Tag Archives: tumblarians

We can’t ask follow-ups, so give ALL the info that might be relevant.

Post Graduate Hospital : convalescents and librarian on sun porch, 1923. NYPL Digital Collections

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: Supervising Librarian

Titles hired include: Librarian 2, Librarian 1, Library Aide, Library Assistant

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel 

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

√ Online application

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Written Exam

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview 

√ More than one round of interviews 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

Applications are initially screened by city HR to determine eligibility for the job classification. Eligible candidates are asked to take either an oral exam, a written exam, or are scored based on supplemental questionnaires. This leads to a ranked list based on score. When the library has vacancies to fill, they are given a list of names from the list for that classification – number of names given determined by number of vacancies to fill.  Those candidates are invited to a departmental interview (aka an interview with the library) which is a panel interview.  Panel presents recommendations to Administration and discusses each candidate. Sometimes candidates may be invited for a second interview that is more casual. 

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

They confidently and thoroughly answered each question. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

inappropriate comments (racist, sexist, transphobic etc). 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ We don’t ask for this  

Resume: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant  

CV: √ We don’t ask for this  

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

Not thoroughly answering the question. We can’t ask follow-ups, so give ALL the info that might be relevant.

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

Yes. We know it’s awkward, but we’ve gotten very used to it!

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?

Share how your experience in other areas (other jobs, volunteering, even school) is relevant.  If you haven’t done something, share what you WOULD do, or how you’ve handled similar things.

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?

We try to frame our questions to ensure candidates are given a chance to share their experience in a way that doesn’t favor any particular candidates. Include questions that get beyond “diversity” and into real inclusion and equity and anti-racism. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western US 

What’s your region like?

√ Urban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Other: Very rarely for really specific positions.

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 201+ 

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, 200+ staff members, Public, Urban area, Western US

Researcher’s Corner: At the intersection of autism and libraries

I’m really pleased to be able to present this piece by Dr. Amelia Anderson, which details her research into the workforce experiences of autistic librarians. She says something quite important in her second paragraph, 

“In my mind, if more hiring managers and supervisors were aware of some of the issues, practices may improve for autistic librarians. Even just having an understanding that there is neurodiversity within the field is so important; so often we turn outward, and think of services for neurodivergent patrons, when we should also be thinking of inclusive practices for our own staff.” 

If you find this post interesting and would like to read more, seek out the following articles:

Anderson, A. (2021a). Exploring the workforce experiences of autistic librarians through accessible and participatory approaches. Library & Information Science Research, 43(2). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lisr.2021.101088

 Anderson, A. (2021b). Job Seeking and Daily Workforce Experiences of Autistic Librarians. The International Journal of Information, Diversity, & Inclusion, 5(3), 38-63. https://www.jstor.org/stable/48644446                                                                                   

 If you know of other LIS career resources either for hiring managers to create processes that are more inclusive of neurodivergence, or for LIS job hunters who are themselves neurodivergent, especially if they have been written by neurodivergent LIS folks, I’d love to feature them. Please drop me a line at hiringlibrarians AT gmail.  

I have been studying the intersection of autism and libraries for almost 10 years now, beginning in 2013 when I began the PhD program at Florida State University. At that time, I was hired as a graduate assistant to help create training manuals for librarians to better serve autistic patrons. The project sparked my interest in working with autistic young adults and adults, as I learned how often we focus on children with the diagnosis (which is very important, don’t get me wrong!), but we often forget that autism is lifelong, and a person is still autistic as they grow up. I then focused my dissertation, and served as a postdoctoral scholar, on studying academic library services for autistic college students.

I provide this background here because it is foundational to what happened next. In presenting these projects to audiences of librarians across the country, I found myself continually being pulled aside by librarians who wanted to discuss my work, and then also disclosed their own autism diagnoses. I realized this was something interesting, that deserved exploration, especially when I developed friendships from these conversations and got a firsthand look at some of the unfair advantages neurotypical librarians benefit from when seeking employment and while on the job. In my mind, if more hiring managers and supervisors were aware of some of the issues, practices may improve for autistic librarians. Even just having an understanding that there is neurodiversity within the field is so important; so often we turn outward, and think of services for neurodivergent patrons, when we should also be thinking of inclusive practices for our own staff. 

I decided to take the anecdotal evidence I had from my personal contacts, and embark on a formal research study. I recruited ten librarians who identified as autistic, and asked the same set of questions to each of them, but I let each person choose how they would prefer to participate. In doing so, I wanted to acknowledge communication preferences, allowing each person to feel comfortable in how they participated. I conducted Zoom interviews for most, and a few others submitted their responses as a text document. Of the ten participants in this study, four worked in academic libraries, three in public libraries, one in a school library, and one worked in library services for a federal agency. One recently retired from an academic library.

