On Monday, August 8, I sat down for an in person job interview with St. Louis County Library for an Assistant Branch Manager position at their Daniel Boone library. I met with the Branch Manager and a woman from Human Resources. We spoke for approximately 30 minutes. It was all very pleasant. I stressed why I wanted to make the change from academic to public libraries. I stressed that I’d worked for the system before. I stressed how my experience represented transferable skills. I stressed my desire for stability and to stay local. I stressed my organizational skills and my penchant for documentation and procedures because that is a focus of this particular manager — something I’d received inside information on from another branch manager.
On Wednesday, August 10, I received a boiler plate email from the library system that, yet again, I was not qualified to fill the position. What they actually said is,
Thank you for interviewing for the Assistant Branch Manager position at the Daniel Boone Branch of the St. Louis County Library. We felt fortunate to have had several other highly qualified applicants from which to choose. The selection decision was not an easy one; however, it was felt that another applicant more closely met the qualifications we were seeking.
Again, we appreciate your interest and wish you every success in achieving your career objectives.
Excepting the salutations that is the entire email.
- 11 years’ library experience.
- All of which in public/access services
- 1 Master’s degree in Library and Information Science
- 18 months with this very system
- 1 semester practicum in a busy public library to prepare for this kind of position
- Regular dealings with patrons in which I must solve problems or salve frustrations
- Creation, enforcement, evaluation, and refinement of policies and procedures
- Supervision of employees
- Manage a circulation desk
- Perform reference interviews
- Manage emergency procedures
- Open and close the facility
These are the duties which I have performed for more than a decade, and more I did not list. Am I to believe that someone else that they talked to betters that experience? Pardon me, but I find that hard to believe.
What exactly is the problem?
My interview skills are on point. I’m not glib. I’m not negative. I’m not snarky. I’m friendly, open, and well spoken. I could be more concise in my answers, but I wouldn’t want to be too polished. My service orientation is strong, and my management orientation is team-building. I am passionate for and dedicated to the mission of all libraries. I have the degree. I have the experience. What more can I do?
I appear to have committed a great sin in the eyes of public librarians. I accepted a job in an academic library, and therefore I am forever banned from rejoining the public sphere. The trouble with this sin, though, is that there is apparently no way for me to repent for it. I have tried many, many times to get a non-professional position in St. Louis County’s system, as well as St. Louis Public Library‘s system, but to no avail. Each and every application I send to St. Louis Public — STL‘s city library — goes down a black hole, and I never hear from them. One public librarian I am friendly with and to whose branch I applied told me that she doubted I would be there long if she’d hired me. What I’d never had the chance to explain is that even that paraprofessional position was a $6k raise for me and I’d easily give that position a full calendar year before attempting to move up.
What more can I do?
Am I supposed to take a part-time job as a clerk in one of these systems, work my way through every level, and eventually, in ten year’s time get promoted to the positions I’m already technically qualified for? That’s a waste of everyone’s time, especially mine.
Am I to give up? Am I to throw in the towel and scream “Uncle” because the public systems have shunned me? If I do that, then I’ve shut myself out of approximately 50% of all library jobs in the country. Why would I handicap myself like that?
There seems to be something rotten in the notion that I can get flown hither and yon around this country interviewing at large universities in multi-day events, but can’t be spoken to for more than 30 minutes for even the most basic of library jobs, locally. True, in the last eight years, no one has offered me a job, but the very fact that I can appear appealing enough to be brought to the University of Colorado – Colorado Springs, University of Cincinnati, Georgia Southern University, MOBIUS Consortium, Missouri University of Science and Technology, and the University of Texas – San Antonio, usually at great expense to the institutions, tells me that my qualifications aren’t really the issue. What that issue is, I’m at a loss to say.