Job Hunting

Librarian Interview Questions and Answers: Tips and Examples

June 24, 2023

Table of Contents

If you're preparing for an interview for a job as a librarian interview, knowing what questions to expect and how to answer them is essential. Whether you're a recent library school graduate or an experienced librarian looking for a new job, effectively communicating your skills and experience is key. This article will provide an overview of common librarian interview questions and answers to help you prepare for your upcoming interview.

Preparing for a librarian interview involves more than just reviewing your CV and cover letter. You'll want to research the library and community you'll be serving, familiarise yourself with the core competencies required for the job, and prepare answers to common behavioural and technical questions. By doing your homework and practising your responses, you'll be better equipped to showcase your skills and experience during the interview.

Key Takeaways

  • Preparing for a librarian interview involves researching the library and community you'll serve, familiarising yourself with core competencies, and practising your responses to common questions.
  • Core competencies for librarians include customer service, communication, organisation, and technology skills.
  • Behavioural questions may focus on your ability to work with others, adapt to change, and handle difficult situations. Technical questions may focus on your knowledge of library systems, cataloguing, and information literacy.

Preparing for a Librarian Interview

As with any interview, preparation is vital to success. Here are some tips for preparing for a librarian interview:

Researching the Library

Before your interview, research the library you are applying to. Look at their website and social media pages to learn about their mission, values, and services. If possible, visit the library in person to get a feel for the atmosphere and community it serves. This will help you tailor your responses to the library's needs and goals.

Reviewing the Job Description

Carefully review the job description to understand the responsibilities and requirements of the position. List your relevant experience and skills that match the job description. This will help you answer questions about how your knowledge and skills make you a good fit for the position.

Preparing Responses to Common Questions

Prepare responses to common interview questions, such as:

  1. How did you hear about this job opening?
  2. What do you know about our library and the community we serve?
  3. How would you describe your past role as a librarian?
  4. What are three of your strongest skills, and how will you apply them here?
  5. Why do you want to work here?

Practice your responses out loud, and time yourself to ensure your answers are concise and focused. Use specific examples from your experience to illustrate your answers.

By researching the library, reviewing the job description, and preparing responses to common questions, you will be well-prepared for your librarian interview.

Core Competencies for a Librarian

When preparing for a librarian interview, it's essential to have a good understanding of the core competencies required for the role. Here are some of the main competencies you should be aware of:

Customer Service Skills

As a librarian, you will work with a wide range of people, from children to senior citizens. Therefore, you must have excellent customer service skills. You should be able to communicate clearly and effectively with library users and help them find the information they need. You should also be able to deal with demanding customers calmly and professionally.

Question: Can you provide an example of a situation where you had to use your customer service skills to assist a challenging library user? How did you ensure they left satisfied with their experience?

Example Answer: "I have always enjoyed working with people, and I believe that my strong communication skills and ability to remain calm under pressure make me well-suited to a role in customer service. In my previous job as a sales assistant, I was responsible for dealing with a wide range of customers, and I was always able to find a solution to any problems."

Organisational Skills

As a librarian, you will be responsible for organising and maintaining the library's collection of books and other materials. This requires excellent organisational skills, as well as attention to detail. You should be able to keep track of multiple tasks and projects at once and be able to prioritise your workload effectively.

Question: Could you share an example from your past experience that demonstrates your ability to manage multiple tasks and projects simultaneously?

Example Answer: "I have always been very organised, and I enjoy working in an environment where attention to detail is important. In my previous job as an administrative assistant, I was responsible for managing a busy schedule of appointments and meetings, and I was always able to keep everything running smoothly."

Communication Skills

As a librarian, you will need to be able to communicate effectively with a wide range of people, including library users, colleagues, and other stakeholders. You should be able to explain complex information clearly and concisely, and be able to adapt your communication style to suit different audiences.

Question: Can you give an example where you had to explain complex information to a diverse group of individuals? How did you adapt your communication style to suit their understanding levels?

Example Answer: "I have always been a strong communicator and enjoy working with people from different backgrounds and cultures. In my previous job as a teacher, I was responsible for explaining complex concepts to my students in a way they could understand, and I was always able to adapt my teaching style to suit their individual needs."

Technical Skills for a Librarian

To be a successful librarian, you need to have a solid understanding of library systems and software and cataloguing and classification skills. Additionally, you should be able to instruct patrons in information literacy.

Knowledge of Library Systems

As a librarian, you will manage the library's collection and assist patrons with their research and information needs. Therefore, it is essential to know about library systems and software. You should be proficient in using various library management systems and software to maintain and organise the library's collection. For example, you should be familiar with integrated library systems (ILS) such as Koha, Alma, or Symphony.

Question: Can you describe your experience with integrated library systems such as Koha, Alma, or Symphony?

Example answer: "I have experience using Koha, an open-source ILS, to manage the library's collection. I am also familiar with using online databases such as JSTOR and ProQuest to assist patrons with their research needs."

Cataloguing and Classification Skills

Cataloguing and classification skills are essential for librarians. You should be able to catalogue and classify materials accurately and efficiently. This includes assigning call numbers, subject headings, and other metadata to items in the library's collection. You should also have knowledge of cataloguing standards such as MARC and RDA.

Question: Can you share a situation where your cataloguing and classification skills were particularly tested? How did you ensure accuracy and efficiency in your work, especially when using standards like MARC and RDA

Example answer: "Throughout my previous role at the Townsville Public Library, I frequently utilised both MARC and RDA standards to efficiently catalogue and classify a diverse range of materials within the library's collection. My duties involved not only assigning relevant call numbers and subject headings to new acquisitions, but also ensuring that these were consistent with the library's existing categorisation system.