From the interviews, I addressed the research questions: How do autistic librarians become interested in the library profession? How do autistic librarians describe their job seeking experiences? And, how do autistic librarians describe their workforce experiences?

As I began collecting and analyzing data, I realized the methodology and approaches I used to do so was also important to share with other researchers in the field. As such, I developed a secondary study to explore and report on those approaches, posing the questions: When given options, how do autistic librarians choose to participate in the research process about their working experiences? And, how is data affected by those participant decision?

My first publication from this study presented the experiences of my participants in detail (Anderson, 2021b).

The second publication went into depth about the research process itself (Anderson, 2021a).

Ultimately, I found that many of the autistic librarians I spoke with found their way to the field through previous exposure to or experiences with libraries. They described the librarianship career as fulfilling. However, they also did experience barriers during the job seeking process, as well as in their daily lives on the job. While some requested formal accommodations, others created their own coping or preparation strategies. Many wrestled with issues around disclosure. To alleviate some of those issues, library hiring managers and supervisors should strive to create more universally accessible and accepting environments and processes.

And in the research process itself, though participants used various methods to provide information, the themes that emerged were consistent across data collection methods.

Though exact numbers are impossible to know, there are many autistic librarians, working and working to gain meaningful employment in the field. My hope is that this work has sparked some conversation about the topic, and that hiring and supervising managers will be thoughtful in creating more inclusive practices and spaces.

Dr. Amelia Anderson is an assistant professor of library science at Old Dominion University who has extensive experience on the topics of neurodiversity, disability, and libraries through her work as a public librarian, library researcher, and educator. Amelia is the author of Library Programming for Autistic Children and Teens, 2nd Edition, published by ALA Editions. She was the managing PI on the IMLS planning grant Accessibility in Making (LG-246292-OLS-20), which identified barriers to access in public library makerspaces for patrons with disabilities. Through original research and partnerships with autism self-advocates, Amelia studies and shares best practices and trends at the intersection of autism and libraries and has presented her work at conferences from local to international audiences. Amelia earned her MLIS and Ph.D. from Florida State University.  

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Filed under Researcher's Corner

Further Questions: What is your final piece of advice for Hiring Librarians readers?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

What is your final piece of advice for Hiring Librarians readers?

Laurie PhillipsThe most important piece of advice I have is probably what I answered to the very first question. Answer the ad! Address the specific qualifications that the library is looking for in that position. If you aren’t sure if you directly meet the qualifications, find something that you can say that shows you have the skills to meet that qualification, even if it’s not in a library. Sell the fact that you meet the specifications of the position. If you can’t sell it, don’t apply. I recently applied for an administrative position and, in my phone interview, I asked what interested them about my particular qualifications. I expected something completely different as an answer, but they said, “you fully answered the ad.” Wow, at that level, I would expect it to be obvious. It should be obvious for anyone from recent grads to seasoned professionals.

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

Celia RabinowitzMy final piece of advice for Hiring Librarians has two parts.  First, stay optimistic!!  I know that’s easy to say for someone with a job who is closer to retirement than I am to my first job.  I see how stressful the job search is these days, and how the market is changing, but I want to believe the right job is there for you (or else I have been watching too much “X-Files”).  It might not be the first, or even second, job, but it’s there and everything you do can help you be ready for it.

Second, when that dream job is there on the horizon, be READY!  Write a cover letter that stands out.  Tell your future coworkers what you love about the library and institution, and why you think you are the right candidate for the job.  Take advantage of mentors who offer to read your cover letter and CV.  We want to help!

Good luck.  Being a librarian is the best job ever!!
– Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH

Jessica OlinLast piece of advice is that you need to remember advice is that old stand by: your mileage may vary. Job hunting is an evolving thing and what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow, but you’ve got to keep on trying. Oh, and don’t forget: always have someone proofread and/or edit your application materials. Good luck!

