Tag Archives: state library

About a Decade Later: Former Job Hunter George Bergstrom

Back in 2012/2013 I ran a survey of job hunters (co-authored by Naomi House of INALJ). It had over 500 responses, including 117 people who were at least initially willing to be non-anonymous. In this series, we check in with these respondents to see where they are about a decade later. 

George Bergstrom filled out the original survey in 2013 and his answers appeared as Doing the Research. At the time, he was a part time Instruction Librarian and Adjunct Instructor and had been looking for full time work for more than 18 months. We followed up with him in 2014 and found that he was still looking for full time work, but had slowed his search due to having multiple part time jobs. 

When I checked in with him recently I learned that he is currently working in professional development at his State library. He was kind enough to answer my questions below:

Where are you now? What’s your work situation like, and what path did you take to get where you are?

My current role is Southwest Regional Coordinator, Professional Development Office – Indiana State Library. I assist any library in my region of the state with professional development and other statewide services. All public libraries have to engage with myself and the other coordinators (since there are certification statutes in state law) and academic and school libraries can choose to engage with us. I also work with the correctional institutions in my region to provide services to the inmates. Since the last interview I have worked at a private for-profit university as well as the transition to working for the state library.

Were any parts of your journey completely unexpected?
My time at the for-profit was a bit unexpected. For the first few years it felt very similar to both my past experiences in public and academic libraries, and it was different from my perceptions of what for-profits are like before I began working there. It was smaller (only five locations in two cities) and family owned/run, but after the first few years I began to notice/experience some of the negatives of the for-profit side of the industry. On the positive side I did gain experience in working with using games in education, which prompted me to join ALA GameRT and I am now the president-elect for the roundtable.

Looking over your past answers, what pops out at you? Has anything changed?
I noticed one of the questions asked about salary listings in job ads, which seems to be an issue that is again in the job hunting zeitgeist. I still feel that these should be required, especially as I again begin to contemplate a new job search. In the past I had been unwilling/unable to move, but I am now very interested in moving and not knowing the salary range makes it a big gamble to apply for a job that might not pay enough to justify the move.
 

Have you had a chance to hire anyone? If so, what was that like?
While at my previous job (for-profit, academic) I was on a few search committees. This allowed me to work with a group of colleagues to do the initial review of applicants and make recommendations on which candidates to move to the next phase of the interview process. This is an interesting experience as it allows some input without having the responsibility of making the hiring decision. Knowing who this side of the hiring equation works has provided some valuable insights for my on job searches. It has helped reinforce the importance of customizing both resume/CV and cover letter to best match the position applying for.

Do you have any advice for job hunters?
As always, do as much research as you can about each position. Learn what you can about the library, the unit/department (if the library/system is large enough to have units), the larger institution the library is within (university or the like) if applicable, and any of the coworkers/possible supervisors. Knowing what they already do can help you position your skills and abilities within their situation and explain how you would benefit their institution. Now even more than 10 years ago, you will also want to research the area you might be working (city, region, state, etc.) to make sure you will feel comfortable in this new location. It may be a great job, but if you won’t feel comfortable in that location then ultimately you may not be successful. Work-life balance is very important and should be considered when job hunting.

Do you have any advice for people who hire LIS folks?
Same advice as last time, please communicate as much as you can with your candidate pool. Let them know when you are reviewing, let them know if they have made that first cut, and let them know after all interviews are complete as well as if they were selected or not.
 

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About a Decade Later: Former Job Hunter Cristy Moran

Head shot of Cristy Moran. She has tortiseshell glasses, brown chin-length hair, a polka dot top, black cardigan, and big smile.

Back in 2012/2013 I ran a survey of job hunters (co-authored by Naomi House of INALJ). It had over 500 responses, including 117 people who were at least initially willing to be non-anonymous. In this series, we check in with these respondents to see what they are doing, about a decade later. 

Cristy Moran completed the original survey in January 2013 and her answers appeared as There is a “Black Hole” of Information After One Drops a Resume. We followed up with her at the end of 2013 and learned that after applying to over 200 jobs in 16 months (and a stint as a temporary reference librarian), she had found a permanent, full time position as an information literacy instructor (considered paraprofessional). When we followed up in 2014, Cristy had started searching for a professional librarian position and had a plan to consider work outside her geographic area if not successful. In our last follow-up, in late 2015, she had found a faculty librarian position within her region, which she described as, “the right one for me.”

Given that saga, I was really happy when she agreed to do this follow up. She’s in a new state and about two months into a super interesting new role. If you’d like to connect with Cristy or learn more about her career path, she has a website and is on LinkedIn.  

She was kind enough to answer my questions below.  

Where are you now? What’s your work situation like, and what path did you take to get where you are?

I am the Adult Library Services Senior Consultant at the Colorado State Library – which Google tells me is about 2,000 miles from the last place you found me in late 2015.  Then, I had finally found a full-time job as a faculty librarian. Up until two months ago, I was still in that college, serving in the same role. It was an incredibly challenging and rewarding job that allowed me the opportunity and space to craft my own career. However, like so many others, my husband and I – two professionals working in public education in Florida – were among the many that re-evaluated our work lives during the pandemic. A lot of the decisions I had made to grow as a professional in certain areas offered me the opportunity and gave me the confidence to look for work that was a little different but played to my strengths and interests in librarianship.

