Library Interview Questions

Commonly Asked Library Interview Questions

More miscellaneous questions…

Some of these I’ve been asked on interviews, and some I have asked to potential librarians/library staff.

Intro/Overview/Work History

  • Tell us about your work experience in libraries.
  • What made you decide to become a librarian?

About You

  • What do you think are the most relevant of your experiences and talents, given our stated needs for the position?
  • Tell us what you feel are your biggest strengths and your biggest weaknesses.
  • What do you think your references would say are your best skills and what might be some “areas for improvement”?
  • Name five adjectives that describe yourself?
  • Describe your experience working with technology: hardware, software, programs, etc.
  • Anything else you think we need to know that we did not ask you?

About the Job

  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Whhy are you interested in this position and tell me a little bit about your work history?
  • What is it about our position that interests you the most?
  • Tell us about your long-term vision for the position.
  • Based on the job description, which of the duties do you feel most comfortable with, and which do you feel may take some time to learn?
  • What do you perceive as the biggest challenges in this position? What are the biggest benefits?
  • Earlier today, you had a short tour of the library. Did anything stand out to you or surprise you?

About Past Jobs/Work Experience

  • Why are you interested in leaving your current position?
  • Describe your work experience in libraries or, more broadly, about any customer service experience you possess.
  • Tell us about something innovative you’ve done in your current job (or coursework, etc.).
  • What’s one thing you really like about your current job and what’s one thing you wish you could change?
  • Are there things about your current job you find difficult or frustrating to do?
  • Describe a workplace experience where you initiated change. Outline the steps or process you took. What was the reaction of co-workers or library users? What did you learn?
  • What are some of your proudest accomplishments as a librarian?
  • What frustrates you the most as a librarian? And how do you go about fixing it/solving it?
  • From your other fields of work, what do feel is most applicable to being a librarian?

Leadership/Management

  • What management style do you prefer working with?
  • Describe your management style.
  • Explain your philosophy for managing staff. This includes communication, autonomy, and professional development. What do you see as the different roles that the professional librarians and support staff play?
  • How do you like being managed? And what expectations do you have of your supervisor?
  • Tell us about your experiences supervising or training staff (or students, etc..).
  • How do you respond when someone says, “But we’ve always done it this way”?
  • What motivates you to succeed and how do you motivate others?
  • What types of budget experience do you have? What size budgets have you managed? How do you advocate for the library in terms of the budget?
  • Have you had experience balancing flat budgets and multiple demands?  How do you manage to be innovative within these constraints?
  • How do you go about marketing the library and advocating for it [in the community, on campus, in the school district]?
  • Describe a workplace conflict/issue you encountered and how did you go about resolving it.
  • Describe a situation where you initiated change. What was it and what steps did you take?
  • Describe a situation where you demonstrated particularly good resourcefulness or flexibility.

Organization

  • Can you describe how you schedule your time on particularly hectic day? Can you give a specific example?
  • This position requires you to prioritize workload, deal with interruptions, and multitask. So how would you go about organizing yourself on a particularly busy day?
  • Describe a situation where you had to meet a very tight deadline. What other things were you juggling? Did you meet the deadline?
  • Describe how you have planned and implemented a project.
  • Some of the job duties associated with this position are very technical and process driven. Can you tell us how you go about learning technology that you are not familiar with?

Collaboration/Teamwork

  • Can you give me an example of how you have worked with a group outside of the library? (e.g., student organization, local businesses, etc…)
  • Tell us about a time you worked successfully with [patrons, students, the community, local organizations] to complete a project or accomplish a goal.
  • Describe an experience you have had working on a team.

Philosophy

  • Describe your philosophy of librarianship.
  • Explain your approach to customer service in [an academic, public, school, etc…] library.
  • What should be the library’s role in educating its [students, community, etc…]?
  • In your opinion, how has the role of the [academic, public, school, etc..] library evolved?
  • How should the library tie into the [university’s, school’s, community’s, etc…] goals, mission, and vision?
  • Tell us about your commitment to diversity and can you give us some practical examples?
  • What non-library organizations or businesses inspire you the most?
  • Can you tell us about your experiences with library assessment? This could be education, collections/resources, event programming, etc. Sketch us an overview of the role of assessment should play in [public, school, academic] libraries.

Judgment

  • Describe a failure you have experienced. What did you learn from it?
  • Can you describe a time when something you did at work didn’t go as planned, and what did you learn or what would you have done differently in hindsight?
  • Describe a time when you did everything correctly and still did not succeed.
  • Describe a time when a reference transaction did not go so well. Thinking back, how would you have rectified the situation.
  • Describe an experience dealing with a difficult patron and how did you go about resolving it?