– Jessica Olin, Director of Parker Library, Wesley College

index_slide01My final piece of advice for hiring is relatively simple, yet I find that MANY applicants don’t practice this approach. AND to make it easier to put this in practice — let me state what the simple answer is and then list those things that provide evidence.
Convince me that you want me to hire you for the specific position posted….rather than applying for a position because you want ANY position.
That being said – employers realize that not every job is not your perfect match …and when you apply for and get interviews for multiple positions we realize that it would be hard and in some ways dishonest to try to convince employers that all three different jobs are each your dream job! So here’s what you don’t do and what you do!
  • Don’t turn in identical applications for multiple jobs at one time. Make your cover letters unique to each job but be honest and say you are applying for all – want to work for the organization (or the boss or the type of library, etc.) in general  – and you have competencies or experience for each and then state what is unique about “you” for each job.
  • Don’t turn in identical applications for jobs advertised at different times. Organizations can ask you if you want your application kept on file and submitted for any open position and although that is fine to do, you need to make sure you provide some unique information so watch those postings and make sure you refresh each package by – as stated above: making your cover letters unique; being honest and saying you are applying for several positions or that you have applied before and why such as you want to work for the organization (or the boss or the type of library, etc.)
  • Don’t think that people don’t remember answers to questions – that is – be careful how you prepare for package your answers so that you come prepared but not unimaginative or too exact in your answer. It’s also okay to reference one previous interview when answering questions for another…that is – you can say you prepared answers for a “mission statement question” but you have updated your information (read articles, talked to librarians, etc.) and you have now broadened your thoughts and answer.
  • Don’t ask questions like “How fast you can apply for another job when it comes open?” (and yes, I have been asked that) or – nicer but still inappropriate – “How long must someone stay in one job before they apply for another?” or “When another position is available must they apply again or can they transfer into it?”
  • Study the job description. If you don’t know what terms mean or you aren’t sure – make sure you check for definitions and examples – either in general in the professional literature, on other library websites or on the organization’s website.
  • Thoroughly review the organization’s website…and not just the organization’s website but the umbrella institution’s web environment. This search may yield good information (do their mission statements resemble each other) or may offer opportunities to ask questions.
  • Choose a journal from the professional literature that is centric to your specific type-of-library and search once year’s worth of table of contents to get an idea of overarching topics.
  • Choose a journal from the professional literature that is centric to your specific type-of-library and search once year’s worth of editorials and opinion pieces as well as any letters from members…. to get an idea of classic and contemporary issues.
  • Review the programs offered in ALA’s conference programming for this type of library and review the programs offered at the state and/or local or regional level association by type of library. These reviews offer you ideas of trends in this area of the profession.
  • Review social media environments re: this type of library.
  • Review architectural awards at the national level re: this type of library.
  • If you can’t visit the library in advance or if you are applying for a general position and the location isn’t specific – do a general web search of the library.
  • Search the professional literature and the general web for information about the staff (managers, middle managers, librarians, other employees, etc.) to see if there are publications, general PR, association leadership, community leadership, etc.
  • Answer honestly. If you don’t have all of the position requirements and they are interviewing you anyway, they are signaling they can substitute some of your information for what is required. …so you might speculate on what those substitutions are – and if you can – ask in advance what “counts.”
  • Be ready with your questions…bring them in writing.
  • Take quick notes during the interview…. especially if you know you will keep applying to that organization.
And the best of luck!
– Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College


Emily WeakSo, I don’t really hire librarians, although I’ve been on a few interview panels.  But I did spend the last few years interviewing hundreds of people who hire librarians.  Part of the reason I did so was because I was tired of hearing very authoritative hiring advice from single voices – the truth of the matter is that there are all kinds of people who hire librarians, and they have all kinds of opinions on what candidates should or should not do.

My main advice is: if the advice you’re receiving doesn’t let you be you, then disregard it.  If it feels weird, disregard it.  If the person dispensing it seems to be a pompous d-bag, disregard it.  There is no such thing as an authority on library hiring.  Feel free to ignore every piece of advice you receive.  People get jobs in all kinds of ways.   And there are all kinds of jobs. Find the ones that are best for you and try to articulate as clearly as possible why you would do real well in them.  Go for quality of applications rather than quantity.

One of the most insidious tyrannies in library hiring advice is the concept of professionalism.  Professional is a totally subjective and almost entirely meaningless concept.  It means “wear a suit” to one hiring librarian and “make sure your jeans are clean” to another.  And in a more sinister aspect, it is a code that is a real barrier to diversifying our monocultural field (yes, I mean white white white.  And female. And middle class. And ableist.)   Is an afro encompassed in professional dress?  A sari?  Or to think about something other than clothes, what if you have a learning disability that means you often misspell things in emails?  Is that “unprofessional”?  What if you didn’t get a chance to grow up with professional parents correcting your behavior and etiquette and molding you into an acceptably “professional” human being?  Professional is just a language.  Learn it, but you don’t need to live it. And stamp all over it when you can.

The other problematic concept is “fit”.  On one hand, “fit” is a great concept for figuring out if someone will do well within the specific culture of a workplace.  On the other hand, if

“fit” means “just like everybody else who works here,”  then there we are with our monocultural profession again.  In 2014, 87.1% of ALA members were white.  How can we hope to provide inclusive service to all the members of our community if people of color are so spectacularly under-represented behind the reference desk? This is my advice to people hiring: move beyond fit.  Cast your net wider.  Allow the center of your organization to shift as you invite different kinds of people in.  Is librarianship a dying profession?  It might be, if we continue to be a brigade of nice white ladies.

My final bit of advice, to job hunters and hiring librarians, is to be kind to yourselves and each other.  Job hunting and hiring are stressful.  Kindness goes a long way.  Set yourself up for small successes, and celebrate them.  Take breaks.  Get out in the sunshine.  Enjoy life beyond hiring librarians.

