Navigating Hard Times in the Higher Ed Landscape

We’ve been experiencing some staffing issues on my team in recent months. While these issues have been difficult to navigate, they are (fingers crossed) temporary and the end is in sight. (Maybe I’ll knock on wood, too, for good measure.) At the same time, though, we’re confronting broader and more lasting budget, staffing, and workload issues across my organization. While the particulars of these challenges might be specific to my institution, it seems that we’re all dealing with related barriers, delays, and diversions (or full-on road closures, perhaps, to take this metaphor further) across higher ed. It’s my turn to coordinate a collaborative post and I’m curious to hear from my fellow ACRLoggers about how they’re working through some of the questions and dilemmas inherent in this difficult landscape. Readers, we’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences, too, in the comments. 

How does communication around budget and staffing challenges happen at your institution? What about those communication practices works well? What changes to communication practices do you think would be helpful? 

Angie: I think greater transparency and assessment is needed around the question of whether to invest in new hires or improve compensation for existing staff. Offers for new hires present certain challenges to compensation equity. But for lots of reasons I can imagine this a path of least resistance compared to a process of examining the inequities across existing staff compensation–nevermind the additional workload distributed to staff as a result of turnover. It’s also tricky, though, when transparency is intertwined with needs for confidentiality. And conversely, when transparency of that inequity can exacerbate morale issues inherent in this. Practices that could be helpful might focus transparency around the factors influencing both ends of these decisions. I also think it will be imperative to address those factors through the more diverse and complex lens of individual equitability over systemic (in)equality. 

Hailley: Our institution is facing budget challenges so it has been a topic of conversation in just about every group I’m a part of. Our Dean has been good about providing budget updates to the Leadership Team (which I’m a part of) and through regular email updates to the entire library. Even if the news is “There is no new news” it’s good to feel like we know as much as we can, at a moment where things are constantly changing and shifting. I think a challenge that exists in these situations is finding the right balance; you want folks to feel like they are “in the know” but you also don’t want to overwhelm with information or constant updates. Finding that sweet spot with frequency is a challenge and I think so much of it depends on the situation, the organization, and the trust a leader (or leaders) have with their people.  

Jen: I agree with Angie and Hailley that transparency and frequency of communication are key considerations here. I’m happy to say that leaders in my library system are practicing both; they’re regularly providing information on what’s happening within the library organization and across the university. My institution is huge and I think size, as Hailley alluded to, can be a complicating factor in all this. Despite any leader’s best efforts, there are bound to be gaps and oversights in communication. Inevitably, some of us won’t be privy to the details and confidences of those top-level or nitty gritty conversations yet we still feel the effects of them–budget cuts or staffing shortages or what have you–on a regular basis, even daily. That contrast can make it easy to feel overlooked and undervalued. I think it’s important to remember how important it is for us to speak up. I, for one, know I can sometimes get tunnel vision in my middle management position (that also includes daily service desk responsibilities and instruction), just trying to uphold our team’s responsibilities and meet users’ needs. I sometimes forget that administrators aren’t seeing what I’m seeing and that the on-the-ground perspectives I can offer are essential. And administrators, even those with the best intentions, may sometimes assume or forget to ask how their difficult decisions are playing out in the day-to-day reality of our work. It’s up to us to tell them.

Justin: Agreed with everyone else for the need for transparency and communication. Our University Librarian and other members of the library admin team regularly present to our Librarians’ Council on current and upcoming staffing changes and challenges. This gives librarians context and a chance to ask questions about any staffing issues coming up in our library system. As well, every winter our University Librarian shares her budget presentation with all library staff. This gives us a great look into the direction of the library and any budget constraints that present challenges. Again, this gives library staff the opportunity to ask questions and get greater clarity on the library’s budget. 

Is your organization experimenting with any new models or practices to address staffing issues? What ideas would you like to try if you could?

