hear from somebody who believes in your abilities. That is what Barbara did for me.

– Randall Schroeder, Department Head of Public Services, Ferris Library for Information, Technology & Education

There is a library director at a small state college in New England whom I highly respect and whom I’ve gone to for career advice.  I originally met her through ACRL’s College Libraries Section (CLS) when she was president of CLS and I was a committee co-chair.  She is a library director of a college library of similar size to the library where I work. I greatly admire and respect her approach to librarianship and her ability to remain active professionally in addition to managing  her responsibilities as a director (and while completing a PhD!). She has given me some very good advice on how to stay active in professional organizations as well as how to increase my professional development interests and how to seek out ways to network with other librarians in my state. She is a very warm, down-to-earth and approachable person with a great sense of humor and an understanding of the demands on working parents. Although she is not officially a mentor to me, I consider her one because of the example she sets for others in our profession. I’m sure others who know her and work with her would think the same.

– Samantha Thompson-Franklin, Associate Professor/Collections & Acquisitions Librarian, Lewis-Clark State College Library


Filed under Further Questions