– Emily Weak, Ex-Blogger, Hiring Librarians
Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight!

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


Filed under Further Questions

You need the hands on practical experience to compliment your studies, it makes your education that much more meaningful and solidifies what you are learning.

Civic library, Newcastle, 1957, Hood collectionThis anonymous interview is with an academic librarian who has been a hiring manager (you are hiring people that you will directly or indirectly supervise).  This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:

Interns, secondary school librarians and librarian assistants, teacher librarians, catalogers

This librarian works at a School Library with 0-10 staff members in an Urban area in Asia.

Do library schools teach candidates the job skills you are looking for in potential hires?

√ Depends on the school/Depends on the candidate

Should library students focus on learning theory or gaining practical skills? (Where 1 means Theory, 5 means practice, and 3 means both equally)


What coursework do you think all (or most) MLS/MLIS holders should take, regardless of focus?

√ Cataloging

√ Budgeting/Accounting

√ Grant Writing
√ Project Management
√ Collection Management
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Research Methods
√ Readers’ Advisory
√ Marketing
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)

Do you find that there are skills that are commonly lacking in MLS/MLIS holders? If so, which ones?

Policy writing and the legal aspects of careers in libraries. It’s so important to protect yourself, your staff and patrons from legal situations that can be prevented with proper policies being written up.

When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently?

√ Yes–I value skills gained through a student job more highly

Which skills (or types of skills) do you expect a new hire to learn on the job (as opposed to at library school)?

Practical skills related to tasks can be learned on the job, such as book repair, book processing (i.e. new books, donations), office and desk organization and management (essential when working with a team), specific software skills (there are so many new types of software coming out it is not reasonable to expect this to be taught in library school).

Which of the following experiences should library students have upon graduating?

√ Library work experience

√ Professional organization involvement

√ Teaching assistant/Other instructional experience

Which library schools give candidates an edge (you prefer candidates from these schools)?

ALA accredited institutions, they have high standards. Library Schools from Europe, North America, or Australia. I would have to research certificates or degrees coming from lesser known institutions in Asia, Africa or South America.

Are there any library schools whose alumni you would be reluctant to hire?

Chinese institutions – Sadly, I have a hard time trusting that the standards of skills are a good fit for what I want candidates to be able to do in a North American style library. Many of the websites are in Chinese with no English option so I cannot verify what skills candidates have been taught, nor can I guarantee that the certificate is genuine.

What advice do you have for students who want to make the most of their time in library school?

Work or volunteer in a library at the same time! If you can’t get a library job, at least volunteer in one. You need the hands on practical experience to compliment your studies, it makes your education that much more meaningful and solidifies what you are learning.

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, School, Urban area, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

our communities might not fully understand what we do

Nevins Memorial Library First Librarians c. 1900This anonymous interview is with a academic librarian who has been aA member of a hiring or search committee. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:

Both librarians and staff

This librarian works at a library with 10-50 staff members in an urban area in the Western US.

Approximately how many people applied for the last librarian (or other professional level) job at your workplace?


Approximately what percentage of those would you say were hirable?

√ 25% or less

And how would you define “hirable”?

Skills and experience were clearly defined and highlighted in the cover letter and CV to demonstrate the candidate was a good match for the needs of the position, whether through formal or informal experience.

How are applications evaluated, and by whom?

Applications used to be first screened by HR but now each search committee has access to all applications and does the first weeding of applications. There is a rubric and the search committee then ranks applicants to determine who will be invited to each stage of the interview process.

What is the most common reason for disqualifying an applicant without an interview?

They are not qualified for the position, which can be determined through enough information provided pointing to this, or by omission of information. When candidates don’t develop their application materials for the specific job they’re applying for, they can appear as not as qualified as others if they leave information out that the specific job posting asks for.Do you (or does your library) give candidates feedback about applications or interview performance?

Do you (or does your library) give candidates feedback about applications or interview performance?

√ Yes, if the candidate requests it

What is the most important thing for a job hunter to do in order to improve his/her/their hirability?

Be honest and thoughtful. Don’t try to hide information or puff up skills more than they are, the search committee will see through this. Candidates have scored extra points with me when they’ve honestly addressed gaps in employment, lack of experience in a certain area, or were straightforward about something they need to work on. The problem isn’t that someone is human, search committees realize things happen or maybe someone got more experience in one area than another–it’s when a candidate is insincere, and that sends a red flag.

I want to hire someone who is


How many staff members are at your library/organization?

√ 100-200

How many permanent, full time librarian (or other professional level) jobs has your workplace posted in the last year?

√ 3-4

How many permanent, full time para-professional (or other non-professional level) jobs has your workplace posted in the last year?

√ 3-4

Can you tell us how the number of permanent, full-time librarian positions at your workplace has changed over the past decade?

