Archives For job descriptions

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!

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.

LibFocus (a great collaborative library blog) recently shared a post on How to Become a Library Director.

Alex Lent, a public library director from Massachusetts, offers some great tips. His first step (Read Job Ads) is a habit that I think is crucial for any kind professional development. As Lent says:

Job ads don’t just tell you what positions are available, they also tell you what skills, experiences, and traits are needed in order to get the job.

Once you identify the skills needed for a next career step, you can begin to grow towards that goal.

I checked out job ads for academic library department head positions for a full three years before I ever applied. I would think about the skills I was lacking (like managing a budget) and look for ways to practice in my current role.

If I’d waited to check out the ads until I was actually ready to make a career move, I would have been dismayed by the skill gap.

Check out the full post on LibFocus for all of Lent’s tips on becoming a library director.

Before You Say No

Mary Kelly —  November 26, 2013 — 1 Comment
photo credit: Julia Manzerova via photopin cc

photo credit: Julia Manzerova via photopin cc

For the last three years I have been a youth librarian at my tiny library. Prior to that, I was a dyed-in-the-wool adult services librarian. I also did some moonlighting at a small university reference desk and subbed at another public library.  If you had said that I was on track for youth services, I would have thought you were smoking crack. Youth services? Are you kidding? Even my own kids say I have no nurturing instincts.

Prior to my current position, I realized as was at a bit of crossroads. At the same time the economy stunk and I was feeling a bit desperate. The only position I could find was youth services. I liked the library and my co-workers so much I figured I could make it work, so, I said yes to kids.  I honestly never thought I was cut out for this work, and yet here I am. Aside from some occasional suicidal/homicidal thoughts during Summer Reading, I love this job. I really believe if a few things had gone differently I would have never tried youth services.

The point of my tedious life story is to keep an open mind. When I am discussing job postings with people, I often see many people reject positions because they weren’t exactly what they had in mind. It seems like many folks are reading the job posting and maybe one or two skills are not a perfect alignment with their idea of a job. Too often, I see a person not considering anything that isn’t completely within their comfort zone.

So, next time you are running through the job postings, take a breath and look at the larger picture. Before you say no to a job posting, consider the following:

Do you have the minimum requirements?
“Minimum” is the key. Libraries post with a minimum set of requirements and then add extras (“desired skills”) that they would like to have in a candidate. Very few libraries will find everything on the “desired” list.
What is the reputation of the library and the Director? 
Even a great job will be ruined in a flash by horrible management or bad employee culture. Check around. Find out the employee turnover rate. If this library is chewing up directors and librarians every few months, there is a probably a serious problem that you are wise to avoid. Conversely, if you are excited about the staff and direction a library is headed, even if the job isn’t perfect, I would seriously consider applying.
What do you want from a job?
This is where you need to be clear about your own needs. Like the job posting, separate your requirements, or deal breakers, from your list of desired attributes. Don’t forget to be realistic in developing your list of desires and deal breakers. (Example: Desired: open bar in the staff room. Reality: A pop machine, you supply the money.)
Seldom, if ever, does a career go in a straight line toward success or satisfaction. What my example should tell you is that if you are a librarian and you like being a librarian, be open to different kinds of library service. You never know what might happen.

wj_logoMy library is in the midst of three retirements, and all three are key positions: Director, Circulation Supervisor, and Teen Librarian.  The people in these positions have worked here for a long time, and we realized that the job descriptions have not been updated in a while.

Tip: Update job descriptions, or at least read over them, every year when each employee has their annual review.  You’re reviewing how well they are doing what they were hired to do, and the job description lists what they were hired to do.  The timing could not be more perfect!  You’ll get the input of the person actually doing the job, too.

Everyone who works in libraries knows that they change like the wind.  A lot can happen over the course of a year, and employees can find themselves with different responsibilities.  A good job description is vague enough to cover most general areas of responsibility, but specific enough to make it clear to both the employee and the employer what is expected.

We turned to WebJunction for sample job descriptions.  What a fantastic resource!  I urge you to take a look at the wealth of shared information on the site before re-inventing things like policies, procedures, and job descriptions.  For example, here is a link to a whole list of Teen Librarian job descriptions.

Even if you are not currently writing or revising policies, procedures, or job descriptions, this is a great source to keep up to date on what other libraries are doing and to compare your practices to others’.  It provides inspiration for new directions you may not have even realized were options.