Tag Archives: Public library

Further Questions: How easy is it to switch between different types of librarianship?

This week we have a question from a reader.  She asks:

With the job market being the way it is, I have generally been looking for jobs in both public and academic libraries. How easy is it to switch between different types of librarianship? Do public libraries see an applicant with lots of academic experience and automatically dismiss them, or vice versa?

Laurie Phillips

I have been an academic librarian for 24 years but, before that, I worked in reference at a large public library. Reference was very different in an academic library than in the public library – not nearly as interesting when I first came here, but now I have a lot more opportunities to work with students. The skills are the same but the teaching and relationships that are part of academic librarianship generally aren’t there in public libraries. That said, I think you can apply successfully for both. Just know that you will have to highlight different skills and successfully respond to different environments. One of our most successful hires came from public school teaching and public librarianship. When he applied here, he tailored his letter of application to show how well he fit the qualifications for a job that was just being developed.

– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans 


Christine Hage - Dark backgroundIt depends on the job pool.  Generally we get enough applicants that is is highly unlikely that we would look an academic librarian for a public library position.  This is not to say that we haven’t had academic librarians with NO public library experience apply for a youth services position.  In fact I just interviewed one today who had lots of sports coaching experience with young kids, but no public library experience.  Even with coaching experience he wasn’t qualified to work with kids in a public library.
If the position were in a large public library and in a subject department there might be more relevance.  In that case a public library might really be looking for a subject specialist, but in the run of the mill public library not so much.
I realize that library education isn’t all that different for public and academic libraries (merely a couple of different courses), but the experience is very different.  If an academic librarian volunteered or worked as a substitute librarian in a public library I might be inclined to consider them.  Other than that I’d stick to people who studied and / or have worked in public libraries.
– Christine Hage, Director, Rochester Hills Public Library
Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library SystemMy personal experience has been that after a certain amount of time spent in one type of library one does tend to get pigeon-holed as knowing only about that type of work.
I have made the switch from special library to public library and then into post-secondary library work for a short amount of time and back into public libraries. Speaking from my personal experience, on an administrative/management level, the duties are very similar and transfer easily.
Recently, our regional library system (serving public libraries and school libraries) was going through a hiring process for a technology related management position and we interviewed candidates from academic libraries. We found out during the conversations that to a large extent the duties appeared to be similar: vendor relations, budgeting, ensuring services are relevant to the audience served.
The most important aspect always seems to be how willing the incumbent is to learn about their new environment. This is of course the case even when switching jobs within the same type of library. Be a “sponge” during your first while on the new job: absorb as much about the new environment as you can, learn about how things are done and WHY. Immerse yourself in the culture of the new place of employment, to find out what the priorities of the organization as a whole as well as those of the individual departments are.
The basic principles of excellent customer service and the (relatively) seamless provision of access to relevant resources will likely be the same, no matter which type of library you find yourself in.
I also wanted to mention again that our library system is currently part of a Shared Intern Librarian initiative, in which we share a newly graduated Librarian for a period of 12 months with our local public library as well as our local College Library Services. The Librarian spends equal amounts of time at each institution and thus is provided with experience in three different types of library organizations. Given that new grads often have to choose between types of libraries without actual experience that might tell them which they would prefer (or have an aptitude for), we figured this initiative was a great way to allow new grads to gain experience in different library organizations and then lets them make an educated decision after the 12 months. Plus, it gives them great work experience and they come out of the 12 month period with three “bosses” who are able to provide (so far, glowing) references.
And yes, we do pay our Interns.
– Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library System
Sarah MorrisonI would consider any library experience as “library experience” when reviewing applicants.  Academic, public, special, corporate, every library requires the same basic skills—order to fit the collection, stay within a budget, work within the hierarchy, work in teams or on committees, work in a hectic environment, deal with technology issues, choose and explain databases, handle problem patrons, etc.  Not having switched between libraries after I began full-time work, I can’t absolutely say, but I know people who have made the switch.  It would be more about finding jobs that meet your skill set and marketing those skills.
– Sarah Morrison, Adult Services Librarian, Neill Public Library, Pullman, Washington
I feel that experience is experience-both work with patrons/students. I would be more hesitant to hire someone with only TS experience, for example, to work as a Reference/Public Services librarian.
– Kaye Grabbe, Director, Lake Forest (Public) Library, Lake Forest, IL.
Jason GrubbI don’t think the switch is as difficult as some in our profession would have you believe. I’ve successful transitioned back and forth between both type of libraries throughout my career. I’ve watched friends and colleagues do the same. I currently work in a public library where we have hired several librarians who only had academic library experience. The key is to show with your application and interview how your library experience in any type of library is relevant and transferable to the position you are applying to.
– Jason Grubb, Director, Sweetwater County Library System
Celia RabinowitzAs a profession we seem to have often told new librarians to pick a track and stick with it because switching between types of libraries is difficult, or at least it is hard to convince search committees that it can be done successfully.  The switch might be easier for some subfields than for others, and it is certainly the case there are many differences in the audiences served, resources, and services provided.  That said, I am always looking for someone who can demonstrate in a cover letter that they “get” the job that is open and that they can match their qualifications and approach to the work with the position we have available.  It isn’t always easy.  I think it’s fair to say my library faculty might have a bias toward candidates with academic library experience.  I think this is an example of a situation where the cover letter can be the most important part of an application.  Why do you want to make the switch (if you are already working in the other type of library)?  If you are applying for both simultaneously it is absolutely worth the time it takes to craft cover letters that clearly address the jobs.  The same letter won’t work for different libraries.  Is it a challenge?  I think it still is.  Should academic libraries simply overlook candidates who have most, or all, of their experience in public libraries?  I don’t think so.  I want to be talked into it, so go for it.
– Celia Rabinowitz, Director of the Library, St. Mary’s College of Maryland