√ There are fewer positions

Have any full-time librarian positions been replaced with part-time or hourly workers over the past decade?

√ No

Have any full-time librarian positions been replaced with para-professional workers over the past decade?

√ Other: The work defining a librarian position has changed over the years, so yes and no

Does your workplace require experience for entry-level professional positions? If so, is it an official requirement or just what happens in practice?

No, we truly consider candidates with no experience when we say something is entry-level.

Is librarianship a dying profession?

√ No

Why or why not?

Librarianship is a changing field and we are just as important as ever to our communities. The problem is not that we have “no identity” or are “replaceable” (according to a previous interviewee on this site), it’s that our communities might not fully understand what we do. There is so much information in the world that our students need to navigate, and that our faculty need for research. Our expertise is essential to organize this information, teach how to navigate this information, and connect our communities with the information they need.

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Filed under Academic, State of the Job Market 2015, Urban area, Western US

Further Questions: What Should Candidates Wear?

Edited on January 29, 2016 to add…

Wow, lots of discussion about this post! While there is much that could be said in response to the dialogue of race, gender, privilege, etc. and all associated expectations in the library world, I want to make this note brief. I am sorry that the wording and/or images on this post caused some bad feelings. That was not the intention, and it does not necessarily reflect the opinions of this blog’s creator and volunteers.

When the question about interview attire was posted in 2012, responses generated good discussion (and even some about non-Western/ethnic dress, so check that out too). When this question was posed recently, it was copied verbatim. Since 2012, we have learned a lot about assumptions and gender and dress. Due to my workload and personal circumstances, I did not stop to fully consider how such phrasing may be received in 2016. Similarly, time constraints (as well as copyright notices on websites with images I initially wanted to use) did influence the image choices.

Are there better images that could have been used? Yes. Do I wish that diversity (of all types) was more apparent? Yes. However, as with all questions and replies on Further Questions, time and other constraints render it nearly impossible to fit every scenario or address every consideration fairly. This is true for the blog’s creator and volunteers, as well as the panelists and all who have filled out a survey on Hiring Librarians over the years. Panelists rarely answer every aspect of a question, so I would have been surprised if each image was equally addressed. Regardless of how this post was received, I’m happy to see Hiring Librarians causing discussion all the way to the end! If you wish to dialogue further, please email me at hiringlibrariansquestions@ gmail.com. I would love to chat with you and share more than can be said in a short blog post! Thanks for reading! –Sarah


This week we asked people who hire librarians a question that was asked previously, and still remains popular on Hiring Librarians… the inevitable “What should I wear?!?!” question that nearly ALL job seekers struggle with during the job interview process.

Which outfit is most appropriate to wear to an interview with your organization? Please pick one for women and one for men, and feel free to provide commentary as to why you chose one over the others (or share how you might change an outfit). Bonus question:  Can you share any funny stories about horrifying interview outfits?

Female A : What Should Candidates Wear?

Female A. Source: Rotary Club of Clayton-Ladue, click on image for original.

Female B: What Should Candidates Wear?

Female B. Source: Accurate Court Reporting, click on image for original.

Female C: What Should Candidates Wear?

Female C. Source: J’s Everyday Fashion, LLC, click on image for original.

Female D: What Should Candidates Wear?

Female D. Source: Plus Size Outfits, click on image for original.

Male A: What Should Candidates Wear?

Male A. Source: The Denver Post, click on image for original.

Male B: What Should Candidates Wear?

Male B. Source: The Fashionisto, click on image for original.

Male C: What Should Candidates Wear?

Male C. Source: The Working Wardrobe, click on image for original.

Male D: What Should Candidates Wear?

Male D. Source: Epaulet New York, click on image for original.

Christine Hage songstressBased on attire only I would hire any of the first three women with a slight preference for the first woman. She looks like people in my community. I’m not sure how long the second woman would make at one of our services desks in those heels!
I’d feel comfortable with the guy in the suit and the guy in the shirt and tie, with a preference for the shirt and tie. He looks relaxed yet appropriately dress for work.
It also depends on the job the person is applying for. Reference? Youth services? Outreach? Library director? Bookmobile librarian?
I do look at how a person is dressed and figure this is the best they will look when they come on the job.
Clothing fit is important. I once interviewed a fellow that looked like a kid wearing his dad’s dress shirt. I appreciated his effort, but questioned whether he looked in the mirror before he came to the interview.

Years ago a library director colleague friend of mine got a complaint from a parent about a youth services librarian. The librarian had VERY high end designer tastes. The parent felt the librarian was dressed like a hooker, because she had a mini skirt on with high heeled leather boots on the came over the to of her knees. 

Neat, clean, well groomed, good smile and an upbeat personality go a long way with me, especially the smile. Does the person look approachable? Will they make our customers feel welcome?  Will they fit into our community?  Does their attire look like the used common sense putting their look together?

