10 Tips for Getting a Library Job

When I began drafting ideas for this month’s blog, I was mostly thinking about library assessments and interviews. I knew I wanted to write about my experience, but I was unsure how because I hadn’t *yet* been offered the job that I was busy applying for. However, in this whirlwind of a past two weeks, I accepted and started my first librarian job as a Teen Librarian. And to be fair to myself and lend more credibility to this information, I have been hired for jobs (some unpaid) in federal, university, and public libraries at this point. To keep this as brief and useful as possible, I’m sticking to ten tips to help you get that library job.

  1. Get involved: Experience is one of the most crucial part of getting a library job. It’s important to remember that it doesn’t have to be a library. Think about the skills that librarians need and find ways to train in each. Check out the Nine Competencies of Programming Librarians if you’re thinking public library or school library. For all other specializations, check out this list of specialized core competencies from the American Library Association. It doesn’t have to be formal experience. If you’re wanting a job that works with data, look for datasets to go through, make your visualizations, and share them on your LinkedIn or Twitter. If you want to do library programs with crafts, start crafting and sharing. Anything you can do that you believe you can confidently relate back in a job interview: do it.
  2. Know your job-searching area. Learn more about the ones you like. Network inside the organizations if you can. You can tie this into tip #1 by volunteering or interning at the organization you’d like to work. Don’t be shy about wanting to work there full-time. Actively read position postings, ask questions from peers or friends of friends, and always be thinking of the skills and experience that you have that apply. If you’re in a master’s program, try to relate your assignments to these organizations. For example, if you need to interview a librarian, try to interview someone who works at a place you’d like to work. Hopefully they can advise you on their organization and hiring practices, too.
  3. Put everything on your application. When I was preparing my application, I printed out the position description and listed all my years of experiences for each of the knowledge and skills required in my application. It’s going to take you a lot of time, but interviewers will appreciate the effort you took to demonstrate just how qualified you are. This will also help your confidence!
  4. Attach a cover letter and resume. Always. Writing these is a great exercise for reflecting on past experiences and preparing you for your interview. Plus, if no one else submitted one and you did, the interviewers will see that.  
  5. Have peers proofread application materials. This may feel very cringe-y, but it’s worth it; even if you’re just submitting to an online resume and cover letter review website.
  6. Do a mock interview. Again, this may feel very uncomfortable. I was lucky to have mentors who offered to do this with me, and it really made a difference. By chance, they even asked me questions that I did get in my interview. It takes about twenty minutes, but it may be the difference between having a good interview or not.
  7. Answer the questions on the assessment as if the graders have not seen your application materials. Some library jobs have merit-based hiring processes and will have an assessment. It’s important to answer each question as if each is completely separate from all other application materials. Answer the questions fully — every single part. Use examples. Double-check your answers.
  8. Practice in front of an audience. Once you’ve passed the assessment, you will likely need to prepare a performance or a presentation for your interview. Practice, practice, practice. Practice on your own and with an audience. It will make a difference.
  9. Answer interview questions as if the panel hasn’t seen your application package. Even if you are currently working for the organization, you need to clearly outline why you are the best candidate and fully answer the questions. It’s up to you to mention every bit of relevant experience. Do your best to give an example for each question.
  10. Be prepared with questions and a big project idea. Take a moment at the end of the interview to ask when you will hear back and what success looks like a year from now in this position. Additionally, always be prepared with an impactful, unique program idea. These are good for just in case!

I have loved volunteering or working in libraries for about nine and a half years now. I am so indescribably thankful for everyone in my corner who has helped me get here today. “Thank you” will never quite feel like enough to those who mentored me currently and over the years. Getting a library job can often take a very long time with many interviews and assessments in between, but, if it’s what you love, the wait is worth it. I hope these tips help you get your library job, too. If you’d like some more insights, check out the Hiring Librarians archive.

Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels

Courtney Evans is graduating this semester with her M.S.I. from Florida State University with an interest in public library and academic library partnerships, information literacy, and open science. She recently accepted a position as a Teen Librarian in Gainesville, FL. You can connect with her on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/courtney-evans-2018/) and on Twitter (@cevans_lib).

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