R.I. Library Report
KINGSTON, R.I. – (March 23, 2013) – Whenever the Brown University library system has a job opening, it’s not unusual for up to 100 candidates to apply. Given those odds, what’s a would-be librarian to do?
Stay positive, says Daniel O’Mahony, director of library and assessment at Brown’s Rockefeller Library. And be prepared to do some homework.
O’Mahony was one of seven librarians participating in a mock interview program at the “Catapult Your Career in 2013” conference organized by graduate library students at the University of Rhode Island.
Meeting with three students, while the other librarians led similar small-group sessions, O'Mahony said that that one way job seekers can advance their cause is by doing what librarians do naturally – conducting advance research.
For example, a typical question asked of a job candidate is why he or she would be interested in the Brown job.
O’Mahony told the students that they should conduct a thorough back ground check on the work place before an interview. One way to do this, he said, is to find relevant Websites, and zero in about how the job being advertised fits into the operation of the library and the university.
In fact, one of the URI students in O’Mahony’s mock session had done just that – she had researched Brown University’s atmosphere and strengths, and thus could demonstrate she was familiar with Brown.
At the same time, he noted that libraries are in a state of flux, so it’s important for job candidates to show they are flexible enough to deal with change and uncertainty.
Interviewees should also to be honest, he said, be themselves and show a sense of humor.
Then he had the students pick a number between one and ten, and the student who had the number he was thinking of went first.
“Why are you qualified for this job?” he asked the “winner” of his lottery.
The student responded by acknowledging that even though this was a mock session, she was nervous. But then she gave what O’Mahony said was a credible answer.
As the session continued, O’Mahony added these pointers:
- There’s no need to recite your resume, since the search committee already would be up-to-date on your written qualifications.
- Summarize your strengths and make a connection between your resume and you as a person.
- Emphasize your understanding of the qualifications needed for the position, and explain how you are moving toward mastery of those qualifications.
Shifting gears, he posed the opposite scenario – what if a job candidate is asked to cite an instance in which she or he experienced a failure? What an interviewer is trying to get here, he said, is an understanding of how the candidate learns from failure and adapts his or her behavior.
One student asked whether it’s important for applicants for a public library post to cite success in getting their papers or research published.
“For me, it’s not important at all,” said Edward Garcia, director of the Cranston Public Library, and a 2008 graduate of URI’s Graduate School of Library and Information Studies.
“I’d much rather look for potential staff that are more passionately committed to helping our patrons and have great customer service” backgrounds, Garcia said.
Thus, one resume item that he would see as a plus: previous work in “a retail environment,” if that experience has helped shape positive customer service skills.
Rosita Hopper, dean of libraries at Johnson & Wales University, noted that having a published paper could demonstrate that a job candidate is a competent writer.
“The ability to write and communicate is good no matter what job you are applying for,” she said.
Brian C. Jones, of the R.I. Library Report, contributed to this article.