Library interviews have been the topic of choice among many of my collegues lately. I have had a few friends go on very complex interviews in the last few weeks. My fellow Awful Library Books and speaking partner, Holly, was recently tasked with hiring a new part-time librarian. Everyone from experienced librarians and newbies have asked me for "inside" secrets. I do have general advice but I can hardly speak to every situation. The most I can say is preparation is key. Don't you love vague advice?
One of the more fascinating things I have experienced on the interviewer side of the table is the shear number of people who don't do basic preparation. Really. To me, preparation isn't just what you say to the library in question, it is what do you KNOW about that particular library. Remember we are all in the research business, so do some basic prep work before you even send them a resume. Because I am a fan of checklists, I suggest everyone create a basic library research checklist and at a minimum, you should be aware of the following:
When looking at a library's website don't click wildly around. Look closely at the front page. What is the feeling you get when you look at the home page? How is the navigation set up? Contact information readily available? Note design features, dead links, last updates. Even if you are hiring into the adult section, check out the kids and vice versa. Make a list of services and programs.
In many ways, this is the front door of the digital library. Do they spout rules and notices or is there actual content? Are web pages updated on a regular basis? Are they careless? Are they about form over substance? Does anything raise any red flags about management and staffing?
Library Social Media
Make sure you check all the big names like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest. Is the content boring? Do they even have a presence? Like the web page, social media should give you a sense of library personality. Are they fun? Do they communicate with the public or provide feedback?
In Person Visit (if possible)
Visit the library and spy on the reference desk. Are staff friendly or rude? Does staff grumble in view of the public? Do patrons look happy?
General Google/News search (search the community as well as the library itself)
Of course we are all looking out for trouble. You need to be aware of potential minefields of politics and community issues.
Staff or Board Members
This is what I call the gossip factor. Call on all on your network contacts and ask if anyone knows anything about library X. Use friends of friends, relatives or anyone even remotely connected. I have found that there is usually less than 6 degrees of separation in library work. Ultimately, this is almost always one of the best tools for getting the lay of the land and the best reason why networking is critical.
Go make yourself an interview checklist and use your research skills to their fullest!
I have also written about interviewing in a previous post: Library Interviewing Ideas and Holly has also written about this. Click here to read her tips.