Library School

  • Tell us more about your coursework in….
  • What’s the most important thing you learned in library school?

Professional Development/Reading

  • How do you stay current with trends and developments in the profession?
  • What do you see as some trends for a library like ours?
  • What are some of the books you’ve read in the past few months?
  • Who are some of your favorite authors?  Favorite books?
  • Name a couple of books you’ve read recently (fiction or non-fiction) and describe them to us as if you were recommending them to a patron.

Scenario Questions

  • A local citizen is objecting to a book in the library’s collection, what would you do?
  • A patron complains because there are no free computers available. You notice that some kids are on Facebook, while others are typing papers and doing research. What do you do?
  • A patron complains that another person in the library “smells.” What do you do?
  • You’re working at a busy reference desk. You have one person standing in front of you needing help researching water pollution in local rivers, you have an instant message chat question, the telephone is ringing, and the printer is jammed. What do you do?

 

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61 thoughts on “Library Interview Questions

  1. I’m always looking for more questions to add. If you have suggestions, please let me know!

  2. How about some sample answers, and/or tips on etiquette? (i.e., if someone asks you [a], you should NEVER say [b]. Or: If someone asks you [c], you should always try to mention everything you know about [d].)

    Just a thought.

  3. Yes sample answers would be great.. perhaps you could open the project and have each person answer some of the questions.

  4. Hello Mr. Library Dude! I just sent someone a link to this awesome website. Thanks for being a resource! VS

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  6. I like the suggestion of posting sample answers to
    some question.

    Multiple choice answers to Scenarios.

  7. Thank you very much for the questions. I have an interview next week and i am very sure these questions have given me an insight on what they are likely to ask me. However i wish you had given the sample answers too.

  8. I’m struggling with the “sample answers” part…I think many of the answers depend on the type of library and the type of librarian position you are applying for. I don’t think I can (or would even want) to have a sample answer for “Why do you want to work here?” — because that has to come from YOU!

    Best advice: use your common sense. Practice the questions with a friend. Or write down some bullet points. Think about what an ideal answer might be for the situation. Think about how to avoid making anything you say sound negative.

    Best of luck!

  9. Hi Joe!
    What a great site! I am so nervous about my interview in two weeks that I have been reading everything I can find.

    This gave me some really great ideas. Thank you very much.

  10. Hi Joe
    Yes the answers have to come from us …
    but a checklist of keypoints to cover would be great
    B

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  12. Thank you! I am finishing my library certification and your site was very helpful before my interview….

  13. Greetings this was very helpful and special thanks to you and all who responded. I agree that the sample answers must come from us but my search for “tough interview questions for librarians” revealed a sample of 50 touch questions with answer guidelines that were also helpful. Check it out it has also helped me to be able to frame a response in my particular case. Good luck to all of you and thanks Mr. Hardenbrook for your wonderful and thoughtful idea.

  14. In the many organizations I have interviewed with each interviewer is seeking a different answer and committee library interviews should be abolished! Consensus can be very superficial and so whatever you believe is the right answer, probably is the correct one. I have heard of women giving the same answer as men and being judged differently. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another in the job market. Ageism, sexism and any ism you can think of is out there when jobs are tight. If you manage to get a job just try to be empathetic when you are in a position to hire someone.

    • I guess the flip side is that the committee interview gives you (the candidate) a chance to see how your potential co-workers interact with each other. I’ve been in situations where the committee & I have had great interactions and I could easily see that the workplace was welcoming and inviting. I’ve also had some experiences that raised a red flag. It also gives you a chance to ask your own questions of several different people all at once.

  15. This post is a fantastic resource and I appreciate your time in putting it together.
    Instead of supplying answers to the questions, I think what would be helpful to job-seekers is knowing what is the motivation behind the questions: what is it the interviewers are trying to discover with these queries. The “behind-the-scenes” aspects of these questions might not be obvious on the surface but this insight could be highly useful to interviewees.
    Thanks!
    Elizabeth

  16. I must say, this a great site, time and effort you are putting in is highly appreciated. I feel that sample answers can help to frame a response specially for those to whom English is a second language

  17. Tks for this post

  18. I have an interview in a wk time and would love if you could email me a copy of the mock questions and answers. This site has prepare me for interview.

    xiaoxin_10@hotmail.com

    Thank You!

