Tag Archives: Research

A Brief and Mild Rant from your Blogger

someone is wrong

I ran across a couple people last week whose opinions made me a little mad.

One of my personal rules for internet professionalism is to not post angry. Fighting on the internet is an endeavor in which no one wins. But that doesn’t mean I don’t get angry, and that doesn’t mean I’m 100% successful in following my own rules.

Now, I know that not everyone has to like Hiring Librarians, or to find it useful. And I know that there are a lot of people who do find it useful. In fact, last week two people told me that they’d just found jobs, and that Hiring Librarians helped make that happen. I can’t even describe how awesome that is. Getting a job is life changing, and life shaping, and means even more than the difference between ramen or pork chops for dinner.

The two people that bothered me basically said, “Hiring Librarians is just forwarding opinions, and the responses aren’t relevant past what that one person thinks.”

Well, yes, I guess, kind of. But also no.

Here’s the difference between opinion and good advice: good advice is something you agree with, an opinion is something you don’t.

Any internet blog that’s talking about hiring is presenting someone’s opinion. When someone tells you, “here is what you should do to get a job,” they are sharing their opinion. And its generally based solely on their personal experience or experiences.

The point, or a point, of Hiring Librarians is to show you a number of opinions, all in the same format, so you can stop taking any one person’s opinion as gospel. Including the individual surveys.

I try to give you the aggregate in two forms – mashed together into graphs and numbers, and slowly doled out as individual responses. That way you can read the summary and the detail. I’d love to be able to give you more stats and graphs posts, but I’d also love to stop being consumed by work and have more fun. So.

The individual surveys are each just one person’s opinion, yes.  But that doesn’t mean that they’re not relevant to you and your search.  They are the real opinions of real people that really hire. Really.  You may find yourself across the table from one of these people some day.

The “opinion-ness” doesn’t invalidate the possibility of learning something from the individual surveys. It’s ok for one person’s opinion to affect the way you hunt for a job. Or not. I think you should weigh the opinion with what you know and feel and want, and decide for yourself if it resonates with you. If you don’t like it, oh well, opinions. Everyone’s got one.

The other thing that happened last week is that people started noting their schools pop up in the “Are there any schools whose candidates you would be reluctant to hire?” question.  And that made some people angry.  Or hurt.  Or hurt and angry.

This is not the intention for this question.  I’m sorry that people have been upset by seeing their school pop up.  I’ve thought about if it’s an irresponsible question to ask, or to post individual responses to, especially when there is often no reason given for why they would be reluctant to hire someone from a particular school.

I stand behind asking it.

Here’s my reasoning: This is the type of question that everybody asks and no one answers. We all want to know if there’s a secret ranking of schools that everybody knows but us.  We want to know if our school is the “best” or if the school we’re choosing is really awful.  And negative opinions especially, are not often expressed in public.  No one wants to offend.

Personally, I want to know what I’m up against.  I want to know if people have preconceived notions about my school, so I can be prepared to shine anyway.  Because they don’t know me, and they don’t know what my education was like.  It was great!  I learned a lot!

I don’t get angry when I see my school come up, because I know that this person is wrong.

I also remember that the question asks about a reluctance, rather than a refusal.  The respondent is expressing a reservation, rather than an absolute decision.

So in conclusion, my darlings, if you find that you hate what’s being said, if the answers make you angry, well, those two people I talked about earlier, those two people that made me mad, are actually right. It’s just one person’s opinion. And if you don’t see a single person that you want to work for, well, not everybody in the world took the surveys. Only a few hundred. I’m sure there’s some hiring manager out there that’s to your taste. 




Filed under Op Ed

Now We Are Three (Months): Interview Questions Repository

The Interview Questions Repository is three months old!  149 people have clicked through to share questions they were asked in a recent library interview.

If *you’ve* had a library interview recently, help this resource grow by reporting the questions you were asked:


or by sharing this link widely with your friends and colleagues.

If you are about to go on an interview, use the spreadsheet:


to help you prepare.

Top tip: Switch the spreadsheet to list view, in order to be able to limit by answers – you can choose to only look at the phone interviews at public libraries, for example.

Bottom tip: For respondents, you should be able to edit your answers, if you think of something to add, etc.

You will also always be able to find these links in the sidebar to your right —>

If you’d like to respond to any other surveys, or otherwise participate in this blog,

this page

will give you links and options.

