Tips for applying for library jobs

The application form and statement or covering letter

  • Like in an exam, read the information provided in the application pack.  If the recruitment process includes an application form, take care to complete all relevant sections (especially if the person specification calls for attention to detail!)
  • Look at the “essential” and “desirable” criteria in the person specification and describe clearly in your statement or covering letter how your skills and experience match these criteria
  • You may be asked to address specific questions in your application – the selection panel *will* notice if you skip this
  • If you are going to use specialist language, make sure you know what it means.  Not: “The library itself is arranged according to the Dewey filing system, and administered through the MARC”, “my home PC is an apple”, “majority of resources are online”, “resources – electrical as well as printed”
  • Be selective about what to include in your statement or covering letter.  The selection panel members have many applications to read through, so don’t waste their time and attention with too much fluff.  Be concise and back up claims with evidence e.g. experience of customer service or good IT skills

General points

  • If you’re applying for a post which requires good IT skills, don’t hand-write your application – word-process it.  Choose fonts with care (think about the image you are trying to project) and be consistent
  • Spelling, punctuation and grammar count, especially if the job calls for good communication skills
  • If you choose to copy and paste from a previous application, be sure to change references to the previous workplace.  Not: “The chance of working in the Bodleian Library is unique and one I would love to have.”  Nice to know, but I’m not hiring for the Bodleian
  • If you’re applying for a job in a library, don’t keep referring to your ambition to be a schoolteacher

Some gems

  • “I am looking forward to enjoying the quiet working environment in the library”
  • “I am keen to take up a career in librarianship because I am passionately intellectual”
  • “my goal would be to run such an institution” [from an application for the most junior post in the team – top marks for ambition though]
  • “looking forward to working with and hopefully reading the libraries collections”

For more posts in this series, click the “Recruitment” tag below.



  1. Great list.
    Can I also add “tell me why you want to work in my library” – this may not be part of the essential or desirable elements you have to address, but it helps to show that you think that working in my library would be special – why you want to work HERE, rather than than just work. (written in the middle of interviews, so possibly biased!)

  2. The lovely folks on my reference list have informed me that they really appreciate an email or a call letting them know that they “might be contacted by Mr./Ms. Smith, Head of ______ department from _________ library regarding my qualifications for _________ position.” I imagine that it’s difficult being on the other end of that reference list and getting a call about someone that you haven’t talked to or worked with in 3 years.

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