Here are the top 10 most asked librarian interview questions, along with suggestions on how to respond to each of them so you can ace the interview.
1. What attracts you to this role?
The interviewer wants to know that you applied for this role because it will fulfill you. You are going to spend a significant amount of time carrying out the job. The interviewer wants to hire someone who will stay for a while. Show the interviewer you have a genuine interest in the role. Think specifically about the library or institution you are interviewing for. Try to avoid giving a generic answer, but rather, tailor your answer with as much specific information as you can. Before the interview, research the library or institution and its current or recent projects. Highlight any aspects of those projects that would be interesting to you.
As a librarian, I want the library I work in to be part of the community. A library isn’t just about books, but also about bringing people together. I followed the recent drive you had to increase the number of community groups using the library, including offering extended opening hours to allow more groups to make use of the facilities. Projects like that are the reason I want to work here.
2. In what way do you think your role as a librarian can positively affect the community?
A library is more than a place to store and lend books. Libraries and librarians have a role in the community. The interviewer wants to know that you see the full extent of the role and will ensure that the library, and you, as the librarian, have a positive impact on the community. Show that you understand this and give examples of ways in which your role can contribute positively to the community.
A library and its librarian exist to educate and help the community. Of course, the library stores and lends books, but that is the method to connect to and assist the surrounding community. If a librarian understands the demographics of the community, then they can make sure the library’s outreach is targeted to that demographic. For example, I understand that unemployment is a particular issue in the area surrounding this library. If I worked here, I would be eager to introduce a program to provide employment help to the locals. At the beginning of my job here, I would also investigate what other issues are negatively affecting the community and use that information to plan additional programs. I see the library as a hub for people to come together, learn, and grow as a society.
3. How do you define your collection development and maintenance strategy?
Part of the role of a librarian is to curate and maintain a collection that meets the needs of the library users. Show the interviewer you understand this and have strategies to make sure that the collection you develop and maintain is appropriate for the community.
Developing and maintaining a collection is an important part of the role. It is important that the collections we house here meet the needs of the community. To understand the needs of the users, I undertake regular surveys to find out what the users want to see in the library. I also keep up-to-date with professional reviews and follow the book press to ensure I am aware of upcoming releases. I follow recommendations on collection development tools, and of course, I love to read and do it as much as I can. Maintaining the collection also means regularly weeding the collection to make way for recent releases.
4. How would you describe your management style?
As a librarian, part of your role will involve supervising and managing others. The interviewer wants to know you can be an effective leader. Your answer should show this without bragging, on the one hand, and without being too humble on the other hand. Before the interview, think about the definition of good management. Think about what added value you can add to that definition. If you feel it would help, provide an example of your management style, and make sure you rehearse this answer in front of a mirror to check for body language as well as your tone.
I think that a good manager gives instruction and direction but doesn’t micromanage people. Instead, they provide guidance and help when needed. That is what I think of as my management style. I also think it is important that I know my team and when they need help. That means staying in touch with them and checking in on the quality of their work, but also how they are doing on a personal level.
5. What part do you think social media has to play in your role as a librarian and in promoting the library?
Social media is a part of everyday life. As a result, establishing and maintaining an online presence will help increase community engagement with the library. The interviewer wants to know how comfortable you are with social media and how you plan to use social media as a marketing tool for the library. Show your experience with social media and your understanding of target audiences and marketing strategies.
Social media is one way of promoting the library, particularly when you consider the number of people using different social media daily. Each type of social media has a different demographic, and I see the benefit of using various social media platforms to reach a wide range of audiences and increase overall attendance. It is important to have a marketing strategy for social media. Failing to have a proper marketing strategy would reduce the efficacy of using social media. I have previously managed Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. I used those accounts to share information about events, new collections, and general library news. Our attendance at events increased by a third, and our lending also increased.
6. Tell me about a time you made a poor decision or a mistake. Did you learn from it?
No one likes to admit to mistakes. This question shows that the interviewer realizes mistakes happen and that they can provide an opportunity to learn and grow. This is your opportunity to show how you handle mistakes. Choose an example of a mistake that gives you an opportunity to show growth. Explain the mistake without dwelling on it. Talk about improvements you made and what you learned after making that mistake. Share your thoughts on how you would avoid making the same mistake again, if appropriate. When preparing for this question, think about the skills or qualities you gained from making the mistake and how those relate to the job you are currently interviewing for. Don’t choose a mistake that would be fatal for the role you are interviewing for or that show flaws in your character.
When I first became a librarian, I struggled with delegating and tried to do too much myself. That left me feeling burned out. I had to learn to delegate and make use of the library assistant to ensure tasks were done efficiently and effectively. By learning to delegate more effectively, I allowed myself more time to focus on important responsibilities that were crucial to my role.
7. Which of your skills do you think are most relevant for a librarian?
Librarians require many skills. A librarian must deal with information in physical and digital formats. They also must interface with library users and library assistants. In developing and maintaining collections, they will have to manage budgets. The interviewer wants to know that you understand the job you are applying for. Show the interviewer you have the skills for the role. Before the interview, make sure you understand the role and the responsibilities involved. Think about your own skills and their applicability to the position.
One of the key skills I consider most relevant is excellent communication skills. As a librarian, I have to communicate with many types of people. That communication, whether it is written or verbal, has to be easily understood by the person I am communicating with. My analytical skills are also relevant to the role, as I understand part of the job would include testing the services we provide and stakeholder needs. And, of course, excellent collection management skills are important for a librarian. Ensuring we have a collection that meets the needs of the library users is an important ongoing goal for the library.
