Category Archives: Researcher’s Corner

Researcher’s Corner: Navigating the Library Interview Process with Disabilities

I’m so pleased to be able to return to Researcher’s Corner, where I invite LIS researchers to provide an informal look at what they have recently learned about hiring or job hunting. 

And I’m even more pleased that the first post is this piece by Gail Betz on hiring and disabilities. In the first iteration of Hiring Librarians, I regularly heard from job hunters with disabilities who were looking for advice on navigating a process that can often be ableist. Gail’s research brings together the experience of librarians with disabilities to provide just such advice. It also serves as an excellent window for hiring managers who wish to learn about the barriers they may be creating or reinforcing.  

This blog post is a synopsis of an article I published with In the Library with the Lead Pipe called Navigating the Academic Hiring Process with Disabilities in April, 2022. The purpose of that article is to provide strategies and recommendations to librarians with disabilities on how to manage all the complexities that come with the academic interview process. As a way to formally gather insights into people’s strategies with navigating the hiring process successfully, I interviewed 40 academic librarians with disabilities about their interviewing experiences. The following is based on the qualitative data they provided as well as my own lived experience of library interviews with a disability. 

While this research project focused specifically on in-person academic library interviews, many of the librarians I spoke with had also interviewed in public and special libraries. Many were law librarians, some had previously worked in government libraries or as solo hospital librarians. So while academic library interviews can be distinct from other types of library interviews, I do think some of the strategies people discussed carry over into any interview situation where there is social interaction between potential employee and employer. Much of the experience of disability isn’t about the structure of a setting, but the social interactions between people. Another important note is that this research was done immediately before Covid in 2020, so virtual second round interviews were not common. Returning to in-person interviews exclusively is, in and of itself, a barrier for a significant number of disabled applicants.

In the article, I described three themes that surfaced throughout people’s interviews- interview day structure, intrapersonal coping methods, and interpersonal coping methods. Interview day structure strategies included things like asking for breaks during the interview, etc.; Intrapersonal coping methods encompassed things that an interviewee could do to best prepare themselves; interpersonal coping methods revolved mostly around how interviewees can interview a potential employer. All of this is subjective of course; what one person considers a deal breaker another person might not even notice. 

Some highlights from each category:

Interview day structure:

  1. Getting the day’s schedule in advance, including breaks– If there aren’t any breaks or you need more, ask for them!
  2. Tours– asking at the start for an accessible route, using the elevators, or opting out entirely. If you know you’ll want to see something specific (like classroom set-up, for example), you should ask to see it!
  3. Meals– depending on the length of the interview, you may be given one or more meals. You can ask for the restaurant name ahead of time to look at the menu, the location, the layout, etc. Prep some open-ended, informal questions for the people you will eat with to let them do more of the talking.
  4. Getting the interview questions in advance- this is a tricky one. It’s hard to ask for this, but if you feel comfortable doing so, you should! Everyone benefits from having the questions in advance as it allows people to prepare ahead of time, give more thoughtful answers, remember all the parts to a question, etc. 

Intrapersonal coping:

  1. Preparedness- people talked about “overpreparing” for any part of the interview that they felt could be impacted by a disability – memorizing everything, visiting the building ahead of time, picking out several different outfit choices depending on pain levels. This was described as the most time-consuming part, but that it ultimately became an advantage during the interview.
  2. “Self-accommodating”- tying in with preparedness, people talked about ways they hid their disability by creating accommodations for themselves. This included things like bringing extra painkillers to offset stairs and walking, bringing allergy medication to offset possible food allergies from provided meals, or sitting in a specific spot in a conference room to enhance hearing or sight.
  3. Strategically applying to institutions- also related to preparedness, people did extra research on institutions before applying to see if they had strong track records of anything DEI-related. Searching institutional websites for student disability resources in the library, looking through staff profiles to see if people had any visible differences (whether that’s race, gender, disability, etc), and talking to networks to see if people have had positive experiences at specific institutions they are considering. 
  4. Job “fit”- Unlike whether a person is a “good fit” for an institution, people talked about considering whether a job’s tasks were a good fit for their disability. Someone who has a lot of pain from long periods of sitting, for example, realized that a cataloging position was contributing negatively to that symptom. It’s important to note with this one that this is personal preference- many things can be “reasonably accommodated” under the ADA, like this person could schedule walking breaks throughout the day, but it is perfectly reasonable to choose a position that eliminates some tasks completely. 

