Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.
This week we featured a post written by Gail Betz that is based on her research and article Navigating the Academic Interview Process with Disabilities. So this week’s question is about hiring and disabilities:
When designing your hiring process, what steps does your organization take to make sure that it is accessible to candidates with disabilities? Bonus questions: Do you have advice for candidates who are requesting accommodations? Do you have advice for candidates about whether or not to disclose a disability, and at what stage?
Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: In thinking about my response for this week I decided it would be helpful to provide some context. The last time I hired someone for a full-time position in my academic library was in 2019. Since then, the library has lost two faculty and three staff positions. Since I arrived in 2014 the number of library faculty has gone from 8-3 and staff from 12-5 (not including me). There is very little chance that I’ll be able to do any hiring in the next 3-5 years unless someone resigns and I am able to hold onto the position.
That said, over my 30 years as an academic librarian I have participated in many searches for a variety of positions on two campuses and have been responsible for hiring for 20 of those years. My first thought about this question was that our Human Resources office (through the university system I work in) controls many aspects of our searches, and particularly the very first interaction a candidate has with us through the online application. And I have no idea whether access to that application meets accessibility guidelines. I eventually found a paragraph about accommodations in employment (presumably negotiated after an offer is made), but could not determine how one would request accommodations for submitting the online application, or even to read through all the FAQ information for someone who found that difficult.
My campus has fairly good ADA compliance and the library is fully physically accessible. So far as I know, we have not interviewed candidates with disabilities. I hope that anyone needing an accommodation in order to have a successful interview experience would feel comfortable requesting that during the interview planning process whether that is something we would need to do online or on the phone, or in person. If the accommodation is something that would be important once the person was hired, I have to admit I’m not sure. I think I would be fine with the person waiting until an offer was made. But, again, I think the decision should be the candidate’s and our role as employers is to try to make stating the need for an accommodation (not requesting one) a part of the hiring process. My sense is that we do this in fits and starts, especially those of us without a lot of experience. And that we will also make mistakes. Our growth in supporting the use of appropriate pronouns has helped us learn to make mistakes and use them as ways to become better. In many ways I think this is still how we are approaching supporting colleagues for whom accommodations are needed in order for them to be successful members of our teams.
Laurie Phillips, Interim Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: For myself, I would want to know if someone has a disability or needs accommodation, especially for a campus interview. If it’s a Zoom first round, it would depend on whether or not the candidate felt like their disability would create issues that could be explained if the disability were disclosed. We don’t ever want to make ableist assumptions that would affect decision-making, when we could have had the information we needed, in the same way that we must remind ourselves of everywhere that lack of privilege may play a role in how a candidate handles themselves in an interview situation. Obviously, our buildings should be accessible, but if the person is giving a presentation, we need to know how best to make the person most comfortable. Can the person walk around campus on a tour? Do they need captions in Zoom? There are so many possibilities that would even the playing field, but we have to know about it. I think it makes the interviewers more comfortable if we know in advance and can offer those accommodations rather than being presented with a situation on the spot. I’m not sure if we design our hiring process in a certain way to accommodate, but I think we should!
Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College:
When designing your hiring process, what steps does your organization take to make sure that it is accessible to candidates with disabilities? I think we do. Our position descriptions are clear as to our commitment and our website is said to be 508 compliant. We take great care to not only ask applicants if they need anything for any stage of the search and application process. AND we also include and support an inclusive interview team – making sure – for example – we have ASL assistance as needed for applicants and committee members. That is NOT to say that we only have – for example – deaf committee members when we might have a deaf applicant – rather we include our employees on our committees to be representative of who our candidates will be working with at the College – students, faculty and staff.
Do you have advice for candidates who are requesting accommodations? My opinion is that they should assess position descriptions carefully to see what they might need. If they see no need to disclose, that is, they determine they can be a successful employee without benefit of disclosure, then they shouldn’t. If interview committees ask – as we typically do – do you see any reason why – given the position description, etc. you could not perform any aspect of the work successfully, they just need to answer truthfully.
Do you have advice for candidates about whether or not to disclose a disability, and at what stage? Candidates who have a need for assistance should respond to the phone call or the email setting up the interview with a “Yes I would love to interview. For a video interview I need….For an in-person interview I will need..” That is, the approach should never be…”For the interview I need – now that you know this, do you still want to interview me?”…accept the interview and then provide what you need to be successful.
Also, the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy has great content for employers, employees and potential employees. Their “News and Publications” area also has great content for interviewing “Focus on Ability.”
We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, on Twitter @HiringLib, or written on a scrap of paper, shoved into a bottle, and thrown into the deepest ocean. If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.