Sunday, November 27, 2005

Ms Library Director?

Another small town library manager/director interview. One of the challenges of this type of interview is that you're talking to a lay audience. You have to constantly remind yourself to phrase everything in terms the general public could understand. The panel included four board members and one staff member. The interview lasted almost two hours, and by the end I was starting to get a little raspy. I'm sure there are some questions I've forgotten. They didn't provide me with a list of the questions to refer to, and this was the first time that I've been tape recorded during an interview.
  • What have you found out about our library since you applied for the position?
  • What is your experience working with library boards?
  • How would you respond to a patron that is very angry and complaining about library services?
  • Describe your ideal library.
  • If you're not able to resolve the complaint, what would you do next?
  • What is your experience with bookkeeping and library budgets in particular?
  • Describe your experience with library programming.
  • Talk about your experience with computers and technology.
  • Describe your experience working with volunteers and friends of the library groups.
  • How will you balance the competing demands on your time?
  • Describe your experience working with community organizations such as the Lions Club or Kiwanis Club.
  • What is your knowledge of the state laws concerning libraries?
  • Describe your involvement in professional organizations.
  • Describe your communication style.
  • Do you have experience with grant writing?
  • Describe your experience with fundraising and discuss one success that you are particularly proud of.

When it was my turn to ask questions, I followed up with some old standbys: What is the greatest challenge facing your library in the near future? What is the library's greatest strength? What is your hiring timeline?

The questions were very broad, which gave me the opportunity to cover a lot of ground in my answers. With vague questions, I found it helpful to ask clarifying questions to identify what it is they're getting at (with the communication style question, I asked if they meant communication with the board, with staff, or with the public). If you can't get the panel to narrow it down, try to break the question down and give yourself a framework for answering (for the ideal library question, I pointed out that you could think of a library in terms of the physical space, the collection, the working environment, etc, and addressed each of those in turn).

I'm always curious how people respond to my age in interviews for management positions. I talked up my tech skills and emphasized community outreach, especially to youth, aspects of the job where my relatively young age will hopefully be viewed as a strength.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Teen librarian interview questions

Four person panel. 45 minutes, 10 questions. Entry level teen librarian job at a mid-sized urban public library. Fairly standard library interview fare. The questions are very paraphrased, but you'll get the idea.
  1. Tell us about your experience and your strengths as they relate to the position.
  2. How would you handle a complaint from an adult patron about noisy teenagers?
  3. How would you respond to a woman who complains about inappropriate content in a YA book?
  4. What would you do if you overheard a colleague doing a bad job of answering a reference question?
  5. Talk about your experience working with English language learners, teachers, and school librarians.
  6. If you received $500 to spend on anime books, how would you spend it?
  7. Describe how you would help a high school student who is looking for books on the Civil War for a homework assignment.
  8. Describe the process of planning and promoting a successful library program for teens.
  9. Tell us about a YA book you read recently that you enjoyed. Who would you recommend this book to?
  10. Do you have anything else to add? Any questions for us?

Overheard on the bus

"Yeah, that's the thing about library staff. They're all really nice, but they can be so...frustrating."

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Informational interview with a teen librarian

I met with a teen librarian this week to chat about the nature of the work and get advice on interviewing for a teen librarian position. We talked for about an hour. Lots of good stuff. I went prepared with a few questions, but the librarian was really talkative and answered most of my questions before I had a chance to ask them!

on working with teens:
  • Act on suggestions from teens and the teen advisory group. Teens want to be involved and following through on their suggestions develops trust. Teens are very busy and it's important to reciprocate when they take time to send you an email or come to an advisory group meeting.
  • It can be exhausting, you need to pace yourself.
  • People who are drawn to this kind of work often seem to have an inner teen that fuels their interest and enthusiasm. Find your inner teen!
  • Bigger, one shot programs seem to work best, sustained program series take a lot more planning and it can be challenging to get a good crowd.
  • Teens recognize when the library isn't treating them equally and they stop using the library as a result.
  • Programs scheduled during school hours are very successful. You can book class groups and you have a guaranteed audience.
  • Teens will surprise you. At an event where local high school bands performed in the library, performers brought their families, not just their friends, to watch.
  • It's important to bring passion and vision to your work, and to find a vision that will work for your community.
  • When you visit schools, teens see you as a teacher (a sub!), not a librarian.
  • Look to local organizations for sponsorship. They can help build community support and awareness. A local radio station recently interviewed members of the teen advisory board. That helps build momentum. How something is perceived has a big impact on its success.
  • Don't be afraid to fail. Talk about what isn't working with teen advisors if an event fails.
  • Try programs that don't necessarily seem like "library" programs. Fun programs are important to get them in the door.

on working in libraries:
  • A lot of the work that you do is within the library to build support for teen services among staff.
  • Work with people and follow the procedures that are in place. Policies can be tedious, and it's tempting to sidestep them, but by working through the system you can learn a lot and you build relationships with other staff.
  • Librarians are incredibly generous with sharing ideas, don't start from scratch. Ask for suggestions and people will often send you their entire project plan or press kit.
  • After you've done something, there's a very short opportunity to celebrate. People are always looking to what you have planned next. It's good to have programs on the horizon to keep you focused on your goals for the future.

on interviews:
  • When you get asked really broad questions, they're looking for the steps you take when approaching a project. Talk about the planning process, e.g. consulting with staff.
  • For union job interviews, the questions are usually scored according to specific guidelines, and unless you say it, it doesn't count. Even if you mentioned something while answering a previous question, say it again. Don't be afraid to repeat yourself.

biggest priorities:
  • Collection development.
  • Programming. This is where you spend the most time, but don't do one thing to the exclusion of all else. Rotate duties and try to balance your time.
  • Reading literature written for teens.