We need more professionals with the bigger picture and a vision for the future

melanie lightbody
Mel Lightbody has been working in libraries for over 30 years and been a director for over 15. She has worked as a professional librarian in Washington, Oregon and now California. She loves encouraging and mentoring others in the profession.
Melanie Lightbody is a public librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring or search committee. She hires the following types of LIS professionals:

children’s and branch managers so far.

She works at a library in a rural area in the Western US.

Approximately how many people applied for the last librarian (or other professional level) job at your workplace?

√ 25 or fewer

Approximately what percentage of those would you say were hirable?

√ Other: 6 to 10 were hirable

And how would you define “hirable”?

Someone who has the mix of experience and skills to fit the position we’re hiring for.

How are applications evaluated, and by whom?

We only see applicants who score over 70 on the initial screening.This initial screening is done by the County’s HR department. Then the hiring team reviews the applications to decide who to interview.

What is the most common reason for disqualifying an applicant without an interview?

At the HR level, not meeting the minimum qualifications as identified in the official position description. These need to be explicit on the job application.

At our level, not showing any specific interest in the position we’re offering will make us less likely to interview them. Also, our experience with candidates from out of the geographic area has not been great so we may forgo interviewing them unless they show specific interest and experience.

Do you (or does your library) give candidates feedback about applications or interview performance?

√ Other: No, but I’d love to if they asked me

What is the most important thing for a job hunter to do in order to improve his/her/their hirability?

Know the job description, tailor your application to it as explicitly as possible. Getting through HR pre-screening may a job hunter’s biggest hurdle.

I want to hire someone who is

Open

How many staff members are at your library/organization?

√ 10-50

How many permanent, full time librarian (or other professional level) jobs has your workplace posted in the last year?

√ 2

How many permanent, full time para-professional (or other non-professional level) jobs has your workplace posted in the last year?

√ 3-4

Can you tell us how the number of permanent, full-time librarian positions at your workplace has changed over the past decade?

√ Other: there were less but we’ve added two more the last two years.

Have any full-time librarian positions been replaced with part-time or hourly workers over the past decade?

√ Yes

Have any full-time librarian positions been replaced with para-professional workers over the past decade?

√ Yes

Does your workplace require experience for entry-level professional positions? If so, is it an official requirement or just what happens in practice?

workplace requires two years of experience

Is librarianship a dying profession?

√ I don’t know

Why or why not?

We need more professionals with the bigger picture and a vision for the future. It is not about the realities of busy libraries, it is about the perception that libraries are no longer needed because middle-class and up often don’t think they do need them and perhaps they don’t.

Do you have any other comments, for job hunters or about the survey?

Show specific interest in the job you are applying for. Stay away from generic cover letters, resumes and applications.

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