Thanks for reading, readers!  Thanks for contributing, contributors!

Mr Simpson talks to an unidentified Chinese family

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Filed under News and Administration

Update: Interview Questions Repository

The Interview Questions Repository is one month and one week old!  124 people have clicked through to share questions they were asked in a recent library interview.

If *you’ve* had a library interview recently, help this resource grow by reporting the questions you were asked:


or by sharing this link widely with your friends and colleagues.

If you are about to go on an interview, use the spreadsheet:


to help you prepare.

Top tip: Switch the spreadsheet to list view, in order to be able to limit by answers – you can choose to only look at the phone interviews at public libraries, for example.

Bottom tip: For respondents, you should be able to edit your answers, if you think of something to add, etc.

You will also always be able to find these links in the sidebar to your right ———>

If you’d like to respond to any other surveys, or otherwise participate in this blog,

this page

will give you links and options.

Thanks for reading, readers!  Thanks for contributing, contributors!

E. H. Elam, interviewer for the TVA, making personal interviews at Stiner's Store, Lead Mine Bend, Tennessee, with applicants for work on Norris Dam, November 1933


Filed under News and Administration

New Survey: Interview Questions “Database” (aka Interview Questions Repository)

Hey look, a new survey! (kind-of)

A few months ago there was a LinkedIn discussion about interview questions, and someone, possibly even me, suggested that it would be a good idea to put together a database where people could share questions they were asked at interviews.**

Well, here it is.

You’ll notice that 1) it’s not a database, it’s a spreadsheet and 2) no one has shared any questions yet.  more than 60 people have shared questions! Hopefully you can work with the first and change the second. increase the second.

Top Tip: Switch the spreadsheet to list view, in order to be able to limit by answers – you can choose to only look at the phone interviews at public libraries, for example.

If you have recently been interviewed, or if in the future you go on and interview, or even answer some supplemental questions, please go to the

Library Interview Questions Form,

and let us know what you were asked.  As it says on the form, please of course conform to any confidentiality agreements your potential employer put in place with you.

If you are going on an interview, eventually

the spreadsheet

will be a place to help you prepare.

Aviatrix Jean Batten being interviewed after her flight from England to Australia, State Library of Queensland

**If I was not the person that had this idea, if you were the person who had this idea, thank you, and I hope this is ok.

***Text in green was added in on 3/13/2013 at 5:47 PM


Filed under News and Administration

Researcher’s Corner: Entry-Level Reference Skills in Academic Libraries: Ad-ing Them Up

In this installment, the Researchers occupying the corner are Robert Detmering and Claudene Sproles, both from the University of Louisville.  We’ve had some good discussion of skills for entry level librarians, encompassing both  academic in general and special collections.  In this very recent research, Detmering and Sproles focus on Reference librarians, revealing that skills and competencies required of reference librarians are expanding, and making some recommendations in areas of focus for new grads.  A more formal, in-depth account of their findings is at the following citation.

Detmering, R. & Sproles, C. (2012) Forget the desk job: Current roles and responsibilities in entry-level reference job advertisements.  College & Research Libraries 73(6), p. 534-555.

Please enjoy this post, and don’t forget to let us know what you think in the comments!

What are potential employers actually looking for? This incredibly common but frustratingly enigmatic question is at the heart of a study we recently conducted, the results of which appear in the November 2012 issue of College & Research Libraries. Given the complexity of the job market, with so many different types of libraries and librarian positions, our study only looked at jobs in one specific area: entry-level academic reference librarianship. We focused on this type of job not only because we work as reference librarians in an academic setting; we also have a strong interest in helping entry-level candidates succeed. While these candidates often bring the kind of energetic and innovative approaches that hiring institutions desire, they also may struggle with developing the relevant skills and pre-professional experience needed to land a first job. We hope that our study, which involved collecting and analyzing nearly 200 entry-level reference job advertisements over a one-year period, will promote greater awareness of the skills and experience that employers say they want, so that entry-level candidates interested in academic reference can engage in a more informed job search.


