Tag Archives: part time librarians

Further Questions: What about part-time work for MLS degree holders?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

In a tough job market, flexibility is important for applicants. Many LIS blogs/websites suggest exploring part time work, even post grad school, as a way to gain experience and enter the library world. Sometimes this means multiple part time jobs. Do you have MLS degree holders in part time positions (professional or paraprofessional) in your library? Would you hire MLS degree holders for part time positions? What would your advice be for these part time job applicants, and how would you advise applicants for full time jobs to sell any part time experience they may have?

We have, in the past, hired MLS librarians for 20 or 30 hour a week positions. It’s not ideal. I think we’re trying to move away from doing that because it’s difficult to find qualified candidates who are willing to accept part-time employment, especially since PT work doesn’t automatically translate into future FT work here. I think any library experience, whether it’s part time or volunteer is a plus on a resume, especially in a crowded job field; so if your choices are limited to PT, take it, learn everything you can from it and use that to move up.

– Margaret M. Neill, Regional Library Branch Manager, Main Library, El Paso Public Library

Celia RabinowitzI currently have two adjunct library faculty members whose contracts identify a specific number of hours per week/semester they work and not number of credits which is the basis of all other adjunct faculty contracts.  I also have a full-time staff member in a non-librarian position who has a MLS.  The part-time adjuncts are getting teaching and other experience (one is assistant archivist).  They attend library faculty meetings when they can.  Both are geographically tied to the area so there positions are helpful for them and for us.  Both continue to look for full-time positions.

There are many reasons people might be seeking part-time employment and I would consider a MLS holder for a position and consider that they might continue to seek full-time employment.  The nature of part-time work is that we hope to get people to stay but they often do not, and our budgets are sometimes unreliable enough that we cannot offer a lot of job security.

>Part-time experience is experience – period. Anything you learn at a job is worth thinking about and using when you prepare for an interview.  What did you learn about the challenges of being a part-time employee?  What did you learn on the job that was new and enhanced your skills?  Your work experiences in and out of libraries can make you a stronger candidate so use all of it!– Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH

At my former place of work (FPOW), when I was a director, we often had MLIS degree holders in part-time positions. Often it was a way to supplement income and/or gain experience on their part, and it worked out well for us. They got pay and experience, and we got their labor. In fact, they continue to employ MLIS degree holders in part-time positions. Some have been there for years.

I don’t think there is, and if there is there shouldn’t be, stigma around working part-time doing the same tasks as full-time, employed MLIS holders. You’re doing the same work, just less of it. Where I was director, it was never a consolation prize; we never offered a PT position to someone who applied for an FT one, for example. And based on the number of people with MLIS degree who applied for PT work, I don’t think they felt that stigma either. Thus, if you’re an MLIS holder working part-time and reading this, I’d sell that job like any other, be it FT or PT.

– Anonymous

angelynn kingI have and do work in places with numerous part-time employees, both professional and paraprofessional. It is not unusual to have MLS-holders in library assistant positions, but it’s important for such colleagues to understand that the job description is different and that they will not be functioning as “librarians on the side” — any more than they would be dispensing legal advice or diagnosing engine trouble if they were qualified in those fields.

If you are a degreed librarian in a paraprofessional position, my best advice would be to keep your eyes and ears open and try to absorb the culture and learn as much as you can. Then, if a professional position later becomes available, you will be familiar with the policies and procedures and “speak the language,” which could give you an edge.

-Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College, Owens Campus

Laurie Phillips

I am more likely to hire a library school student for part time work than someone with an MLS. In the past, I always felt that it was taking advantage of someone with an MLS to hire them for a staff position. I also don’t want people to assume that it’s getting a foot in the door for a faculty librarian position. It’s generally not. That said, the current job market has changed my previous thinking. We currently have one or two MLS holders in part time positions in our library. For one of them, it’s been difficult because she’s capable of doing more and does higher level work (although by no means what we expect of our faculty librarians) and she can’t stay in this position long-term. That’s the difficult thing for us – how long will someone with an MLS stay in a part-time position and will they be miserable? I think, if we’re honest with each other from the beginning, it can work. As for selling part-time experience, you can certainly pull out skills learned or experience gained and apply it to the requirements for a full-time job. We wouldn’t care how you got the experience – full time, part time, librarian or staff. Just that you had it and could apply it.
– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.


Filed under Further Questions

Further Questions: How do you count part time work?

This week I have a Twitter question.  I asked people who hire librarians:
How is part time work counted, when looking to see if a candidate meets a requirement for a certain number of years of experience?  For example, if a position requires two years of experience as an adult services librarian, and the librarian has worked 20 hours a week as an adult services librarian for two years, should she go ahead and apply?  What about if she had worked even fewer hours?  Any insight is appreciated!

Marge Loch-WoutersWe count years worked in a library – whether full or part-time – in exactly the same way.  It is immaterial whether you worked 5 or 40 hours a week in terms of longevity. In our opinion, you experienced/observed and immersed yourself in the library for every day you worked, no matter how many hours you put in.

– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library
We do count part time work at my academic library. One year for every part time year worked (both for professional and non-professional positions). I know it is different at all institutions, but our online applications do not ask how many hours a candidate worked part time. So in the case of the Twitter question, four years of part time work would equal 2 years of full time work, no matter the hours so you could apply.
– Julie Leuzinger, Department Head, Eagle Commons Library, University of North Texas Libraries
In house–part time work is almost always pro-rated  (20/h/wk–22 yrs–11years exp).  However, I look at the whole candidate, and work experience is work experience–the only time it seems to be counted differently is management–and even then, every little bit counts, even life experience.  Its really how you package your time working outside of a field.   If you feel like you can do the job, and sell yourself through your resume and cover letter to get an interview, than YES!  definitely apply.  That leap of faith might be the best thing for you and the workplace.
– Virginia Roberts, Director, Chippewa Falls Public Library
Marleah AugustineIf I were that applicant, I would go ahead and apply. The burden of deciding whether the experience is enough lies with the interviewer, I think. I’d rather see someone who has worked part-time for that amount of time who has great potential and ideas rather than someone who has worked full-time for that amount of time and doesn’t have those other things. If the rest of your application speaks to the quality of your work and the potential that you have, I wouldn’t worry so much about the exact number of hours and if it qualifies you. Fewer hours than 20 can get iffy, but again, I think that lies with the interviewer and whether the rest of the application is enough to bring the applicant in for an interview.
– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Cathi AllowayI would not mind hearing from someone who had been part-time for 2 years, IF they can make a convincing case for having experience.  The applicant should specify that a job is part-time or x hours in the week in the resume.  In the cover letter, the applicant should explain how their part-time status still makes them meet the basic job requirement of 2 years experience.  This could include:

  • part-time work included a wide range of experiences, major responsibilities, or major projects making the candidate viable.
  • part-time work included a lot of overtime hours.
  • other valuable experiences outside of library work such as other relevant non-library jobs, volunteer experience, workshops, formal education that supplement the part-time work.  For example, if an applicant had 2 years of part-time retail work and 2 years of post MLS part-time library work, I’d see that as equal to 2 full-time years; retail or hotel/restaurant work is a good customer service training field.
 Overall – if you are really interested in a job, but lack the basic posted qualifications, PLEASE explain why you think you meet the qualifications or deserve consideration in the cover letter!  To blatantly disregard basic requirements without a “pitch” as to why you should be considered makes the employer think you are careless, lack attention to details, or spray-painting your vita everywhere and not motivated for that particular job.
– Catherine Alloway, Director, Schlow Centre Region Library
angelynn king
In response to this question, part-time work has indeed counted at every place I have worked, but it is calculated as a full-time equivalency. In other words, if your hypothetical half-time librarian had worked for FOUR years, she would be qualified for the job with the two-year experience requirement.
-Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College, Owens Campus
Jacob Berg
When we ask for years of experience, we’re looking for a period of time as opposed to something more like credit hours. If you work part-time for two years, I see nothing wrong with that being two years of experience. It may be a naive assumption on our part, but we assume that you do take at least some of the job home with you, that though you may work twenty hours per week, you are spending more than that amount of time thinking about the job. These candidates can and should apply.
– Jacob Berg, Director of Library Services,  Trinity Washington University

1) Apply anyway.

2) If we do calculate tightly, and in the public sector we often have to, we allow for “time served” at time of possible appointment, not as of the date of the application, which can be months before the appointment.

3) Other types of “experience” can count toward the minimum, e.g. volunteer or work experience in a closely related field, enrollment in a job-related course that has a substantial hands-on, practicum, internship, or similar component, lots of library professional association activities, etc.

4) Think about the reasons for that 2 year requirement: commitment to the profession, exposure to and experience with a wide variety library-workplace tasks, familiarity with the cycle of librarianship (budgets, grants, programs), which can be different in different types of libraries, special, federal, public (local), academic, etc., bibliographic skill development, etc.

– Laura J. Orr, Law Librarian, Washington County Law Library

bonnie smithWhen we indicate that a position requires a minimum of 2 years of experience we mean full-time experience, it definitely matters. We don’t consider applicants who don’t meet the minimum requirements. If you worked part-time you should indicate that in your resume and enter the full-time equivalence (FTE) for these positions. If you have unusual experience that doesn’t follow the expected path for the position you have applied for, that you think should be considered but might not be obvious to the committee, make your case in your cover letter.

– Bonnie Smith, Assistant Program Director for Human Resources, University of Florida, George A. Smathers Libraries

Sarah MorrisonGreat question!  At our library, there are a couple different things that happen.  First, all our applications are first reviewed by City HR.  HR interprets all “part-time” work as 20-hrs per week, and so they would disqualify anyone in the example you had given.  If the job description lists as a requirement 2 years and the candidate has only part-time experience, s/he would need 4 or more years.  Even if the candidate worked part-time at 30-hours per week, it would be safest to have double the experience.

If the candidate makes it through City HR, perhaps because of strengths in other areas/requirements, I do try to account accurately for work experience (15 hours/week vs. 35, etc.) whenever possible.

I think it’s always worth it to apply, especially if the candidate meets or exceeds requirements in other areas.  If nothing else, it’s good practice at writing a cover letter, and you never know.  I was encouraged in grad school to apply for jobs if I had at least half the requirements; in both of my full-time library jobs, I haven’t met 100% of the listed criteria (I had 2 yrs exp. but part time, good collection development exp. but no management exp., etc.).  The important thing would be to be able to show that those duties or tasks are attainable for you, not necessarily that you’ve done every single one.

– Sarah Morrison, Adult Services Librarian, Neill Public Library, Pullman, Washington

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading! If you like reading, you might also like commenting.  You’re very welcome to try it out here.


Filed under Academic, Further Questions, Public, Special