Angie: In addition to an increase in staff turnover, my library (and probably yours) is finding fewer candidates applying for the positions that we can advertise. At the convergence of these two realities, effects on staff workload and hiring practices certainly require rethinking. In hiring, I’ve been asked to consider what experience and skills I can realistically expect to attract, for example. What represents a full time need, and how do we address that need when it is not?  What at a given moment do I have the resources to train for, or train quickly enough? And that answer may be different at different times. Current approaches to developing position advertisements as well and how we maintain current position descriptions has involved a lot of rethinking and re-translating skills, and seeking experience that might fall outside of the traditional library contexts. I recently advertised and hired a license specialist position, in which for the first time we explicitly sought legal expertise in the requirements. Also a first, I included my general counsel in the interview process, and learned that it is not uncommon across the University to find professionals with law degrees not working as lawyers. As librarians, with many diverse credentials and career backgrounds, this should not surprise us. Take advantage of (in the best sense, and equitably compensating for) the fact that many people may seek to leverage their careers and expertise in different ways. 

Hailley: One of the hats I wear in my role is helping to coordinate our reference services. One commitment we as coordinators made this spring was if we lose librarians, we won’t try to stretch ourselves thin by covering desk and consultation gaps. We got to put this promise into action at the end of February when one of our colleagues left for another job. We reviewed the schedule, used our reference data to identify the popular times at the desk, and made the decision to cut back on hours. We worked with folks to rearrange a few schedules, with an eye towards creating a consistent experience for our users and student employees. It felt good to have the data to make an informed decision and also to not ask folks to do even more with less (a phrase I’m never really a fan of). 

Jen: Managing the multiple long-term absences on my team these past few months has meant that I’ve needed to take over primary responsibility for many key circulation workflows. Historically, I’ve done these jobs rarely, if at all, so I’ve had to learn or re-learn a number of procedures — and make room for them in my schedule. Thankfully, as I mentioned, my small library is part of a huge system so I’ve been able to ask my colleagues at other locations who are already skilled in these areas for guidance when needed. This is a clear advantage of a large organization like mine. While each of our locations and populations is unique, there are certainly similarities in positions and responsibilities, making it easier to get help. It makes sense, then, that there’s talk about how we might share work and positions across locations–whether as a way to fill a gap while someone is away or as a nature of the position itself (and a cost-saving measure). Still, though, as long as we have physical spaces and students on site, we need people here, too. And with such lean staffing already, I struggle to think about new ways to reorganize our team. There’s a limit to what we can do with only so many hours in the day and so much on our plates already. I think we need to be realistic, as Angie and Hailley are also suggesting, about reducing hours or programming or what have you. At the same time, though, I’m thinking about ways to better recognize and reward the range of responsibilities my colleagues have, at both individual and structural levels. How can I show my appreciation better? How can I support their work better? What can I do to enhance their decision-making power? 

Justin: At the University of Manitoba Libraries, we’re moving to more centralized and universal positions, both with library technicians and librarians; there’s less emphasis on specialization. This allows library services to be spread among a greater pool of staff and while subject specialty and expertise still plays a role, for certain services it’s easier to spread the load among the full complement of our librarians. One issue we’ve had with librarians is with leaves – both research and parental leaves – and retirements. These create holes throughout our library system, which other librarians have to cover, which is especially problematic if specific libraries or departments have fewer librarians. We’ve begun hiring leave/vacancy replacement librarians who are hired on terms, with the intent to cover for positions which are temporarily vacant due to leaves or retirements. As an entry-level librarian, these term positions are great to get experience, but you always have an eye to getting a permanent position. Regardless, it’s a good ‘stop-gap’ to not only get more entry-level librarian positions, but also to help continuing librarians manage their workload.

