Hiring Librarians: An Inside Look at an HLS Collab

Back in 2013, Hack Library School made connections with the creator of  Hiring Librarians, Emily Weak, in hopes of bringing even more insider information to the readers of both sites. As a website dedicated to helping library and information science professionals learn the ins and outs of landing jobs at libraries, we recently reconnected with Emily as she breathes new life into the site.

What made you want to start Hiring Librarians?

After library school I realized that there are a lot of differences between libraries and corporate hiring practices, and also between library types. I was job hunting and felt really confused by what I was supposed to do. Some systems wanted cover letters, others didn’t, some had written tests you had to take before you could apply, I had this suit my mom had bought me but sometimes it seemed overly formal…et cetera. And everyone had advice! Conflicting advice! I wanted more information, and I wanted it to be authoritative. I was interested in both informal research and blogging (at that point we were not at the height of the library blogging movement, but we weren’t too far past it). So, I developed a survey and thought I could blog the responses. Initially I sent it around to my own contacts and friends’ contacts. That first month I got about 7 replies. Then I started distributing it via listservs and in that second month all of a sudden, I had about 150 responses to post

You ran Hiring Librarians from 2012-2016, and recently started it up again. What was the motivation for bringing it back?

Like a lot of people, COVID prompted some personal reassessment. I had been working a full time job at a public library, doing programming and engagement, and I realized I was pretty burned out. We moved across the country, from California to Georgia, and I decided to try to put together a more flexible career that was centered around consulting. I thought Hiring Librarians might be a good use of free time, enabling me to engage in conversations with a broader range of library folks.

What are some recent trends you’ve noticed recently when it comes to library hiring practices?

It seems like hiring organizations are getting better about treating candidates as people. Libraries have been striving for diversity to little effect for a while now, but the increasing ubiquity and thoughtfulness of DEI initiatives in hiring seems hopeful. There are more discussions about traditional hiring practices, like such as the customary meal out with interviewees in academia, and how those may affect different populations, for example, neurodiverse candidates. Or here’s another example of change: Ten years ago, the idea of providing interview questions in advance never once crossed my path, but today that is increasingly standard for interviews. I’m also really encouraged by the unionizing activity that’s happening.

Hiring Librarians is a great resource for those library and information professionals looking for additional information on what to expect when going through the hiring process. One part of the site that is particularly impressive is the Interview Questions Repository, which provides real answers from candidates who have gone through interviews. Any current or future librarian will absolutely find great takeaways from this incredible set of data. Be sure to check the site for future collaborations between Hiring Librarians and HLS!

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