– Christine Hage, Director, Rochester Hills Public Library

Laurie PhillipsFor a woman, I think A and B are most appropriate. Honestly, I don’t care if someone if wearing a matching suit jacket and pants or skirt. Candidates should be dressed professionally and a notch more formal than you would normally wear to work. Female C is not inappropriate, *however* the blouse is a bit sheer. I have had a young female faculty librarian wear a similar blouse to work with a hot pink/coral bra under it and wearing a jacket that matched the bra. That’s just a no-no. Cute but not work appropriate. So I would say C would entirely depend on how you wear it. A jacket or cardigan could make it look more appropriate, but I’d skip the sheer blouse. I’ve seen women wearing a dress and jacket that looked more garden party than job interview. Be careful about that. Male A is the obvious choice. He’s wearing a suit with a solid shirt and tie and appropriate dress shoes. B and C are way too casual. Those shoes on B are not dress shoes. D would be ok if he was wearing socks and a jacket. I don’t mind personality or print. We don’t expect to have you completely strip away your personality. Show personality in your accessories! I don’t really have any funny stories, although I did have a friend who had a candidate who was trying to remove a knot from his shoelace with his teeth. Probably not a smart choice.

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

Jessica OlinSince gender isn’t a binary, I say you wear whatever you feel is appropriate to the level for which you’re applying. In general, dress just a little bit nicer than you think you would dress if you got the job. If you feel unsure, check with a friend/contact who already has a job in the kind of library where you are interviewing. Don’t know anyone? Feel free to reach out to me and I’ll get you in touch with someone who can help.
– Jessica Olin, Director of Parker Library, Wesley College

MargaretI know you asked us to pick one for each gender, but honestly, I don’t have opinions on any of the outfits, even the more casual ones. They all seem fine. I might judge a man in an extremely ill-fitting suit, like David Byrne in the 80’s, or something that’s completely unflattering (“that pattern…girl…., whose couch did you have to kill for that?”), but even that won’t have much weight on my decision. As long as they’re clean, fully clothed and give a good interview, a person’s professional fashion sense is not really a deal-killer for me. Now, if you had put up pictures of people in ripped jeans and t-shirts or a tank top and flip flops, we’d be having a different conversation. Also, the City I work for has a rule about visible tattoos, wild hair colors and visible non-ear piercings (like nose) so those are issues that are usually brought up if someone is offered a job. I wonder, is this a generational thing? I’m at the tail end of Gen-X. We thought flannel and baby-doll dresses were a good idea.

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

I work at a public research flagship institution in New England. Generally, business formal or one step down is going to be the best bet here because candidates will probably interact with the director, associate director, and department heads during their interviews, and half the staff at that level dress in business formal attire, while others generally dress in business casual attire. Candidates for department head and coordinator positions should definitely wear a suit or the equivalent for women. The fit and state of the outfit also matter; some candidates wear clothing that is too large or small, and they just look uncomfortable. I have also seen wrinkly or stained clothing and that can be a little distracting. Candidates will often take a tour of the library and will walk across campus for lunch, so comfortable shoes are important.


For a woman, outfit A, B, and C would all be appropriate, but in my opinion, it looks dated when the shirt collar comes over the jacket (as in image A).


For a man, outfit A would be appropriate, and outfit D would also be appropriate if accompanied by a jacket. Here is an article explaining why.

– Anonymous


Jason GrubbI feel the position you are interviewing for and the location of the position determine what you should wear. In Wyoming, any of these outfits would be appropriate. Male A and Female B may be too much if interviewing for a non management position, but better to be over dressed than under. We are flexible and casual. As a consequence, nothing surprises us, so no funny stories to share. Be yourself and wear what you are comfortable in.

– Jason Grubb, Director, Sweetwater County Library System

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com. Special thanks to the websites providing the images. Please click on the image to be linked to the original.

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Further Questions: How should job seekers display their degrees and certifications?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

How should job seekers display their degrees and certifications in documents like resumes or signatures (in cover letters or emails)? Should they put “John Smith, MLS, MIS” at the top of their resume or when signing a cover letter or email, or should that information be included elsewhere, as in an education section, or text in the cover letter? Does etiquette change if the degrees are terminal such as a PhD or JD (or the MLS)? What about librarians who hold other degrees beyond the master’s level such as a subject area PhD, EdD, etc.?

Laurie PhillipsNo. I personally think it’s pretentious. It should be in the education section of the resume. I wouldn’t ding someone for doing it, but it’s unnecessary. We require an ALA-accredited MLS (or equivalent degree) for our faculty positions and we do not require any other master’s degree or Ph.D. or Ed.D. Some do for Dean or Director level positions and some do for subject-specific librarian positions (for example, I believe a friend of mine completed her PhD in musicology for a position at UC Boulder, where they have stringent tenure requirements and she’s now teaching in the music school). Many of us have or have had second master’s degrees in a field. I have an M.A. in musicology but I would never put M.A., M.L.S. after my name. For hiring, it’s just not necessary. If someone were applying for a position as a law librarian where a J.D. is required, they might do it, but truly, putting the initials after the name is not necessary.