Veronica: Staffing issues were one of the major drivers of the dissolution of our liaison program and department in 2021. People were retiring or moving and we weren’t getting those positions back. We didn’t have a 1:1 ratio of liaisons to colleges, much less departments, and workload imbalance among librarians was a huge area of concern.  Our liaison program was unsustainable so we dissolved that department in favor of 3 functional departments: Research Services, Teaching and Learning (which I oversee), and Collections Strategies and Services. This gave librarians the opportunity to focus on a functional area of expertise and allowed for more consistency around services. 

When staffing issues mean workload issues or budget issues call for hard decisions, how do you, your team, or your organization adjust expectations and/or (re-)prioritize? 

Hailley: I’ve been thinking about this a lot as a department head. When I meet one-on-one with folks in the department, I continue to ask them about their workload and where they are placing their time and energy. This gives me a pulse on the unit and I have a better sense of what we as a team can do (both in the short and long term). I’ve also been better about extending timelines and deadlines. Everything doesn’t have to be done immediately. I’m trying to be better about thinking through the semester rhythms and the larger priorities for the library and assign work accordingly. Finally, I think talking about workload and uncertainty as a team is so important. We have to acknowledge that things are difficult and the team might need to make difficult decisions in the upcoming months. If we are able to come together as a team and set our sights on what is important, I think that helps make prioritization clearer.  

Jen: Hailley’s comments about getting a sense of the big picture and practicing open communication for shared understanding about priorities in order to make these challenging decisions resonate with me, as well. I’m reflecting on the kinds of questions I’ve used to inform this kind of prioritization and it seems that they center around considering the stakes involved… Who will be impacted? How and to what degree? Is this central to our mission? What are the trade-offs? What is lost and what is gained? 

Justin: Being in a liaison librarian position, I’m not typically involved in high-level decision-making regarding system-wide priorities due to staffing or budget challenges. I would hope that decision makers from all levels of academic libraries weigh and measure priorities and make a short- and long-term plan to address the questions that Jen poses. I really appreciate the times when I have the chance to provide input and feedback into addressing our library’s overarching mission, goals, and priorities,—and especially when there’s internal and external pressures, whether that’s staffing or budget—it feels rewarding to help guide the direction of your library.

Veronica: I have a colleague who introduced me to the idea of “right-sizing,” as in, when you lose people to new career opportunities, retirements, or budget cuts, you need to right-size your department. There is literally no way that 3 people can accomplish the same level of work as that done by 10 people. This is when departmental work has to change. Certain things will just not get done, and that is an indicator to the greater campus community that the budget sacrifices made by a library or university have an impact on library services and resources. As Hailley mentioned, it’s important to stay informed on the status of workload for the librarians you supervise (if you supervise) and ensure that they are doing the job they were hired to do, rather than the job of 2-3 people without additional compensation. 

We’d love to hear how things are going at your institution and how you’re navigating budget, staffing, and workload challenges. We hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments.

Setting departmental goals: The process of one department head

As my fellow blogger Justin wrote about earlier this week, the start of a new year means a focus on developing goals to guide us for the next 365ish days. As a department head, the development of individual goals means it’s also time to think about departmental goals. I’m a firm believer that if departmental work is going to get done, it needs to be thoughtfully incorporated into individual goals and co-created by all members of the department. Departmental goals can create focus and point the team in the same direction. I figured I would focus my blog post this month on my thought process behind co-developing yearly departmental goals. 

Last year when it was time to set departmental goals, I was about five months into being a department head. A few months into the job, I worked with the team to co-create departmental mission and vision statements and we had developed our plate of work. Our plate of work was a visual of the areas we focused our team’s time and energy. When it was time for departmental goals, we used Jamboard to brainstorm potential goals, mapped those to our plate of work priorities, and established a series of goals we thought we as a team could achieve in 2022. I then worked with individual department members to either assign team goals to them or organized small groups who worked towards some of our goals. Throughout the year I would glance at the departmental goals document and make note of our progress. 

