Thursday, March 23, 2006

Academic librarian, telephone interview (engineering)

I didn't do this one myself, either. 20 minute screening interview for an engineering librarian job at a large university. (this one made the first cut, too! best of luck!)

General Questions (15 min. max.)
  • What aspects of this position do you find most exciting and why?

  • Describe a situation, preferably in a library, in which you developed a creative solution to a problem. Include in your description any collaboration with others that was involved in implementing the solution.

  • How would you go about building relationships with faculty and students as liaison to your departments?

  • How has your current workplace changed in the time you have worked there? How have you adapted your own job priorities?

Specific Questions (5 min. max.)
  • Your resume mentions extensive public speaking experience; could you tell us about that?

  • Please describe the online reference service you've provided at [your current job at an academic library].

  • Have you been involved in any professional activities yet?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Second interview, children's librarian

Three person panel: branch manager, head of youth services, and another children's librarian. This one was face to face, and the car I drove broke down on the freeway on the way there. We're talking smoke coming out of the engine. A spectacular friend rescued me and I was only 20 minutes late. I phoned ahead to explain my predicament, and they were remarkably kind about the whole thing. (The transportation jinx continued into the next day, but I'll spare you the gory details...)

  • What made you choose librarianship as a career?

  • What do you see as the role of a children's librarian?

  • Name a book, CD, and movie that you've seen/read/watched recently. (They laughed about how this question was kind of silly and mostly for their amusement. They weren't looking for children's material, which is good, because the last movie I watched and the only thing that came to mind was Godfather II.)

  • What three words would you use to describe yourself? (I actually said, "Oh, no, not that question!")

  • A fourth grader comes to you for help with homework. Describe what you would do.

  • A sixth grader asks you for a good book to read. What steps do you take to help?

  • Something about emerging technologies, like: give an example of an emerging technology and how will you use it to serve youth.

  • How do you prepare for storytime?

  • The parent/book challenge question. What do you do?

  • What do you do when a child is disruptive during storytime?

  • How will you build relationships with schools?

  • Describe your experience working with volunteers.

  • Describe your ideal work environment.

  • What are your criteria for weeding?

  • How do you make yourself approachable to children? (I thought that was a great question, and I told them as much.)

  • Describe a time you have received good customer service. Now relate that to library service. (Extra points for the creative question!)

  • What question haven't we asked yet? Now answer that question.

I'm impressed that I remembered all 17 questions...they're definitely not in the order they were asked. They did a really good job of asking follow up questions based on my answers, so this list doesn't really capture the entirety of the interview. Afterwards, I got a tour of the branch. The whole thing lasted just under an hour and a half.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Academic librarian, telephone interview (techie)

A guest interviewee! Since I didn't actually do this one myself, I don't have much to say other than the basics: mid-sized university, quickie 20 minute screening interview, five person panel, techie/systems type librarian job. (oh, and the person was selected for an on campus interview...good luck!)

  • What attracted you to the job, and how does it relate to your professional background, skills, and experiences? How does it relate to your long term career goals?

  • How do your skills and background make you a good fit for the job?

  • What's your preferred programming language?

  • Can you give an example of a professional accomplishment that you are particularly proud of?

  • What new technology have you heard about recently that most excited you?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Like mother, like daughter

From the "hey, lookie!" department: a blog post from my mom!

It's much more fun to imagine my mom reading this aloud. She has a great way of telling stories that feels almost conspiratorial, and somehow she manages to sound completely earnest while making you feel like she just might be pulling your leg.

If you're ever in Portland, I can hook you up for a tour of the Pittock Mansion with her...she can sneak you into all the creepy back passageways. Last time, we made ghost noises and tried to scare the tourists.

Telephone interview, academic librarian

My first academic interview! It's a subject specialist position, and this was a quickie screening interview. Six person panel: four librarians, two faculty.

  • Why did you apply and what attracted you to this university?

  • How would you build relationships with faculty?

  • What [subject] resources are you familiar with?

  • What do you do to help facilitate student success?

  • What is your greatest professional accomplishment?

The questions were broad to the point of being vague. I suppose that was on purpose, and the direction you take the question could say as much as your answer. I should have gotten all reference interview-y on them and asked more clarifying questions to figure out what they meant.

It's definitely tricky to switch gears from public library to academic interviews. I'm kind of on autopilot with the public library stuff at this point, but I had to come up with mostly new material for this one. The result being, I think I rambled a bit more than usual.

The bit where I got to ask questions was really helpful. I asked my standard, "What is the greatest challenge you will face in the next five years?" They talked a lot about liaison to departments and building relationships with faculty, as well as self assessment. I liked the emphasis on self assessment, that tells me they're looking seriously at ways to become better. It was fascinating to hear the different perspectives from librarians versus faculty. The faculty seemed more concerned with concrete user issues, like subscriptions to online journals.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Good advice

Just got an email from one of the people I use as a reference:

Make sure you don't compromise. You have a clear idea of what you want, so make sure that you don't accept a place just because they make the first (or highest) offer. Which library is best suited for you? What age group do you prefer working with? How can you be an advocate for the institution? Will they utilize your knowledge and skills well? Find or wait for the one that suits you best.

Bonus points for nailing the key issues 'cause she's not even a librarian.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

No, it's an ALA election!