I can only speak from an academic perspective to respond to this question. I would say that it very much depends on the hiring manager. I know many academic librarians will not hire librarians out of the public library, but I think it has to do with the differences in administrative structure (City Council verses Higher Education). Also, many academic libraries are tenure track which requires scholarly publishing, presenting, professional service which is not required of public librarians (however many of them do these things).

From my personal perspective as a hiring manager in a public services setting in an academic library, I frequently hire librarians (and support staff) from public libraries because they usually bring with them very strong customer service skills. While many public librarians aren’t publishing, they are frequently involved in community service, service in professional organizations, and are used to giving presentations so I feel they can make the transition easily enough and their stellar customer service skills are worth the extra mentoring I might have to do in the scholarly area.

– Julie Leuzinger, Department Head, Eagle Commons Library, University of North Texas Libraries

For more on this topic, take a look at How Can Candidates Changing Library Types, or Fields, Best Present Their Skills? from September 2013.

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!  She got sequins in her hair, Like she stepped out off of a Fellini film, She sat in a white straw comment.

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Further Questions: If you hire interns, do you pay them?

The responses to this week’s Further Questions were a little sparse.  I’m hoping that you will have some comments, dear readers, about your own experiences.   

This week I asked people who hire librarians:

If you hire interns, do you pay them?  Why or why not?

Laurie PhillipsNo, we don’t hire interns. We accept SLIS students on placement or for reference observation, but those are not paid because they are part of the requirements for a class or the degree. We also don’t get a lot out of those placements. The observations are just for a few hours. We are more likely to hire a SLIS student for a part time or temporary reference position. It can lead to job openings for a tenure-track position but it can also offer a great opportunity for getting academic library experience and seeing how our organization works. We have a part-time temporary reference position open right now to cover for librarians on leave: http://finance.loyno.edu/human-resources/staff-employment-opportunities.

– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans 

It’s my understanding that if interns are hired for no pay, the position is part of a course for school, college or graduate credit. Otherwise, there is a requirement that the position is paid.

We don’t hire or place interns in our public library.

– Kaye Grabbe, Director, Lake Forest (Public) Library, Lake Forest, IL.

Jacob BergEmployment.

Side note to fellow hiring managers: pay your interns. Not doing so is classist, because only the well-to-do can afford to work for free. And because race, ethnicity, gender identity, mental illness, physical ability, and sexual identity, among others, often correlates with class, internships are discriminatory along those lines as well. Also, not paying people to work devalues our professions by sending signals to other employers that our labor, time, and effort is not worth compensation.
-Jacob Berg, Director of Library Services,  Trinity Washington University
So, what about YOU?  Have you been an intern?  Paid or unpaid?  Have you hired an intern?  Why did or didn’t you pay her?

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. 


Filed under Academic, Further Questions, Public

Further Questions: Is it standard practice to ask for the current supervisor as a reference?

Here’s another question inspired by a reader. I asked people who hire librarians:

Is it standard practice for your institution to ask to contact the candidate’s current supervisor as a reference? At what point do you do this?  How do you handle it if the candidate has not told her current supervisor she is job hunting, or does not want to give you this information for some other reason?  Are they still considered for the position?

Marleah AugustineWe have a place on our applications for work history (including current) and supervisor name and contact information. That section includes a checkbox so that candidates can mark whether they want us to contact their supervisor (not just current) for a reference. We do still consider candidates for the position. They supply plenty of other information for potential references, so we have more than enough between the application and interview to make a decision.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library


We do not have a set protocol about speaking with the current supervisor; we ask candidates for three references, and leave it to them to decide what is in their own best interests.   We assume the typical applicant’s search is confidential, so we do not expect to see the current supervisor listed, and do not reject candidates where this is the case.  At the end of the face-to-face interview we confirm that we are free to contact the references listed and whether or not the search is confidential.

If there are particular circumstances – perhaps none of the applicant’s references are from library or related fields and we have questions about skills or content knowledge – then we might ask the candidate if it would be possible to speak with the current supervisor, or if not, if there is someone else we could contact who would be able to speak to those questions.  If, in addition to the current supervisor not being listed, there were no past supervisors listed and the references appeared to all be from colleagues, or from education or other non-work settings, we would need to understand that better.  We consider what the reference list tells us as a whole in addition to what we learn from individuals’ responses.

We also recognize that there may be sensitive interpersonal or organizational issues at the candidate’s current workplace that she is navigating.  In such a case, how the candidate represents the situation to us and handles herself in regard to it can give us quite a bit of good information about a candidate’s maturity, insight, tact, and professionalism under challenging circumstances.

