Recruiting New Librarians

wooden rainbow welcome sign

It’s been such a tough pandemic for academic librarian job seekers, particularly new graduates. Enrollment declines led to shrinking budgets which in turn meant disappearing job opportunities when so many librarians needed them most. I feel very lucky to be in a library that has had the budget, personnel, and time to hire several new librarians this academic year. Later this summer I’ll be in a position to hire both a Teaching & Learning Librarian and a Student Success Librarian. I’ve been working on the job description and thinking a lot about the recruitment of new colleagues. I definitely have the usual concerns about the construction of the job advertisement:

  • Is the language used to describe the position responsibilities accessible to librarians new to the profession?
  • Are we including a salary range?
  • Am I asking too much under Required Qualifications?
  • Does the job ad emphasize our library’s commitment to anti-racism, equity, and inclusion?
  • Will the position description sound appealing and welcoming to librarians from different backgrounds and communities?
  • Does it make our department sound like a good place to work?

I shared my initial draft with our assistant department head and two new(ish) librarian colleagues who had recently been through the job search process. They offered helpful edits and suggestions, and I was able to pass on our draft to our Associate Dean for Organizational Development and Learning.

But there are the OTHER factors to consider when thinking about recruitment, ones inextricably linked to the pandemic, politics, and legislation. The last few years have been and continue to be difficult for people with disabilities, compromised immune systems, families, income precarity; and all of the most vulnerable individuals. Are new or experienced librarians in a position–financially, emotionally, personally–to move for a new job? What kind of support and flexibility can we offer to individuals who may have unique health, family, or other needs? Are we prepared to have those conversations when negotiating with potential candidates? I hope that we’re ready.

Living in Texas I’m familiar with the common refrains online urging people to either (a) get out and vote or (b) get up and move. Both make a lot of assumptions about finances, personal situations, and other extenuating circumstances. So as we are hiring I will continue to think about how we can make work as safe and welcoming a place as it can be for the people who work within it.

Are you also hiring and onboarding new librarians this year? If so, what’s been your approach?

One thought on “Recruiting New Librarians”

  1. These are great reflections on hiring, Veronica. I like that you’ve discussed both practical considerations about the recruitment process, such as the wording of job ads, and bigger-picture, longer-term issues like structural aspects of jobs that can unintentionally exclude people for reasons that have little or nothing to do with whether they can actually do the work.

    I wanted to highlight some language I really like that the Center for Research Libraries appears to include now in all their postings for full-time positions (e.g., https://www.crl.edu/preservation-librarian), under the heading “Application process”: “Expertise in each requirement listed above is not expected — instead, we encourage applications from those who demonstrate a mix of expertise in some areas, and commitment to learning and experimentation in others. Skills and relevant experience outlined in your application may be paid or unpaid, and can include internships, volunteer work, and practicums. We understand that experience, education and learning, and creativity take many forms, and expect that qualified applicants may bring additional skills to this position that we’ve not considered or listed here. If this role interests you, we encourage you to apply!”

    Good luck with hiring new colleagues — I know from experience that they’ll be lucky to work with you and your team!

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