On Being a Librarian

Trends, Achievements, and Perspectives

Interview Season

It’s Interview Season

Yes it is.  My contract at Thompson Rivers University has ended. Let the interviews begin.

There are several job postings for positions that interest me not only because of the scope of work but also because they align with my professional goals.

What am I to do?

I have experienced great job and work culture situations moving from contract to contract at a few upper education institutions across two provinces in recent years.  Each of these academic libraries was in varying stages of organizational transformation as a consequence of tougher financial constraints, destabilized work force, or challenging technological developments requiring strategic considerations.  My roles increased in responsibility and scope – digital collection assessment, information literacy library instruction program development and maintenance, virtual and face-to-face advanced reference service, collection development, and mobile services development.

With this ongoing experience, I aim to reach my goal of a permanent full-time position in a role where I can continue to develop my professional capabilities and proficiencies, conduct research and publish articles while advancing the mandate of that library and institution, contribute to student learning outcomes, and collaborate with colleagues and faculty on programs and projects.

To reach this goal, I have to take risks, apply to many job postings, be willing to relocate, and maintain a high level of optimism, which can, in turn, increase stress levels confounding my ability to continue toward this goal.  Submitting well-designed curriculum vitae it to a job posting is not enough.  To be noticed and valued as a contributor to librarianship, actively participating in your own promotion is important.  Think about branding, writing a professional blog, and developing an area of expertise.


Preparing for interviews is taxing and challenging.   I’ve developed some strategies that have proven useful and successful. A few years ago, a university librarian encouraged me to develop an area of expertise with at least two other areas of intermediate skills.  Another librarian recommended that I develop a brand, a way of identifying who I am expressed visually. With that in mind, I created an e-portfolio and this blog extended outward to my own business cards, notes, letterhead, stickers, and envelopes.  A total branded package. What have I packaged?  I have packaged my areas of expertise.


I’ve spent much energy investing in workshops, courses, and other professional development activities to become an expert in designing and delivering information literacy programs incorporating appropriate technologies to various user groups, developing strategies to deliver library service digitally for the mobile user, and provide expert reference service in person and virtually. I have developed a second area of expertise – reference service.  I review RUSA’s guidelines and continue developing competencies and new skills. This is what I have packaged and continue to develop.

Ask for Help

Preparing for an interview requires organization and strategies. Look for support and resources within the professional organization to which you belong.  Try ALA’s New Members Round Table Academic Interview Process, and a recent article  Resume Review Service article by Nanako Kodaira.

Talk to your referees about areas they can speak about in the context of his/her experience when working with you.  Many referees are great resources in your efforts to build a professional network.  For example, if you are going to be interviewed for a specific position, ask your referee if s/he can introduce you to a librarian working in that position.  Contact that person and interview him/her for background information on roles and responsibilities he/her have and challenges s/he are facing.  If you know any librarians who have been on selection committees, ask them for the top 5 questions they like to ask of candidates.

I have collected 32 such questions, answers to which I practice in preparation for an interview.  Some of the questions are asking for the same information but are framed differently.

  1.  Tell us about a time when you showed initiative and went above and beyond your normal responsibilities.
  2.  How did you prepare for this interview?
  3.  Describe a situation where you changed a particular procedure or practice. What was it and what steps did you take?
  4.  How do you stay current with trends and developments in the profession?
  5.  The Library’s vision for its new website may differ from the vision of Marketing and other stakeholders on campus.  How will you balance the competing needs and visions invested in this project, and achieve the necessary buy-in across administrations and other stakeholders?
  6.  Tell us about a time when you had to work through some workplace negativity or conflict to accomplish a task.
  7.  Tell us about a time when you had to deal with a patron/client service issue.
  8.  Describe a classroom or teaching situation which you felt went well;  what made it successful, and what did you learn from the experience.
  9.  On the basis of the information you have received about this job so far, what do you see as the major challenges of this position?  How will you meet those challenges?
  10.  What skills/aptitudes do you think are most critical to this position?
  11.  What do you see as the primary challenges of this position, and what strategies would you apply to overcome these challenges?
  12.  Give us an example of a project that you managed from start to finish.  What challenges did you face?  What project management strategies did you apply?  What were the outcomes?
  13.  Drawing from past experience, how are you uniquely qualified for this position?
  14.  What future trends do you see for academic libraries, and how do you personally keep abreast of these changes?
  15.  How do you identify which goals are appropriate for you to achieve in your job, and once identified, how do you go about achieving these goals?
  16.  How can an academic library with a restricted budget best meet the research needs of faculty and graduate students?
  17.  Tell us about your research interests and any work that you have done in those areas to date.
  18.  What are your contributions to library profession?
  19.  What is your understanding of blended reference?
  20.  What is your idea of the role of reference librarian?
  21.  Refresh us as to why your interest in this position at this point in your career and identify for us the relevant experience and background that you would bring to it.
  22.  What do you see as your strengths and weaknesses for this position?
  23.  How do you describe your sense of humor?
  24. Tell us about a project that you managed.  What were the successes? The frustrations? What would you do differently?
  25.  What do you enjoy most about working the reference desk and best about working a reference desk?  Why How would you respond to a complaint from a student that someone was looking at pornography online in the Library?
  26.  How do you handle stress?  How do you define stress?
  27.  Describe a recent risk that you took.  Why did you take it?  What did you learn from it?  Why did you consider it to be a risk?
  28.  What support will you need from your supervisor? And from colleagues?
  29.  Can you give an instance when you worked as part of a team, group or committee?  Please include details of the group’s purpose, structure, and outcome, describe your role in it, and tell us how effective the team was.  What qualities do you have which make you an effective group/team member?
  30.  Please briefly describe a conflict you have had in the workplace.  How did you help to resolve it?  What would you do differently to resolve the conflict given hindsight?
  31.  How would you respond to a complaint from a faculty member?
  32.  Describe your participation in an academic or professional organization to which you belong.   Why did you choose this particular organization?  What is/was your role and your contribution?

Support from family

My son and daughter are great supporters of my efforts to be employed in a permanent, full-time position at a large academic library.  They text message me encouraging words reminding me to be calm, authentic, talk slowly, and breathe.

Whether I get the position or not, I learn much about the interview process and can refine my strategies.

Here is the list of questions on Issu.


View more documents from Julie Anne Kent on SlideShare.

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This entry was posted on 04/22/2012 by in Professional Development and tagged , .
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