What I Wish I Knew Sooner…about Interviewing

Like many of our other contributors, I too have not gone to library school and I currently have zero plans of doing so. The longer I don’t go the less and less I want to and the less and less I truly feel I need to. I’m happy in the position I’m in and I have no goals of becoming a manager, therefore library school feels unnecessary for me – and guess what? That’s okay! So many of us have loads of talent and experiences that make us great at what we do without that expensive piece of paper. I do have a bachelor’s in elementary education though and that degree has helped me immensely as a Children’s Services Specialist.

One thing I feel like I didn’t understand early on was how to prep for interviews, what to bring to interviews, and most importantly – just because I didn’t get a job doesn’t mean I gave a bad interview. I’ve had a huge mixed bag of interviews and feel like I’ve learned a lot.

I knew since high school that I always wanted to work in youth services in a public library setting and I also knew my home library district required a bachelor’s for the position. I choose education because it was always my backup plan and I felt it would translate nicely since I’d do a lot of similar things in a classroom that I would do in the library, and I wasn’t wrong. My undergrad has come in handy in so many ways through the years. During the last few weeks of my degree I started applying for jobs back home so that ideally I could move home and immediately go to work, but it only sort of worked out that way.

I ended up having about 3 virtual/phone interviews for various positions and unsurprisingly didn’t get any of them. I didn’t know how to prep and didn’t really know much about some of the positions I applied for. So I moved home without a job, but had another set for interview the day I got home. And I got the job! After having a vague idea of what I could be asked from the other interviews, I felt more prepared and it was in person which made it easier. Three weeks later I started my first position as a Youth Services Specialist and stayed in that position for 4 years and 8 months.

That job was only part time though so I needed another job. I’m lucky in that where I live has a few library districts all super close together because of how our cities are setup and divided. Since I already had one part time library job I figured how hard would it be to get another? Turns out it was SUPER HARD. The library district I was applying for (and now work full-time in) is highly competitive and it’s an accomplishment to even get an interview let alone hired. I had worked for them as a page in high school and thought that would help and it did a bit because I knew to some degree how the district functioned. Flashforward a year and a half and roughly 6 interviews later and I was FINALLY hired on part time as a children’s services specialist. The one big thing that I did differently for the position I got hired for was having a portfolio. Having physical examples of things I’d done, programs I’d presented, and book lists I’d created showed that I really could do what I said. I also nailed the questions because I had more experience and more passion and ended up being the fit they were looking for at the time.

Naturally the step after having two part time jobs is to ideally turn that into one full time job. I was working 6 days a week, with some 12 hour days where I worked at both libraries, for over three years before I was hired full time. My very first interview for a full-time position went well! I knew it did and heard through the grapevine that a part of my interview was talked about really positively. So why didn’t I get the job? This is when I learned that just because I had a good interview doesn’t mean I was what they were looking for. You can do great and still not have the skill set, personality, experience, etc. that they are looking for at the time. It hurt, but it was an important and necessary lesson to learn. One that I don’t think library school or anything else could have taught me.

Eventually I lucked out super hard and a full time position opened in the branch where I was already part-time. Even though I already worked there meant nothing, I still had to prove I was the best choice and so I prepped like a maniac. I was prepared for nearly double the amount of questions I’d get asked spanning all different topics, I revamped my resume and portfolio, I had a mock interview at my other job so I could practice out loud and I was determined like never before. It paid off and I got the job. I’ve now been with this district 4 years last week, and full time for 6 and a half months.

So anyone that’s out there that is getting discouraged by interviewing or don’t know what’s happening – just keep at it and something will work out!

3 responses to “What I Wish I Knew Sooner…about Interviewing”

  1. “Like many of our other contributors, I too have not gone to library school and I currently have zero plans of doing so. The longer I don’t go, the less and less I want to, and the less and less I truly feel I need to.” Why is this being lauded, I wonder? It’s bad enough librarian’s salaries are barely livable. Obtaining a degree in Library Science requires sacrifice of time and money, not to mention the academic work involved. To applaud the success of those who feel it totally unnecessary to have a degree in order to do the job only degrades the profession of Librarian in a time where libraries have to find ways to justify their relevance and value in our technologically dominated world. In my opinion, it is the ridiculous cost of education that needs to be addressed, not the actual education. And, being educated in Library Science is a necessity for the profession of Librarian. Otherwise, it ought not be a profession any longer, just simply a job.


    • Hi Linda, I wouldn’t take it personally that people don’t want to get the MLS/MLIS. Our degree does cost quite a bit for how little we tend to get paid in our profession. As someone who has been on both sides of the degree in libraries, I understand the feeling of not thinking you need the degree to do the job. I felt the same way, but I soon realized that I did want to move up. In the system, I was employed in at the time the only way to become a librarian was to get a degree. I must admit that I learned a lot about being a librarian on the job. However, being in library school taught me the principles of librarianship. I also learned quite a bit about researching, readers advisory, and so many other things that I didn’t learn on the job. I now supervise librarians and paraprofessionals. There is a need for and room for both professional librarians and paraprofessionals in libraries.


    • Hi Linda

      Here at TSU, we have a different philosophy on the degree vs non-degree. While I do hold a MLS, I fully believe that previous experience and on the job training is just as valuable. I personally know many without a MLS who make awesome librarians; including the ones making amazing contributions to this blog.

      I also think it’s also important to remember that different libraries have different requirements. Not all libraries or positions require an MLS. I know my own library has different levels, with only a couple needing the degree. My coworkers at these levels have brilliant ideas and work just as hard as myself. Our department would simply not be the same without them.

      I 100% applaud Nicole and others who have found their way into libraries in “non-traditional” ways. While my own journey was different, I believe we can celebrate the many different walks/paths of librarianship and the success we find.

      Andrea (head of TSU)


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