– Ann Glannon, Associate Director, Wheelock College Library, Boston, MA


We do not routinely contact the current supervisor.  I totally understand that sometimes people don’t want their boss to know they are job hunting. I’ve been in that situation myself.  We notify the candidate before we contact references so that they know it will be happening and can inform the references.  Before making an offer, though, I will usually insist on contacting the current supervisor (if they weren’t listed as a reference), and give the candidate a chance to explain the circumstances if needed.  They may still be considered, depending on the situation.

– Anonymous

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!  

Further Questions is taking at least two weeks off! We should return on January 10.


Filed under Academic, Further Questions, Public

Job Hunter Follow-Up: Sarah Deringer

Sarah Deringer took the Job Hunter’s survey on 12/29/2012. Her responses appeared as Make Sure That the Candidate Knows That You Really Want Them to Apply.

Background and Situation

How long has it been since you got your library degree?

I will receive my library degree on December 20, 2013. I have been looking at library jobs while also earning my degree.

How many years of library work experience do you have?

I have been working at a small public library since 2009. For the first two years (2009 and 2010), I just had summer internships during June and July. But after I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree and moved back home in summer 2011, I started working part-time. Right now I’m a substitute aide for the library, and I have been since December 2012.

How many years of work experience outside of libraries do you have?

None. I went straight for the library because I knew it’s what I wanted to do in life.

How old are you?

25 years old

What’s your current work situation?

Part-time work. Looking for a job. Almost graduated from library school. 🙂

Are you volunteering anywhere?

I volunteer at my church with a children’s bible school class.

Your Job Hunt

How long have you been job hunting at this point?

I have been actively searching since January 2013.

What kinds of jobs are you currently applying for?

Public, academic, and school libraries
Librarian, social media specialist, Teen and / or youth librarian, User Experience Librarian, Web Resources Coordinator, Marketing Assistant, Small public library director
Also, outside of libraries where the jobs are similar in nature and internships that would expand my skills.

Approximately how many positions have you applied to?

25 jobs. I knew that I didn’t have to apply to as many until I graduate.

Approximately how many interviews have you gone on?

2 interviews. I also had an interview scheduled for a paid internship, but they suspended the position.

How do you prepare for interviews?

I look at often asked questions during job interviews. I think of ways to describe myself and how I would best fit the job.

Have you traveled for interviews? If so, who paid?

I have traveled up to an hour and a half. I paid for the gas.

Have you declined any offers?


What do you think is the biggest obstacle in your job hunt? How are you working to overcome it?

So far, the biggest obstacle has been that I don’t have my library degree. To combat that, I am honing my skills and branding myself to fit the job I’m looking for.

Have there been any major changes in your job hunting strategy? Are you doing anything differently than from when we last heard from you?

There’s not much that has changed, but I’m getting more and more serious about my job hunt.

State of the Job Market

What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve seen on a job announcement?

I saw listed under the benefits a part-time job: “great parking space.” It made me giggle. 🙂

What was your favorite interview question? What was the worst?

Fave interview question: We’re looking to remodel the children’s and teen’s areas. What would you like to see included in the plans?
Worst interview question: So if this full-time library director job were offered to you, what would you do for health insurance since that’s not part of the benefits?

Any good horror stories for us?

The “worst interview question” made it feel like they were taunting me with the fact that they weren’t offering health insurance. The position was for a library director at a small public library. I knew that the board of directors were probably trying to be funny, but with today’s economy, it’s not funny.

Has job hunting been a positive or negative experience, for the most part?

For the most part, it’s been a positive experience. I’ve learned a lot from just the two interviews I’ve had, and I know I’ll learn a lot more as I have more interviews.

Would you change your answer to “what’s the secret to getting hired”?

I think it’s still having passion and enthusiasm for the career, but I also feel it’s about endurance. Don’t give up on your job hunt. There will be times when you feel like you’re not good enough, but the right job will come along if only you will keep looking, applying, and learning.

Anything else you want to tell us?

As always, feel free to connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, or even my blog. 🙂

If you took the Job Hunter’s Survey some time in the last year and are interested in doing a follow-up, even anonymously, please contact me at hiringlibrarians AT gmail.

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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.


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Residency Run-Down: National Library of Medicine Associate Fellowship Program

Applications are now open for this residency: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/about/training/associate/applicinfo.html

REPOST FROM June 6, 2013

Here is another post for you new and soon-to-be new grads.  Kathel Dunn was gracious enough to speak with me about the Associate Fellowship program at the National Library of Medicine.  If you’re interested in being a health sciences librarian, please pay close attention!

Can you give us a brief introduction to the NLM Associate Fellowship Program?

NLM FellowsSure! The Associate Fellowship Program is a one-year residency program at the National Library of Medicine on the campus of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. The fellowship offers recent library science graduates the opportunity to learn about NLM’s products, services, and databases; its research and development areas; and its outreach to the public, particularly underserved populations; and to health professionals.

Why does the NLM continue to fund this program?  What makes it important to your organization?

NLM continues to fund the program – it’s over 40 years old – because of a strong commitment to training health sciences librarians. It’s part of our Long Range Plan.

What are the main job duties of  the Associate Fellows – do they differ from those of “regular” librarians?

The Associate Fellows’ main “job” is to learn. So their responsibilities are first to participate in a curriculum, taught by staff, which covers all of the work that NLM does. It’s extensive – lasting approximately 5 months. At the end of that time, the Associate Fellows then move into the project phase of the year where they work on projects proposed by staff. In addition, they go to conferences, visit other health sciences libraries, and present on their project to all NLM staff at the end of the year.

