View Full Version : Question for Librarians-what skills would you look for in a circulation desk employee

8-15-11, 6:59pm
I have been raising my family for the last 20 years and have been out of the workforce but would LOVE to work at the circulation desk at the local library.

I served 5 years on the Board of Trustees at the library about 8 years ago and know the librarian personally. I have submitted my application before and interviewed but did not get the job. (this was about 5 years ago).

Now I want to apply again and would like to know what skills to highlight on the app and in the interview.

thank you!

8-15-11, 8:55pm
Computer skills, customer service skills, this job is pretty much detail oriented, flexible hours. If you don't get the job, try to volunteer there and learn some of the jobs firsthand and that will also give you the skill base to apply. I work in a library and there are many different kinds of circulation programs to work with, including winnebago and millenium. You need to pay close attention when you are checking things in to see if holds are placed on these items for other patrons or if someone has a message on their patron record or even a fine. I've been doing this work for 17 years and have loved this kind of work. Hope this helps!

Miss Cellane
8-16-11, 8:54am
I used to supervise work-study students at the circulation desk of a university library. What I looked for was people who would show up on time and be dependable. Who were detail oriented, as we had very specific procedures. Who could learn the computer software we used. Who were good with people, as the circ desk did holds and recalls and, because of where we were located, were the only desk most people could find to ask a question, any question, about the library. And our students had to help people get library cards and be able to explain the borrowing rules.

People who were good on the phone, as we got a lot of phone calls. People who knew when they were in over their heads and would know when to get a senior staff person to solve a patron's problem. And people who could put books in order by call number, which meant knowing the alphabet--we had more than one student who had difficulty with this, believe it or not. Physically, they had to be able to stand for an hour or two (we had tall chairs for them, but in rush times they weren't sitting down very much) and push a full book truck.

It can be a fun job, as you get to meet a lot of people as they come to check out books. And if you like to read, you get to see all the titles of books as they come and go. My "I have to read this book!" list was always enormous while I was working there.

8-17-11, 2:42pm
Although I recently qualified as a librarian, I am working as an academic library assistant, mainly on the front desk.

I would say the main qualities you will need to demonstrate are:

Being adept at dealing with a wide range of people from different backgrounds, of different ages and education levels. Also, being able to handle difficult users!
Having good all-round IT skills and being able to pick up new technology quickly (you will probably have to help library users with IT as well as use it yourself)
For public libraries in particular, having a genuine interest in reading (anything, not just fiction) is essential - library users often want recommendations!
Knowing where to look for high quality information and how to interpret it, and, if necessary, translate it to the user
Demonstrable administrative and organisational skills as well as the ability to prioritise tasks.

A good knowledge of what libraries actually do (in the widest sense) is also useful for interview, eg. they're not all about books, they provide learning opportunities, they help to bridge the poverty gap, etc. Knowing what libraries are and what they aim to achieve will help you generate interesting and thoughtful questions for the end of your interview. For example, in my last interview, I asked if there were any particular demographics in the local population that did not make frequent use of the library. Of course, the answer was teenagers, which I already knew, but it demonstrated to them that I was thinking of the wider picture and had an understanding of the issues facing libraries (I was offered that job, btw ;)).

8-17-11, 7:07pm
I am an academic librarian, but have worked at public libraries in the past. Right now, the job market is really tight, so you have to remember that you may be competing against people who have many years experience and/or a degree in library science.

That being said, I would look for someone who is very familiar with the library computer system (even as a library user, you can learn a lot about how the system works - for placing holds, paying fines, downloading materials, etc. I have learned a few tricks from our patrons.)
General computer skills - if you have a blog or can set up a web page, definitely let them know.
An ability to work with constant interruptions.
I would look for someone who knows, and is active in, the local community (sounds like you have that down!)
Someone who is able to work with difficult people.
I think you should highlight the fact that you would really love this job! I would rather hire someone who felt that it was exactly the position they are looking for than someone who is over-qualified and is taking the job as a stop-gap.

Good luck!