Academic Administrators: Beware If A Librarian Is On Your Search Committee

Once again, academic librarians get no respect. I came across this quote in an article in today’s online version of the Chronicle . It’s from a disgruntled job seeker who’s been the “faux finalist” for one too many searches. This refers to an institution that has already decided to hire an internal candidate, and the interview process is just a sham held to document that the search was truly open to all. The author (a pseudonym is given) seeks to provide a public service to other academic administrators by providing the warning signs that one is probably a faux finalist. Here’s the offending one:

It all starts with the search committee. Beware if it’s filled with people who have no campus authority, such as untenured faculty members, librarians, nonacademic administrators, or anyone hired only a few months ago. If it is, that’s a signal that the more senior people with real clout have better things to do with their time. If the search were truly open, then deans and top administrators would want to have some influence over the decision.

Admittedly, we don’t wield the same power as a dean or vice-president, but this strikes me as an extension of an unfortunate stereotype to suggest that academic librarians have no campus authority. I guess we do nothing all day but sit around and read books, which makes us ideal participants for sham search committees so we can ask polite questions like, “So what books have you read lately?”. I suppose like all the negative stereotypes we encounter it is best to have a sense of humor about it, and to simply do what we can each day on the job and in our relationships with our academic colleagues to dispel ridiculous notions about who we are and what we contribute to the academic enterprise.

4 thoughts on “Academic Administrators: Beware If A Librarian Is On Your Search Committee”

  1. While I usually take those First Person pseudonymous columns in the Chronicle with a grain of salt, this particular one does have a ring of truth to it that applies to many academic job seekers, not just administrative positions. The stereotype aside, one of the things I learned during my own search was to spot when the search was indeed a done deal. Some of the observations the author made are very applicable. Who is on the committee when you get there. The schedule, how you are treated, can all be indications of how serious a place is about a candidate.

    As for the librarian stereotype, I guess that taking it with some humor may be the way to go. That, and we can always use our powers to hide their dissertations and publications under piles of old National Geographics.

  2. Librarians can be a valuable resource on any search committee, be it for academic positions, administrators, or others. I have been on several search committees here and always find it beneficial. I was on a search committee for the computer center director about 8 years ago. I had a big part in it. We picked an external candidate. She has since been promoted to Vice President for Information Technologies and we now report to her. It has been very beneficial to us.

  3. Perhaps the best way to dispel such myths is by promoting ourselves and what we do more regularly on “The Chonicle.” I would love to see more articles about the importance of academic libraries in that publication. “Spreading the good news” as one of my lib school professors used to say. I do this on an interpersonal level with colleauges and students, but reading articles like the one in question makes me want to start writing more letters to the editor. Too often negative items get published in the Chronicle (i.e. doom and gloom), and this contributes to the image issues we continue to face.

  4. The sentence regarding librarians also attracted my attention when I read the article, and I was glad to see mention of it on this blog. It is another piece of evidence that shows how far librarians still need to go in terms of obtaining full acceptance as colleagues on campuses.

    Ferreting out administrative candidates such as the one who wrote the article is the reason that many librarians seek a seat on search committees. This is a good way to proactively work toward selecting top administrators who will realize the value of the library and librarians on campus, and we can also get a feel for the likelihood that the candidates will support us financially as we work to ensure academic excellence on our campuses.

    A candidate who feels that her search committee is made up of members who have no power forgets the simple fact that these so-called “powerless” people are the ones making the recommendation on employing the candidate. I have been on several campus-wide search committees as a librarian, and if a candidate comes across as condescending to some groups on campus, it is not likely that he/she will receive much support in the final deliberations of the committee.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.