Are Associate Fellows paid?  Do they get any other special benefits?

Yes, Associate Fellows are paid $51,630 for the year. In addition, they receive:

  • An additional amount provided to assist in paying for health insurance
  • Up to $1,500 to aid with moving expenses
  • Full funding to attend local and national conferences

What would you tell a potential applicants in order to convince them to apply for the program?

Nlm_building_lg (resized)I usually don’t try to convince someone to apply.  If someone has to be   convinced, it’s probably not a good match. What I want to convey, though, is how exciting it is to be at the National Library of Medicine, where many of the products and services used not just by health sciences libraries and libraries but by researchers and the public across the United States and the world are created, maintained and reinvented. For a librarian in any stage of his or her career, NLM is an amazing place to be.

What are the eligibility requirements?

Applicants must have graduated from an ALA-accredited program within the past two years. That’s the basic eligibility requirement. What we also like to see is an interest in health sciences librarianship and in leadership.

What does the selection process entail? How does it differ from the regular job application process?

nlm frontWe ask for a structured resume**, three written references, transcripts, and responses to two questions: What do you hope to gain by participating in the NLM Associate Fellowship Program and If selected, what will you bring to the NLM Associate Fellowship Program?

The regular job application process for NLM is through the USAJobs web site and does not usually require responses to narrative statements.

**Emily’s note: The structured resume in this context is a resume which is formatted and contains information as specified on page 6 of the current application.

Any tips for students?  Is there anything they could do to improve their chances of winning a spot in your program?

The biggest tip is to pay attention to the application instructions. We ask for a complete job history on their resume, to include library and non-library jobs. We respect the work and skills someone may have learned from another industry, including customer service, management, project planning, or marketing, as examples.

We also look for signs of leadership or interest in leadership in the resume, reference letters, or responses to the questions.

When will the next Associate Fellows be picked?

The next Associate Fellows’ application deadline will be in early February 2014. We then review applications and in late March ask between 10 and 12 applicants to visit us for an interview in mid to late April. We make our decision on who we’ve selected by late April or early May.

Anything else you want to tell us about the program, or about job hunting in general?

Kathel DunnYes. I’m happy to take calls or emails from students interested in the program or anyone who would like to work at NLM. Really. It’s my job and it’s a pleasure to hear from someone who’d like to know more about the National Library of Medicine.

Photos of NLM Fellows and Kathel Dunn by Troy Pfister, National Library of Medicine.

Thank you to Ms. Dunn for taking the time to answer my questions!

If you run a LIS residency program and you’d like to discuss it here, please contact me.  I’d love to talk to you.

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Filed under 200+ staff members, Residency Run-Down, Special

I am Looking at Entry-level Assistant Jobs in Order to Gain Experience

Duck shooting at Jungara, on Freshwater Creek, Cairns, ca. 1907This anonymous interview is with a job hunter who is currently employed and has been hired within the last two months. This person has been job hunting for less than six months and is looking in Academic libraries, Public libraries, and School libraries, at the following levels: Entry level, Requiring at least two years of experience. S/he is planning for library school, but has not yet started:

I don’t have a master’s degree, but I am looking at entry-level assistant jobs in order to gain experience before investing in graduate school. I volunteer at my local library in the audio-visual department. For the most part, I shelve materials after they are returned, but I sometimes sort materials. I have also helped one of the librarians in the department prepare the cd shelves for recarpeting.

This job hunter is in a city/town in the Southern US, and says:

I prefer to stay where I am, but I am currently considering moving somethere within the state

What are the top three things you’re looking for in a job?

A job with steady hours and very little overtime (unless stated in the job description); that is not highly stressful, and that offers opportunities to advance

Where do you look for open positions?

county library websites, college websites, Linkedin, indeed.com, simplyhired.com, and on occasion, state workforce websites.

Do you expect to see salary range listed in a job ad?

√ Only for certain kinds of employers

What’s your routine for preparing an application packet? How much time do you spend on it?

My application packet includes a custom-tailored résumé, cover letter, and the application form (if applicable). I usually provide a list of references or reference letters if the job description states those items are needed.

Have you ever stretched the truth, exaggerated, or lied on your resume, or at some other point during the hiring process?

√ No

When would you like employers to contact you?

√ To tell me if I have or have not been selected to move on to the interview stage
√ Once the position has been filled, even if it’s not me

How do you prefer to communicate with potential employers?


Which events during the interview/visit are most important to your assessment of the position (i.e. deciding if you want the job)?

√ Meeting department members/potential co-workers
√ Meeting with HR to talk about benefits/salary

What do you think employers should do to get the best candidates to apply?

Look at transferable skills in addition to the skills those candidates already have and also consider a candidate’s willingness and initiative, which can better serve an organization rather than someone who has all the qualifications but is not willing to learn or is somewhat inflexible in regards to duties.

This survey was co-authored by Naomi House from I Need A Library Job – Do you need one? Check it out!

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Filed under Academic, Job hunter's survey, Public, School, Southern US

Further Questions: Does Library Support Staff Certification Give Candidates an Edge?

This week someone on Twitter inspired me to want to know more about a new-ish program from the ALA-APA.  This week I asked people who hire librarians library support staff:

What value do you see in the Library Support Staff Certification (LSSC) program? Would it give an edge to candidates? Have you ever hired someone with this certification?

