Even if you’re not actively job hunting, reading job ads is a great way to prepare 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.
Today I’m analyzing a job posting for a Senior Librarian for San Mateo County Libraries* in California.
Senior Librarian is an unusual job title for public libraries, and it’s part of what drew me into this posting. I wanted to know if this job had leadership responsibilities – or if it was a specialist in library services for senior citizens.
It’s the former: this is a managerial role. The posting explains that the senior librarian is at the “front-line supervisory level in the librarian series.” It sounds like this librarian is responsible for internal management in a library branch – supervising staff, managing service desks, and leading projects.
This person reports to a branch manager, who would take care of external management and administrative responsibilities like budgeting and strategic planning.
Management of staff is the first responsibility listed for this job ad. I really appreciate this realistic assessment of how much time it takes to manage people well. I’m also charmed that they include “mentor” as a responsibility in the management bullet point. This tells me that SMCL values a culture of learning and development.
I like the inclusion of “excellent customer service.” This tells me that the library has a user-centric philosophy, which is a huge plus in my book.
Several of the responsibilities center around providing input to the branch manager as they work on the budget and strategic plan. This job would be a great opportunity to develop the skills needed to take on an even greater leadership role.
Also of note: this position is required to create and implement new programs. That shows a dynamic, evolving organization and a need for candidates to be innovative.
When looking at the job duties in a posting, it’s important to read with an open mind. You can be a great candidate despite not having direct experience doing 100% of the job tasks listed. The hiring manager writes a dream list of everything they want. Candidates will come in the door with strengths and weaknesses in those areas, but very few people will be strong in every single area on the wish list.
There’s a hard requirement for an ALA-accredited MLS. After that, they take an interesting approach to experience required, saying:
Any combination of experience that would likely provide the required knowledge, skills, and abilities is qualifying. A typical way to qualify is three years of experience as a librarian, or a combination of library and supervision experience.
That’s a great way to phrase the requirements. It’s flexible, but also gives a good idea of what they need in the position.
The specifics are divided into knowledge and skills/abilities. I would guess that you could demonstrate knowledge through things like MLS classes or reading up on current trends. The skills/abilities, however, would most likely need to be backed up through on-the-job experience.
Interestingly, they require knowledge of supervision rather than ability, so they would probably be open to someone without supervisory experience if they had thoughtful answers about their managerial philosophy.
Two skills that jump out to me are “Analyze library problems and implement their solutions” and “Learn and grow in a changing environment.” This library doesn’t want someone to keep the status quo – they want someone to come in and change things for the better. If you applied for this job, you would want to have specific stories about solving problems creatively.
The awesomeness continues: this job ad is super-transparent about the salary range for the position. They even convert it into hourly, weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly, so that you have a point of comparison for whichever way receive your current pay.
It’s always wise to plan for coming in on the low end of a salary range, so let’s say that a decently qualified candidate would make $70,000. That’s a good salary for a librarian – but not great for the high cost of living in California. A quick look at Craigslist shows that a 2 bedroom rental would easily be $3500/month, if not higher, and it would be hard to find a 1 bedroom for under $2000/month. That’s pretty tight on the $70,000 salary, so candidates would want to take a thoughtful look at their budget.
The posting has not even a whisper about benefits – you have to dig. Since library staff are employees of the county, they’re covered under San Mateo County benefits – which look pretty darn good. The health coverage is very affordable and the fringe benefits look great. They help with child care placement and explicitly lay out the amount of funding available for professional development.
I already saw the organizational values shining through in the responsibilities, but this job posting also includes a glowing description of San Mateo County Libraries:
San Mateo County Libraries are an invaluable community resource, an amazing family, a springboard for opportunities, and our staff are what makes it so special.
The word “champion” appears twice in the first paragraph. This is emphatically a library for people with big ambitions for community service.
The posting also includes some impressive statistics about library circulation and services. The county library system has 12 branches, and it’s not clear to me from the posting in which branch this position would work. That could make a big difference to applicants familiar with the locations.
The Senior Librarian looks like an amazing entry-level management position. I love that the job posting explicitly frames this as a growth opportunity for librarians to develop supervisory skills.
While the salary is moderate, the fringe benefits seem to support a healthy work-life balance.
The job posting gives me a really good idea of the kind of candidate SMCL wants: librarians with a few years of library work experience who are interested in leading change, improving service, and growing their careers even further.
What questions do you have about library job postings? What makes you consider applying?
*We have no connection with San Mateo County Libraries and no insider scoop on this job posting.