This year, with more than a year under my belt, I tried a different approach to brainstorming departmental goals. To start, I wanted to get some insight from the team about what they felt went well in 2022. I had everyone review our 2022 goals and reflect on the year. Then we had a group discussion, using the questions below as guiding questions:

  • What went well in 2022 for us as a department?  
  • What were some of our challenges (beyond budgetary concerns)?  
  • When were moments where you felt like we were firing on all cylinders? 
  • When were moments where you felt like we were out of sync?  

I particularly liked the last two questions, which really focused on getting everyone on the team to articulate high and low moments of collaboration and cooperation. These questions also brought up times when the department made good progress and also times when other institutional constraints got in our way. We had a great discussion and it helped lead us into thinking about 2023.

As we transitioned to talking about 2023 departmental goals, I had already kick started this conversation at the end of 2022. I had begun to get feedback from the department about the scope and deliverables for two projects I wanted us to focus on in the spring (one around LibGuides and one around instructional videos). I then asked the department to reflect on our 2022 goals, think about what they’d like to do in 2023, and begin to brainstorm potential goals in a shared Jamboard. When I looked at the Jamboard, I was so proud to see how aligned the team was on our potential goals. What had been brainstormed were things we as a department have discussed previously and or built off the work of our anticipated spring projects. It was amazing to see this alignment and made me so excited about what we as a department could accomplish this year.

To round out our brainstorming, I had the department do an activity that I call “Remix a Goal.” This is an activity that’s part of the 75 Tools for Creative Thinking toolkit I use in my participatory design practice. In the activity, folks are asked to brainstorm wishes (in this case, goals) that seem “normal.” Then, folks are asked to brainstorm more whimsical wishes/goals. These are goals that do not have to be tied to reality and are truly an exercise in imagination. The activity wraps up with the groups pairing a normal goal with a whimsical goal and looking for ways this can create a modified/amplified/innovative goal. When I used this with my department in our meeting, I saw more large scale programs being developed. I think these are the types of stretch goals that could be used to help push us throughout the year, even if we don’t fully implement this idea in 2023. 

At the end of the meeting, we had a myriad of potential goals. Now it’s my job to put those goals into a document, map them to our plate of work, and bring it back to the department for some prioritization. This prioritization will work concurrently as I meet with each individual in the department to finalize their 2023 librarianship goals. I’m hoping that once again this year we can tie departmental goals to individual work. I’m feeling excited about what goals were offered up by the team and cannot wait to see where we can take them in 2023. 

How does your department or unit decide on departmental goals? And how much do they tie to your own individual goals? Would love to hear your experiences in the comments of this post! 


Featured image by Possessed Photography on Unsplash

New Year, New Job

With the fall semester well underway, we’re all adjusting to more classes and services on the 25 campuses of my university than last year. There are more students on our campuses which is lovely, though there are still lots of hybrid and online classes and services, too. And this year has also featured a different kind of adjusting for me: this past summer I started a new position as director of the library at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center.

I’m enjoying my new job which is an interesting mix of similarities and differences from my last position. I’ve worked in the CUNY system for 15 years, 8 of those as a director, and spent most of that time at a comprehensive college that offers associate and baccalaureate degrees. I’ve also been on the faculty in two programs at the Graduate Center for a while now (and have blogged before about that teaching), so I came into my new role having some familiarity with the GC already. I’m most grateful to know about some of the university’s bureaucratic processes, and since our libraries are consortial and highly collaborative I have that insight and familiarity, too.

But as with any new job, there are lots of differences and lots for me to learn. The GC is an interesting place — while some of our faculty are solely at the GC, many teach undergraduates at the colleges across the system as well as masters and doctoral students at the GC. And our graduate students are also both here and there — they take courses and do research at the GC, and (many) teach courses at CUNY colleges. And while our library services and resources support the GC community in their academic work, as at all academic libraries, it’s been interesting to think about the local and distributed ways that we do and might work with students and faculty and students who are faculty.

