Are you interviewing for a new Children’s position? Curious about what to prepare for? Let’s ask our ninjas!
I am interviewing for a Children’s programmer position in the library where I currently work. I am kind of nervous about that.. is there anything I should specifically be ready for? What kind of questions should i be prepared for?
The first thing I’d do would be to think about what ages the position would be focusing on. Will you be expected to do tons of storytimes for preschoolers, or do they want someone who can flip between infants and 10 year old kiddos with ease? Once you know what they are looking for, I’d look around online for programs other children’s librarians have done in that age range and see what makes you excited. I mean, some people get super excited about outdoor programs like story walks, and some people get pumped for LEGO, and some people’s boats are floated by Mother Goose. I think if you are excited about the work, then that will come out in the interview. Plus, you’ll get a good view of best practices and trends, in case they ask about those.
I’ve noticed a lot of my youth services librarian interviews are heavy on the behavioral questions. Think how you would respond to difficult situations – if a kid is misbehaving in a program and the parents are nowhere to be found, if you want to do a program and your boss doesn’t want you to, stuff like that. I find the STAR technique helpful for these – describe the Situation or Task you were working on, talk about the Actions you took, then recap the Results you achieved (Situation Task Actions Results).
First of all, congratulations on the interview! That’s always the biggest hurdle, but now you’re in and I’m sure you’ll rock it. I would come prepared to share your ideas for great programming, and how you will be able to contribute to the community. I would definitely think of ways that your skills will help to attract non-library users, because they are the ones who need us the most!
I would also be prepared to do a storytime, possibly on the fly. At both two of the three children’s positions I’ve had, I presented an abridged storytime in the interview. My first position they asked me to prepare for it, but at my current position, about half way through the interview, they brought out a stack of books and asked me to present. I wouldn’t be surprised if they ask you to at least read something, especially if you will be responsible for storytimes.
And as Ariel mentioned, there are usually a lot of questions about how you would handle a variety of situations. Probably if you are already working in a library, you have some idea of the crazy situations us library workers find ourselves in. Just think of a few situations that you’ve heard of happening and prepare your answer, but most of all just believe that you have good judgement, because you probably do! Trust your gut when they ask you, and tell them what you actually believe you would do and you will be fine.
Congratulations on making it to the finals! If you know the age range the position will be working with, that helps a lot. The fact that you’re already familiar with the library is a real advantage, too. If you know the people doing the interview, make sure to play it straight and show that you’re taking it seriously.
If you already have kids’ programming experience, make the most of it. Come up with examples of programs for various age groups that have gone really well, and programs where you have struggled, and what you’ve learned from them. Be prepared to describe each one in a couple of sentences. If you don’t have professional experience in that area yet, no worries! Think about the programs your library already offers, and come up with a couple of ideas that might complement them. (“The after school craft program for tweens really seems to be a hit. I think it would be fun to incorporate some hands-on STEM activities, like bridge building and secret codes!”) Of course you can also look at programs other libraries are offering, and how they might fit your community. You don’t have to be a walking encyclopedia, but be prepared to mention one or two ideas that relate to each age group you might be asked about.
Brush up on your early literacy game if needed (five practices, six skills, woohoo!), and plan on answering at least one tech related question (apps in storytime, yea or nay?). You are likely to get a fair number of situational questions, and for those you really can just use your best judgment. If you haven’t actually encountered a situation you’re asked about, it’s totally fine to say something like, “I haven’t found myself in that situation yet, but I would…”
If you’re asked to present a sample program, bring a nice looking outline or handout, and be prepared to adapt to the amount of time you’re offered. If you’re asked to read a book or a few pages cold, it’s okay to ask for a minute or two to scan them first. And don’t worry about looking silly – willingness to be silly is a core part of the job! You can teach a person specific skills, but it’s really hard to teach them to be fun, lively, and enthusiastic. So let those qualities shine through, and you’ll be hard to beat.