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.
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.
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.
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!