Even if you’re not actively job hunting, reading job ads is a great preparation for the next step in your career.
Job postings convey a whole lot of information: what you’d do on the job, the experience and knowledge the hiring manager wants in a candidate, and (ideally) a sense of the organization and working environment. You can also get a great feel for current trends in librarianship.
This Library Lost & Found series dissects job ads for library leadership positions. We analyze library job postings from the perspective of building your career. We’re also interested in how to write a great job description that will attract the best candidates.
This is another refreshingly direct title. The Story Center Director – you guessed it – directs the Story Center at MCPL, supporting digital, oral and written storytelling for Kansas City and beyond.
The organization title is more opaque. The Mid-Continent Public Library is a large and robust library system in the counties surrounding Kansas City, MO. I guess Kansas City is roughly in the middle of the continent . . . but MCPL is roughly 230 miles from the fine road trip destination that is the precise geographic center of the contiguous United States. When the library system was formed in the 1960s, that was probably close enough for jazz.
The Story Center is part of the Mid-Continent Public Library organizational structure and the Story Center Director reports to the MCPL Chief Customer Experience Officer (CXO).
I really appreciate postings like this that specify who the boss is. You want to know to whom you’d address your cover letter . . . and who to Google stalk if you get an interview.
It’s not clear how many employees report to the Story Center Director. There’s another job posting open for a Story Center Program Manager, who would presumably report to the Story Center Director. That posting, however, lists the same CXO for the reporting line. Maybe it’s that way temporarily for hiring. It’s a bit of a bummer that the Director won’t be able to start out by hiring their own team, but it looks like MCPL wants to move fast.
This role is externally focused. The Director will be cultivating partnerships and raising funds, while the Program Manager leads the team at home.
MCPL is looking for the Director to give the Story Center a national-level presence, as well as implement a robust slate of programs in short order. I’m especially intrigued by the certification program mentioned in the job posting, which the Story Center website says is coming this fall and offers digital badging for mastery of three different storytelling tracks.
If the new Director is walking in to the job after interviewing some time in May, launching the certification program by fall seems like a very snappy pace.
On the other hand, it seems like there’s someone doing a lot of work to drive Story Center programs already, even with the Program Manager position also open. There’s a steady stream of one-shot programs such as author talks and writing workshops, with 9 events in May alone. That makes me wonder whether the two positions are recently vacated, or newly created with an internal candidate who’s already putting in the work.
Holy moly, this setting sounds heavenly. The Story Center is located in the Woodneath Library, which is a perfect name for an idyllic campus:
The Library Center and Historic Home are surrounded by 32 acres of unique property. The Woodneath grounds offer the best of our native landscapes: rolling hills, a variety of trees, prairie grasses, and a creek. Juxtaposed against the surrounding bustle of new development, the Woodneath grounds are natural, tranquil, and inspiring.
You can work promoting arts and the humanities in the middle of a beautiful nature preserve? Sign me up!
Just kidding. I love my job and I’m not qualified for this one.
This position requires a “Master’s degree in a related or associated discipline” with no specific examples provided. I wonder if an MFA in writing would be considered relevant? A MS in Arts Administration?
The posting also calls for experience in program management and curriculum development, which makes sense given the robust programming MCPL wants to spin up.
The required skills emphasize administrative and leadership work such as strategic planning, developing partnerships, and evaluation. If you were applying for this position, your cover letter would need to demonstrate a track record of successful program administration, from conception to evaluation.
Another great thing about this job posting: the essential physical abilities are very specific and detailed. With reasonable accommodations, the person in this position will need to communicate effectively and move around the city. Each of the essential abilities is spelled out explicitly, such as:
Tolerance for dust and mold which permits the employee to work with books and other library materials as well as work in older buildings
An employer could easily accommodate some challenges with a dusty environment by supplying dust masks. There are people in my life, however, with more extreme dust sensitivity. Working in a dusty environment might challenge their health beyond their comfort levels, even with accommodation. By being very explicit about what happens on the job, MCPL gives job seekers a sense of whether this job is the right fit.
Big cheers to MCPL for listing a salary range in the posting: $51,912.90 – $76,908.00 plus benefits. That’s a comfortable salary for the cost of living in Kansas City. A peek at Craigslist shows that the person in this job could rent a lovely 3 bedroom house in nearby Liberty, MO for around $1000/month. In this job, you could afford to live and pay off your student loans (she writes, checking her loan balance and crying on the inside).
The flip side of that salary is that the Story Center is funded separately from the library on sources like grants and donations.
In 2015, MCPL won a $300,000 National Endowment for the Humanities grant for the Woodneath Library Center. It looks like ongoing funding is supplied in large part by private donations. People applying to this directorship would need to understand fundraising strategies and nonprofit budgeting.
As a hiring manager, I’m often surprised by candidates who don’t have any questions for me at the end of the interview. It leaves me wondering whether I just explained everything super well already, or if they don’t have questions because they already decided they don’t want the job, or if they’re too inexperienced to know what to ask. More likely, interviews are an overwhelming process that sap the questioning energy from a candidate.
If I were going in to interview for this position, I would jot down questions as like:
- Was there another person in this position before? If not, who’s been providing leadership for the Story Center? Who’s been giving day-to-day management?
- What is the current and anticipated funding situation? What role will this position play in securing funding?
- What is the relationship between this position and the Woodneath branch managing librarian?
- What are the goals for community outcomes? Can you share an example story of someone impacted by the Story Center?
- I see you have several established partnerships. Are there other organizations you’re specifically hoping to connect with?
- Of the three types of storytelling the Story Center promotes, which do you anticipate being the most challenging to fully support?
- What’s the skill level of the current team? Where do they need growth and development?
The Story Center Director looks like a fantastic job for someone with experience in storytelling and non-profit administration. The environment is dreamy, the pay is good, and there’s organizational support for very interesting programming.
The job posting is generally lovely and super informative. A well-written job ad is a good sign of a healthy organization (at least in the human resources department).
Stray observation: I love that the MCPL Jobs page has a brief guide to becoming a librarian with links to local schools with MLS programs. What an awesome resource for people just beginning to explore the library career path!
We have no connection with Mid-Continent Public Library and no insider scoop on this job posting – but we’ll cross our fingers for you if you apply!