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Subject: Interviewing technicians

Interviewing technicians

From: Meg Brown <mmbrown>
Date: Wednesday, September 5, 2001
In another life-time (over a year ago: Conservation DistList
Instance: 14:11 Sunday, August 6, 2000), I wrote to the list with a
few questions about hiring students and staff. I apologize for not
sharing the responses earlier it just got away from me.  I was
recently reminded of my omission, so here is my original question,
followed by a rough summary:

>At a recent Library Collections Conservation Discussion Group
>(LCCDG) meeting (at AIC in Philadelphia) we discussed issues
>concerning technicians. One of the topics that was raised was what
>questions people ask technician candidates at interviews, and also
>what questions they ask references they call about these candidates.
>Many suggestions were given and the group was interested in making a
>complete list of questions. Because many of us have our own lists,
>and there may be duplications, and we don't want to clutter the
>DistList, I would be happy to compile entries and share the compiled
>list with all (I will keep institutions confidential in case anyone
>is uncomfortable about that).

I received a total of 12 responses to the question about
interviewing technicians. Of the 12 responses, half of them were
actually people requesting that I send them any information I
receive.  Of the other six, the responses about dexterity tests were
hauntingly similar....and then one of them identified why-many of
them were versions of a list from Carolyn Clark Morrow and Carole
Dyal's book Conservation Treatment Procedures. (Appendix "dexterity

Dexterity tests: I am not going to share the variations of dexterity
tests based on Carolyn Morrow and Carole Dyal's book (I feel like it
is plagiarism to repeat them here-most of them are very similar to
the book instructions, with just variations that probably came over
time....if anyone can't get the book e-mail me off the list and I
will share those summaries.)

    1.  Cover a square box with paper using only a glue stick (but
        found no correspondence to how they did this and their later

    2.  Follow written instructions for fabricating little paper

    3.  Unfold and refold an automobile map

    4.  Require applicants to send in one book with 3 types of
        repair before the interview. (paper repair, a group of 8-10
        pages tipped in, and a reback or recase) The candidate is
        asked to describe the steps performed and the materials,
        supplies and tools used in the 3 types of repair.

    5.  Hypothetical scenario in which boss had already pasted out a
        spine and found that the spine cover paper did not fit. Give
        them a box with scraps of paper and ask them to find a strip
        from which they could cut a cover for a 9 x 1 3/4" spine.
        This helps to see how close they could judge the size and
        then  hand them a scissors and ask them to cut it free hand.
        We would then measure it with a ruler together. Check it for
        straightness of cut, closeness to the asked for size, etc.

    6.  Candidates are asked to carry out 4 tasks; a simple paper
        repair, to apply a hinge to an item, hinge an item to a
        support sheet and package a set of sheets. They are given
        written instructions and any questions have to be dealt with
        before they start. They are given a choice of adhesives and
        papers for repair and are asked to write down comments.
        These tests are useful in the decision making process. But
        they do have to be pitched carefully to the capability of
        the candidates and completely consistent.

Opinions on where to hire students/staff from:

    1.  Art, art history and associated programs.

    2.  For an entry level at a large Public Library they require 2
        years of experience in hand binding, book repair and
        conservation of books etc. or substitution of course work,
        apprenticeship or internship

    3.  Another suggestion is to not pass on someone who has had
        unusual work skills: "We hired a woman who cooked for
        families who were too busy to cook for themselves (two
        career families). She purchased, prepared and froze the
        meals for her clients.  She is a very creative person,
        agile, and a good mind and eye for detail and could "see"
        the end product.  She was one of the easiest persons to
        train learning at a faster rate than most.  Not only that,
        but she was up to production speed very quickly."

    4.  Another shared:  "I have interviewed quilters, dressmakers,
        model ship builders and all seem to protest when I ask them
        to do the paper cutting "test".  For me it was an on-site
        corroboration of their hobby skill level. I would assure
        them when checking dimensions that  I didn't expect it to be
        to the millimeter but how they solved the problem, that was
        what was important to me."

Other questions asked at an interview:

    1.  What attracts you to this work, why are you interested in
        this position?

    2.  What qualifies you for this work? Why should we hire you for
        this work? What would you be able to bring to the job?

    3.  What qualities do you think make a good book repairer?

    4.  What hand skills do you have and how have you used them?

    5.  Would you rather be a member of an outstanding team, or on a
        team of outstanding individuals?

    6.  Tell me about your job bench experiences repairing or
        binding books going back 5 years as they relate to this

    7.  Tell me about a book repair treatment you have performed
        many times. What steps and thought processes did you go
        through and what tools did you use in performing the repair?

    8.  How do you decide which treatment is best for any given
        material and what factors would you take into consideration
        when deciding upon a treatment?

    9.  Give me an example of the standards that you have applied to
        book repair treatment, what makes a good repair in terms of
        quality, efficiency, and appropriateness to the job at hand?

    10. This is a book that was sent to Preservation for treatment.
        Can you tell me the condition of this book and what you
        might do with it?

    11. Have you ever been asked to change a procedure from an old
        way of doing things to a new way? Have you agreed with the

    12. How do you prioritize your work load?

    13. Describe a book that you believe should be sent to the
        bindery-what condition would it be in?

    14. What are your hobbies?

    15. What is your academic background? (looking for a field with
        attention to detail such as engineering or math or other
        exact sciences)

    16. Tell us about your work experience up to now. What have you
        liked/not liked?

    17. What have you done in your previous work to contribute
        towards team work?

    18. Tell us about some practical work of which you are
        particularly proud.

    19. How will you deal with rather monotonous, repetitive
    practical work?

Meg Brown
University of Kansas Libraries
Watson Library
Lawrence, KS 66045

                  Conservation DistList Instance 15:22
               Distributed: Wednesday, September 5, 2001
                       Message Id: cdl-15-22-002
Received on Wednesday, 5 September, 2001

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