Interpersonal coping:

  1. Navigating social cues- deciding how to handle handshakes, eye contact, or asking someone to repeat themselves were all things that people highlighted as causing specific social anxiety around trying to hide a disability (“pass” as able-bodied). Some people used these situations as one way to pre-emptively disclose a disability to alleviate the social anxiety, and some people used these situations to judge how accepting a potential coworker or supervisor might be. 
  2. Interviewing the institution- people did this in different ways, including assessing social interactions, looking for any visible signs of diversity within the staff, or asking about health benefits and sick leave. This was particularly salient for people who had options about where they wanted to work for a variety of reasons (where they were in their careers, geographic location, savings, benefits from a spouse, etc); people who did not have much choice talked about noticing red flags and just trying to mitigate or reduce them. People who had more choice talked about deciding not to work somewhere based on disability-related red flags.
  3. Boundaries- these were personal and again, some people were able to set boundaries more concretely than others based various aspects of security. One person summarized it with “…hardest part is, you know…where is the line with my dignity versus, you know, enjoying eating every single day and having a place to live.”
  4. Strategic disclosure- people spent a lot of time discussing and considering this and it was very personal. Do you tell a potential employer you have a disability and need accommodations, so that you get what you need and can focus on performing your best at an interview? Or do you hide a disability so as not to risk discrimination and hope everything is fine? People talked about being prepared for both (if it’s feasible to hide a disability, which it sometimes isn’t!) and then deciding at the interview based on how things are going. Some people had very positive experiences with disclosing and discovering that other people at the institution also had disabilities; others had negative stories about discrimination and microaggressions. When people did decide to disclose, this was one of the most impactful ways they said they interviewed their interviewer- what is the response to disclosure?

There’s so much that goes into interviewing for any job and dealing with the implications of disability makes it more complex. Society has reinforced the idea that people with disabilities are “less”- less capable, less useful, less desirable as employees.  And the unemployment rate for people with disabilities in the United States reflects those stereotypes, with the unemployment rate being twice as high for people with disabilities as able-bodied people (see Bureau of Labor Statistics data). However, librarians with disabilities offer a wealth of knowledge and lived experience to our coworkers and patrons – we are creative problem-solvers, we’re empathetic and compassionate, and we understand the importance of community, interdependence, and support. 

We all handle hiring processes differently because we all have different needs. And all those needs are valid. Some of these strategies will work well in certain settings and others will work better in other settings, but hopefully what comes through with this research is that library workers with disabilities are valuable employees and we do not need to work somewhere that doesn’t treat us accordingly.

Do you have other strategies that you’ve used that you’d like to share in the comments below?


Gail Betz, MLIS, is a Research and Education Librarian at the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s Health Sciences and Human Services Library. She serves as a liaison to the School of Social Work and has greatly benefited from collaboration with social workers. She is visually impaired and loves walking to work while listening to audiobooks, two things she wouldn’t have prioritized without vision loss. She also loves taking her dogs to the park for lunch on days she gets to work from home. Please feel free to reach out about anything disability or accessibility-related via email at

Leave a comment

Filed under Researcher's Corner

Researcher’s Corner: Job Ads and Academic Standards and Proficiencies

I am pleased to bring you this look at the types of skills mentioned in ads for academic librarians.  I think that you will find the results illuminating, and that you will appreciate their analysis.  If you’d like to read about this work in it’s full scholarly glory, please obtain a copy of: 
Gold, M. L., & Grotti, M. G. (2013). Do Job Advertisements Reflect ACRL’s Standards for Proficiencies for Instruction Librarians and Coordinators?: A Content Analysis. Journal Of Academic Librarianship, 39(6), 558-565. doi:10.1016/j.acalib.2013.05.013


Standards and proficiencies documents are one way library science organizations communicate key skills and general values to the profession and to the world. Our interest in examining the relationship between professional standards and job advertisements arose out of committee work that focused on revising and critically examining the Standards for Proficiencies for Instruction Librarians and Coordinators, one of the many sets of standards drafted by the profession. These standards help direct librarians’ professional development activities as well as guide those who are looking to fill positions with qualified applicants. Given the goals of such standards, we wondered if there was any clear relationship between the key skills identified by the profession and the skills deemed most important by those seeking to fill instruction positions. As new-ish librarians just emerging from the journey of the academic job market, this line of  inquiry was particularly interesting to us.