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

J. McRee ElrodAt least once as initials, e.g.,

J. McRee Elrod,  A.B., MA, MA (CLT), MLIS




– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging

MargaretI personally don’t use my degree as part of my signature, so I really don’t notice it much when others do. Put all your education and degrees on your resume, most definitely, but putting a Ph.D. or JD after your name won’t be something I’ll note in a cover letter or email beyond a superficial sort of acknowledgement. I think those things probably carry more weight in  academic libraries than public, where specialization can be a very important part of the job (like having a Master’s in English and being the library liaison to that department).

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

Celia RabinowitzI think it is important for a job seeker to be sure potential employers know about their academic qualifications and credentials.  A resume or cv will have the person’s educational history and so I don’t think it is necessary to include the degrees (e.g., MLS, PhD) at the top of the document.  I think it is appropriate to put those at the bottom of a cover letter in the signature much as many of us do in our email signature files.  It makes most sense to include required or terminal degrees, but not others.  So – MLS holders already have a BA (or BS, etc.) so it is not necessary to include that.

Including that information in your personal or work email or other correspondence is partly a matter of personal preference, I think.  They can certainly send a message or reminder to our colleagues on campus about our professional preparation which is useful.  That might be preferable to feeling as if we have to tell people we have one, or more, graduate degrees.  So – for job applications and letters be sure you educational achievements are clear (what degrees, which institutions, what program), and for your ongoing digital or print identity, whatever makes you feel most comfortable about you represent yourself.
– Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH
Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

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


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Further Questions: Does your institution require any type of training to be part of a hiring committee?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

Does your institution require any type of training to be part of a hiring committee? If so, did you find it useful? If not, what sort of training would be beneficial (diversity, human rights, conflict of interest, etc.)? How do you think training (or its absence) affects candidates?

Laurie PhillipsI’m not sure if our institution requires it but, in the library, we require that every person go through HR’s training on appropriate/interactions with candidates. As in what is legal or not legal to ask or discuss with a candidate. If someone couldn’t be at that training, they could not be a part of the hiring process.

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

MargaretNo, the City does not. We depend heavily on our internal HR people and the City’s HR people to ensure we stick to the rules. As far as I know, the City doesn’t offer any training on hiring, so we just use the advice of our HR crew, best practices and common sense. I think its absence does impact our interviews, to a degree. We sometimes don’t know what the current policies are and I’ve sat on committees with people who don’t have a lot of experience interviewing and can be as nervous as the people sitting on the other end of the table-they can make it worse! If everyone is a ball of nerves, then the whole interview can go pear-shaped.

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

Celia Rabinowitz

All search committees must meet with a representative from Human Resources and with the chief diversity officer of the college.  The standard training is not especially exciting but includes important information about using the job ad criteria for establishing a baseline to evaluate candidates.  My current institution adheres strictly to these criteria and expects the search chair to document each candidate and the reasons why they continue on in a search or are eliminated at any stage. We also have to be sure to use the same set of questions with all candidates.  The meeting with HR give the committee time to begin that work and to review the online file review system.  The diversity officer reminds the committee about how to increase efforts to attract a diverse pool of applicants, and about those pesky questions that are off limits during an interview.

The sessions are useful, especially if you are at a new library or institution.  And committees are different each time and the training sessions or meetings are a good opportunity to be sure everyone is working together from a common set of expectations.

– Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH

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

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


Filed under Further Questions

I’m often unsure as to how much professional experience employers will see me as having

Woman with gun and hunting dogs Tallahassee, Florida by State Archive of Florida via Flickr CommonsThis anonymous interview is with a job hunter who is currently employed (even if part-time or in an unrelated field), has not been hired within the last two months, and has been looking for a new position for Six months to a year. This person is looking in Academic library, Public library at the following levels: 

I apply for anything I think I have a shot

at–I only recently got my MLIS, but have worked in libraries for 10+ years, so I’m often unsure as to how much professional experience employers will see me as having.

This job hunter is in a urban area in the Southern US and is willing to move: I have certain areas I’m more willing to move to, but for the right job, I’m not ruling any location out.

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

An emphasis on user services, a comfortable salary range, and location that appeals to me.

Where do you look for open positions?

The big ones are ALA joblist, INALJ, and a weekly joblist email run by the program I graduated from. There are others I check periodically, but those are the big three.

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?

A few hours to a few days, depending on the job. I’ll usually look over the job posting a few times and look up the institution if I’m not already familiar with it, and I have a couple of form cover letters I’ll tailor to the job posting.