Marleah AugustineI’ve never had any experience with the certification program, but I have read a bit about it. I do think it would give candidates an edge, because it would show that this isn’t “just another part-time job” and would show the candidate’s level of commitment. That being said, I wouldn’t NOT hire someone just because they didn’t have the certification. It would simply be one more piece that would help me make a hiring decision.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

I have not seen the Library Support Staff Certification on any resume that I have personally reviewed and I do not know anyone who has one so I do not know that I can speak to the benefit of the certificate or if it would give a candidate an edge overall.

There really is no substitute for on the job experience and that is what I am looking for when I hire support staff; however, if I was looking at external candidates, and both candidates had the same level of minimum and preferred qualifications that I listed on the job description and the same amount of time working in libraries, this certificate would give them an edge over another candidate.

– Julie Leuzinger, Department Head, Eagle Commons Library, University of North Texas Libraries

Alison M. Armstrong Collection Development & Cataloging Specialist McConnell Library Photo by Lora Gordon/Radford UniversityWhen I was a paraprofessional, I took several of the ALCTS courses both before and after I got my MLIS and I see them as very beneficial. I haven’t taken any of the other courses. I don’t necessarily see the need for the certificate for a lot of staff positions, particularly in this economy, because the paraprofessionals out there are generally overqualified for the positions they are in and funding for training is limited.  It certainly would make a paraprofessional more marketable though and, personally, if a candidate had an LSSC, they would definitely be moved up in my pile of applicants. If I had not been hired in my current position after getting my MLIS, I would have strongly considered working toward the LSSC to try to set myself apart.

I currently supervise my former position and encourage my staff person to take the courses. In my opinion, they offer some supplemental information to what is learned in school. For people who have an MLIS but didn’t focus in this particular area, it is good training for them.  The ALCTS courses are nice in that there is a discussion forum which brings in diverse levels of experiences, knowledge and perspectives. I don’t think we have had applicants who have an LSSC but, my experience has been limited.  As someone who plans to be an instructor of one of the ALCTS courses, I am a huge cheerleader of them.

– Alison M. Armstrong, Collection Management Librarian, McConnell Library, Radford University

I actually have never had an applicant who claimed to have this certification. I have had employees who have taken some of the classes, specifically those from DACC in NM when I worked there. It would give an edge if all other factors were equal. However, having some real library experience would be preferable to the qualification for me. I also emphasize hiring for talent rather than skills. People can always learn new skills, but they must have enthusiasm, initiative, and the capability to learn. We can always encourage them to take classes later. Depending on the hiring system involved, applicants might get an edge for having these college credits, but it probably wouldn’t matter that they are in library-specific classes. I don’t think there is a critical mass of people out there with the certification at this point.

– Anonymous

Jonathan Harwell

I’m interested in the ALA-APA’s certification.  I’ve worked with ALA-APA for years, and would definitely see this qualification as an asset for a staff candidate.  I have at least one current staff member who’s interested in doing this certification, and that would be one factor that would help me to advocate for higher merit increases for those individuals.  I have yet to meet anyone who has this certification, however.

– Jonathan H. Harwell, Head of Collections & Systems, Olin Library, Rollins College

Sherle Abramson-BluhmI think that there is always value in gaining knowledge and this is one way to do that. I believe it might be a way for someone interested in the field to get a bit of formal education before investing in the full Masters Degree. I hire staff in print acquisitions (ordering, serials and monograph receiving, cat-on receipt) and have no positions which require a degree.  I have not hired someone with the certification. I think it would be a factor in considering a candidate, but would not weigh more than experience.  My biggest concern is that with the entry level pay that these positions are compensated, I am not sure it would be worth the expense to the individual.

– Sherle Abramson-Bluhm, Head, Print Acquisitions, University of Michigan

I haven’t had any applications from candidates with the certification.   However, if I saw it on a resume it would definitely move that candidate to the top of the pile.  To me, it signifies a person who is interested in libraries as a long-term career (good for reducing staff turnover) and who has gained insight into the operation of libraries beyond the routine duties that many staff members are limited to.  It indicates potential for growth and promotion.

– Anonymous

I think the value of the LSSC program works in two directions – value to the candidates and value to libraries.
I think value to the candidates is derived from multiple aspects: from the content of the work they do to either in courses or through self-study and preparing a portfolio, from the experience of going through the certification process and identifying and reflecting on their learning, and then from the credentialing that certification represents.   I don’t know if it is the case or not because I have not had the opportunity to speak with any candidates who have completed certification, but would hope that the accomplishment provides personal satisfaction as well as contributing to the candidate’s sense of professional identity, and affirming their feeling valued by the rest of the profession.

The value to libraries is similarly derived from multiple aspects:  from the content of the training and self-study that support staff receive and undertake and then take back to their libraries, from the boost that having employees taking on professional development brings to the organization, and from having the competencies themselves articulated and then certified.  I think having a pathway that explicitly recognizes and certifies the knowledge and abilities that support staff contribute is important for the profession.

It could give an edge to candidates if all else were equal, but opportunities to participate vary so widely that it wouldn’t necessarily.  We have not hired anyone with this certification at our library, nor do I recall ever seeing an applicant who had it, but we have a very small staff and very few support staff openings.  It may also be more typically held by applicants to school or public libraries.

