Preparing for an Interview

General Interview Prep

I highly recommend  Ace the Interview, Land A Librarian Job by Robin O’Hanlon, for preparing for all types of LIS job interviews!  Note that the iSchool Library has one print copy of the book and multiple electronic copies.

Watch iSchool Alum Troy Espe’s recent presentation on Interview Tips & Strategies and practice his techniques with the following CAR Interview Answer Handout.

  • L&S Success Works Interview Guide.
  • Primarily posts interviews generated through online surveys about LIS hiring or careers and maintains a spreadsheet of sample interview questions.

Phone, Virtual and in-Person Interviews


You Need to Ask Questions at the Interview, too!

Asking questions at the interview shows that you have done your research, that you are invested in the organization, and that you are engaged in thinking about the organization and your potential role in the position you are interviewing for.

Sample Interview Questions

Sample Interview Questions Library Interview Question Spreadsheet

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Sample Questions Reported by iSchoolers


  • List five adjectives that describe you
    Suggestion—ask a fellow student, colleague or friend ahead of time!
  • What motivates you?


Adult Services Position

  • What is the role of the library? How has your past education and experience factored into what you consider the role of the library to be?
  • Talk about a time that you took on a leadership role on a team or project. What were the strengths your brought? What techniques did you use to successfully engage others?
  • Talk about a time that you worked with a community partner on a project or program. How did you establish the relationship? What were the opportunities and challenges? How did you express an appreciation of multiple perspectives? How did you assess the partnership at the completion of the event or project?
  • Define diversity. What does it mean to have a commitment to diversity? How do you develop and apply that commitment at the library?
  • What motivates you to succeed? How do you motivate others of diverse backgrounds?
  • Talk about a time when you worked on a program or provided a service that reached an under-served community. What was the goal and what was the outcome?
  • Give a specific example of a time that you had to address an upset patron or customer. What was the problem and the outcome? What was your role in handling the situation? How did your background and experience influence your response to the situation?
  • What experience do you have connecting patrons to information in multiple formats? What experience do you have providing instruction, presentations, or training with regards to accessing this information? If you do not have this experience, what would you do to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to help others?
  • What do you see as the most important emerging trends in libraries? How do you keep current with trends and new technologies?
  • If offered this position, what support would you need from a manager in order to be successful?
  • What questions do you have for us?

Adult Reference Services/Cataloging Position

  • Describe your experience and how that experience would benefit the mission of the library. (The Tell me About Yourself Question)
  • Describe your collection development experience. Which areas of the collection would you feel most comfortable with and what areas you would find challenging to select for.
  • Describe your experience using the various cataloging tools: OCLC, WebDewey, LCSH, etc.
  • Tell us what what you know about Fifty Shades of Grey. Would you put it on your library’s shelf? What would you do if a patron complained about the library holding the title?
  • Describe a situation where you were under pressure and how did you deal with it.
  • Reader’s advisory is an important part of the reference librarian’s job. What was the last book you read and how would you describe it when discussing it with a patron.
  • What are the qualities you think a good cataloger should possess?
  • What is your experience with Library 2.0 such as social networking, digital collections, etc.
  • The problem patron question: Describe a time you dealt with a difficult patron. How did you handle it and what would you have done differently.
  • Do you prefer to be on the desk or behind the scenes?
  • Why should we hire you over other qualified candidates?
  • What is it about this (job) that interested you?
  • What is the biggest challenge facing libraries in the future?

Public – Youth Services

Youth Services Librarian, Public Library Branch

  • Name two books or authors you would recommend for each of these ages: pre-school, school-aged children, teenagers, and adults.
  • What tools and resources would you need from your manager to be successful on the job?
  • How would you modify this story time for toddlers (after giving a selection for 3 – 5 year olds)?
  • Describe a time you received constructive feedback on a story time and how you incorporated it into a story time.

Youth Services Librarian

  • Would you please walk us through your story time plan?
    FOLLOW UP: What do you do when the first book bombs?
    FOLLOW UP: How did you incorporate Early Literacy components into your storytime plan?
  • Can you give an example of a teen program you have done or might like to do?
  • The Summer Library Program is a traditional library program for people of all ages. What do you see are the benefits of a summer reading program?
  • Our city/town has a high population of home school families that rely heavily on the library. How would you continue to serve those patrons while still branching out to attract other populations?
  • A patron comes into the library, comes up to you, and states loudly: “This is a terrible book for children. I want you to get rid of it.” How do you handle this situation?
  • What book or books are on your nightstand or desk or backpack today?
    FOLLOW UP: Do you have a favorite genre or two?

Programming and Community

  • Hopefully you’ve taken a moment to review our January program schedule for the library. What are you excited about?
    FOLLOW UP: What are you excited about adding to the line-up?
  • What are some ideas you might have on using technology to help connect children (and their caregivers) with the services and programs that a public library has to offer?
  • We’re planning to expand the size of the library within the coming 5 years. What kind of community engagement/outreach efforts might assist us in that effort?
  • The job can require some juggling of multiple tasks that might all hit at the same time. What do you do if something like this happens?
  • You are standing in the program room with two staff members who are disagreeing about what to do first as they prepare the room for your program later that day. At least one of them should be at the Children’s Circ desk at that time.
  • Then, you overhear a couple of kids starting to quibble over the computer in the next room.
  • At the same time THAT ONE mom comes in dragging her kids behind her. She walks right up to you and, in a very loud voice, demands to know why the books she needs for her kids are never on the shelf.


  • Please give us an example of when you’ve collaborated in a team setting.
  • The Assistant Director part of the job will require some administrative work. How comfortable are you in dealing with things like finances, staff scheduling, building maintenance issues and things like that?
    FOLLOW UP: How comfortable will you be acting as the Librarian-in-charge when the Director is not in the building?
  • Library service is a constantly changing field. What would you do to keep current with trends in areas like technology, collection development, programming, library operations, etc.?
  • Before we start to wrap up, is there anything else you think we should know about you?
  • If you were offered this position, when would you be available to start?
  • What questions do you have for us?

Public Library – Youth Services Position

  • What about this library appeals to you?
  • What are 3 skills every youth service library should have?
  • In your preparation, what have you learned about the Rochester Public Library?
  • In what areas do you think you would need to improve?
  • Name a book and convince us to read it too. (This one I was unprepared for and my response was the weakest, but I gave an answer and that’s what counts ?)
  • The job requires hours that change by week and you may have to work nights and weekends. How do you feel about that?
  • If you were to be hired, how early would you be able to start?
  • What was the last piece of technology you learned?
  • What steps would you take to build a relationship with another organization?
  • What else is there about you that makes you a good fit for the position?



  • How do you define the difference between a workaholic and a hard worker?
  • Describe your worst day ever on a job, and how you handled it.

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