Librarian Interview Questions
Librarians work in a variety of settings, including public libraries, schools, universities, museums, and corporations. They are responsible for the maintenance and circulation of library materials as well as acquisitions and cataloging.
These materials include printed information as well as media resources in both physical and digital formats. Librarians are also responsible for researching and distilling information for topics requested by library patrons. Librarians build and maintain databases to provide quick and easy access to information.
A librarian’s responsibilities include:
- Maintaining, tracking, and circulating library materials
- Cataloguing existing materials and new acquisitions
- Building and maintaining databases and informing library patrons on their use
- Researching requested topics and synthesising information
- Training other library staff
- Arranging interlibrary loans of materials
- Organizing events and public engagement through the library
- Organizing and maintaining displays of materials
A librarian’s skills should include:
- Good oral- and written-communication skills
- Good organizational and research skills
- Ability to teach and manage a staff
- Appropriate IT skills in building and maintaining information databases
- Skill in building administrative systems
- Ability to delegate tasks on a daily basis as materials flow in and out of the library
Most libraries require a bachelor's degree in any field as well as a master’s degree in Library Science (MLS) from an institution accredited by the American Library Association. When applying to school libraries, a teaching certificate will be required as librarians often assist with academic research. Experience as an assistant in a library will improve a candidate’s chance of being hired.
Salaries for librarians range between $47K and $87K with the median being $66K.
Factors impacting the salary you receive as a librarian include:
- Degrees (associate's, bachelor's, master's)
- Reporting Structure (seniority of the director or administrator you report to, size and type of the organization, and number of staff you manage)
- Level of Performance - exceeding expectations
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Librarian Interview Questions
Question: Is customer service important to you, and if so, how do you ensure you are providing superior customer service?
Explanation: This is a general question that the interviewer will ask early in the interview to start you talking, learn more about you, and collect information they can use later during the interview.
Example: “In my opinion, customer service is providing value and helping someone in need, regardless of the challenges this may present. I enjoy helping visitors by finding a resource or showing them how to perform research, and I do so with a positive attitude and a real desire to be of service.”
Question: What impact can a librarian have on their community?
Explanation: This is an operational question which the interviewer will ask to try to determine how you feel about being a librarian and your understanding of the services you provide. Operational questions are best answered directly and briefly. The interviewer will ask a follow-up question if they need additional information.
Example: “Librarians serve many purposes, including educating the public, collecting informational resources, and making them available, and providing assistance to students and others who visit the library, either in person or online. Librarians can create programs to provide employment and career assistance or guide patrons to appropriate resources to learn new skills.”
Question: Do you have experience in conducting educational programs and instructional classes?
Explanation: This is another operational question that is trying to determine how you go about doing your job. Librarians must have many skills and be able to perform a variety of tasks. Teaching is a critical one of these. You should have experience in this area and be able to describe it in great detail, if necessary.
Example: “As a librarian, providing instruction is an important skill to have. I work with the library staff to develop comprehensive classes suitable for audiences of all types. I enjoy leading these sessions and incorporating interesting facts and fun exercises to present the information clearly in a manner that makes it easy to understand and learn.”
Question: How do you use social media as a librarian, and what impact can it have on the services you provide as well as the public’s ability to access the resources of the library?
Explanation: This is another operational question in which the interviewer is seeking to understand your knowledge and use of social media tools. Competencies in using online tools and technologies is a skill every contemporary librarian should possess and be able to talk about.
Example: “Social media is a valuable tool for promoting the library as a community resource. I have managed Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for the libraries I’ve worked for, using them to reach a wide range of audiences and tailoring the content to appeal to different demographics of library patrons. I follow a marketing strategy I learned in a seminar to promote library events, increase attendance, and update the public about new resources and programs the library offers.”
Question: How do you connect what you do in the library to student achievement and the Common Core standards?
Explanation: This is another operational question that is seeking to understand how you work with local educators. As a librarian, you can anticipate that most of the questions you will be asked during an interview will be operational. You can prepare for the interview by practicing questions just like these.