Though I miss my colleagues at my prior institution, it’s been lovely to get to know my new colleagues and to work with such a terrific team. We’ve started a strategic planning process in the library, and our relatively-new administration is also beginning the strategic planning process at the GC this semester. I’m really looking forward to thinking with my library faculty and staff colleagues about our vision and mission, and how we can advance our broad goal of equitable access as we work with our patrons in their different roles.

I Love How We Laugh: A Year into Being a Department Head

Last week, I celebrated my one-year anniversary as a department head. The day consisted of teaching students, celebratory cookies, and a few reflective moments on the last 365 days. I can’t believe it has been a year! 

The last year has gone by quickly. We’ve adapted to changing pandemic seasons, dealt with staffing changes and hiring freezes, and continued to support student success. I feel like I’ve grown so much, as a librarian and as a manager. This job continues to be challenging in positive ways and I feel like I’m stretching and learning every day. I definitely haven’t had the perfect year; I’ve made mistakes, tried stuff that didn’t work, and dropped some balls. However, on the whole, I think last year was successful. I got the chance to work with the team I lead, participate in the work, and dream about what we can do as a department. I think this work builds so nicely from my experience as the Student Engagement Coordinator and allows me to take that work one step further. As a department, we collaboratively created our own mission, vision, and scope of work document, and continue to find ways to maximize the various expertises and experiences we each bring to the group. I’ve made connections with colleagues across campus and have had the chance to do what I think I do best, promote the library and envision new ways we can collaborate to support our students. 

One thing I’ve thought about a lot the last few months is the energy of the department I’m a part of. Even during my interview, I felt the enthusiasm and excitement for information literacy and students in the department meeting. That hasn’t changed since I arrived. The group I lead is always willing to try something new, talk through the pros and cons of a situation, and collaborate with one another to put an idea into action. It’s great to be on a team like this and I feel lucky to support and champion our work. 

The other thing that this department loves is laughter (as the title of this blog post suggests). In the past year, we’ve collected several inside jokes and I appreciate the department meetings where something funny happens and we’re all doubled over, laughing. There’s so much joy in that kind of laughter. I appreciate the space we as a department create for that joy. We can disagree and debate, but there’s something really nice about our ability to come together, share some stories, and laugh. For me, despite the stress I feel in this job or some of the dynamics outside of my control, I feel grounded knowing we can laugh as a department and figure things out.

As I think about my second year, I know we will continue to make changes and try new things. I’m excited to continue to learn from my colleagues and grow as a manager. And I’m thankful the laughter will continue. 

Tell me – what are some things about the team you work on that you appreciate? Would love to know from others if this idea resonates with you!

Things I Didn’t Know I Needed to Know

Hindsight is 20/20, right? In this collaborative post from our ACRLog team, we’re reflecting on the lessons and truths about libraries, librarianship, and higher ed that we wish we had come to understand sooner — the stuff we didn’t know to ask about earlier on in our careers, the stuff we didn’t know that we needed to know — and how our current understanding can perhaps help us to more clearly see the things we need to do differently. 

What’s something you wish someone had told you or that you wish you had asked in a job interview in order to get a clearer picture of the work, institution, or culture? 

[Alex] I wish I had the foresight to ask for more detail about what the tenure process looks like for a librarian, as this was not something I had encountered before. I had the rare opportunity to choose tenure-track or fixed-term when I was hired, and I assumed tenure-track was inherently the “better” choice and did not give it much critical consideration. 

[Hailley] A colleague and I were just talking about this recently – we wished we had asked about what the culture is around start and end times. At my current institution, we have a pretty standard 8:15-4:30 workday (university-wide). Knowing this might not change your mind to take or not to take a job, it is helpful to know what the general rule of thumb is before entering a new institution. 

[Veronica] It’s incredibly important to ask what the organization is doing to ensure their workplace is equitable, inclusive, and accessible. Both the answer, and the way that it is answered are especially important for librarians with marginalized identities, but should be a concern for all librarians. You can usually get a sense of a place by how the people you are talking to react to that question. 