Were any parts of your journey completely unexpected?

At that job, I was based out of a joint-use library location – regional public library and college campus – where I ended up working with the public (non-students) a lot more than I ever imagined. My closest colleagues on-site were public librarians in adult services. Most of my days (until the pandemic) were a struggle to juggle responsibilities on a public reference desk and programming for adult public library users and a really long list of things in service to my actual employer: the college. It’s a unique condition that only my partner college librarian on my campus can understand – because he was there with me every step of my time there. For all the challenges – which are many – there were so many opportunities that I really benefited from and enjoyed. How much I enjoyed the job – despite those challenges and despite that situation for which no one can really prepare you – is perhaps the most unexpected part.

Looking over your past answers, what pops out at you? Has anything changed?

In 2015, I wrote, “It’s easy to box ourselves into a chosen profession because that’s what our job is. And I mean this for any job in any field. The most successful I’ve been at any job I’ve had is when I’ve thought back to seemingly unrelated past experiences and considered them in context of my current responsibilities – or the job description of a position that I want.” I stand by that. Fully. Wholly. Completely.

I have found librarianship to be rewarding because it’s dynamic. It’s wild to me to think back on what I thought a librarian did for a living. What I imagined my day would be like – even when I was getting my MLIS. The reality is that what prepared me for the career I have had was working at a CD store as an undergrad. It was the years of running a tutoring center and balancing teaching, budgeting, meeting with parents, reaching out to teachers at local schools, and managing a staff of professional teachers and recent high school graduates. It is all those experiences, I believe – far outside Library Land, where I discovered and developed the elements that have made up the version of librarianship that has been my awesome, rewarding, and never-boring career.

Have you had a chance to hire anyone? If so, what was that like?

I’ve served on and chaired several hiring committees, both for the library department and for other academic departments. It’s given me insight into the academic hiring process – and the reality vs expectations of job seekers and people on search committees. The process is, largely, determined by the institution’s systems and, in my experience, while the committees can create thoughtful questions, the rest of the process is limited by HR policies. Also, it’s worth mentioning that committee members are fitting their committee work within incredibly tight schedules of primary responsibilities like teaching, reference, and institutional service. As organized and proactive as I am, I wasn’t able to add hours to my day and overlapping availability for interviews with my colleagues who were just as busy as I was. Suffice it to say, it’s a slow-going process and it’s not for lack of wanting to move it more rapidly. There are just a lot of obstacles – availability of busy people being chief among them.

Do you have any advice for job hunters?

For the ones new to the field… It is hard to be a librarian. Especially right now. And, more to the point of this interview: It’s harder to become a librarian – to find a job that gets you there. A lot of qualified, seasoned librarians are out there looking for jobs that would otherwise be entry-level positions. That’s the reality of the job market right now for us. I was just in it. I went for entry-level position openings. I didn’t get the majority of them. It’s hard out there. Extend yourself some grace. Be kind to yourself. Consider what you can afford to do and the career you want to have. Don’t sell yourself short.

For the rest of us… for the librarian job hunters who are just looking for the next gig – for whatever reason… You’re not alone. It’s hard out there for us too. Play to your strengths. If you didn’t already engage in professional networks at the local and state level, start now. Listen to the chatter. Look for the next place to be better than the last one. Don’t be afraid to try something new. We need to change and be flexible because libraries, librarianship, and the communities we serve – and the world in which we serve them – are ever-changing. What it was like when we started, isn’t what it’s like now. Extend yourself some grace. Be kind to yourself. Consider what you can afford to do and the career you want to have. Don’t sell yourself short.

Do you have any advice for people who hire LIS folks?

Hire people who look like, sound like, and are the people your library serves. Fill your library with people who understand and know and love your community because your library is a part of that community. If you want your community – be they students or neighbors – to love your library, then the library needs to be a place they see themselves and where they want to be seen. It is unreal that I was the only Hispanic/ Latinx librarian in an institution whose student body is 37% self-identified Hispanic/Latinx. It is even more unreal when I consider the racial make-up of the libraries where I’ve worked compared to the area demographics and the institution’s student demographics. We need to exemplify the values we espouse if we want to uphold them. People won’t come to libraries – thus, libraries will become obsolete – if we don’t fill our staff with the faces, voices, interests, and experiences of the world outside our walls.

Also, there’s no such thing as a unicorn. Looking for one among people who apply to your job opening at a library isn’t going to suddenly make them real. 

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

I love being a librarian. It’s better than I thought. It’s also really challenging. It’s unforgiving in many ways. There are expectations of us coming from the institutions that hire us, the people we serve, people who don’t even know what we do for a living, people who hate what we stand for, and even from our own peers in the profession. And I still love it.

