Job Hunts In Two-Faculty Households

The following guest post was contributed to ACRLog by a colleague who prefers to remain anonymous. The ACRLog team thanks this individual for submitting the post:

One of the first things I read after I woke up this morning was an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled “Two Careers, One Job Offer” by a pseudonymous Ph.D. who last month decided with her husband to turn down his job offer at an institution that happens to have a program in his field but not hers. Not that extraordinary, I supposed, until I read further to discover that her husband’s search committee went to such lengths as arranging meetings between her and “more department heads than I would have guessed could exist at the university.” Even though they didn’t have a position in her field, they tried to find her a fit. Still, no solution presented itself. “In the end, the university could offer me little more than an office and an affiliation. It also offered a year’s salary and assurances that it would work hard to keep helping me.” After some soul-searching by the author and great effort by the search committee, the couple decided, as her husband told her, that “this isn’t good enough for you.”

I had not even experienced caffeine at this point in the morning. But I was alert enough to know something was amiss. You see, my spouse and I are both librarians with academic backgrounds. Indeed, we have always known that in order for us both to have viable careers in our chosen profession, we must consider only those institutions with multiple libraries or with other nearby academic institutions. When we have had the opportunity for one of
us to apply to work in the other’s library, we’ve decided (wisely, we think) not to insert our own relationship into the workplace.

We have found it odd over the years when we’ve heard of institutions helping to find jobs for spouses of non-librarian faculty, while we’ve experienced only well wishes when a spouse is dealing with layoffs, temporary jobs, low pay, no benefits, and/or abusive supervisors. We haven’t even been able to get interviews for clerical jobs within those institutions. The funny thing is that we’ve expected nothing more. As I read through the article this morning, I was shocked at the sense of entitlement that the author (a new Ph.D.) seemed to feel. What puzzles me most is the idea that an office, an affiliation, and a year’s salary are not good enough to satisfy this entitlement which is expected when one’s spouse is offered a faculty position.

In every academic librarian position we’ve held, we have been full members of the faculty. Of course, there are always hints from other faculty and administrators that librarians aren’t “real faculty.” But it has never hit home like it did this morning. If this is the way it really operates for “real faculty,” we librarians must have a lot of catching up to do. When we get offers for library faculty positions, should we be negotiating, not only for moving expenses or conference travel funds, but also for customized faculty positions for our partners? Somehow I think we’d be laughed off the campus.

After reading this, I never needed the caffeine today.

8 thoughts on “Job Hunts In Two-Faculty Households”

  1. Hi Steven, as the wife of a PhD and a faculty-status librarian I can tell you your impressions are correct. My dean here did try very hard to get my spouse a job and we are *incredibly* fortunate that they found him a few classes each semester to teach as an adjunct. However, spouses in other departments are given far more consideration. I know of a number of two-PhD couples on campus who were offered full time positions for their spouses in order to bring them here, and this is not at all unusual for universities to do. We have been told that there is little chance of my spouse ever getting on full time in a permanent line at my current university, and it is primarily because the library dean doesn’t have the pull with the president and provost that the deans of other departments have. It could also be because librarians are a dime a dozen in this area, and if I left to accommodate my husband’s career they could have a new faculty-line librarian in here within a couple months. It’s not so easy with the ‘real’ faculty. Hence they are accommodated more. It’s not really about a sense of entitlement; it’s just what they naturally expect. We simply do not have the same level/rank/mojo/whatever as librarians, even if our contract and business cards say we are faculty. We aren’t the same and likely never will be, for political and practical reasons. Just my early morning pre-caffeine thoughts.

  2. I just wanted to add a counter-example. We hired a middle management-level librarian at my university last year on a tenure-track position, and we were able to work with the university to find a similar tenure track position for her spouse in the social sciences. In other words, the faculty librarian was given to the same spousal accommodation as any other faculty. Of course, this was not an entry-level position.

  3. Another counter example would be my institution. I’m the director of the health sciences library and report to the provost at the level of the Deans. I have, on more than one occasion had one of the Deans contact me when looking for a position for a spouse that had some library background, and I have contacted Deans when I’ve been looking for a position for a spouse. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t, but I’ve never gotten the feeling that our librarians were treated any differently than other faculty recruits.

  4. I certainly know of counter-examples as well. In fact, I myself negotiated for such spousal hiring (at an institution where librarians are not faculty) – though ended up not taking the job for other reasons.

    My own university participated in a study recently that showed “12 percent of junior faculty members are living in entirely different communities than their spouse or partner” ( This isn’t the work-life balance I’d like to see… and we have spousal hiring assistance.

  5. Interestingly, in the 70’s I was a top candidate for a library position at a prestigious institution when I was told that they were bringing in a new librarian in a top level mangement position and they were making a place for his wife – in the position for which I had applied. I’m sure it wasn’t meant to be.

  6. I hear about this all the time and I think it’s pathetic. I guess I didn’t grow up ever expecting handouts and I still don’t. It’s pathetic to hear how universities try to make room for spouses in order to get one person they really want. Every time I hear about this it just makes me sick thinking about how many different times throughout my life I struggled and knowing that some husband or wife is just given a job because of their spouse. Pathetic.

  7. Spousal hires? Let’s talk domestic partner benefits. How many of you work for academic libraries that offer them? This lack greatly limits the institutions I can work for.

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