Out of curiosity I recently attended the instruction presentation of a candidate for an academic librarian position at one of the University of Illinois subject libraries.
For those who aren’t as familiar with the academic library hiring process, a select few are eventually chosen (after the call for applications has gone out, applications and resumes have been reviewed, and telephone interviews have taken place) to come onto campus for an intense marathon day full of interviews, free meals, and meetings. It is a chance for you to get more acquainted with the library and for a variety of people (usually including the hiring committee, the head university librarian, and the other librarians in your subject library) to get more acquainted with you.
I’ve been trying to acquaint myself with library interviewing and hiring processes, as I’ll be on the job market soon enough. After picking the brains of friends who’ve gone through it all, I realized that, for me, the most daunting aspect of an academic interview would be the presentation. How do you know what to present on, as the specifications are usually fairly generic and vague? How general or specific/targeted should your presentation be? Should you use a PowerPoint and/or other technology, or is that considered tacky?
I suddenly realized that these candidate interviews are always open to all library staff members at my university library and that as a graduate assistant I am certainly allowed to sit in. I was very pleasantly surprised and felt tremendously informed by the candidate’s presentation. She taught a basic instruction class targeted at a lower-level undergrad psychology class about how to locate relevant resources for an assigned paper. She used a PowerPoint but also seamlessly flipped to the library webpage, online resources, and databases when appropriate.
I was very struck by the simplicity of what seemed to be her central idea/theme: that there is a variety of information out there and students need to know how to be able to parse through it and find credible and relevant information. This is a very advantageous and appropriate mindset to display to a hiring committee, given the changing nature of libraries and the role of librarians. She applied this mindset to the specific assignment and goals for the class, but the overall idea remained intact and could translate easily to other instruction sessions.
Overall, I found sitting in on one of these candidate presentations to be very helpful and interesting. I would highly recommend doing so to any library science student who is going to be on the job market soon. It is a great way to see what works, what could be improved upon, and how to troubleshoot/answer questions on the fly.