Hiring During and Beyond the Pandemic

We’re welcoming a new colleague to our library this semester. I’ve read some great pieces about transitioning to a new position this very unusual year, including from fellow ACRLogger Hailley Fargo. And I think that much of what I’ve read and what we’ve done at my place of work in the pre-pandemic years still holds true. But amidst the onboarding and orientation I’m finding myself reflecting on how the hiring process has changed (and where it didn’t change) during this second year of the pandemic.

Like many institutions, hiring across the university was mostly frozen last academic year. I was so grateful when the freeze was lifted and we were able to list our position soon after the Spring semester ended. As is common in academic library job searches and as has been our practice in the past, once our position had been posted and we’d had our interview pool approved, we began with first round interviews of about 30 minute in length. In prior years we’d held these interviews on the phone, and more recently on Skype; of course now that we’re all on Zoom all the time that’s what we used for this round. For this round (and subsequent Zoom interviews) the biggest difference was all of us on the search committee zooming in from our homes or offices, rather than sitting together in a group in the Library’s projection room as we’d done in the past.

The second round interviews with the smaller pool of candidates, on the other hand, were very different from our prepandemic practice. These interviews used to include a presentation and a longer interview with the search committee, both on campus and in the Library. This time around we were again on Zoom, beginning with the presentation and continuing to the interview with the search committee. While we did have a library visit eventually, because of pandemic restrictions and what at that time was still limited access to our campus, we pushed that visit to the very end of the process and invited only our finalist candidate for a visit. For this search our finalist was local so we didn’t need to discuss relocation, though if we’d had a finalist from out of town we would certainly have arranged a visit as well.

While the search process was definitely different than for prior searches, there were also some definite advantages to nearly-completely online hiring. We invite all library faculty and staff to the semifinalist candidate presentations, and value this as an opportunity for staff that the librarian in this position supervises to meet the candidates. With these presentations online while our library wasn’t yet open to patrons, it was easier for all faculty and staff to attend. And with most personnel still working remotely it was also slightly easier to schedule some interviews, though the timing of the search over the summer months meant we were dodging vacation time for the search committee (which is the same with summer searches we’ve run prepandemic).

And I was pleased and relieved to see that many of the changes we’d put in place to make our Library’s recruitment and hiring practices more equitable served us well during the almost-all-remote search process, too. We continue to list librarian positions at both Assistant Professor and Instructor rank; the latter requires the successful hire to earn a second graduate degree within 5 years, which they can do at our university (with tuition remission). We also send the detailed schedule and interview questions to candidates in advance, and share information about the faculty union and salary schedules as well. I continue to be grateful for Angela Pashia’s terrific blog post with suggestions (and further reading) on ensuring a diverse pool of candidates for librarian jobs, which has been so useful for my colleagues and I as we’ve rethought our processes over the years.

It has been truly delightful to welcome our new colleague. If you’ve taken a new job during the pandemic, or been on a search committee during this time, we’d love to hear about your experience — drop us a line in the comments below.

Author: Maura Smale

Maura Smale is Chief Librarian at New York City College of Technology, City University of New York.

2 thoughts on “Hiring During and Beyond the Pandemic”

  1. Thank you for giving us some insight into how the hiring process works. You mentioned that positions are posted and that, once that happens, you get your first-stage interview pool. I am curious as to how networking factors into all of this. Are you more likely to include people you know (or have met through professional organizations) in this pool? What advice would you give regarding networking to those of us who want to go into academic librarianship?

  2. Thanks for your questions, Dana, these are good ones. For us networking is definitely important for getting our job postings out there and in front of as many potential hires as possible. I encourage all of our librarians to share job postings with their formal and informal networks, and I share them widely on Twitter as well as post them on regional and national job sites. We have several LIS graduate schools in the NYC metropolitan area too, and I also send our job postings to them.

    I’ve always found Twitter to be useful for networking — there’s a big cohort of academic and other librarians on Twitter, and following the conversations for your areas of interest could be useful. I moved from a career in publishing into librarianship so in my early library days my strongest networking was among fellow MLIS students in my program. I also did some informational interviewing at academic libraries in NYC, and went to programming put on by library associations locally, too.

    Good luck as you’re entering academic librarianship!

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