November 14th, 2013 Brian Herzog
I've written a few times here about different aspects of library employment, interviewing, and job goals. A little while ago I received the following email from another librarian, which really captured my interest:
I am a reference librarian [and] recently applied for a job as head of reference services at another library and just found out I've gotten an interview. I've done dozens of interviews for reference librarian positions and have done pretty well at them. However I've never had an interview for a department head position and was wondering if you had any sense of what I could expect, how they differ from reference librarian interviews, or any other advice? Anything you could tell me would be very appreciated.
This is a good question, and one that I've never specifically considered. Of course every interview is different, whether because of the job requirements or other hyper-local reasons.
After I thought about it a bit, I realized that the differences between librarian and department head is a laundry list of the least-fun things about my job: paperwork, staff management, more meetings. The prospect of conveying in an interview that you're aware of these differences, and how you'd handle them, is an interesting challenge. Here's a few of my thoughts:
- Supervising a variety of people
The biggest challenge when I started my job was that I was a young guy suddenly in charge of women who were older than me, and who had been doing their job for years. Supervising people has a host of challenges, and while gender and personality differences may not apply to every situation, it's good to consider them. Other supervising situations are: having both "good" and "bad" employees, or having one particular person who is a gossip or troublemaker, staff who don't get along, a person who is chronically late, someone doing too much personal stuff at work, etc.
I don't think a new supervisor would be expected to know how to handle all of this right off the bat, but it is certainly fair game for an interview. The questions might be something like, "one of your staff people is terrible with technology and hates ebooks. How do you handle this?" Or, "one staff person refuses to help a particular patron. What do you do?"
- Setting goals for the department
As department head, you're not just doing the work anymore, but setting the course. I do lots of things that my non-professional staff don't understand or are annoyed with, but most of the time down the road it all makes sense. Or at least, it helps me down the road, so it's important to be transparent and get buy-in when doing things or making changes.
- Staff management
Doing the desk schedule to make sure shifts are covered (which is a constant pain), calling subs, covering vacations and sick days, doing payroll timesheets, etc. It doesn't seem difficult, and really it's not, but it can be very time consuming. Another part of my job is performing staff reviews - those are uncomfortable for everyone.
- Dealing with problems
Being the department head means everyone brings their problems to you, no matter what they are. You've got to be responsive and fair, and most of all effective, in addition to knowing when to ask your supervisor for help. This applies both to staff/department problems, as well as patron issues/questions that escalate beyond the usual.
- Working as a management team
Staff librarians probably work as a team within the department, but being a department head means you're working with other department heads to run the library. There's not always a lot of overlap, but it is good to all be on the same page and know what everyone else is doing - especially so for Reference, because we get asked questions about everything. Unfortunately, knowing what's going on requires meetings.
An additional source of meetings are regional meetings with staff from other libraries, to find out what works for other people, compare notes on products and services, etc. "Professional development" and "keeping up with the profession" might also come up in an interview - staff librarians need to do this too, but I suppose it's expected more from a professional position.
- Desk management
This kind of goes along with some of the others above, but it's worth pointing out that everything about the reference area is now your responsibility: how the desk looks, how staff functions while they're there, what kind of handouts do you have, do you have enough of them, does the printer have enough paper, why have those light bulbs been out for two days, is the copier working, and all the other little stuff that slips through the cracks - until something goes wrong of course, then it's a glaring error that everyone blames you for. Keeping on top of all the little stuff - or delegating it as projects - keeps things running smoothly.
I'm sure there are more differences - does anyone else have additional interview advice? Thanks.
September 5th, 2012 Brian Herzog
There are two job openings at my library right now: Head of Reader Services and Circulation Desk Manager.
The Circ Desk Manager will do all the circ staff scheduling, work at the desk, but also manage ILL, book club kits, museum passes, and hopefully be the lead on our Evergreen ILS.
That's all well and good, but just look at the description for the Head of Readers Services:
Do you love answering that age-old question "Can you recommend a good book?" When you sit on an airplane do you find yourself giving unsolicited reading advice to the person beside you? Do you always have a book in your car for emergencies? Are you up on the latest reading devices, social media, book blogs, websites? Do you love to talk about books, write about books, listen to books? Did you go to library school because you love to read?
How about that?