Specifically, our research examined whether the areas of focus within the Standards for Proficiencies for Instruction Librarians and Coordinators were represented in instruction librarian job advertisements from US academic institutions. We used a content analysis approach, in which we scrutinized job advertisements that appeared on ALA JobLIST during a six-month period (January 1 to June 30, 2012).

Proficiency Categories from the Standards:

1) Administrative skills

2) Assessment and evaluation skills

3) Communication skills

4) Curriculum knowledge

5) Information literacy integration skills

6) Instructional design skills

7) Leadership skills

8) Planning skills

9) Presentation skills

10) Promotion skills

11) Subject Expertise

12) Teaching skills.

Using these categories, we examined about 50 job ads in a pilot study in order to develop the coding guide for our analysis. The creation of the coding guide and the many spirited discussions that it sparked between us was one of the most difficult, fun, and lengthy portions of the project.


Our results included an analysis of 230 job advertisements for words or phrases relating to the 12 proficiency categories. Institutions posting ads ranged from doctorate-granting universities to associate’s colleges and special focus institutions. Ads represented jobs in 46 states with the majority of ads (54%) indicating no requirement for years of experience.

  •  Administrative skills were mentioned in the highest percentage (82%) of job ads and were mentioned consistently across institution types.
  • Subject expertise (56%) and Leadership skills (52%) were also mentioned in the majority of job advertisements.
    • However, a much smaller percentage (19%) of associate’s colleges’ job ads mentioned Subject expertise compared to other institution types.
  • Instructional design skills were mentioned in 46% of ads.
  • Presentation skills were mentioned the least, in only 8% of job advertisements.
  • Teaching skills were only listed as a required skill in 13% of job ads.

Implications for Job Seekers

Though exploratory in nature, our study can be informative for job seekers interested in discovering which skills are in-demand. It is clear that employers place an emphasis on Administrative skills, which for this study meant working well in a team and communicating instruction goals. A high percentage of ads also mentioned the importance of professional development, scholarly research, or seeking out instruction opportunities, which were classified as Leadership skills. Though the desire for these skills may not be surprising, the explicit mention of them in these ads highlights the importance for job seekers to incorporate these qualifications into their application materials.

Also of note for job seekers, Subject expertise was mentioned in a higher percentage (65%) of ads from institutions offering doctorates than those not offering advanced degrees. Additionally, most ads that mentioned Subject expertise listed it as a required or preferred qualification rather than mentioning it generally in the body of the job ad.

It was surprising to see Instructional design skills (e.g. experience with lesson planning, developing learning outcomes, or course content) mentioned in more job ads than Teaching skills. However, this was likely related to the recent emergence of librarians as instructional designers and our strict definition of Teaching skills, which required knowledge of pedagogy or learning theory and was beyond mere teaching experience.


We feel that it is important to note that the low frequency of mentions for some skills in job ads is likely not due to employers valuing these skills any less. We believe a lack of mentions may have been due to the limited space available within job advertisements and the inclusion of institutionally prescribed language, as well as the fact that certain skills (e.g. presentation and teaching) are more effectively evaluated during campus interviews rather than through application materials. Thus, it is important to remember that job ads are only one indication of the skills that may be important for a particular position. We suggest that professional standards can provide additional guidance regarding specific competencies that go above and beyond the language of job ads. These can help applicants to articulate and identify key abilities that they have when writing cover letters or responding to the general language found in these ads.

Grotti_Meg-2013-06-- smiling only


Meg Grotti, Coordinator of Library Instruction, University of Delaware Library

Meg Grotti’s research interests include instructional technology for libraries, information literacy pedagogy, and assessment of student learning.  Meg has served on numerous professional committees at the national and local level, including work for the ACRL’s College and Research Libraries publication and the ACRL Value of Academic Libraries initiative.


profilepinkMelissa Gold, Assistant Professor and Science Librarian at McNairy Library, Millersville University of Pennsylvania.

Melissa Gold’s research interests include information literacy pedagogy, using professional standards in practice, and the value of the library building. She serves on committees within the instruction section and science and technology section of ACRL and regularly presents at national conferences. Melissa has also served on multiple search committees and enjoys giving feedback to job seekers. Feel free to contact her about academic job searches.