  19. I think it is a good call to not provide the answers. The point of providing possible questions is to give an applicant the opportunity to reflect and prepare their own answers. Even though you may not be asked exactly these questions, taking the time to consider them will prepare you for answering a wide variety of potential questions.

  20. How do you answer the following interview question, “Where are you in your reference career?” (I just had this as a first question in a telephone interview, and I didn’t know how to answer it.)

    • Hmm…that question would throw me off too because it seems like the interviewer could have gathered this info from the resume. So I guess I would take it and explain how I first got interested in reference, talk about my experiences, and then end with how I would like to progress in my career, or describe what about reference makes this type of work interesting.

  21. You have helped me a great deal,i will be attending an interview next week. How i wish you coul also give us the anwers.

  22. I would love a copy of the Mock Q &A-interview,wold you mind sending me through my E-mail adress: patriciarono98@yahoo.com

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  28. I’m looking for tips on how to answer some of the questions

    • I have hesitated putting tips on how to answer these because not every job will be the same, so the responses will be different (school librarian v. public librarian v. academic librarian, etc.). Plus, some of these questions are based on your own personal outlook. I know it’s not much: but stick to your gut reaction, and base your answers on common library practices or new ideas that you’ve heard about that you would like to apply.

  29. Any samples of oral examination questions which will be given at the town hall for an entry level library position…I have been on a ton of interviews but I’m nervous about a 15 minute oral examination…. Not sure if they will be library questions or simply work ethic questions… Thank you so much!

    • I haven’t seen any…that’s interesting…I wonder if you’ll get one big question, or several? Guess it depends on the municipality. Best of luck to you!

  30. Great articles, in a word spot on, there are so many candidates out there that do not do there home work around interview questions and once in the interview start to squirm when it get a little tough…

    To be honest what do people expect in this day and age. The company want’s the right experience, the right fit, the right personality and EXTRA chocolate on top, that’s how much prep you have to do if you wan to secure the right job for future progression and of course more salary in the future.

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  32. Is there an appropriate answer to the multi-tasking scenario involving phones, patrons, deans, and occasionally a printer jam? I have been on the receiving end of this one a few times now and I see it popping up more frequently in the interview prep lists – yet no one seems to have an approach to it. I come from a current (long term) work environment where handling these situations seems second nature yet I wonder if I am giving the wrong answer for would be employers.

    • This is just my own opinion: but if you have patrons in front of you at a reference desk, then they come first. If someone is calling, he/she can always leave a message and you can return the call at your earliest convenience. If it’s an in-depth research question–maybe point them in the direction of the catalog or appropriate database, tell them you’ll be back in a minute and then go quickly clear the printer jam? Then you’ll have more time to work through their research question. Also, with printer jams: perhaps a quick call to someone who can be a “back up” who can come out and clear the jam while you’re helping a patron? The deans (who often have more “administrative” type questions) will have to wait–and hopefully they understand that your primary job is to serve the public/students/faculty, etc… Just my two cents!

  33. HI! I like this site and went to an interview last night with some of your sample questions for the trustees (GREAT IDEA)! NOW I need to send a THANK YOU letter. I am looking thought this blog and I don’t see anything about writing a thank you letter, which I know is very important!

    ?

  34. I came across this page whilst looking for sample reference interview questions for a LIS assignment. Have bookmarked the page for when I finish my course and start my job hunt. Thanks so much!

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  40. Just finished reading through all your miscellaneous questions and I found it a fun exercise to plan a response to each.. Thanks for that!

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  42. Hi – Looking for sample questions to ask candidate for association Library Trustees..non profit, volunteer position in NJ. Any ideas? Thanks, Amy NJ

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  44. You have put together a gold mine of valuable information here. I have an interview in a few days, and although it’s not for a librarian position, the information presented here is definitely helping me to prepare. Thank you SO much for putting in the effort to share these resources and to help others be successful during a potentially stressful time!

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  46. Thank you for this great post! I have an interview for a customer service clerk position next week. I was wondering if interviews for this kind of entry-level position are treated differently, e.g. not a panel setting, different type of questions, etc.? Is this role different from or the same as a library clerk?

    • I’m so sorry I didn’t see your question! I have been really bad at monitoring the blog lately. Hope your interview went well. It depends on the library–which I know isn’t a really helpful answer. Support staff positions often are interviewed one-on-one with the direct supervisor, but sometimes there is a small panel. I’ve done both as an interviewer and have been in both situations as the interviewee.

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