The discussion this January centered around applying and interviewing for library positions. No matter where a library employee is in their career cycle, applications and interviewing are a common theme. Whether it is a new graduate applying for their first job, an established library worker looking to move to another position, or a hiring librarian interviewing potential employees, the application and interviewing process can often be stressful. However, fellow library workers are often a great source of knowledge and encouragement.
Applying for Your First Position
Discussion members recollected their first experiences applying and interviewing for libraries, noting lessons they learned during the process. One of the most common themes was that of patience. Regardless of when or where the applicants applied, the majority noted that it is often a long, involved process that involves changing your expectations on job positions. Many also noted that rejection is part of the application process, and to keep perspective when you don’t receive the job you wanted. Persistence was the second major theme to the discussion. Many members noted that it took a long time to find a position that worked for both them and the interviewing library.
Doing your research ahead of time was also suggested. Examining both the library and its parent organization, such as a city or university, is suggested not only to get a better idea of the job, but also if it is a good fit for you. Reaching out to fellow library workers is also suggested. Mentors or library management can help a new applicant review and revise their resume, or give them suggestions for interviews. Lastly, enthusiasm and personality have been deciding factors in the hiring process. Ensuring you present a positive but accurate demeanor for your interviewers can make the difference between receiving a job and a rejection letter.
On the Other Side – Being the Interviewer
A few of the discussion members were kind enough to share their stories of being the interviewer in the application process. Interviewers commented that there can be many reasons a person was not hired, and applicants should not be discouraged if they are not chosen. The theme of researching an institution ahead of time was emphasized again, with one mentioning the library’s mission statement in particular. Having prior knowledge of the library you are interviewing at shows initiative and professionalism. It was also mentioned more than once that interviewers are often looking to see if an applicant will fit into the library culture, not just if they know the mechanics of the job. Customizing both your cover letter and resume to each individual position is also highly recommended by the discussion members. Preparing questions particular to the position and library ahead of time is also suggested.
Applying internally at an institution you already work at can have its own set of benefits and complications. Discussion members noted that competing against your coworkers can often be tricky and uncomfortable if not handled correctly. Remaining professional in the face of these uncomfortable situations should be a priority, as well as maintaining good relations before and after the interview. Members also reminded applicants to hold internal applications and interviews to the same standard as outside applications and interviews. Remember to craft a personalized cover letter and resume even if the interviewers known you and your work personally, and try to find something that will set you apart from other internal applicants. As with the external interviewing process, discussion members reminded applicants to not be discouraged by rejection.
Applying and Interviewing at Different Types of Libraries
The application and interviewing process can differ widely between public, academic, and special libraries. While there were few special libraries mentioned in the discussion, discussion members analyzed the differences between the public and academic library application process. Both interview processes usually started with some form of phone or video interview before inviting applicants to interview in person. Many noted that public library interviews can vary widely, tending toward more informal than academic, and public libraries usually do not require a lengthy interview process over an entire day. If applying for a children’s librarian position, applicants may be required to do mock storytime for interviewers. In contrast, academic libraries often have a full-day interview process that may involve an entire committee of interviewers and meals. With both interview processes, it was mentioned that going to the library in question ahead of time to review the library before the interview, and gather specific questions to ask the interviewers. This is also a chance to observe staff, which can give you a sense for the culture of a library.
Emerging Trends in Library Positions
Requirements for library positions have changed significantly over the years with the emergence of new technologies and changing cultural landscapes. Discussion members mentioned several trends, including a need for technology skills, adaptability on the job, supervisory experience, a second Masters for academic librarianship, and project management skills. Also noted was an emerging trend to drop the MLS as a requirement for librarian positions, or to accept experience in other areas as an equivalent qualifier.
The Changing Landscape
While many discussion members noted the difficulties of applying and interviewing for librarian positions, the majority of them were also positive about the future of librarianship and their own personal careers. Several noted that while the application and interviewing process can be strenuous, they each eventually found the right job for them, and those who are still searching are hopeful about their prospects. Despite the changing requirements for library positions, such as technological or supervisory skills, discussion members noted that adaptability is key to landing the right position.
What has been your experience when applying and interviewing in libraries? What do you see in the future of librarianship?
Submitted by Katie Wheeler