8. Tell me about your experience with teamwork. What techniques do you use to promote and foster teamwork and create effective working relationships?
A library requires a team to run efficiently and effectively. Show the interviewer you understand this and that you can work well as part of a team. As a librarian, you will have to promote and foster teamwork, and the interviewer wants to hear that you have experience doing this. Provide examples of the techniques you used to create an effective team.
I think the most important part of effective teamwork is making sure that there are clear team objectives and that the team is all working towards those goals. In my last role, we would hold regular team meetings. During those meetings, I would communicate the goals to each member of the team and we would share status reports. I also used team meetings as an opportunity to discuss ideas. I would give the team goals to work towards, and I would also give them an appropriate amount of autonomy to make decisions. That showed my trust and confidence in them and helped them to feel part of the team, rather than simply an employee being told what to do.
9. A patron approaches you and tells you that another patron is looking at something inappropriate on one of the computers. What would you do?
Your answer to this question will show the interviewer how comfortable you are dealing with difficult situations. Before the interview, research the library policy on the type of material users are not allowed to access on the library computers. What is inappropriate to one person may not be inappropriate to another, and so you should understand that library’s usage policy. If you are not familiar with the policy, ask the interviewer before you answer the question. If you are familiar with the policy, make that clear in your answer. Make sure to remain very calm while answering this question to show the interviewer that you would be confident and in control of the situation.
Although I would assume the patron is referring to pornography, the first thing I would do would be to ask the person specifically what he or she saw. I first need this clarification so I could make sure to handle the situation in line with the library usage policy. For example, I understand that the library usage policy forbids the accessing of pornographic material on library computers. In such a situation, I would approach the other patron, calmly explain the policy to them, and ask them not to access such sites. If they were difficult about it, I would point out to them they have agreed to follow the usage policy and that if they are not prepared to do so, I would have to ask them to end their session and leave. Throughout the encounter, I would remain professional, courteous, and respectful, even if the patron becomes upset or agitated.
10. What is your vision for the library?
The interviewer is looking to find out how you see the library in the future. Share your views on how you see the library fitting into the community and what role you see the library serving its users. Your answer should show that you see the library as an inclusive place for all people, that it should be part of the community it serves, whether that community is in an educational setting or out in the local community.
For me, I see a library as a critical part of the community. I am fully aware that society is increasingly becoming more digital, including digital forms of books and digital research. This does not mean the end of libraries. Libraries are a “third place,” they are neither work nor home, but rather a place where people can freely come together in a safe space to read, to learn, to interact, and to randomly browse shelves. The library is a public space where everyone is welcome, free of charge, to come and be provided our excellent customer service.
One idea I would like to explore is the idea of various “maker spaces,” where an area of the library is used for library patrons to make and display their own art. Another idea is to host self-publishing and print-on-demand technologies. I think that libraries of the future are headed away from passive silent spaces, to become interactive creative places of local culture. The emphasis is on user-generated content at the community level, where people come together to grow and thrive.
Next 30 Most Asked Librarian Interview Questions
- What are you reading?
- Tell me about yourself.
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- What professional organizations do you belong to?
- What has been your biggest achievement in the last twelve months?
- As a librarian, you will have different tasks and projects. How do you prioritize your tasks and projects?
- What do you consider to be your chief weakness?
- How would you measure the effectiveness of the library service?
- What is your definition of excellent customer service?
- Tell me about your experience in cataloging.
- How would you promote reading?
- How would you approach library instruction with a beginner compared to a more advanced library user or researcher?
- What gives you the most satisfaction in your role as a librarian?
- What would you hope to achieve in your first 90 days in the role?
- Talk me through a typical day in your current role.
- What is your least favorite part of your current role?
- Why should I hire you instead of the other candidates?
- How do you deal with budgeting restraints?
- What do you see as the biggest changes for libraries in the next five years? Do you see those changes as positive or negative?
- What classifications and subject heading lists are you familiar with?
- How would you propose to create an environment that is inviting and promotes learning?
- A junior member of your team disagrees with you in front of other members of the team. How would you handle that?
- Why did you choose to become a librarian?
- What strategies do you use to cope with stress?
- What is important to you in a job?
- How do you keep track of the tasks you are required to do?
- How do you deal with team members who have performance or disciplinary problems?
- What methods of training do you find most effective when training employees?
- How would your current colleagues describe you?
- What methods do you use to keep up-to-date with changes in librarianship and library technology?
10 Best Questions to Ask in a Librarian Interview
An interview is a two-way process. It provides an opportunity for the interviewer to get to know you and an opportunity for you to get to know more about the role and your potential workplace. Once the interviewer has finished asking questions, they will normally give you an opportunity to ask questions of them. If they don’t and if you are interested in the job, speak up and ask if there is time for you to ask some questions. The questions you ask will show your interest in the role and will give you more insight into your potential workplace. If you face any resistance to you asking questions, that is likely a red flag.
- What does a typical day look like in this role?
- How many library assistants are there?
- Why do you enjoy working here?
- What do you expect of me in the first ninety days?
- Are there any planned changes or upgrades to the current technology being used in the library?
- What qualities do you look for in a librarian?
- What challenges do you see for the library in the next twelve months? How do you see the librarian assisting with those challenges?
- How secure is the funding for the library?
- How will success be measured?
- How would you describe the culture?
It is important to research the role and the place you hope to work before you attend the interview. Become familiar with the job listing, the library, and the skills necessary to be successful in the role. Use the interview to show the interviewer that your skills align with the position and that you would perform the job with enthusiasm and excellence.
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.