The ALIA SNGG Academic Library QandA Interview is for professional development learning for students and graduates. Answers in this Academic Library QandA interview are the view of one person and may be different for other Academic Librarians at other Academic Libraries in Australia.

1. What does the Academic Library selection process look like?      

Most jobs will have selection criteria or a written document to submitted along with a resume. Each person on the recruitment panel will score these to rank the applicants, who will come together to work out a short list of people to interview. During the interviews each panel member will also score each answer and usually write notes to remember what was said. At the end of the interviews the panel will discuss how they ranked each candidate. In my (limited) experience, the panel members will usually rank candidates quite similarly, looking at both the written responses and the interview. Preferred candidates will be selected to contact their references. The panel will say if they think each person they interviewed would be suitable to employ. If the prefered candidate declines the job offer, the HR contact will move onto other selected candidates. 

2. Should students and graduates create a Professional Summary to highlight their skills?

I would say yes to this. I was also encouraged to have an elevator pitch or summary for each job I had above a list of duties.

3. What technical and soft skills should students and graduates add to an Academic Library resume?

Excel skills, referencing and visual design skills. EndNote (or other similar programs).

Customer service skills. Teamwork, team lending and team building skills. Problem solving closing the loop – notifying people when problems are solved. 

4. What advice do you have for School, Public, TAFE and Specialist librarians to highlight experience for Academic Library jobs?

Firstly, I would suggest that TAFE and university libraries are both academic. There is quite a bit of overlap in the type of work done. University libraries tend to be larger, so the jobs can be more specialised, and there are roles associated with the research aspect of universities. Working in a TAFE library can be a way to get experience of some of the things done in university libraries. There are also some advantages to working in a TAFE library over a university library.

Selection criteria responses with specific examples of good outcomes – will be considered by university recruitment panels.

5. What advice do you have for students who feel ignored by Academic Libraries for having volunteer library experience over paid library experience?

Keep trying. I believe academic libraries are open to hiring people who don’t have direct experience in the role they are advertising. However, if someone has experience in the advertised role, it could be difficult for someone else to get past them. Library roles can be very specialised. If someone is applying from a different area of the library, they may have some organisational knowledge but may not have direct experience of the tasks in the role they are going for.

Some advertised jobs may get a candidate with specific experience, but others won’t. HEO5 and HEO6 roles should be appropriate for people that do not have extensive experience.

Sometimes, job titles and position descriptions can make it hard to understand what the role actually does. Find someone to talk to at the library about the different roles within the library. Librarians are happy to share information.  

6. What do Academic Librarians do in front facing roles?

My view of this role is that you try to assist people as best you can, but you also need to know when to refer people on. Knowldge of areas of the library or the organisation is needed to know where to send information. The most common professional library category to help people with is referencing. An understanding of the university’s referencing guide is essential. 

Database searching and basic troubleshooting is useful. An ability understand problems, as people often say, vague or somewhat abstract things. You also need to be able to work over phone, chat or email if it is a problem that just that student is having or if it is affecting everyone. 

While practicing using the most popular database interfaces is helpful, it is also important to quickly get used to a database because there are so many different ones.

7. What does an Acquisition Librarian do in an Academic Library?

 At my organisation we buy everything and troubleshoot problems with access when things go wrong. Most subscriptions we have run from January to December, so the year follows a process where at the end and start of the year. We then collect usage statistics to help decide if things should be renewed or cancelled. Towards the end of the year we make arrangements to cancel items or get quotes for next year. We may need to find extra resources to spend any money remaining in our budget. 

We also make one-off purchases of print books and eBooks – this is done throughout the year but has peak times just before the start of semesters. We do some regular maintenance tasks to identify problems. There is a lot of investigation involved as we would try to dig down to find the cause of the problem. With the purchasing and the troubleshooting side we often contact vendors.

8. Should Professional Membership be added to a Professional Development Area?  

I would say yes. Maybe everyone would not agree, but I would say that it shows commitment to the industry. 

9. Do Academic Libraries provide Professional Development opportunities?

Yes. My library has internal PD sessions and encourages participation in university and external sessions. There are committees and working groups that people can join with people from other library teams, other parts of the university or other libraries.   

Thank you to David Trimble from La Trobe University.

Keep an eye on our blog for our Academic Library QandA 4 post.


#academiclibraries #aliasngg #students #graduates #aliamembers #selectioncriteria #professionaldevelopment


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