Archives For career advancement

circulation diagram with title

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 I found on ALA Joblist for a Library Director for Miles Community College in Miles City, Montana.


Library Director is a refreshingly straightforward title. When I see “library” at a college, I can guess that they’ll have a substantial onsite book collection. When colleges have a “learning commons” or “information resource center” rather than a library, I wonder how much they depend on ILL for print materials.

Reporting Structure

The Library Director reports to the Vice President of Academic Affairs for Miles Community College. That’s a fairly high level for the library to sit; the Library Director is just two steps down from the college president!

This also reflects the small scale of the college, which reports enrollment of 390 students full-time equivalency (FTE) for Fall 2016.

The supervision exercised by the Library Director is defined as “Library Aides, Work Study Students.” As a candidate, I would be very curious about how many library aides there are, what level of employee they are, and how much the overall function of the library depends on work study students.

Job Duties

The first verb – indeed, the first word – in the responsibilities section is “lead”! This whole bullet point is worth quoting:

Lead the Library in responding to information management problems with technology-based solutions. (Internet, web pages, video technologies and other evolving futuristic technologies).

Way to go, MCC! This tells me that they want a library director who will help the library transform to meet the evolving information needs of current and future students.

There’s a fair amount of budgeting mentioned in the job responsibilities, including “effectively, ethically, and innovatively” managing the budget. The library director will need to get creative with the budget, but ethically creative!

As I scan down the job functions bullet points, I see responsibilities that range from broad (strategic planning, external partnerships) to narrow (cataloging and weeding). That reflects the relatively small scale of this library and organization – the person in this position would need to pitch in on the front lines regularly while also maintaining a long term vision.


This position requires an ALA-accredited Masters in library or information science. The posting also lists quite a lot of competencies. I like when organizations emphasize competencies (or knowledge, as the San Mateo Senior Librarian job posting phrased it) over prior experience. Competencies can be demonstrated in wider variety of ways than past job experience – through class work or volunteer experience, for instance.

I also deeply appreciate how the position spells out what they mean by each competency. For instance:

Delegation – Delegates work assignments; Matches the responsibility to the person; Sets expectations and monitors delegated activities.

A librarian interviewing for this position would want to prepare stories about times they had thoughtfully delegated tasks to a team and the successful results of those assignments as part of the whole project.

The competencies include a great range of leadership skills, from management to communication to strategic planning.


This job posting does not specify a salary range, which is disappointing. I’m a big fan of salary transparency, especially because salaries for the same job title can vary wildly across organizations. To be fair, Employers often want to reserve that information for optimal bargaining power after recruiting the best possible pool of candidates.

The national average salary for people with the title Library Director is $77,822, according to Glassdoor. Of course, that average includes people in high cost of living locations who have been in that position for a long time, and the person filling this position might be newly jumping to the director level.

My guess for this salary is based on the relatively small size of the library and the eminently affordable cost of living in Miles City (Craigslist shows a sweet 2 bedroom apartment with a garage for just $800!). I would guess that the salary would fall in the $40K range.


This Library Director job opportunity at Miles Community College would be a great fit for someone who is broadly familiar with all functions of a library and knows how to lead effectively in a tight-knit organization.

I love how well the job posting conveys the day to day responsibilities for this library director – and the potential challenges. The college administration seems to have a clear vision of how they want the library to evolve with the times, while being realistic about resource constraints in a small college. This would be great leadership position for a librarian with experience at a small academic library or a rural public library.

We have no connection with Miles Community College and no insider scoop on this job posting – but we’ll cross our fingers for you if you apply!

trees arching over a pathway with text "Accidental Acquisitions Librarian"

I call myself an “Accidental Acquisitions Librarian” because I never imagined overseeing budgets, handling monthly reconciliation, negotiating deals with vendors, overseeing and leading a unit and so much more that I do.

Did you envision your dream job when you were in library school? Maybe it was providing reference services or cataloging rare books or running story time.

Before I started library school I had no idea how tight the job market was and how challenging landing that dream or first job could be.

I attended one of the largest LIS programs in the country with a few thousand other students. I enjoyed the program and felt it prepared me in many ways for my career, however the size of the program and all the other LIS programs means there is a lot of competition for jobs. In my current workplace we also accept graduate degrees related to the MLIS for Librarian positions, so that means even more competition.

With all the people looking for library work, how do you land your dream job? Sometimes we find ourselves on a path we didn’t imagine.

I fell into this area because I had a supervisor who saw potential in me and heard my request to lead more within the organization. I was given the responsibility of handling monthly reconciliation of our collections budget, which led to taking on increased financial responsibilities and supervision.

I did not consider myself a leader before starting my graduate studies. I found myself in leadership roles during school and after, so I have made the conscious effort to grow and develop my leadership abilities.

When I first took monthly reconciliation over I have to admit there was some hair pulling on my end (who goes to library school to handle budgets?). Stepping outside my comfort zone was hard, but it gave me skills that helped me advance into my first professional position. I have stepped outside my comfort zone other times and walked away knowing that type of work is not for me. However, sometimes you walk away loving something you never thought you would and opening pathways you wouldn’t have imagined.

Are you on a path in libraries you never envisioned? How did you get there?

circulation diagram with title

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.

Job Duties

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.

Photo of globes on a shelf in the Portland Central Library

Globes in the Portland Central Library. Photo by flickr user Another Believer

Reignite your wanderlust with a peek at the International Librarians Network (ILN), a group that connects peer librarians across the globe for a two-way sharing experience.

Sign up now to be connected with a librarian from another part of the world. You’ll exchange emails, and (if your schedules are compatible) talk on the phone or video chat. ILN suggests weekly topics to help keep conversation flowing.

The last time I signed up for ILN, I was partnered with Claire Sewell from the UK. Our email exchanges were great – we bonded over lack of shelf space and talked about our dreams for career advancement. It was really cool to develop a connection with a librarian I wouldn’t normally have a chance to meet in person.

This program is an excellent reminder that a library career is not incompatible with glamorous international travel. I love hearing about colleagues traveling to conferences like IFLA (in Singapore this summer) and ECIL (in Istanbul next month). Connecting with a librarian in a different country is also a great way to consider what elements in our career transcend geographical and cultural differences, and what about library work might be influenced locally.

Sign up by February 14 to join the upcoming cycle of international connectivity.

Rising to a leadership role can make you feel disconnected from front line library work. You might even forget how to librarian.

One library director wrote about this feeling, highlighting the change from instruction to administration:

So, maybe what I’m trying to do is put myself out there and say, out loud, that I feel a little lost. I am looking for my peers…my community. New(ish) library directors or other administrators who don’t always feel like they belong, don’t know which circles they should be floating in, don’t always feel like they can identify anymore as librarians. But, they love what they do.

Building a community of library leaders who love what they do is, in a nutshell, the mission of Library Lost & Found. We want to create a community of peers to talk about leading change, moving things forward, and even just the nuts and bolts of managing people in libraries.

Some ways to combat feeling lost after moving into leadership:

  • Find a wide group of peers (as BossLady mentioned)
  • Work a shift on the ref or circ desk into your schedule every week, even just a few hours
  • Take steps toward being the awesomest leader you can be
  • Focus on the impact your library has on users – and how you can make it more meaningful

It might take time to find your footing after moving into an administrative role. Leadership is critical to making libraries great, but the role means a significant change in how you focus your time. Feeling a little lost is OK.