HOWTO:Apply for a library job

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If you're new to the profession or haven't searched for a library position in a while, this guide is designed for you. It contains some checklists, guidelines, tips and tricks for how to get a library job. Questions candidates should ask are also listed.


Find Job Listings

Here's where you can benefit from the nature of the profession. Librarians have a natural tendency to gather and organize information. As a result there are several ways that you can search for library job advertisements. However, plan ahead when starting your job search! The time between a job's posting and hiring dates can be as much as six months or more.

The best place to start is Combined Library Job Postings. This list contains many combined postings from other sources. It is searchable and even has an RSS feed. also offers a professional development e-mail newsletter and a resume posting service (although, in the current employment market, do not expect merely posting a resume anywhere to accomplish much). Library Job Postings on the Internet is another directory of job posting sites. An index of more job listings is available at the Open Directory Project.

E-Mail discussion groups are a good source for job postings. LIBJOBS and LIS-JOBS are two of the more popular ones. Topical groups are also a good place for finding advertisements in a particular field of librarianship. For example, Web4Lib often receives Web and systems librarian job postings.

Another place to check is the major library trade publications, such as Library Journal and American Libraries. There's also related publications, such as The Chronicle of Higher Education for academic library postings or Aviso for archivist jobs.

If you're targeting a specific institution or geographic area, take a look at individual sites. The Folger Shakespeare Library, for example, has their own employment opportunities page. Libweb can help you locate library homepages. Librarians seeking low-cost health insurance can find some options at Affordable Health Insurance. You can also find car insurance at

Lastly, if you are a library school student, be sure to check out what career resources your school offers. Many library schools have placement offices which offer help with the application process, including web and e-mail lists for job openings. See Drexel University's College of Information Science & Technology Job Postings site, for example.

Prepare Your Application

Plan ahead in gathering materials that are sometimes required for a library job application. These include writing samples, official copies of academic transcripts, and professional references (choose these wisely).

Microsoft Word has a Resume Wizard that can help you create or update your resume. See the book Writing Resumes that Work: A How-to-do-it Manual for Librarians by Robert R. Newlen (Template:ISBN) for guidance on preparing your resume.

Your cover letter explains why your resume is the best match for the position to which you are applying. Take a look at the organization and find out as much information as you can. If you're responding to a paid advertisement, you may need to look elsewhere for a fuller job notice and/or a complete position description. Always prepare a customized (and proofread!) cover letter for each application.

Many institutions are now accepting applications submitted online or via e-mail. Pay attention to each posting's file format preferences (and required application materials!) when dealing with such situations.

Practice Interview Questions

During the phone and in-person interviews you are usually presented with a standard set of questions asked to all candidates. Good reads in preparing for such questions include:

The people you talk to can have varying interviewing styles, and some questions may be deliberately designed to rattle you. See The 10 Toughest Job Interview Questions for some tricky examples.

Preparing for Interviews

If your resume and cover letter make the first round of cuts you are usually contacted for a phone interview. There are a number of things you can do in order to prepare yourself for the interview.

  • Obtain the names and positions of those conducting the phone interview. Do research on these individuals to find out what roles they play within the organization. Find out if they are mentioned anywhere on the Internet such as on their own blogs.
  • Find out how long the interview is expected to last.
  • Read the board/committee minutes for the organization going back at least six months.
  • Read the strategic plan (if any). Be prepared to ask questions based on this.
  • Find a quiet place to receive the call at and dress as you would for an in-person interview.
  • Tell them you accomplishments and topics that you made on your thesis writing
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