Our Head of Circulation is leaving, and instead of just hiring a straight up replacement for her, we decided to split the position to create two jobs (because the work was more than one person could handle anyway). This new Head of Readers Services will focus completely on encouraging and supporting the use of our entire collection (books, audiobooks, DVDs, etc), through social media, programs, desk coverage, a personal shopper-like reading suggestion service, and anything else we can do.
We're accepting resumes now, so check out the job listing. The Circulation Desk Manager hasn't been posted yet, but should be soon on the Massachusetts Library Job Board. General employment information is also on our website (and I still like my unofficial rules for resumes, too).
August 2nd, 2011 Brian Herzog
Back in May, my library's consortium migrated our catalog to Evergreen. Since then, it became clear that we need more staff to support Evergreen, because using an open source catalog is a great deal more work than supporting vendor software.
As a result, the position description (below and at the MBLC) was posted last week, and I encourage anyone interested to apply. Don't let the "temporary" part fool you - there is so much work that there'll be plenty to last beyond the 9 month initial period. And although not strictly required, I think the more tech and database skills the better. The job will primarily be the front-line support and liaison person between libraries and Evergreen developers, but anyone who can contribute to development is greatly appreciated.
And also, a bit of a warning: the MVLC underestimated what it would take to support an open-source catalog. With open source, we're in charge of everything, not just the data - as a result, our list of problems to fix, features to add, and just things to figure out grows daily. Whoever accepts this position will have no shortage of things to do.
Customer Service Technician
The Merrimack Valley Library Consortium (MVLC), a group of 35 public libraries in NE Massachusetts, is looking for a service-oriented individual with excellent trouble-shooting, interpersonal, and communication skills. This is a temporary (approx. 9 month) position that will focus on providing customer support to member library staff for the library catalog and online applications. As part of the network support team this person will be the primary helpdesk contact involving the reception, organization, and resolution of problems, and actively contribute to the growing knowledge base. This person will also have significant responsibility for the design and configuration of the public catalog and network Web sites and provide support for database and third-party products that integrate with the library system.There is potential for this to become a permanent position.
- Bachelor's Degree
- Proven customer service orientation
- At least two years technical experience with automated systems or databases
- Knowledge of HTML, CSS and other Web services tools
- Substantial knowledge of PC environment
- Excellent oral, written, and interpersonal communication skills
- Library experience desired
- Understanding of User Interface design
- Database design (SQL)
- Linux experience
- Program languages such as Perl, Python, etc.
Please forward cover letter and resume to:
Merrimack Valley Library Consortium
1600 Osgood Street
North Andover, MA 01845
Tags: catalog, evergreen, ils, job, jobs, libraries, Library, merrimack valley library consortium, mvlc, open source, opening, position, public
October 5th, 2010 Brian Herzog
My friend Lichen is moving on from her position at the Manchester (NH) City Library, opening a great spot for a techie librarian with ideas and initiative. The details are:
Librarian III (Head of Info & Technology)
(Announcement No. R-073-10)
Salary Grade 20
Starting Salary: $48,809.48/yr + benefits
Work schedule includes nights and weekends
Manages the day to day operations of the Information/Technology Division. This position is responsible for maintaining the library’s public computer system, staff training, online presence and recommending technology improvement for the effective and efficient delivery of information to library users. Incumbent partners with the City’s Information Systems Division to maintain staff computers and library networks. Supervises 9 staff members to provide high quality, customer service, and friendly information services to the public using current technology. Oversees the expenditures for material purchases assigned to the division in all formats. Performs related duties. Position is part of the Library’s Administrative team and reports directly to the Library Director.
Master's Degree in Library Science from an ALA accredited program with 4-6 years of progressively more responsible library experience providing library services. Experience in Information Services as well as current Library Technology is required. Supervisory experience is a plus.
Offer of hire conditional on candidate's ability to complete essential job functions, with or without accommodations, as determined by medical exam. A background check, as well as a drug and alcohol test, will be required for this position.
Candidates must complete a City of Manchester employment application. Resume should be submitted with application. Applications may be obtained at www.manchesternh.gov or Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at
City of Manchester
Human Resources Department
One City Hall Plaza
Manchester, NH 03101
Tel: 603-624-6543 (Voice/TTY)
OPENING DATE: Friday, Oct. 1, 2010 - CLOSING DATE: Monday, Oct. 18, 2010
Tags: job, jobs, libraries, Library, listing, listings, manchester, mcl, opening, position, public