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

√ Other: I’ve exaggerated, but never outright lied.

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?

Be clear in the posting about what the job entails and what the salary/benefits are, try to communicate with job seekers clearly and promptly.What should employers do to make the hiring process less painful?

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

Be sympathetic to the strain that jobhunting in earnest can put on a candidate. We’re constantly asked to demonstrate our enthusiasm for the job and sell ourselves as the best candidate, while at the same time knowing it might be weeks, months, or never before we hear anything back. It’s exhausting, and anything employers can do to make that easier is appreciated, even if it’s just touching base to let us know we’re still in consideration for the job.

What do you think is the secret to getting hired?

Honestly, I think it has a lot to do with luck. Judging from the number of library people I know who are currently jobhunting right now, there seem to be no shortage of qualified candidates for jobs, so I think there’s probably an element of being the one who says/does the right thing at the right time to catch and hold the employer’s interest.

Are you hunting for a new LIS job? Take the survey! http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibJOBHUNTERsurvey

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 Job hunter's survey, Midwestern US, Urban area

Further Questions: How do you cope with hiring decisions you might not agree with?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

How do you cope with hiring decisions you might not agree with? How might this affect working relationships later on, either with current colleagues or the new hire? If a candidate you think was amazing was not hired, do you have the ability to reach out afterwards to connect them with other libraries/later openings in your organization? Feel free to answer either personally or “for a friend/colleague.”

Paula HammettOver the years of being on many hiring committees, I can say there will be hiring decisions you may not agree with or were not your first choice.

First rule is be gracious and accept the decision (unless you really feel an egregious and/or illegal error has been made). Don’t undermine the committee’s decision. Keep the best interest of the library in mind.

If you were on the committee, respect the confidential nature of the hiring process and don’t engage in backbiting. If it turns out that it was indeed a bad hire, learn from the mistakes to make the next hiring process better.

If you were not on the committee, realize that you might not know all the details and try not to second-guess. For example, I’ve seen awesome candidates really botch their interview or teaching demonstration. I’ve also seen amazing candidates that simply weren’t the right fit for the job that was currently available.

Welcome the person hired with open arms and do what you can to help them succeed.

If you want to reach out to the amazing candidate that wasn’t hired, do so privately. Don’t try to second guess the committee’s decision, simply assure the person of their awesomeness and perhaps look for ways to work with them in other venues, such as conference planning or joint research opportunities. If another job opens up that might be a better fit, let the person know. Simply reaching out can be appreciated.

If you were the amazing candidate that wasn’t hired, don’t give up. Don’t let it destroy your self-esteem. It can be devastating to not get the job you really wanted and felt you were perfect for (or the one you had been doing in a temporary capacity but weren’t hired for when a permanent position came open). Your particular set of talents might not have matched the skill set needed for the position. Don’t let the rejection weigh you down. Keep looking for other opportunities and refocus as needed.

If you were an internal candidate who didn’t get the job, be kind to yourself and recognize that there may be awkward moments with the new hire. Try to be as gracious as possible. It’s not the new person’s fault that you weren’t hired.

It’s a small world and you may well run into the amazing person at conferences or other settings. Greet them warmly and compliment them on their work. I regularly see people we haven’t hired doing fabulous work in other libraries. In the back of my mind I might think, “I wonder how things might have been different if we’d hired so and so?” But for whatever reason, we didn’t, so move on.

– Paula Hammett, Sonoma State University Library

MargaretWell, let’s see. Twice at a previous library I worked at, I had strong objections to candidates who were hired. The main issue was that the candidate pools both times were poor and none of the people interviewed were really very good. I wanted to go back out and re-advertise and extend our reach (publish on listservs nationally, etc.), but both times I was overridden by my superiors who just wanted the positions filled. So, we were saddled with two librarians who were in no way prepared for the job. Both of whom, I might add, left within a year or so of their hiring-one was fired, the other was given a choice of quitting or being fired and chose to resign. I didn’t have much contact with them in the position I was in at the time, but I did try and help when I could-giving them guidance and information. I didn’t blame them, I was more annoyed at the penny-wise, pound-foolish approach management took at the time. They were more concerned with having a warm body in a seat than waiting for the right person to come along.


In my current position, I’ve been very lucky. There was one hire that I wanted, but my superiors didn’t, we talked it over and ultimately went with the hire. That person went on to be fabulous at their job, so it worked out well for the library.


As for great candidates who don’t get hired, we sometimes do internal promotions and we interview a lot of really good in-house people. It’s really difficult to pick one out a strong field of candidates, so usually what ends up happening is that we hire the best one for that position and we try to further nurture and encourage the unsuccessful internal candidates so that they can grow in our organization in positions best suited to them and their skills.

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

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

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


Filed under Further Questions