Our study focused on advertisements posted on the American Library Association’s JobLIST website (joblist.ala.org), as well as LISjobs.com, with some additional ads obtained from popular listservs. We looked exclusively at ads posted in 2010 for entry-level jobs located in the United States, and we did not include part-time, temporary, or community college positions. About 50% of the total entry-level ads we collected (192 individual ads) sought reference librarians. In the published study, we discuss the major responsibilities associated with these positions, as defined in the ads, and how these responsibilities reflect various trends in reference librarianship.


That said, one of our central objectives was simply to determine the kinds of skills that entry-level reference candidates would likely need to succeed in a challenging job market. What we ultimately discovered may be disheartening or encouraging, depending on one’s point of view. In addition to traditional reference service skills, entry-level reference jobs often require a vast range of skills across many specialty areas: teaching, technology, marketing, collection development, project management, academic publishing, and so on. We found that approximately 70% of the ads would require skills in six or more distinct areas. New job seekers may feel intimidated by the sheer number of diverse responsibilities listed by hiring institutions, especially because it can be difficult to learn so many different skills in a non-professional position such as an internship. On the other hand, the clear interest among hiring institutions in a variety of skill areas may present more opportunities for prospective job candidates, particularly if they are able to think creatively about what they can bring to a job.

To be more specific, we found that entry-level candidates can expect a wide variety of responsibilities in their first professional positions.

  • The “traditional” duties of reference, information literacy, collection development, and liaison work are still in high demand.
  • In addition, “emerging” duties in technology, promotion and marketing, planning and implementation, assessment, and scholarly communication now appear in job descriptions, indicating that the nature of reference work is branching out into these areas.

Based on recent job ads, then, the expectations for what entry-level candidates should know or be able to do seem to be quite high.

Implications for Job Hunting Grads

So, what does this mean for the new LIS graduate? Most significantly, it is essential to gain some kind of practical teaching and reference experience before obtaining the degree. For example, according to our findings, teaching is as intrinsic a skill as providing references services. The ability to teach an information literacy session as well as work a shift at the reference desk will be expected from day one on the job. LIS students should explore opportunities to gain experience, especially teaching experience, even if it is on a volunteer or temporary basis.

The other “traditional” duties of liaison work and collection development are intertwined. Both duties require interaction with faculty and knowledge of their research projects and classes taught. Our research also found that 43% of ads listed promotion/marketing/outreach as a duty. How do you plan to reach out to faculty? How about other campus groups? What about non-campus groups in the community at large? What ideas do you have to promote the library’s services? It’s important to have strong answers to such questions.

Our study also uncovered other “emerging” duties not traditionally associated with reference. How does one gain experience with assessment, scholarly communication, or shared governance?  The answer is that you probably cannot, but graduates should be able to talk intelligently about these topics during their interviews. So, in addition to gaining experience in the field, graduates need to keep abreast of current trends. Be prepared to talk about the role of assessment in evaluating library services; be able to articulate the role of scholarly communication in academia. You don’t need to be an expert in everything, but you need to show that you’re familiar with the current professional landscape and that you’re ready to learn new things.


Successful job candidates do their homework about the institution and the position, and they are able to talk knowledgably about trends in librarianship and at the hiring institution. They also specifically address how they will fulfill the duties and the requirements of the job ad. It is a competitive field, but candidates who are prepared will have the advantage in the hiring process and be better prepared for the first day on the job. Ultimately, there are many ways to get your foot in the door, particularly if you can balance traditional reference skills with some kind of specialized knowledge or experience that will set you apart from other candidates. Good luck!

Robert Detmering is Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Information Literacy Services at Ekstrom Library, University of Louisville. His research interests include information literacy pedagogy, popular culture in libraries, and professional issues in academic librarianship. He has authored or co-authored publications in a number of academic journals, including College & Research Librariesportal: Libraries and the Academy, and Journal of Business and Finance Librarianship.

Claudene Sproles is Associate Professor and Government Documents Librarian at Ekstrom Library, University of Louisville. She has published articles in College & Research LibrariesJournal of Education for Library and Information Science, Choice, and other journals. Her research focuses on government documents, as well as entry-level librarianship and associated professional issues.

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Filed under Academic, Researcher's Corner

Researcher’s Corner: Education, Training and Recruitment of Special Collections Librarians

This post presents research by Kelli Hansen. As in Eamon Tewell’s research on jobs for Academic librarians, you’ll see that she finds that entry-level positions are scarce.  However, she also identifies characteristics and skills that candidates can cultivate to improve their chances, and I’m intrigued by her findings about the increasingly multi-disciplinary nature of these jobs.  I hope you enjoy this post, because I’m very proud to be able to share it with you.

