library hiring

I spent my morning in the school’s bookroom and my afternoon at the library and after being home for like 45 minutes to eat some soup I will be going Back To The Library to show my support during a town hall meeting where a bigger budget will be asked for and anyways it may turn out that the cure for my sleeping problems was just to get really really tired

lalaofthealpacas  asked:

hi!! i didnt know you live in portland; im moving back there after graduation, and i'll be a jobless geology major looking into library work! do you have any advice/can i ask how you ended up where you are?

Oh boy it was NOT a linear route.  

This is probably true for a lot of big cities but the Portland metro is awash with people with MLIS degrees and library hiring is super competitive.  The last time my particular library hired for a 20 hour position we had 300 applicants.  It took me three application attempts and two independent interviews to get hired at my current library and then it was as an on-call staff person.  I applied and was hired for my regular position when it opened up a few months later.  

I got my start in libraries in another city that didn’t have the same education profile as the Portland Metro, so it was relatively easy for me to get hired with regular work experience and MY geology degree (that is a hilarious coincidence).  Without that I don’t know how long it would have taken for me to break in here, and still it took a year and a half of constant trying.  

My path to where I am now went something like:  degree, shit job, ok job, national park job, move, shit job, awesome museum job, move, good seasonal job, crud seasonal job, crud retail job, move, crud retail job, move, ok job, ok job, tourism job, sports job, FIRST LIBRARY JOB, move, shit job, awesome seasonal job, horrid  job, CURRENT LIBRARY JOB.  I applied for the first library job because I thought I would like it, I was correct.

My lead recently told me that when they were deciding who to pick for the on call position that got me into my system it was the calm recitation of all the ridiculous duties I had to perform at once for my hospitality job in response to a question about multitasking that made my interview a little more memorable.  At my first library job interview I did an impression of what a patron looks like when they’re confused by a machine to represent when I knew to go over an offer help that made both the interviewers double over laughing, which is not conventional interview wisdom but y’know… So you never know what’s going to make you stand out.


KEEP APPLYING - Being turned down doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want you, it just means that there was someone a little better suited right then.

VOLUNTEER IF YOU CAN - I know your time is valuable, it totally is, but it is really worthwhile to volunteer at a library you want to work at because then the managers and staff get to know you and that helps how they look at your applications when they come in.

TAKE AN ON CALL POSITION IF IT’S OFFERED - On-call spots aren’t regular but you can choose what shifts to take and manage another job with them while building a relationship with the people you want to work with.  Think of it as an extended pre-interview, that you’re getting paid for.  Most libraries only require that you work an on call shift once every amount of time to stay on the schedule so you can manage this with another job if you need to.


Could you pass this dexterity test?

If you interview for a job in my lab - as in many other library conservation labs - you will have to take a test like this to demonstrate your manual dexterity. This is just one example of a dexterity test that we used in the past. The test I took when I was hired into my current job (and that I still use for hiring our student workers) is much simpler than this particular one, but it involved determining paper grain, gluing, sewing, and folding paper.

Some interview questions to ask.

The other day I was doing something mindless and manual-labour-y when I suddenly found myself articulating something I’ve been struggling with for a long time: questions for hiring committees. 

I’ve definitely been guilty of smiling earnestly and saying “Nope!” when asked if I have any questions for my interviewers. It wasn’t that I didn’t have things I wanted to know; it was that I hadn’t figured out how to ask them. 

Now that I’ve finally worded these, I can imagine what an effect they would have on a hiring committee – they are a mirror of commonly-asked questions to would-be librarians. They put you on the spot, and ask for concrete examples of competence. (They’re geared towards academic libraries, as you’ll see, but they’re applicable/transferable to all workplaces.)

Maybe if some of us start asking these things more often, libraries would see their importance – and we as potential hires could escape red-flag situations before getting enmeshed in them.

1: Can you tell me about a recent conflict in the workplace, and how it was handled by all parties, including administration? (Within the limits of confidentiality.)

2: Can you tell me about a recent time where the administration went above and beyond to support a librarian who needed accommodations, whether in professional or personal circumstances?

3: What is your library doing to support entry-level librarians? How many entry-level positions have you created in the past two years (defining entry-level as “no experience”)? What training and mentoring do they receive?

4: Can you tell me about a time where an entry-level or paraprofessional hire was promoted over time to a management position?

5: How does professional development work, and what are the restrictions - if any - that I should know about? Have there ever been any problems with librarians’ requests for PD?

6: What continuing education or skills refreshers do you offer your librarians? Are staff regularly trained in new technologies? 

6b: When was the last major change in technology (e.g. website, catalogue, internal tools)? How did the implementation go? What was learned from that process?

7: What professional organizations will I be a member of, as part of your library? Will I be encouraged to take on committee work? What support and accommodations are there for people who represent the organization on committees?

8: How does the organization protect academic freedom? Are you aware I have a blog/social media presence, where I talk about our industry? Has this sort of thing ever been a conflict or issue? 

9: How does the library participate in professional activities? Does it host conferences, sponsor events, or contribute to advocacy efforts? What are some of the library’s PD achievements in the last few years?