17 Head Librarian Interview Questions and Answers

Learn what skills and qualities interviewers are looking for from a head librarian, what questions you can expect, and how you should go about answering them.

Libraries are more than just places to check out books. They’re also community hubs that offer educational resources, host events, and provide a space for people to gather and socialize. As a head librarian, you’re responsible for the overall operation of the library, from budgeting and personnel management to programming and event planning.

If you’re interested in becoming a head librarian, you’ll need to have several years of experience working in a library, as well as a master’s degree in library science. You’ll also need to be prepared to answer a variety of head librarian interview questions.

In this guide, we’ve compiled a list of common head librarian interview questions and answers that you can use to prepare for your interview.

Are you familiar with the latest trends in library science?

Employers ask this question to see if you are up-to-date with the latest developments in your field. They want to know that you can adapt to new technologies and processes as they become available. In your answer, explain how you stay informed about library science trends. Share a few of the resources you use to learn about these changes.

Example: “I am very familiar with the latest trends in library science because I subscribe to several industry newsletters. These publications keep me updated on the newest software programs for cataloging books and other materials. I also attend conferences where experts share their insights into the future of libraries. For example, I recently learned about an app that helps patrons find books by scanning its barcode. This technology is still in development, but it could be useful for our library when it becomes available.”

What are some of the most important qualities for a head librarian to have?

This question can help interviewers understand what you value in a head librarian. They may also use your answer to determine if you possess these qualities yourself. When answering this question, it can be helpful to think about the qualities that helped you succeed as a library employee and how they relate to being a head librarian.

Example: “I believe some of the most important qualities for a head librarian are leadership skills, communication skills and organization skills. As a head librarian, you need to be able to lead your team while also communicating with them effectively. You should also have strong organizational skills so you can keep track of all the tasks you need to complete each day. These three qualities helped me become successful as an assistant librarian, and I hope to continue using them as a head librarian.”

How would you describe your management style?

This question can help interviewers understand how you would interact with your team members. Your management style is unique to you, but it’s important to be honest about what type of leader you are and how you would approach managing a team of librarians.

Example: “I believe in being an empathetic manager who listens to my team members’ concerns and ideas. I also think it’s important to set clear expectations for my team so that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities. As head librarian, I would want to make sure all staff members feel comfortable approaching me with questions or concerns.”

What is your experience with developing budgets for libraries?

Interviewers may ask this question to learn about your experience with financial management. They want to know how you use budgets and financial reports to make decisions that benefit the library. Use examples from past experiences to explain how you create a budget, monitor expenses and manage funds.

Example: “In my last position as head librarian, I was responsible for creating the annual budget for the library. I started by researching what other libraries in our area spent on supplies, utilities and staff salaries. Then, I met with department heads to discuss their needs and expectations for the upcoming year. After gathering all of this information, I created a preliminary budget that I submitted to the board of directors for approval. The board reviewed the budget and made adjustments before approving it.”

Provide an example of a time when you had to make a difficult decision regarding the management of your library.

The interviewer may ask you a question like this to assess your decision-making skills and how they apply to managing a library. Use examples from your past experience that highlight your critical thinking, problem-solving and leadership abilities.

Example: “In my last position as head librarian of the public library, I had to make some difficult decisions regarding budget cuts. The library was facing a significant decrease in funding, which meant we would have to cut back on our hours and staff members. I met with all of the department heads to discuss the situation and determine what areas we could reduce spending without affecting the quality of service. We decided to eliminate one full-time employee position and reduce the number of open hours for the library.”

If you had the opportunity to make any changes to our library’s current structure or services, what would they be?

This question can help interviewers determine your level of interest in the library and how you might approach making improvements. When answering this question, it can be helpful to mention a specific change or improvement that you would make and explain why you feel it would benefit the library.

Example: “If I had the opportunity to make changes to our library’s current structure or services, I would first look at ways we could improve our online resources. I think there is always room for improvement when it comes to digital resources, so I would like to see us implement more interactive features on our website and mobile app. For example, I would like to see us add an option where patrons can request books from home rather than having to come into the library to place their order. This would save them time and allow us to better track which books are most popular among our patrons.”

What would you do if you noticed staff members disagreeing about how to handle a situation?

As a head librarian, you may need to resolve conflicts between staff members. Employers ask this question to learn how you would handle such situations and ensure that the library maintains its positive reputation. In your answer, explain what steps you would take to help everyone come to an agreement or compromise.

Example: “I would first listen to both sides of the story. Then I would try to understand why each person had their own opinion on the situation. After hearing all the facts, I would talk with both parties separately to see if we could find a solution that made everyone happy. If not, I would encourage them to think about it overnight and then discuss it again in the morning.”

How well do you handle stress?

Head librarians often have to manage a lot of stress. They are responsible for the overall well-being and success of their library, which can be stressful. Interviewers ask this question to make sure you’re able to handle stress in your role as head librarian. In your answer, explain how you plan to reduce stress in your job.

Example: “I am very good at managing stress. I find that my best method is to take breaks throughout the day. For example, I like to get up from my desk every hour or so to stretch and walk around. This helps me clear my mind and refresh myself. Another way I manage stress is by setting realistic goals for myself. I try not to overwhelm myself with too many tasks at once.”