If the question is about whether it is “worth it” to pursue LSSC certification, I would encourage candidates to do so if they have the intrinsic motivation to seek such a credential, and if it will be meaningful to them irrespective of whether it will provide any hiring edge or salary benefit.  At least in academic libraries I think those benefits cannot be relied on or maybe even considered as possibilities, so it has to be worth it to the candidate just because they want to do it for their own learning and satisfaction.

– Ann Glannon, Associate Director, Wheelock College Library, Boston, MA

I have never hired someone who has been through the certification program, but I have hired people with a library technician AA degree, and all three were rather a disaster. At the time of hiring, I thought the degree would give the person an edge, but it did not.  These experiences come from two previous libraries, not my current institution.  In one case the person didn’t seem to know more than someone would have who had had library experience, and I was disappointed in what I might call library service values. Things like getting cards filed quickly (this was back in the days of card catalogs) so users could find the books I cataloged or responding to users as invitingly as I would have wished.  In two other cases, the library assistants seemed to have the knowledge from the classes they took, but the work just didn’t get done as efficiently as we needed to be successful. It wasn’t just our expectations, as the replacements were extremely successful. These were people without the library technician degree but had library experience (in one case circulation, particularly ILL and the other was cataloging). Maybe it’s just bad luck, but it’s three out of three.

Who goes for the certification?  If they have good experience and good references, I would go with them and probably wouldn’t give the certification any boost. I have been extremely lucky hiring fabulous library assistants, so I think experience, interview, and references tell me more than certification.

– Anonymous

bonnie smithTo my knowledge we have never had anyone apply for a position with this certification yet. But the certification is well regarded and would definitely be noticed and considered a plus. We are always looking for staff who can fit right in and get started on the job at hand. This certification means that less time is spent on training during the first phases of employment. With a better understanding of how libraries function, from a broad perspective, individuals in this program can better serve patrons and feel more confident about their service.

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


I think the library support staff certificate has it’s value but how valuable would come out in an interview.   Probably a reason to interview someone.

– Jan Wilbur, Library Director, Mondor/Eagen Library/Information Commons, Anna Maria College

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.

Thank YOU for reading! When you’re not strong/I’ll be your friend/I’ll help you comment.

*edited 8/10/2013 to add Jan Wilbur’s response


Filed under Academic, Further Questions, Public

Don’t Leave People Hanging

Interior of the Drawing Room, Mar LodgeThis anonymous interview is with a job hunter who is currently employed (even if part-time or in an unrelated field) and has been hired within the last two months. This person looked for a new position for six months to a year,  in Academic libraries, Archives,  Public libraries,  and Special libraries, at the following levels:Requiring at least two years of experience and Supervisory. This job hunter is in a city/town in the Southern US, and is willing to move anywhere.

What are the top three things you’re looking for in a job?

The ability to move up
Innovation in technology and collections development
Autonomy and flexibility within job title/description

Where do you look for open positions?

ALA Joblist, Twitter, FB, listservs, friends

Do you expect to see salary range listed in a job ad?

√ Yes, and it’s a red flag when it’s not

What’s your routine for preparing an application packet? How much time do you spend on it?

Anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of weeks, depending on the deadline.

Have you ever stretched the truth, exaggerated, or lied on your resume, or at some other point during the hiring process?

√ Yes

When would you like employers to contact you?

√ To acknowledge my application
√ To tell me if I have or have not been selected to move on to the interview stage
√ To follow-up after an interview
√ Once the position has been filled, even if it’s not me

How do you prefer to communicate with potential employers?

√ Phone for good news, email for bad news

Which events during the interview/visit are most important to your assessment of the position (i.e. deciding if you want the job)?

√ Tour of facility
√ Meeting department members/potential co-workers
√ Meeting with HR to talk about benefits/salary

What do you think employers should do to get the best candidates to apply?

Pay them what they are worth, no excuses. And allow them room in the schedule for professional development.

What should employers do to make the hiring process less painful?

Communicate. Don’t leave people hanging.

What do you think is the secret to getting hired?

Knowing the right person.

This survey was co-authored by Naomi House from I Need A Library Job – Do you need one?  Check it out!

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Filed under Academic, Archives, Job hunter's survey, Public, Southern US, Special

Further Questions: The Tattooed Librarian

This week I have another question inspired by a reader.  This is part of a topical series on Interviewing while Tattooed. This week I asked people who hire librarians:

Should tattooed candidates make any attempt to hide their ink?  Would tattoos make you think twice about hiring someone?  How tattooed is too tattooed?

Emilie SmartArm and leg tattoos would go unnoticed in an interview.  Facial tattoos would be a problem though.  Our current policy doesn’t allow jewelry in facial piercings so I don’t see facial tattoos (especially large ones) going over here (a southern public library) unless the job was not in public services.

If a candidate is concerned that their tatts might negatively influence an interview outcome, then they should cover them up as best they can.

– Emilie Smart, Division Coordinator of Reference Services & Computer Services at East Baton Rouge Parish Library

Marge Loch-Wouters

I like people to dress like and be themselves.  Clearly we aren’t a buttoned-down place.  My hesitation in this:  if the tattoos displayed would be inappropriate for children to see (nudity, inappropriate language, like that). In that case, we would ask that those be kept covered while working in the children’s area.

