Further Questions: Who hires librarians and what do they do?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

Who hires librarians and what do they do? Can you share with us the composition of the most recent search/hiring committees – number of committee members, their roles in the library, etc.? Are there stakeholders in the hiring process who should be involved but are not, or are only involved minimally (i.e. attending a presentation or meal with the candidate)? How is their feedback treated?

Paula HammetWhen we create a hiring committee for tenure track librarian positions, we include at least three librarians.  The hiring process (approving job descriptions and questions /criteria, accepting applications, sending out letters, etc.) is managed through our campus Faculty Affairs office.

Interviews for these type of positions typically last a very long day and include (it varies, depending on position):

  • Meet search committee chair at hotel for coffee & drive to campus.
  • Quick tour of library.
  • Setup and prepare for presentation (to all library faculty and staff, and occasionally other campus faculty).
  • Presentation (includes 20-25 min. for Q&A).
  • Discussion with Library staff (without the librarians).
  • Candidate Break.
  • Interview with Search Committee (at least 3 librarians).
  • Lunch with Library Faculty (usually 4-5 people).
  • Meeting with Director of Faculty Personnel (to answer questions about benefits, etc.).
  • Candidate leads an informal discussion with Library Faculty on a relevant topic of their choice.
  • Meeting with Library Dean.
  • Meet with search chair for followup and return to hotel.

For specialized positions (e.g., web services) we will include a meeting with staff with whom this person would be working directly.

The search committee solicits feedback from everyone and  considers it carefully. The search committee makes a recommendation to the Dean, who makes the offer to the preferred candidate.

We provide the presentation prompts and interview day schedule to the candidates a week before the interview.

Hope this is helpful in demystifying the process.

– Paula Hammett, Sonoma State University Library

Our hiring committees have a minimum of 2 people, more often it’s 3. The make-up of the committee varies depending on the job being interviewed for.

Examples off the top of my head:

  • Professional librarian (reference, public service, etc.): Branch manager or department head plus two others, usually other librarians or high-level paraprofessionals in that department/branch.
  • Department head or branch manager: Director and assistant director. Occasionally, other members of Library Administration, such as the Business Office Manager will be involved, depending on the position’s requirements.
  • Paraprofessional: Branch manager or department head plus two others, usually librarians or other paraprofessionals in the department/branch.

We don’t require presentations or take candidates out to lunch. The only people involved in the interview are the people on the search committee-they’re the ones who make the final decision. Stakeholders are directly involved in the process from start to finish.

– Margaret Neill, Regional Library Branch Manager, Main Library, El Paso Public Library

Laurie Phillips

Our search committees are generally 4-5 people. We try to keep it small to facilitate getting the work done in a timely way. Our practice is for the search committee to be made up of the primary people in the position’s area, plus one librarian from another area of the library. We have had staff on our search committees, but with our new process it’s unclear how that would work. Our whole library faculty reviews all applications with a set of guidelines (based on the requirements) and give each application a yes, no, or maybe. We then meet as a faculty to decide who will be interviewed by phone or videochat. The smaller committee then does the phone or video interviews. Committee members take notes and post them in Blackboard for all of the librarians to read. We then meet to decide who will move forward in a reference check. The committee divides up the remaining candidates and calls references. No committee member calls more than one reference for any candidate. Committee members post reference notes. The whole library faculty meets to decide, based on all of the information posted, who will be invited to interview on campus. The committee takes the candidate to dinner, but the whole library faculty participates in the candidate’s interview day, through attending the presentation, lunch, delivering the candidate to various meetings, or participating in the formal interview. The Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs, the Dean, and a group of interested staff also meet with the candidates. Some staff may be invited to lunch as well. Feedback is gathered from anyone not on the library faculty and is posted for the library faculty in Blackboard. The library faculty meets, reviews the feedback, discusses, and determines who they will recommend for hire. There are generally 2 candidates who are recommended, in priority order.

– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

Most of our search committees for librarians are chaired by a librarian and composed of librarians, paraprofessional library staff, and depending upon the position colleagues from outside the library (teaching faculty or administrators depending upon the position – someone the hire will have a lot of contact with).  Usually 5 members.  While we would like to have students serve on the committees, their schedules make it difficult, so instead we do everything we can to invite students to participate in the lunch meetings, presentations and other opportunities to interact with candidates.

Everyone who has contact with a candidate is asked to complete a feedback form, expressing what they think are the strengths of the candidate, any areas of concern or growth areas for the candidate, and any other observations they would like to share with the committee.  Feedback may be anonymous.  The chair of the search committee receives the feedback and shares it in aggregate with the search committee and the dean.  The search committee’s charge is to provide the following information for those candidates they feel are viable at the end of the process:  strengths and assets of each candidate, concerns or deficits for each candidate, any additional information they think is relevant to share to aid in the dean’s deliberations.

– Anonymous, from a medium-sized liberal arts college

Celia RabinowitzSearch committees I have formed for librarian searches have always included librarians (usually at least 2), one staff member from the library (often I try to rotate people so the area does not matter that much), and a faculty member from outside the library (often from a department that the new librarian would support).  I have been in two pretty small academic libraries (7 and 9 librarians including me as director/dean) so having a staff member from a specific area isn’t so important as including staff.
We ask members of our student staff to give campus tours, to have breakfast or lunch with candidates, and encourage them to attend talks or teaching sessions.  An open talk or campus session would probably be only for the director level.  Everyone has equal access to feedback forms or talks with a search committee member and I have used student feedback very seriously in helping choose among candidates.

– Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH

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 us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

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2 responses to “Further Questions: Who hires librarians and what do they do?

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