Author’s Corner: A Guest Post on Recruiting and Hiring in Academic Libraries

Teresa Neely is the editor of How to Stay Afloat in the Academic Library Job Pool, a collection of essays about various aspects of the academic search process.  Dr. Neely is the director of Learning Space Initiatives at the University Libraries of the University of New Mexico. She has been a hiring manager, and a member of hiring committees. She also edited the book In Our Own Voices, which presents the experiences of 25 librarians of color transitioning from school to career. She graciously agreed to share her understanding and experience of the academic hiring process with us.


Recruiting and hiring practices in most academic libraries are governed by the rules and regulations of the parent institution, the state, and the federal government. I have worked in academic libraries my entire professional career and have served on and chaired many faculty search committees over the years.

Higher Education Hiring is not like the For-Profit Sector

There is a distinct difference between higher education and the for-profit sector in terms of how searches are managed. For example, academic searches take a long, long, long time. You generally have four or five committee members and a chair which means work moves as fast as the busiest person on the committee. In the for-profit sector, searches are probably not conducted by a committee and decisions are reached much faster.

At my current institution, in addition to the search committee, there is a search coordinator who is very experienced with the university’s human resources procedures and requirements. She keeps the search committee on the right [legal] path throughout the process. This means, if you meet the minimum requirements for the position you are applying for, then your application is moved on to the next step in the process.

Evaluating Candidacy

A scoring rubric of some sort is usually employed to evaluate the application based on the preferred qualifications, once the minimum qualifications have been met. At this stage, rules could require the search committee to do a “second look” for self-identified applicants from protected classes, and females to bring up into the pool, with appropriate justification of course.  If your application makes it through this stage, next stop is the telephone interview; Successful completion of this stage usually nets you an on-site interview. However, that is dependent on the number of people in the pool with successful telephone interviews and the cutoff point for how many candidates you want to bring on-site.

Competition and Fairness

Search committees bound by rules and regulations and federal and state laws should ensure that every application submitted in the required manner is treated to the same rigorous review process and every applicant meeting the minimum qualifications has an equal chance. And as in any process, every applicant meeting the minimum qualifications has the same chance to excel by writing a cover letter that addresses their qualifications for the position, submitting a curriculum vitae which clearly indicates the experience and education needed as spelled out in the position description, preparing for the telephone interview as if it is a “real” interview because it is, and putting their best foot forward during the in-person interview if they make it to that level. Competition is fierce for positions and the closer to entry-level you get, the more applicants you could be competing against.

Academic Applications have Unique Requirements

Books, websites and tips abound on what to do and what not to do when preparing a packet to submit for employment; however, for those seeking the academic track, things tend to be a bit different. I believe one of the biggest differences in faculty library positions and jobs in the for-profit sector is the former wants a curriculum vitae that spells out exactly what your experience is in as many pages as that takes. The latter wants the one to two pager.

 Timing

Apply early and often, but only once for each position, as academic searches can stretch over months, and remember, during the summers and between Thanksgiving and Martin Luther King Day, very little gets done.

Good Luck!


Dr. Neely has agreed to come back for an interview on the topic: Hiring Librarians of Color. If you have questions about this subject, either as a job hunter or a hirer of librarians, would you please email me at hiringlibrarians AT gmail?  Now’s the chance to find out what’s really going on with that affirmative action form or to figure out how you can increase diversity in your organization. 

 Thanks for reading!

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4 Comments

Filed under Author's Corner, Guest Posts

4 responses to “Author’s Corner: A Guest Post on Recruiting and Hiring in Academic Libraries

  1. Nick

    Am I reading this correctly?

    “At this stage, rules could require the search committee to do a ‘second look’ for … females to bring up into the pool, with appropriate justification of course.”

    In my school and in my libraries women grossly outnumber men in libraries. Is the situation different in academic libraries? Or, is this just used when hiring for specific departments where women are underrepresented?

  2. JT

    Nick – I think her comma was confusing, but she meant “women and other protected classes.” Regardless of whether there are more women in our profession or not, if women are still a protected class under the law, especially public institutions are very careful to abide. From my limited experience in serving on (one) academic search committee what happens is there is a representative on the committee whose sole responsibility is to point out people who are self identified or through “clues,” such as last name, are identified as protected class and make sure that if they meet all the qualifications they are considered. If two candidates have the exact same resume and qualifications (I feel this rarely occurs), yes, the committee would have to select the protected class candidate. I don’t think in practice there are too many male applicants being discriminated against in favor of a female applicant because at least in the one I participated in only about 5% of applicants were male and actually a good number of them made the final interview cut. But we did ultimately hire a female based on the fact she scored higher on certain scales, performed better in the interview and her qualifications better fit that position. Hope this helps.

  3. Nick

    JT, I was just surprised that women would count as a protected class in a field they dominate. That seems like an overly near-sighted application of laws intended to introduce diversity into the workplace. However, if it was invoked only to introduce more women into higher administrative positions where I suspect women are less well-represented, I could understand.

  4. Teresa Neely

    Thanks for responding JT. You are correct in that members of protected classes have no relationship to relationship to individual professions. “The Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) makes it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex.” Since this law was passed, subsequent amendments have included other protected classes. see http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/index.cfm.
    “Under the laws enforced by EEOC (US Equal Employment Commission), it is illegal to discriminate against someone (applicant or employee) because of that person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”

    At the University of New Mexico, protected classes include:
    Age (40 and over), Ancestry/National Origin, Color/Race, Gender Identity, Medical Condition, Mental/Physical Disability, Religion, Sex/Sexual Harassment, Sexual Orientation, Spousal Affiliation, Veteran Status, Any Other Protected Classes.(see: http://www.unm.edu/~oeounm/_discrimination/index.htm)

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