What’s an unwritten rule at your current or past institution(s) or within your area of librarianship that you had to learn as you go?

[Alex] At each institution I’ve worked at, the unwritten rules are mostly workplace culture, processes for the way things are done. My best example is that I have had scheduled reference shifts at both of my librarian jobs, and it is done very differently at each: on a weekly basis vs. six months at a time; in hourly shifts vs. 90-minute shifts; all open hours vs. a six-hour period of the day on weekdays only. It demonstrated to me that not only are types of libraries very different, but so are individual locations. 

[Maura] When I started at my current institution as Instruction Coordinator 14 years ago, I also noted a few things about workplace culture that were perhaps a bit more formal than I expected. Most of my library colleagues dressed up a bit for reference shifts and teaching, and across the college when faculty referred to each other in front of students they tended to use “Professor So and so” rather than first names. The former has definitely changed somewhat since the pandemic though I’m not sure if the latter has.

[Jen] When I moved to my current institution to take on this job almost five years ago, it was my first time in a faculty position. I had already worked in libraries for a long time by that point but always in positions classified as staff. I didn’t take this job because it was classified as faculty; I saw it as a plus, but certainly not the deciding factor. It’s taken me some time to fully grasp what it means to have faculty status in terms of planning my work and organizing my time, as well as in terms of my opportunities and responsibilities–not only of the position itself, but also as a faculty member. Of course, faculty classification while working in a public service-oriented unit and also being an administrator and manager is different from a typical faculty role. But I think this vantage point has given me new perspective on what a position’s classification can mean with respect to autonomy, advocacy, and the like. Having worked from both sides of this coin now, though, I still believe that it is up to us to not only practice and embody the full potential of our roles, but to also challenge it (or, perhaps more accurately, to challenge others’ assumptions and expectations of our roles). Whether because or in spite of classifications, we can play a significant part in making our places in our library and institutional landscapes what we want them to be. 

What’s something simple or fundamental about higher ed, libraries, or your current/past job(s) that you wish you’d understood sooner?

[Hailley] Something I’ve been thinking about a lot is how decisions are made. Overtime, and especially as a current middle manager, I can more clearly see the many people above me who might influence, inform, or make a decision. Even if I don’t love a decision, I try to keep in mind the bigger picture and context for that specific decision. 

[Angie]  Absolutely what Hailey points out. I try to share this perspective with others as well.  Another reality I wish I knew sooner is how people in higher ed – from students to faculty to administrators – understand so little about the work of libraries, and how even those who communicate well, it remains a constant endeavor.  I am starting to accept this as work that is never done.

[Jen] I decided to go to library school without much library work experience, really. I had a job at the circulation desk in my college library, but my experience doing research for my senior thesis played a much bigger part in prompting me to take this path. While in grad school, I worked at the reference desk in one of my university’s libraries. This was a valuable experience that helped me solidify my grad school (and job search) focus on reference, instruction, and outreach work in academic libraries, but I don’t think I gave other areas of librarianship as much thought as I should have. All that to say, I didn’t come to this field with much pre-existing foundational knowledge about libraries. I feel particularly lucky, then, to have had a supervisor in my first professional position (a one-year stint) who took great pains to connect me with colleagues and projects in a wide range of areas and departments to help expand my awareness and skill set. And I feel very lucky, too, to have spent a significant chunk of my career early on at a small liberal arts college library. Because our library team was relatively small, collegial, and collaborative (read: everyone wore a lot of hats), I had many opportunities to get involved in projects outside the scope of my specific position. Moreover, the daily work of each person and department was literally visible to me. As such, I feel like I got a broad view of how libraries work. My current position at a small branch of an enormous university library system still requires me to wear a lot of hats and also still regularly offers me new insight into how libraries–and higher ed–work, too. But had I started my career in a system of this size, I don’t think I would have had occasion to participate in or observe so many aspects of academic library work so closely. I would have very little understanding, for example, of the technical work of my cataloging, serials, and licensing colleagues or of what’s involved in implementing a new discovery system. I regularly rely and expand on the broader, foundational understanding those early positions afforded. I’m grateful for the opportunities I had to build it.

