Nailing the Library Interview

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Getting that librarian position can be a daunting process. First, you write your cover letter and resume. You wait. Maybe you wait some more? Then comes a telephone interview, followed by the all important on-site interview. After all of this work, hopefully a job offer is the end result!

This page spotlights:

I created this resource after cleaning out an old file cabinet in my office where I came across interview questions from my first librarian job search in 2002. The questions I saw formed a great resource, so I have taken what was old paper copies of tips and advice and updated it with newer, online content.

Since my first library job, I’ve served on a number of search committees, done my own hiring, and have formulated questions that I like to ask potential librarians as well. I hope you find this resource useful. If you come across FREE articles or sites that might make a good addition, let me know. Best of luck with your job search!

Last update: May 2018

63 thoughts on “Nailing the Library Interview

  1. Pingback: Interviewing Advice « LIS Conversations After Class

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  3. Thanks especially for the “questions to ask”. I usually have a hard time with that one and you had some great ideas.

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  12. I just got a call from my local library about coming in for an interview, its for a clerk position, not as prestigious as a librarian, but I am really excited about the possibility of working with books and in the community!

  13. I just wanted to thank you for running this wonderful blog. Ever since I can remember, my dream has been to work at a library. I am seventeen now and just got my very first job- at the library! Without a doubt the valuable advice you have compiled here helped me a ton during the whole process. Thank you again! 🙂

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  27. Thanks for this! I am currently in the middle of job searching – I’ve had two face to face interviews already which, though they seemed to go really well, didn’t result in offers (so I’m just considering them interview experience!). I’m in that weird experience/education gap, having a fair bit of experience, including branch management, but no MLS (yet) having come to libraries following layoffs in the museum world. So I appreciate any tips and have really enjoyed reading your writing so far (the library job hunt bingo made me smile!), thank you!

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  29. Thank you for your interview questions. I am looking forward on becoming a digital librarian.

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  31. Nailed it! Thanks so much for your help, Joe. The prep (interviewer) questions were especially valuable, as I could mentally situate myself in my at that particular library, even before the interview. Meant to thank you a year ago, after I scored my first library technician position. Please keep up the great work 🙂

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  35. I just thought I would say I’ve been on two library interviews since I read this (one more to go tomorrow) and both times I’ve used your advice. It works wonders! Even if I don’t get the jobs, I still feel good about myself and the interview itself. Thank you!!!

    • Ooh…that’s a tough one. I’ve never been in a position where there was ever much wiggle room (maybe $1000 max–of course, every little bit helps!). Are you able to figure out what salaries might be (e.g., public/state jobs are often included in a databases–usually provided by media outlets)? Also, check out the “Introduction” box on this page–has a couple of good links with more info:

  36. Any suggestions for, if you’re unemployed, creating a library interview presentation that relies on access to subscription-based databases?

    • This is a hard one to answer. Are you demo-ing databases that would be available at most public libraries? If so, I would start there and see what you might want to show in a presentation since you can walk into most public libraries and use their databases. Also, if you’re in the US, a lot of public university libraries allow for on-site access of some sort. If you’re invited to interview, a good library would give you a guest login to prepare. Unfortunately, I’ve only had that happen a couple of times while interviewing–libraries shouldn’t expect that you have online access to everything! One thing you could do is turn the idea of a presentation around: instead of focusing on the particulars of searching a databases, you could focus more on the concepts (topic selection, building a search strategy, evaluating your results, etc…) and then have a hands-on presentation where the participants in the interview do the actual searching and share their results. That’s one thing that’s worked for me in the past. Best of luck!

      • Thank you, Joe; that was most helpful. I have had access to public library databases (e.g., Academic OneFile), but interview day hosts seem perplexed, which surprises me, as I see it listed on their library’s web page in the list of databases. It’s almost as though they’re automatically expecting Academic Search Premier. I think I will ask for guest log-in credentials next time, although I am working very hard to not have too many more interviews. I also like your idea of presenting concepts. Again, thank you very much for the useful tips. Hope you have a nice weekend!

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  40. I am applying for a library specialist position. I have passed the phone interview, and I have the in person interview on Monday. Before the interview, I must take 3 eSkills assessments for MS Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. I am nervous because I haven’t done much with these programs since college 5 years ago. Does anyone have any experience with these assessments, have links to practice tests, or give me a general opinion of how hard they were and how heavily they were weighted in your consideration? Thanks for any help any one can provide!

    • Hope the interview went well! I don’t know about where you live, but here in Wisconsin, we all have access to a database provided to all residents called “Learning Express Library” that has online tutorials and quizzes about Microsoft products.

      • Hi Joe, Have an interview at a local college in 2 weeks. While giving me time/date to come the interviewer told me I would have 20 min before the interview to write a short writing sample. have ant idea what this about?
        Thanks in advance! DB

      • Sorry I didn’t see your question…was out on an extended absence. My apologies! Hope your interview went well! I haven’t ever been through the “short writing sample” thing. Maybe it’s something that all potential employees have to go through to demonstrate communication/writing skills? That’s a new one to me!

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