In terms of how much ink is too much…if we think that kids will come in and be able to easily interact with the person beneath the ink, the candidate may make the cut.

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

Colleen HarrisAn interesting question – many of us at my current library have visible ink (sleeves, chest pieces that peek out of dress shirts, etc.) At my current and former institutions (all public university academic libraries), so this wasn’t an issue. (Full disclosure – I’m fully sleeved, and my hands are tattooed as well.)

When I have interviewed, I usually do so full suited or with a cardigan – folks can see the hand tattoos but I don’t put them out on display. When it’s warm, I have a tendency to push my sleeves up – I’m certain I do it in interviews, as well. I don’t advertise my ink, but I don’t actively hide it; I do try to dress to minimize its impact – in interviews, I want people to focus on what I am saying.  As I mentioned above, academic libraries in public universities have been very open to accepting tattoos on myself and colleagues. On the other hand, I was notified by a public library in a very diverse area that I would not be considered as a candidate because of visible ink, so your mileage can and will vary depending on where you apply.

As a hirer, I don’t mind what candidates do about their ink so long as they have a professional demeanor, and make an effort to be sure that it is themselves and their skills on display – I’m hiring for skill and growth potential, not to be inkshop buddies. That being said, my visible work is all pretty tame – it’s probably not a bad idea to go ahead and cover up naked ladies, penii, and other questionable/possibly-offensive images when interviewing, and checking the dress code, if posted, before applying.

As to whether candidates should hide their ink – that’s a personal decision. I usually figure if they’d cull me from the pool because of my ink, it’s likely not a place I would be comfortable working; on the other hand, if I were a children’s librarian, a face tattoo of a tarantula would make it more likely I’d use some serious cover-up so as not to scare the little ones. In short, folks should do serious research as to the cultural flavor of a workplace before deciding to hide – or flaunt – their art, and make sure their skills outshine their ink.

Would any tattoos make me think twice about hiring someone? Well, we’re a heavily public-service oriented library, so racist tattoos would definitely give me pause since we’re here to make our users as comfortable as possible. Aside from that? Probably not.

-Colleen Harris, Head of Access Services & Assistant Professor at University of Tennessee Chattanooga’s Lupton Library

My personal feeling is that tattoos are okay but to a limited extent. I think that they fine if they are small and/or are not obviously visible. I don’t think that tattoos are professional looking so if a person had them all over their arms, legs, neck, etc, it would make me think twice about hiring that person, not because I didn’t think that the person was not capable or qualified to do the job but because, unfortunately, of the view of someone with a lot  of tattoos has in our society.  Perhaps in certain types of libraries  it would not be an issue, but I believe that in some academic libraries it would not portray a professional image, in the same that dressing slovenly would be viewed negatively. Just my two cents.

– Anonymous

Cathi AllowayI am on the fence about tattoos, and can tell you that I am aware of a great range of policies regarding them.  In general, it is reasonable for every library to establish what is needed for each situation.
Community standards and environment play a big role in the tolerance level for appearance.  When a library needs to improve its reputation for credibility, reliability, and competence, then a “classic look” for employees may be warranted, especially in a more conservative community where customers and donors value conformity and a professional image.   In other communities that have a high level of diversity and are more liberal, like my current community (a Big Ten college town), we can offer a more flexible dress code that allows tattoos.
An additional consideration regarding tattoos is the nature of the job and the career aspirations of the person.  Library managers need the full business look for presentations, fundraising, networking, and special events.  Although I can’t exactly define “too tattooed”, a large amount of visible  ink may be an impediment to achievement.  I personally enjoy, but do not have, body art, but would have to tell a manager with a lot of tattoos that they may be expected to cover them for certain activities.
An illustration of this:   I once had a meeting with potential donors who quite openly appeared to be evaluating my appearance as I met them at a restaurant to discuss donations. I later received feedback that they wanted to give to a charity that “met their expectations” – and some of them gave.  I wore a moderately priced department store suit that contrasted with their designer clothes, but I guess the fake pearls worked anyway!  Appearance counts, while self-expression through body art and dress are important outlets for many of us.  Hopefully libraries will be open-minded and job applicants considerate of the wide range of public opinions they can encounter with a full body set of tattoos.
– Catherine Alloway, Director, Schlow Centre Region Library

What a great question!   My workplace does not have anything that says tattoos must be covered,  and I personally have nothing against them.

I recently hired an employee who interviewed in an outfit that hid his full-sleeve tattoo.  Seeing the tattoo would not have made a difference in my hiring decision, but I would have appreciated it if he would have let it peak out a little bit, or at least mentioned it.  It’s kind of like hiring an employee and having them show up the first day with a different, shocking dyed color of hair.  It was a bit of a surprise when I first saw it, is all.  It would also be to a prospective employee’s benefit to discover if the new workplace had anything stating tattoos must be covered: can you always work in full sleeves?

Any tattoo is tattooed; the only “too tattooed” or tattoo that would make me reconsider hiring  for the types of positions I supervise would be face/neck tattoos.  The rest of the body—the entire thing—is fair game.

– Sarah Morrison, Adult Services Librarian Neill Public Library

The short answer to the question of candidates with tattoos is, yes, they should hide their ink. For a job interview, I would always recommend covering up, which should not be too difficult since you would be dressed fairly conservative. I would encourage anyone considering a tattoo to be selective about where you put it since you will not know the policy of future employers.

