Thursday, May 05, 2005

An academic library job interview, part 2

On Wednesday, April 13, and Thursday, April 14, I had my first "real" academic library job interview. I flew out of Chicago Wednesday early in the afternoon, transferred to another plane in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and then landed in Fargo, ND, late that afternoon.

The chair of the search committee picked me up at the airport. That evening, I had dinner with her and the director of the library. After dinner, the chair dropped me off at the hotel. With respect to practical matters, the college covered the cost of both the airfare and hotel accommodations.

The next day was packed. Here was the formal schedule:

9:00-9:45 Meeting with library director
9:45-10:15 Coffee with the library staff
10:30-11:15 Meeting with the college's Academic Dean
11:15-11:30 Meeting with the reference manager
11:30-12:00 Tour of library
12:00-1:15 Lunch with Search Committee (and students)
1:30-2:45 Teaching demonstration and meeting with Library Faculty
3:00-3:45 Meeting with Search Committee

This schedule may appear a bit intimidating, but the day flew by. I thought I would be exhausted by 3:45pm, but I was energized at the end of the interview.

The library faculty and staff were great. They made me feel welcomed and I felt that they treated me like an "equal." During coffee, for example, we had fun sharing the titles of books we had recently read. These were not people who were trying to trick or stump their candidates; I could tell that they genuinely wanted us to succeed. Indeed, the search committee was particularly interested in finding a good fit for the interviewee and the library. Important to them was finding a candidate who strongly supported information literacy programming and was sympathic with the mission of a liberal arts college (in this case, with a Lutheran liberal arts college).

This all very much relates to an article in Library Journal that was discussed on the collib-l listserv today. In responses to this article, many librarians on the listserv who had served on search committees commented that they sometimes receive 20-100 applications for job openings at their libraries. These applications, they said, are frequently cookie-cutter. That is, many of the applications they receive are not tailored for the particular job or institution.

However, such tailoring is important. Job applicants should remember that libraries spend considerable resources in conducting searches and hiring librarians. They want to hire people who are interested in their particular libraries, not just because they have a job opening. Thus, applications that mention an interest in the library or explain how the applicant's experience or skills relate directly to the job description are important. Yes, experience and education are important, but after all, if you were going to invite people for an interview, you would want to make sure the applicants are interested in working at your library, right? That the person you ultimately hire will want to stay after being hired, happily support the library's causes/mission, and make valuable contributions to the library and the greater institution?

Back to interviewing: In preparing for an interview, it is not only important to prepare for questions you might be asked, but it is also important to prepare questions you want to ask the interviewers (i.e., search committee, etc.) I found this to be a helpful article:

Biggs, D.R., et. al., Proactive interviewing [strategies for the assertive job hunt]. College & Research Libraries News no. 1 (January 1987) p. 13-17.

PS: I got the job! Starting August 15, I'll be one of Concordia College's instruction/reference librarians. I can't wait to start!

2 comments:

Barbara said...

YAY!!!!

Concordia is lucky to have you. And you'll love being there. You'll have some great colleagues to work with.

Barbara

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