I got the reminder postcard today, but I still haven't received my email ballot. Polls open today, and here are the folks that are running for Council who I have met real, live, and face to face and can personally give them the thumbs up:

Samantha Schmehl Hines
Rochelle Hartman
Michael Golrick

Here's a name that came up on the nexgen-l list:

Ria Newhouse

There are also some NMRTers (New Members Round Table) on the ballot :

[UPDATE] Tiffani Conner
Michelle Baildon
Aaron Dobbs
Amy Ferguson

And finally, somebody I know nothing about, but her name jumped out because in a long list of director this and head of that, she's the only administrative assistant:

Dorothy Morgan

And remember that by exercising the power to vote, you too can become faster than a speeding bullet and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. :)

Monday, March 06, 2006

Teen librarian, second interview

Scheduling nightmares aside, this was actually quite a nice interview. It's the second interview for the position, and I think that's reflected in the kind of questions they asked (more scenarios and hypotheticals). Three person panel, one of whom was a teen volunteer. 45 minute phone call.
  • Give an impromptu book talk. It can be anything, aimed at any teen.

  • What makes a summer reading program successful?

  • Teens come to the library with lots of energy after school. We've tried having a homework area, what other suggestions do you have for after school activities?

  • Our teen collection consists of books and DVDs. You have $8500 to spend annually, what materials, sources, and criteria would you use to select materials?

  • (the obligatory disruptive teens question...) Some teens are making noise and misbehaving in the library, how do you handle the situation?

  • Hypothetical situation: You have some teen volunteers who come in for a two hour shift once a week. You don't really have enough for them to do, and one volunteer is showing up for all the shifts (in addition to his/her assigned shift). What do you do?

  • Describe a situation where you have worked in a team. Do you prefer working in teams or independently?

  • Hypothetical situation: A teen comes in and asks for help finding information on the "great dismal swamp." You've checked the catalog and didn't find anything. What do you do?

  • A parent and teen come up to you with a question. The parent wants the teen to read more "classics," while the teen isn't really interested in reading, even though she has no difficulty reading at that level.

The thing with scenario questions is, I think it's important to figure out what they're really asking. When I heard the "great dismal swamp" question, I realized, oh, this is the reference interview question. The next one with the parent and the classics was obviously the reader's advisory question. Don't get hung up on the particulars of the scenario.

I had a book in mind for the book talk before the interview even started. I made sure it was a book I really liked, and something that I'd read recently so it would be fresh in my mind.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

On the eve of ALA elections...

I feel like I should respond to some of the discussion floating around in response to Meredith's What could ALA do? post. I'd love to be able to point to all of the reasons you should join ALA, what it can do for you, and why it's worth your time and money. Truth is, I don't have a very good answer. So, instead of trying to convince you that you should join, I'd rather give the folks on Council an earful and work on improving ALA so there are reasons why you should join. I might end up just as fed up as everyone else, but I figure I'll give it a go and bang my head against the wall a few times before trying something else.

So, if I've got your email address, I've probably bugged you in the last day or so and asked you to vote for me. (and Sam!) I've also been contacting representatives from ALA student chapters. Here's my attempt at blatant self-promotion (feel free to cut, paste, and forward willy-nilly):

Voting for ALA elections begins on March 15, and I wanted to remind you about my candidacy for ALA Council Member-at-Large. My name is Heidi Dolamore, and I'm an MLIS candidate at the University of British Columbia. I'm also writing on behalf of Samantha Schmehl Hines, another candidate for Council. Sam got her MLIS from Illinois in 2003 and is the social sciences and outreach librarian at the University of Montana. We both began our careers in libraries as paraprofessionals, and we're both from the west coast, an area that is currently underrepresented on Council.

As a soon-to-be-graduated and recent graduate of MLIS programs, we are eager to see the interests of students and recent grads represented in ALA. Students make up a significant portion of ALA personal members (fifteen percent!) and we have a lot to contribute to the profession.

Feel free to contact us with any questions you have about why we're running or to let us know what issues you'd like to see Council address. We both keep blogs (Sam's is at and mine is if you'd like to find out a little more about us.

If you're an ALA member, you should receive an email ballot between March 15 and March 17, 2006. If you're not an ALA member, you can still help by passing our names along to other library people. Make your voice heard!

What do I hope to accomplish? Though I'm tempted to just say ditto, there's an awful lot on Meredith's list. I'm a little reluctant to make a list of things I'd like to accomplish as a Councilor. I mean, things come up that nobody expected, right? I don't want to be so focused on a predetermined agenda that I'm ill-equipped to respond to new issues as they arise. And for a little while, at least, I'd rather do a lot of listening. I want to get a better sense of how things work on Council and draw attention to issues that concern me within the context of the conversations that are already happening on Council, rather than try to hijack conversation from the get-go. (I'm speaking in theoretical terms here, we'll see how long I'm able to keep my mouth shut...)

Still, you gotta give props to Meredith for being specific. When I ask people what they'd like from ALA, the usual answer is, "I dunno." Here's what I think about when I imagine a better ALA:

  • Simplifed. To me, this means make it easier to understand how the whole darn organization works. A better website is a BIG part of this, and so is mentoring new members.

  • Cheaper. Maybe this means staggered dues levels, maybe it means a discount rate for virtual members and more free online professional development opportunities. Maybe it means taking a close look at operations and identifying ways ALA can save money, or coming up with new and improved ways to generate revenue. I might even be satisfied if I just had a better understanding of where my dues money goes and how much different parts of the organization cost to operate.

  • Personalized. I've got a vague sense that people have more nice things to say about their state organizations than the big national association. Maybe this is because it's easier to get involved at the state level, so there's more of a personal connection. So let's make ALA less of a faceless behemoth and more of a community.

  • More value for individuals. This really goes back to the first two points...make it easier for new members to figure out how to get something worthwhile out of ALA, and give everybody more cheap/free opportunities to build communities and social networks and engage in professional development.

So there you have it. These are the thoughts that will be in my head while I'm in Council meetings. Now go vote.