First Shot at Full-Time Librarianship
April 4, 2008 3:08 PM   Subscribe

Attention Librarians (preferably of the public variety): PLEASE help me not blow my best shot at my first full-time Adult Services gig! Long explanation inside, sorry...

I love my current job as a reference librarian at a small public library (my first job out of library skool, been there two years now). Trouble is, it's only half time, and the job market in this town is super-tight. After searching for supplementary work elsewhere in vain, I reluctantly began to apply for full-time positions that would require me to relocate.

So I recently got a phone interview for a great opportunity in a much less-saturated job market few states over. The phone interview went swell, from my perspective, and I got a call back the next day for a second interview. They're paying my way to have me out, putting me up in a room, etc. The position sounds great-- it's right up my alley, I'm experienced in the right ways, pay is good and benefits are great, and the system, its director, and my prospective boss seem awesome. It's also much closer to my family. In short, I'd love to take the job.

I really want to shine in this face-to-face interview. I know the second interview tends to be more about demonstrating how you'd fit in with your prospective colleagues (right?), but as a half-timer I'm a little intimidated. While I'm confident in my abilities and my experience as far as they go right now, I want to show that I'm ready and able to hit the ground running full-time.

Also-- in addition to launching a full-time career, I'd also be moving into a differently-structured system. Current library system: about 25 small branches, with one big main library and a separate administrative entity. My branch is funded almost completely by our small town, is autonomously run by our branch's director, and our focus is on just the community our branch serves. Prospective library system: much smaller-- only three branches of roughly equal size, county funded, all three branch managers under the direct control of the system director, and the focus is on MLS librarians from each branch forming inter-library committees to get most of the system stuff done.

While I like the prospect of the different setup, I want to make sure I'm up to par on best practices, preparatory readings, etc. I do all the typical stuff now: read the literature, go to professional development workshops, go to conferences, etc.; I guess I just want to stand the best chance against the other two candidates, about whom I know nothing.

Finally, I'm not worried about the collegiality piece during the interview; I consistently get praise from employers that I'm engaging, respectful, and diplomatic in my relations at work. I'm really looking for the rest of the puzzle, some "read this!" or "here's what helped me!" tidbits.

So career public librarians: what can you tell me? I have about a week to put my best foot forward, so thanks for any advice in advance!
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If you've only been out of school a couple years, and they're this interested in you (a public library offering to pay you to come out and interview?) they probably expect you to play up your youth. Unless you get a strongly traditionalist vibe right away, don't be afraid to mention how "plugged-in" (or whatever) you are. Odds are they want someone who, in addition to doing the normal parts of the job, will be volunteering to take on lots of extra projects that the older librarians don't want to spend time doing.
posted by aswego at 3:18 PM on April 4, 2008

You might be over-thinking this. Maybe they're just way more organized about hiring than I've ever been (caveat: this is possible, even likely; indeed, I haven't been on the other side of the table that many times yet), but I always expect some differences between the way things are done in other library systems and a little adjustment when new hires come in. A lot of times, it brings some much-needed perspective (e.g. "hey, your committee system is really slow and only actually accomplishes about one thing a year. Have you thought about [alternative x], which we employed successfully at [prior employer y] under [circumstance z]?" Caveat: this can also be profoundly fucking annoying, so pick your spots and be sure you're right).

Aswego, public libraries that can afford it frequently do this kind of thing if they're doing a wider-range candidate search. Well, frequently might be overstating it, and there aren't that many public libraries that can afford it, but I don't think it means much one way or the other about anonymous's qualifications; it probably says more about the stability and quantity of the library's funding (and possibly the director's priorities). I've been flown out for interviews a couple times in my career and I only actually got one of the jobs. More important is the fact that anon got invited for a second interview.

Back to the question, the content of the second interview depends a bit on the content of the phone interview. Especially in a wide-net kind of candidate search (i.e. the kind where they'll be flying in people from a few states over), weeding out the obvious duds with a phone interview is essential. This does not necessarily mean the in-person interview won't cover some of the same ground as the phone interview. Consider who you spoke to during the phone interview. Was it everyone who will really be considering your candidacy? Also consider the length and depth of the phone interview. Was it 15 minutes or 75? Did they ask your greatest strength and weakness? Etc., etc., etc. If not, be prepared for more interview-type questions. FWIW, I've never heard of flying in a candidate and putting them up in a room just to see how their personality meshes.

If you're reading the literature and going to workshops and conferences, you're off to a really good start; you'd probably be surprised how many librarians don't have opportunities to do a lot of that stuff (and how many who do don't use them). I'm afraid I don't have a specific recommendation for you; for that matter, I'd be suspicious of anyone who did. Good luck!

My email's in my profile if you have any other questions I might be able to help with. I promise I won't tell anyone who you are.
posted by willpie at 4:27 PM on April 4, 2008

Do your homework and have some good questions in mind (even written) about what exciting things you might get to be involved with if you got the job. Don't ask questions about benefits or time off in the interview. See as much as you can on their public site and catalog and ask them about stuff they're doing and mention their projects in some answers. Keep customer service and the patron central to your answers. Make mention of how some of your answers might change in the future as technology progresses. Relax and make some eye contact, and be yourself!
posted by ulotrichous at 6:11 PM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's hard to know without seeing the job listing, and even then, it's hard to know. Libraries are famous for having an exact idea of what they want.

Your strength is customer service. Be sure to think about who patronizes the library you want to work in, and how you as a service-oriented librarian are prepared to deal with them. Are there many non-traditional library users? Be sure to ask them who their users are, and tell them how you want to serve them.

When you get to the interview, they'll be interested in how much you know about their system and their community. The more you know about them, the more enthusiastic you will seem.

Good luck. I'm a reference librarian, too. It's important for them to know you can get along with peers and with clients.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:36 PM on April 4, 2008

just be positive, natural and polite. if you have got this far, just show enthusiasm and smile a bit. also, make it clear what you want from the position. you have to clarify what you want to get out of it. vocalising this with them will demonstrate that you have properly and maturally reflected on what is being offered.
posted by edtut at 9:03 PM on April 4, 2008

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