The last two questions are tied together for me. How tattooed is too tattooed? Anything on the face, neck or hands would be too tattooed and would influence my hiring decision because those are areas that could never be covered up for formal presentations or meetings.

I am personally a tattooed librarian so this most likely affects my opinion on tattoos and the definition of what “too tattooed” is, but I am not on every search committee for my institution, others will have more conservative opinions.

When you do get a job offer, definitely ask what the policy is so you know if you can show off your “I heart Mom” tat!

– Julie Leuzinger, Department Head, Eagle Commons Library, University of North Texas Libraries

Toby Willis-CampAs a tattooed librarian (a frog above one ankle) with a very modified 20-something son, I know that one has tattoos and other modifications  for personal reasons.  However, the workplace is not always a place where one can simply let everything be on display.  It is not a personal affront to have to keep one’s tattoos and other modifications underwrap in the workplace.  Dark nylons or tights, long sleeves and modest necklines are useful tools for keeping the other side of your personality personal.  What I do and show when I am not at work is my business, not my employer’s.

This being said, prominent neck and facial tattoos are career-limiting in public service jobs. I don’t believe that this will ever change even with the openness around tattoos now.

As a former library director who had a “no butts, no boobs, no bellies” dress code policy, I think it is best to talk about these things when entering a new workplace.  Find out what the dress code includes and make it work for you. You may be working for a tight a$$, so be prepared to keep your art covered.  You might also be working for someone who has some modifications too, but knows when it’s the right time to have them on display.

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

Marleah AugustineTattoos don’t bother me – I have two myself, although they are not usually visible during work (although my next one likely will be). I don’t think candidates should try to hide visible tattoos during the job search / interview. That feels deceptive to me. I’d rather know they are inked up front (or at least not have something hidden and then suddenly see it on their first day at work). The only time I think I would think twice about it is if the tattoos are large and on the neck, or any tattoos on the face. I doubt I would have to worry about vulgar tattoos, but that would also give me pause.
About half of my part-time staff are tattooed, and only once in 5 years have I heard a patron comment about a tattoo in a negative manner (but I’ve heard several positive comments!).
– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library
Ink is relative to location.  I personally don’t care, and my patrons don’t care.  In a smaller, more conservative, more rural library, everyone cared.  It was silly.  I hired and was hired anyway (I have what looks like very obvious piercings–I actually have none–but I always have worn the jewelry to interviews to see what comments might ensue).While hiring is supposed to be about skills, sometimes you have to worry about community fit.  I never have, and have never had problems.  If a candidate is worried–cover the tats.  The person will know soon enough if its an issue or not.
– Virginia Roberts, Director, Chippewa Falls Public Library

Manya ShorrWhen hiring, the most important thing to me is whether the staff person is approachable and neutral. Both of these things can be easily achieved even if the staff person is covered in tattoos. So no, tattoos have little to no impact on my hiring practices. That said, if an applicant (or staff person) has a tattoo that is political or controversial, I would ask them to cover it. We want to create an environment that is as neutral as possible, so that a patron feels comfortable asking any question of any staff person. Of course, this applies to clothing too and not just tattoos. Our latest dress code says, “Clothing or body art that can be reasonably seen as profane, political, or obscene is not to be visible.”

I remember having a conversation with my mom about 10 years ago about tattoos (I’m 38). She was convinced that the people in my generation who have tattoos would never be able to get jobs. I believed that the world would have to change to accommodate all the people with tattoos. I certainly saw more tattoos in Portland, OR than I do in Omaha, NE but even here, it’s commonplace for staff to have tattoos.

 – Manya Shorr, Assistant Director, Community Programs and Services, Omaha Public Library

Randall SchroederI have only one question from the other side of the table regarding tattoos or anything dealing with appearance. Does it affect approachability? If I am hiring you to be a public services librarian to work at a service desk, you can’t frighten the users away. On the other hand, if you work in the back, it probably isn’t that big of a deal. I want people to be comfortable at work but still be able to do their job. A librarian with great people skills and tattoos is still better than a curmudgeon with no skin decoration. Libraries are supposed to be an inclusive place.

This also works both ways on the fashion scale. I worked with a librarian who always wore a three piece pinstripe suit at the desk. The students wouldn’t talk to him either.

Personally, I have no issue with tattoos, but I cannot vouch for everybody on the hiring committee. It may even be a subconscious reaction. It depends on how important your personal style is compared to the job. The tattooed librarian may not want to work at a place where she or he is judged by skin art. In which case, show your glory within reason and taste.

If the job is really important, do your research. There may be a policy on appearance in some places, although that is increasingly rare. If not, what can you find out about the culture of the school? If you think it is an issue, cover until you get hired and then surprise them.

I have worked for a college where the tats would get a raised eyebrow from some of the staff. I have worked for a university where nobody would notice.

– Randall Schroeder, Director of Libraries, Archives and Media at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota

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!When her muscles start relaxin’, up the hill comes Andrew Jackson. Lydia, oh Lydia, that encyclo-pidia. Oh Lydia The Queen of comment.

There will be two more posts in this series, which will go live on 6/22 and 6/23.  When live, links will be here and here.


Filed under Further Questions, Interviewing while Tattooed