1 Comment

Filed under Researcher's Corner

Researcher’s Corner: Education and Training of Access Services Librarians

I’m happy to introduce this piece by Michael Krasulski, which discusses an aspect of librarianship that we haven’t talked about very much on this blog, access services.  If you’re interested in reading a more scholarly description of his research, read the article:

Krasulski, M. (2014). “Where do they come from, and how are they trained?” Professional education and training of access services librarians in academic libraries. Journal of Access Services, 11(1), 14-29

Access services is the administrative umbrella under which the circulation, reserves, interlibrary loan, stacks maintenance, and related functions typically reside within an academic library. Since the late 1970s, the access services librarian or equivalent position has become commonplace in academic libraries, and degreed professionals have been sought for these positions since the beginning. In 2009, David McCaslin, then at Yale University and now at California Institute of Technology, studied the place of access services within library and information science education. He found, generally speaking, a dedicated course in access services is not taught in American Library Association-accredited library and information science graduate programs, though aspects of access services may be covered elsewhere in the curriculum. In passing, David asked rhetorically in his article, “The question begs to be asked ‘where to [access services librarians] come from, and how are [access services librarians] trained?” Answering McCaslin’s question was the impetus for research study that was later published by the Journal of Access Services in 2014.
To determine the ways heads of access services acquired the necessary skills to assume these positions, I developed a survey instrument that helped illuminate how heads of access services achieved their positions, the skills and competencies needed to be a head of access services, professional attitudes of heads of access services, and the ways LIS programs are, and more important, are not involved in producing and developing leaders in access services. The survey was non-scientific and distributed over the various access services related listservs. A total of 171 surveys were returned. Of those, 20 surveys were eventually excluded from the final analysis: 14 because less than half of the survey was completed, and six because the respondents did not hold an ALA-accredited MLS or equivalent degree. The remaining 151 were analyzed for the purposes of the study.
The results showed that access services professionals typically learn the skills directly related to circulation, reserves, interlibrary loan, and stacks maintenance on the job. There was some disagreement concerning the appropriateness or necessity of the head of access services performing these types of tasks. For example, a large majority, 98%, agreed or strongly agreed that heads of access services should know how to answer directional and informational question at service points. Less than 95% agreed or strongly agreed that heads of access services should know how to perform various circulation desk activities, such as checking in and out materials, negotiating payment for lost books or overdue fines, and managing patron records, and less than 70% agreed or strongly agreed that heads of access services should know how to do tasks related to photocopiers, printers, and microform machines. Surprising, at least to me anyway, only 86.1% agreed or strongly agreed that a head of access services should know how to train student workers. The lack of consensus among heads of access services about lower level tasks is likely due to department size. The larger the access services department, the less the department head needs to have working knowledge of the department’s lower-level tasks.
The results also showed that higher order managerial skills are equally as important as access services specific skills to the success of the access services practitioner. The overwhelming majority of respondents reported that the ability to formulate policies, delegate responsibilities, determine policies, supervise and evaluate staff, utilize existing resources effectively, and collect, calculate, and analyze statistics were important to the success of the access services professional. The only area of real “disagreement” among higher-order managerial tasks involved budgetary planning and control. Only 84.1% agreed or strongly agreed that a head of access services should know how to perform this task. Practitioners are likely to be exposed to these types of management and statistical skills during their library and information science educational experience.
Respondents were asked to reflect upon their level of familiarity with circulation, interlibrary loan, reserves, collection management, personnel management, and customer service at the time they first became a head of access services. A majority responded excellent with respect to circulation and customer service (54.3% and 71.5% respectively). The largest group rated their familiarity with interlibrary loan (39.7%), reserves (35.7%), and collection management (47.7%) as average. At least 19% acknowledged that their familiarly with interlibrary loan and reserves was poor or very poor at the time of their appointment.
The survey results showed that heads of access services learned the majority of their access services competencies while on the job. In the survey, 94.1% of participants reported learning circulation, 89.4% reported learning interlibrary loan, and 92.7% reported learning reserves on the job. Over 60% of respondents learned the majority of their customer service and personnel management skills on the job. 27.8% of respondents learned the majority of their collection management skills through library and information science graduate education. I found this result surprising. The result may be due to the phrasing of the question. Perhaps respondents thought collection management skills meant collection development, in which case, it would make sense that the skill was acquired though LIS education.
The survey results indicated no one path to becoming a head of access services. Some began as paraprofessionals in access services departments and then assume the position once they earn the MLS degree, and others begin in other areas of the library, notably reference, and then are promoted into the head of access services position. Regardless of where one starts, they survey results are clear. Heads of access services learn their jobs on the job. Who then is training the heads of access services? I did not ask this question on the survey, but one could assume that their subordinates, the frontline paraprofessionals are.