[Veronica] Like Jen, I also spent a significant chunk of my career at a small liberal arts college library. What that time taught me, and what I wish I’d realized sooner, is that everyone in higher ed–staff, faculty (tenure track, adjuncts, lecturers), librarians–is trying to do their best with the limited time, bandwidth, and resources that we have. There can be this tendency in larger institutions to feel like it’s us versus them, or fall into victim-villain thinking, when in reality everyone is trying their best and no one is ignoring you on purpose. Yes, there will always be people who are rude, but the vast majority of folks are really just trying to get by as best as they can. I think the more that we can listen to our colleagues and get to know them and their wants, needs, worries, and hopes, the better we can support one another and show solidarity in higher education. 

What’s something in higher ed, libraries, or your area of librarianship that everyone just does but doesn’t work well or should be re-thought?

[Angie] I truly don’t understand how, especially as information scientists, we haven’t prioritized the problem that is email. When I first moved into my own place after college, I remember the internet offerings advertised “up to 5 email accounts!”, and I thought why would anyone need that many? In my work within technical services, we have more than that; I know their purpose, and still wonder why these systems can’t serve us better. Many band-aids out there endeavor to help us “manage” email, but not a lot of solutions recognize the problematic level of reliance on email in the workplace. I don’t want to manage email. As ubiquitous as email is, it ought to more effortlessly help or at least get out of the way.

[Maura] I am so grateful to my colleagues that we are a well-functioning, kind, and thoughtful team. Not that we don’t have challenges, because every workplace has challenges, but we’re committed to asking questions and taking responsibility for our inevitable mistakes (because everyone makes mistakes). I was in academia right after college and then took some time in the publishing industry before returning to academia as a librarian, and I’d forgotten about the conflict avoidance that seems endemic to so many academic settings. I wish that institutions offered more support for doing the necessary work of moving through conflict thoughtfully and respectfully.

[Jen] We need to increase transparency around salaries. To withhold salary information from position descriptions and during the interview process can make what is already a difficult undertaking even more uncertain and fraught–not to mention a waste of time for everyone involved if candidates drop out late in the process after finally learning that salaries don’t meet their needs. And then, once hired, the lack of communication within and across institutions about salary data leaves library workers siloed and in the dark about potential earnings equity issues and missing key information with which to advocate for themselves. On a related note, we need to create more internal advancement opportunities in libraries. It seems that the general thinking is that in order to move up, one has to move out. I agree with that approach to some degree–transition is typically healthy for an organization and individuals (fresh perspectives and new horizons!). However, the lack of growth potential for folks within an institution can result in stagnancy, frustration, and low morale. While an organizational culture that supports experimentation and innovation can keep motivated library workers interested and invested, the lack of structural elements to support such folks to move into new positions (with real salary growth) is hurting us on both individual and organizational levels.

[Veronica] Like Jen, I definitely feel as though pipelines to leadership are something that need to be addressed within libraries with equity in mind. There is a strong push towards diversifying the profession, but it often stops with the hiring and onboarding process. What happens after that? Why do people leave the organization or the profession? At my library we are looking into how to help all librarians access professional development and support that will help them advance their careers within our library or elsewhere. Some things we need to ask ourselves are: Who are we sharing leadership opportunities with and why? Who within the organization has access to training, mentoring, and coaching? Who is missing from conversations about leadership potential and career advancement? If we, as a profession, spent time on these ideas we might be able to ensure that people stay within librarianship.

What are some of the lessons and truths that hindsight has helped you to see better? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.