Do you have any experience working with digital library resources?

The interviewer may ask this question to learn more about your experience with digital library resources. This can help them determine if you have the skills and knowledge needed for the role. If you do, share what types of resources you used and how they helped you in your work. If you don’t have any experience working with digital library resources, explain that you are willing to learn new technology and systems.

Example: “I’ve worked with digital library resources since I started my career as a librarian. In my previous position, I was responsible for creating digital collections of books, magazines and other materials. These collections were available online for patrons to access at their convenience. I also created databases where patrons could search for specific information within the collection.”

When it comes to providing customer service, what is your philosophy?

Customer service is an important part of being a head librarian. Employers ask this question to make sure you understand the importance of providing excellent customer service and how you would implement it in your role as head librarian. When answering, think about what makes customers happy and how you can apply those principles to your work as a head librarian.

Example: “I believe that every interaction with a customer should be positive. I always try to greet people with a smile and offer them help when they need it. If someone has a problem or concern, I take the time to listen to them and do my best to resolve their issue. I also like to thank people for coming into the library and making use of our services.”

We want to increase our outreach to the community. If you had to pick one area to focus on for this purpose, what would it be?

The interviewer may ask this question to see how you prioritize your work and what strategies you use to get things done. Your answer should show that you can plan ahead, set goals and achieve them.

Example: “I would focus on increasing our presence in the community by offering more programs for children and adults alike. I think it’s important to reach out to people who don’t necessarily come into the library often so they know we’re here to help with any questions or needs they have. I’d also like to increase our online presence by creating a blog where we could share interesting facts about the library and its resources.”

Describe your process for reviewing and selecting new books and other materials for the library.

Interviewers may ask this question to learn more about your decision-making process and how you use your judgment. In your answer, describe the steps you take when selecting new materials for the library’s collection. Explain that you consider factors such as budget, patron feedback and professional reviews.

Example: “I start by researching which books are popular with other libraries in my state or region. I also look at professional book review websites and read any reviews they have on a book before deciding whether it would be a good fit for our library. If I find positive reviews from multiple sources, I’ll add the book to our collection. I also like to select books that reflect the interests of our community, so I will often survey patrons to see what types of books they want us to carry.”

What makes you stand out from other candidates for this position?

Employers ask this question to learn more about your qualifications and how you can contribute to their library. Before your interview, make a list of all the skills and experiences that relate to this position. Think about what makes you unique from other candidates and share these qualities with the interviewer.

Example: “I have been working as a librarian for five years now, and I am passionate about helping students find books they enjoy reading. In my previous role, I noticed that many students were struggling to find books that matched their reading level. So, I started a book club where we discussed different genres and strategies for finding books at the right reading level. This program was so successful that it became part of our school’s curriculum.”

Which library management software programs are you familiar with?

Head librarians need to be familiar with a variety of library management software programs. These include cataloging, circulation and inventory systems. The interviewer may ask this question to see if you have experience using these types of programs. In your answer, list the specific software programs that you are familiar with. Explain why you chose to use those particular programs in your previous positions.

Example: “I am familiar with several different library management software programs. I started my career as a reference librarian, so I used Library Thing for managing my collection. I also used Evergreen for creating online databases and LibGuides for creating guides and tutorials. For circulation, I used Follett Destiny for checking out books and processing fines. Finally, I used Symphony for inventory control.”

What do you think is the most important thing a head librarian can do to support the overall mission of a library?

Interviewers ask this question to learn more about your leadership style and how you plan to support the library’s mission. Use examples from your experience that show how you can help a team achieve its goals.

Example: “I think one of the most important things a head librarian can do is create an environment where everyone feels comfortable asking questions. I have found that when people feel like they can approach their superiors with questions, it leads to better collaboration and problem-solving. In my last position, I created a mentorship program for new hires so that they could get to know other employees and build relationships. This helped me foster a culture of openness and trust.”

How often do you update library catalogs?

Updating library catalogs is an important part of being a head librarian. Employers ask this question to make sure you have experience with updating their library’s catalog and can do so efficiently. In your answer, explain how often you update the catalog at your current or previous job. Explain what steps you take when doing so.

Example: “I usually update my library’s catalog once per month. I start by going through all of our books and checking for any missing information. For example, if there are no author names listed on a book, I will look up that information online and add it to the catalog. Next, I go through our DVDs and CDs to see if they need new information as well. Finally, I check for any items that may be out-of-date. If we don’t have a certain item in stock anymore, I remove it from the catalog.”

There is a discrepancy between the physical collection and the library’s online listings. How would you handle it?

This question is an opportunity to show your problem-solving skills and ability to work with a team. Your answer should include steps you would take to identify the discrepancy, how you would communicate with staff members and what actions you would take to resolve the issue.

Example: “I would first verify that there was indeed a discrepancy between the physical collection and the online listings. If so, I would immediately contact my supervisor or library director to report the issue. Next, I would meet with the librarians who are responsible for maintaining the online cataloging system to determine why the discrepancies exist. Once we have identified the cause of the discrepancy, we can implement procedures to ensure it does not happen again.”


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