This week’s question is again inspired by a reader. Thanks to this and all of the rest of you readers for being inspiring!
I asked people who hire librarians:
Broadly,what does “or equivalent” really mean in a job announcement? And more specifically, could a paraprofessional position ever stand in for librarian experience, if it included some librarian duties such as staffing the reference desk? Can you describe any instances where someone with “equivalent” experience was hired at your organization?
I don’t know that we have ever used “or equivalent” in a job announcement. I can’t think where I would use that. That said, yes, pre-professional experience can absolutely stand in for professional experience. If we are hiring for what is essentially an entry-level tenure-track library faculty position, we do not expect a person to come in with professional experience. In our most recent ad, we asked for “a minimum of one year of experience with acquisitions, collection development, or publishing.” Here we’re looking for someone to show that they’re interested enough in this portion of our field to have worked in it and gained some knowledge, but not necessarily as a librarian. In fact, we interviewed a few people who had years of experience in the field as professional, but they were not otherwise a good fit.
- Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans
I don’t have a concrete definition of what equivalent experience means, but yes, I have internally promoted and would consider hiring candidates even without ANY library related education. In one situation, the person had been working in the field for over 20 years and in other situations, based on the extremely rural location, we had little or no chance of finding a candidate with library related education.And yes, I believe that in many situations a candidate with a library tech degree could be as suitable for a position as a librarian.In my current situation, our bibliographic services department has several library technicians, but also staff without formal library education.Any type of education, whether at the paraprofessional or the post secondary level will only take you so far. In the end it comes down to your attitude and your adaptability, and whether or not I feel that you will be able to grow with us. I would always hire for “fit” over education. We can teach you what you need to know, for the most part.- Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library System
In job announcements in the UK, the phrase ‘or equivalent’ is most often used when specifying educational qualifications, for example if the advert calls for “a Masters in Librarianship or equivalent”. In this context, ‘or equivalent’ can be taken to mean an equivalent qualification (eg Masters in Information Science, Archives Management or Records Management) or sometimes to mean someone with one or two year’s work experience in place of a formal qualification.Paraprofessional experience, for example as a Library or Information Assistant, is quite often acceptable as library experience, and has become more so as the numbers of library staff has tended to fall in many organisations and so paraprofessional team members have tended to be engaged in more duties that were formerly restricted to qualified librarians.As a recruiter I have sometimes put forward candidates who had good quality experience but not a qualification that was being called for – some organisations have been open to this while others have been more rigid and insisted upon the qualification itself. In my view it is always worth making an application if you can meet most of the other criteria for the post and can demonstrate how your experience is applicable to the requirements of the job.- Nicola Franklin, Director, The Library Career Centre Ltd.
When we say “or equivalent” when we are actively searching, we would certainly entertain applications from paraprofessionals as well as professionals in completely different professions (teachers; recreation directors; social workers, etc). A candidate can never assume what the pool of candidates might be for a position they are interested in. Sometimes, non-MLIS candidates with strong resumes and cover letters rise to the top in the process; sometimes the pool is small and we are more willing to look at non-MLIS candidates and sometimes a candidate has an outstanding reputation and we know they could make a great addition to the staff.
We have hired adult and children’s reference librarians and a circulation manager over the years who have had outstanding strengths. My favorite part is that many have gone on to get their degree and now work far and wide. The strength of one’s experience, commitment to the profession, understanding of the larger vision and picture of librarianship can make a difference. And finally, even with a very tight job market, you never know until you have tried.- Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library
I am accustomed to “equivalent” be used in relation to training, e.g., British library training plus a university degree being accepted in lieu of an ALA accredited degree. I would accept paraprofessional experience incataloguing.- J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging
Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight. If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.com.
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