Job Advice: Giving a Demonstration in an Interview

I have served on many hiring committees and viewed several more demonstrations from applying librarians. The biggest gap I see is the demonstration part of the interview, so here is some advice I have not seen elsewhere.
I am sure you have heard the basics about giving a presentation – have multiple copies of your PowerPoint, practice, wear a top that is long enough you don’t flash the room when pointing to the screen…But perhaps you have not heard about the more specific “best practices” when giving a Library Instruction demonstration during your interview.
The key to a demonstration is that you are showing your teaching technique, not how much you know. The hiring committee wants to know what kind of teacher you are and how you will relate to/interact with their students.  They know you know how to search a database; you have a MLIS for that. They want to know how you teach.

Things to Consider:

  • Your audience
    The closest instruction I had about teaching involved showing a room full of grad students how to search a specific database. Teaching a room of first year/freshman students is very different. So, when planning your demonstration pay just as much attention to your audience as you do to what you are teaching. When in doubt it is okay to ask for the parameters/characteristics of your “class”. If they say it is up to you, make it clear who your class is before your demonstration. Even better, do your research and find out which kinds of classes the library you are applying to teaches most. Do they need subject specific, scholarly (or vocational field) information, or a get-them-started, general search? Are they familiar with the library’s resources or have they been using Google their whole lives? Have they completed a true research assignment before? The audience will determine how much depth and detail you need to teach. You do not have to show off all you know about searching and databases. You need to teach your class what they need to know to complete their assignment, not how to become expert searchers. In fact, try teaching them something other than searching. Chew on that for a minute.
  • Interaction
    Do not lecture. Have an activity. If your “students” have access to computers, do not just tell them how to search, make them do it. This is where teaching your “students” something other than searching can be useful, especially if the students do not have computers. Handouts with activities that students can do individually or in groups are more hands on and learner focused. Just please, no scavenger hunts; they are problematic and much harder than you think to be effective.

One more thing: You only have 15-20 minutes for your demonstration, so it is okay to say, “and here’s where I’d have the class do ______…” and move on.

This also applies to any First Year Experience/Freshman Librarian position at universities, not just community colleges.

For more advice:
For more on scavenger hunts: McCain, Cheryl. “Scavenger Hunt Assignments In Academic Libraries: Viewpoints Versus Reality.” College & Undergraduate Libraries 14.1 (2007): 19-32. Academic Search Complete. Web. 12 Mar. 2014.

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