Example: “As a librarian, I strive to collaborate with teachers whenever possible to make curricular connections and assist them with teaching their students. By working closely with the educators and understanding their goals and how they try to adhere to common core standards, I can create programs and collect helpful materials which both they and their students can take advantage of.”
Question: How do you promote reading as opposed to watching videos or using online tools such as Google and Wikipedia?
Explanation: One of the key responsibilities of a librarian is to ensure that their patrons develop a love for reading and take advantage of all the materials libraries have to offer. Your answer should reflect your passion for this and some of the techniques you use to encourage people to read rather than engage in other types of entertainment.
Example: “One of the reasons I became a librarian was due to my passion for reading and a love of books. I try to share this at every opportunity and create the same passion for the written word, especially in the young people I engage with. Some of the ways I promote reading is to have author visits at the library, create and support book clubs, have reading hours at a library for parents and young children, and host book fairs.”
Question: What is your strategy for collection development and maintenance?
Explanation: This is yet another operational question. As a librarian, one of your critical responsibilities is to maintain and update the library’s collection of both printed and digital resources. With the vast number of new books and digital resources being produced each year, this is a challenging job. You should be able to discuss a clear and effective strategy to accomplish this.
Example: ”Maintaining the library’s collection is a daunting task, but it is made easier if you have a clear strategy to achieve this. When I initially start at the library, I do a complete inventory so I understand what the collection currently is and where there may be gaps. I then use my established relationships with publishers, suppliers, and digital media companies to obtain materials to fill these gaps. Once that is complete, I strive to update the library’s resources with new, interesting, and useful materials. I also monitor how the resources are being utilized and eliminate or warehouse physical resources which have not been accessed for some time.”
Question: What are some of your favorite children's books?
Explanation: This is a general question that may be asked early in the interview. The purpose of this is not to understand what books you like but to gain a better understanding of your knowledge of children’s books and how you feel about them. If the position you are interviewing for involves working with children, you should have both a passion for them and a broad knowledge of publications targeted at this age group.
Example: ”My favorite children’s books range from early readers to complex novels written for young adults. I really like the Dick & Jane series as well as Dr. Seuss for younger children. Older kids enjoy chapter books, including the Harry Potter series, Goosebumps, the Babysitters Club books, and other serialized books written for tweens. Even though it’s not considered a pure children’s book, I enjoy Shel Silverstein’s book, ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends'.”
Question: What is your position on ownership of books and media as opposed to accessing them?
Explanation: This is an interesting question which seeks to understand your basic philosophy about collecting resources versus having access to them. The interviewer is looking for a solid argument supporting access over ownership.
Example: ”While I love books and have a large collection, I feel that access to publications, media, and resources for research is much more important than ownership of these same materials. Based on my own experience, ownership can be limiting due to budgets and the space needed to store materials. It also involves a great deal of maintenance and upkeep. Access, on the other hand, enlarges the variety of resources a person can retrieve without any of the overhead involved in owning and storing the materials. Accessing through the library makes this a virtually free exercise that anybody can afford.”
Question: What is your favorite department within the library - media, fiction, children’s, reference, etc.?
Explanation: This is a general question that is likely to be asked early in the interview. The purpose of the question is to understand your knowledge of each section of the library and learn about your preferences. The interviewer is likely to ask you a follow-up question about this, so be prepared. The best way to respond to most interview questions is directly and succinctly. This provides the interviewer the opportunity to ask follow-up questions.
Example: “Having to pick a favorite department within the library is like asking me to tell you which of my children I like the best. While I am fascinated by all areas of the library and seek to understand them so I can assist the patrons or others interested in those materials, I must say that my favorite section is the children’s materials. Kids have a fascination with the printed media and are anxious to learn to read and use the other resources available in this section. I could easily see myself spending an entire day just working with kids.”
Additional Librarian Interview Questions
How would you assist in research in your position?
Describe your management style.
What online databases are you familiar with?
Have you ever supervised or trained anyone before?
How would you handle a patron that violated library policies?
How would you handle a request for resources not in the library collection?
What is your experience in teaching technological skills?
What is your strategy when teaching proper research skills?
How would you promote library services?
What is your experience in building, adding to, and maintaining digital catalogs?
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