My meticulous attention to detail and understanding of the categorisation systems proved beneficial in maintaining a well-organised and easily navigable library. For instance, when we received a large donation of books, I was responsible for incorporating these into our existing collection. My proficiency in using MARC and RDA enabled me to catalogue these materials accurately and in a timely manner, which ultimately enhanced the user experience for our library patrons."

Information Literacy Instruction

As a librarian, you will be responsible for instructing patrons in information literacy. This includes teaching patrons how to find and evaluate information effectively and how to use library resources such as databases and online catalogues. You should also be able to assist patrons with their research needs and provide guidance on citation styles.

Question: Given your experience as a librarian, can you describe an instance where you had to instruct a patron or a group of patrons on information literacy skills? How did you approach teaching citation styles like APA and MLA?

Example answer: "In my previous role at the County Public Library, I frequently conducted workshops and one-on-one sessions to impart information literacy skills to our patrons. This included teaching them how to evaluate the credibility of different sources, as well as guiding them on the most effective ways to utilise our library's diverse resources.

For example, I developed a series of interactive workshops targeted at local university students, covering critical topics such as identifying reliable academic sources, distinguishing scholarly journals from other types of publications, and using our library's databases effectively for their research.

Furthermore, I also have a strong understanding of various citation styles such as APA and MLA. I made it a point to incorporate this into the workshops, providing clear, step-by-step demonstrations on how to apply these styles when referencing sources in their academic work. By doing so, I ensured that patrons left these sessions not only with a better understanding of how to conduct research effectively, but also the necessary skills to credit their sources correctly."

Behavioural Questions for a Librarian

When preparing for a librarian job interview, it is essential to be aware of the behavioural questions you may be asked. These questions assess your soft skills, such as your ability to handle difficult patrons, work collaboratively with others, and adapt to changing situations. Here are some common behavioural questions that you may encounter during a librarian job interview:

Handling Difficult Patrons

As a librarian, you may encounter patrons who are angry, upset, or difficult to deal with. Employers want to know that you can handle these situations professionally and effectively. Some example questions you may be asked include:

  1. Tell me about a time when you dealt with a difficult patron. How did you handle the situation?
  2. How do you manage conflict with patrons who are unhappy with library policies or services?
  3. How do you balance the needs of different patrons, especially those with conflicting demands or requests?

Example answer: "In my previous role as a librarian, I had a patron who was upset about a book that was overdue. I listened to their concerns and explained the library's policy on overdue books. I offered to waive the fine as a gesture of goodwill, and the patron left feeling satisfied. I believe it's essential to remain calm and professional in these situations and to find a solution that meets the patron's needs while also upholding library policies."

Teamwork and Collaboration

Librarians often work as part of a team, and employers want to know that you can collaborate effectively with others. Some example questions you may be asked include:

  1. Tell me about a time when you had to work with a team to achieve a common goal.
  2. How do you build relationships with colleagues and other library staff?
  3. How do you handle conflicts or disagreements with team members?

Example answer: "In my previous role, I worked with a team of librarians to organise a community event. We each had different responsibilities, but we communicated regularly to ensure everything ran smoothly. I believe that building relationships with colleagues is essential, and I always make an effort to get to know my colleagues and collaborate with them effectively."

Adaptability and Flexibility

Libraries are dynamic environments, and librarians need to adapt to changing situations and new technologies. Some example questions you may be asked include:

  1. Tell me about a time when you had to adapt to a new technology or system.
  2. How do you stay up-to-date with new developments in library science?
  3. How do you handle unexpected changes or challenges in your work?

Example answer: "In my previous role, the library introduced a new online catalogue system. I attended training sessions and worked closely with the IT department to ensure I understood the system and could help patrons use it effectively. I believe that it's essential to stay up-to-date with new developments in library science, and I regularly attend conferences and training sessions to learn about new technologies and best practices."

Additional Resources for Librarians

There's more to becoming a librarian than just acing the interview. To support you further on your journey, we have curated a selection of valuable resources from our blog:

  1. How to Write a Librarian CV: Your CV is the first impression a prospective employer gets of you. Check out this blog post to understand the crucial elements that make a compelling Librarian CV. Learn how to showcase your skills, qualifications, and experience in the best way possible.
  2. Key Skills Librarians Need in the Digital Age: As the library environment rapidly evolves, so too does the role of the librarian. Our digital era requires you to adapt and develop new competencies. This post discusses the critical skills you will need to excel in today's libraries.
  3. Guide on How to Become a Librarian: If you're just starting your journey to becoming a librarian or are considering this rewarding career path, our comprehensive guide is the perfect place to start. Learn about the educational requirements, day-to-day responsibilities, career progression and more.
  4. Latest Librarian Jobs: Ready to make the next move in your librarian career? Browse the latest job listings on our job board. We constantly update our listings with exciting opportunities in libraries across the country.

By taking advantage of these resources, you can fully equip yourself for a successful career as a librarian. Preparation is indeed key, so immerse yourself in these guides and emerge as a stronger candidate, ready to make a significant impact in your next role.

Alex Lockey
Director | Bolt Jobs
Founder Alex Lockey is an expert in further education, learning, and skills sector. He leads cost-effective hiring solutions and is known for successful talent placements. Dynamic and driven, Alex seeks innovative solutions to solve sector hiring challenges.