This project started as a student paper in Michael Laird’s class on Rare Books and Special Collections at the University of Texas at Austin in spring 2009.  Some of our readings raised questions about employers’ expectations of new special collections librarians.  I was preparing to start my job search at the time, and I wondered whether some of the answers could be found in position advertisements.  Here’s what I found out.


For the purposes of this study, I was only interested in job ads for entry-level special collections librarians.  It was difficult to define entry-level because very few job advertisements suitable for recent graduates openly represent themselves as such.  Unexpectedly, it was also difficult to define special collections and even librarian.

In the end, my criteria for including advertisements were as follows:

  1. One year of experience or less; or, length of experience not specified; and
  2. No supervisory duties over other professionals; and
  3. Position assigned to special collections or rare books (with at least 50% of job duties in one of those areas); and
  4. Title and requirements that reflect training in librarianship (as opposed to training in archives, conservation, museum studies, or digitization).

I did not keep track of a total population of job advertisements because I did not intend to estimate the percentage of jobs available to new graduates.  I only wanted a snapshot of the skills and experience employers were looking for in entry-level applicants, and the responsibilities and environments recent graduates could expect in their first positions.

I had a hard time locating advertisements, primarily because of the ephemeral nature of online postings. Eighty-eight position announcements, culled from various print and electronic sources from 2004 to 2009, fit my criteria and were included in the study.


After I collected all of the advertisements, I broke down statistics for features like salary, professional status, geographic location, and institution type.  I found that the largest number of positions was in the Northeast.  The median salary was $40,000, and academic or research environments made up the overwhelming majority.  Over 75 percent required a single master’s degree – either the MLS or a master’s degree in a subject area.  About 30 percent of the advertisements specified that another advanced degree, in addition to the library degree, was preferred.  Almost half of the advertisements required the candidate to have some experience (of an unspecified amount), and over seventy percent of the advertisements stated that experience of some sort was preferred.

In order to measure more subjective requirements, I also did some basic text analysis on the qualifications sections for common keywords, which I classified into broad categories based on the white paper Competencies for Special Collections Professionals.   In the qualifications, keywords varied widely.  The most common single keywords were history, cataloging, and technology.  The competencies with the highest frequencies were Teaching and Research and Public Service, followed closely by Cataloging and Processing and Information Technology.

When I analyzed the duties sections of the advertisements in the same way, there was much less variation.  The most frequent single keywords for duties were reference and research.  The category with the highest frequency was Teaching and Research, appearing in 73 percent of advertisements.  However, the following categories all appeared in 72 percent of the advertisements: Management and Administration, Promotion and Outreach, and Public Service.  Cataloging and Processing was represented in 70 percent of advertisements.


To summarize very briefly, I reached some of the following conclusions:

  1.  Entry-level positions in special collections are scarce, and they aren’t so entry-level.  Like many library jobs, there’s an overwhelming preference for candidates with some prior experience.  Nearly a third of hiring institutions also prefer candidates with additional graduate education.  These facts indicate a very competitive job market.
  2. The job advertisements reflect overlap among libraries, archives, and museums.  There has been much talk about library-archive-museum convergence over the past decade, and the job announcements confirm that idea.  It may be useful for job seekers to cultivate skills and experience in all three areas.
  3. Institutions seem to be looking for candidates who are both generalists and specialists.  Most of the skills mentioned in the advertisements – reference, research support, instruction, cataloging – apply to librarians of all stripes.  However, the position responsibilities and requirements suggest that aspiring special collections librarians need to combine comprehensive library skills with specialized knowledge of subject areas and materials.

The Future

The full version of this research was published in RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage in September 2011.  I only touched on the surface with this article, and there’s still a lot to find out about hiring and training librarians in this field.  Feel free to contact me with any comments or questions.

Kelli Bruce Hansen earned her MSIS from the University of Texas at Austin in December 2010, and her MA in art history from the University of Missouri in 2003. Currently, she’s a librarian in the department of Special Collections and Rare Books at the University of Missouri Libraries, where she focuses on instruction, outreach, and reference. She can be contacted at hansenkb@missouri.edu.


Filed under Archives, Northeastern US, Researcher's Corner