It’s not the job I thought it was and – perhaps – it’s not the job it was either. It’s changed since I wanted to be a librarian, and it’s changed since I’ve been one. That’s the kind of work that it is. That’s the gig. Reflecting on what librarianship is now, what it was, and what it needs to be in order to meet the needs of the communities we serve and to stay relevant in the world that is today, tomorrow, and the next is essential in Library Land. It’s hard work – invisible and visible – but it’s worth it.

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I want to see problem-solving, communication skills, ability to facilitate meetings or host programs, and enough technology skills to make the job go smoothly.

Front of the Harry S. Truman Library. National Archives.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Other: State Library

Title: Library Development Director

Titles hired include: Youth Services Consultant

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor 

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Supplemental Questions 

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes 

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

The agency director, with input from the department head, writes a job description for the desired position. (If it’s an existing position, the department head may just need to edit/review.) The HR manager posts it to various sites and monitors applications. Once the deadline is past and a sufficient number of candidates have applied, the department head reviews them with the help of HR and the agency director. First round interviews are sometimes online, due to COVID or if the candidate is too far to travel. They usually include the department head and HR manager. They frequently involve a short presentation related to the job, as well as some scenario based questions. Second round interviews are in person, with the agency director involved, and may also include a demonstration. HR then extends an offer to the desired candidate.

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

Good presentation skills, ability to problem-solve, obvious knowledge of their field of expertise and our agency’s role

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Pushy or rude, glaring errors in the writing sample questions, hasn’t reviewed our agency website and info to see what we do; bad references

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

It’s sometimes hard to see their judgment/diplomacy when dealing with difficult situations. We need candidates who have good judgment and can be trusted to represent the agency when not under direct supervision.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more  

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more 

CV: √ We don’t ask for this  

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

Too vague with answers, not specific enough examples of relevant work; not reading the job description (our work isn’t directly with library patrons)

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

Yes – know your technology and also don’t be flustered if something goes wrong, have a backup plan. Have a nice background and no distractions. 

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

Emphasize skill sets related to your knowledge base. I may not need someone who can catalog materials, but could use someone who can work with databases and sort or categorize data. If you can put together a storytime or manage a summer reading program, those are project management and program development skills. I want to see problem-solving, communication skills, ability to facilitate meetings or host programs, and enough technology skills to make the job go smoothly.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad 

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

Our HR tries to promote job openings to HBCUs and other diverse audiences, but we primarily hire degreed librarians and the degree is still out of reach for many. 

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

Ask what we hope to accomplish in the position. What major projects are coming up or in progress, or what aspects we want to develop. They need to know that our patrons are the library staff and that we don’t work directly with patrons. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Other: statewide; a lot of rural with some suburban and urban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Other: working on work-from-home options 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100 

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

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

Beyond Appropriateness, The Personality Angle is Optional

Suit by Flickr user eat more toast

Suit by Flickr user eat more toast

This anonymous interview is with a librarian from a city/town in the Midwestern US.  This librarian has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring or search committee at a State Library with 10-50 staff members.

What Candidates Should Wear

Should the candidate wear a suit to the interview?

√ Probably, yes (but it’s ok if the candidate wears something a little less formal)

An outfit with a coordinated blazer and trousers:

√ Is totally different

Bare arms are inappropriate in an interview, even in the summer.

√ True

If a woman wears a skirt to an interview, should she also wear pantyhose?

√ Either pantyhose or tights. Bare legs are innappropriate

Women should wear make-up to an interview:

√ I don’t care, as long as it’s not over-the-top

Is there anything a candidate might wear that would cause them to be instantly out of the running? If you have any funny stories about horrifying interview outfits, we’d love to hear them.

We usually only run into the too-casual issue when we are hiring for paraprofessional positions.

Do you expect different levels of formality of dress, depending on the position you’re hiring for?

√ Yes, the higher the position, the more formal I expect the candidate to dress

Which jewelry may candidates wear: (Please select all that are acceptable)

√ Single, simple necklace, bracelet, and/or ring
√ Arty or more elaborate necklaces, bracelets, or rings
√ Earrings

Which hair colors are acceptable for candidates:

√ Other: Depends on the position – back office vs working with the public

The way a candidate dresses should:

√ Other: Beyond appropriateness, the personality angle is optional

How does what a candidate wears affect your hiring decision?

It gives us an impression of personality and of how they are approaching the job and the library.

What This Library Wears

How do you dress when you are going to conduct an interview?

More formal than day-to-day but less formal than I expect from the candidate.

On a scale of one (too dressed up for my workplace) to five (too casual), khakis and a polo shirt are:

3

What’s the dress code at your library/organization?

√ Business casual

Are there any specific items of clothing, etc. that are forbidden by your dress code? Please check all that apply

√ Jeans
√ Flip flops
√ Short skirts/shorts
√ Tank tops
√ Sneakers/trainers

This survey was co-authored by Jill of Librarian Hire Fashion – submit your interview outfit to her blog!

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Filed under 10-50 staff members, Midwestern US, Other Organization or Library Type, What Should Candidates Wear?