Mike Krasulski

Michael J. Krasulski, University of the Sciences

Michael J. Krasulski is Assistant Professor of Information Sciences and Coordinator of Access Services at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. He also serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Access Services. Besides his interests in the education and training of access services librarians, Michael blogs about the history of the Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.

1 Comment

Filed under Academic, Researcher's Corner

Researcher’s Corner: Comparing Reference Service in Academic and Public Libraries

What do employers really want?  A lot of this blog deals with the translation between job ad speak and the real needs and wants of hiring managers.  I’m pleased to share the following post with you, because it represents another way of looking at the skills and competencies candidates might wish to cultivate, specifically – What skills do you need to be a good reference librarian?  I also find it pretty fascinating that there are so many similarities between what public and academic libraries want…

(This is a recap of our article “Significantly Different? Reference Services Competencies in Public and Academic Libraries” published in Reference & User Services Quarterly, vol. 52, no. 3, pp. 216–23, which won the 2014 Reference Service Press Award, which honors the most outstanding article published in RUSQ. )

Reference is reference – or is it?

It’s a commonly held belief that reference skills needed to be effective are necessarily different in public and academic libraries. However, there has been no research to either confirm or deny that idea. In 2011, we carried out a nationwide study looking at reference library work in academic (Saunders) and public (Jordan) libraries, and compared them for similarities and differences. These data will be of interest to professional librarians who are considering a change in setting and to hiring managers interviewing such candidates, as well as to library students who are in the process of planning their program and choosing a career path. The ideas shared here could also inform revisions or changes to reference courses and related areas of the library science curriculum and as such should be of interest to library science faculty.

We sent out surveys to a randomly selected sampling of 10 academic and 20 public libraries from each state. Every effort was made to identify the reference librarian or reference department manager at each library, but in some cases the invitation was sent to the library director, assistant director, or a public services librarian, asking them to forward it to the appropriate person. This is always surprisingly difficult in public libraries; too many websites have no contact information – leading Professor Jordan to wonder, in every study she does, how their patrons are contacting them. The surveys were essentially identical between the academic and public libraries, with different demographic questions. In addition to basic demographic information, librarians were asked to review a list of thirty-seven competencies in three categories and choose those they consider important. There were three categories of competencies: General, Technology, and Personal. They were then asked to list the three competencies in each list that they believe to be the most important. The list of competencies for the survey was drawn largely from the professional competencies and behavioral guidelines provided by RUSA, and was supplemented by competencies identified in the literature.

The General library skills, those skills traditionally associated with reference work, most frequently selected as important by our respondents were:

Academic Library

  • Search skills (95.6%)
  • Customer service (94.0%)
  • Familiarity with online reference sources (93.4%)
  • Traditional reference interview (75.5%)
  • Familiarity with paper reference sources (67.1%)

Public Library

• Customer service (97.1%)
• Search skills (95.6%)
• Familiarity with online reference sources (92.7%)
• Traditional reference interview (77.8%)
• Familiarity with paper reference sources (70.3%)

There was complete overlap here between the two types of libraries, with only a slight reshuffling of order of importance. These results suggest that the two types of libraries value the same skills, although they might prioritize them differently, and contributes to the finding that librarians who have worked in one type of reference situation should be able to transfer their reference skills to other venues.

We next asked the participants to identify the most important Technology skills from the provided list.

Academic Library

• Online searching (98.4%)
• Software troubleshooting (71.2%)
• Chat/IM (65.8%)
• Social media (65.5%)
• Web design (53.0%)

Public Library

• Online searching (98.2%)
• Software troubleshooting (77.8%)
• Hardware troubleshooting (64.4%)
• Social media (64.1%)
• Chat/IM (38.8%)

The two lists were similar, but somewhat more varied for technology skills. While online searching is equally important to both types of librarians, the numbers of respondents identifying each of the other competencies as important varied more widely: 65.8% of academic librarians identified chat/IM as important, while only 38.8% of public librarians did. Academic librarians selected web design as an important skills, but not public librarians; they selected hardware troubleshooting as important while academic librarians did not. These differences might reflect the difference in services and staffing in the different types of libraries. For instance, academic libraries might be more likely to have dedicated technology staff on campus who can assist with hardware and software troubleshooting, while public librarians might have less on-site tech support. Whatever the reason, the two types of libraries do seem to emphasize some different technology skills.

The third grouping of competencies was the Personal list, the soft skills reference librarians need to function effectively.

Academic Library

• Verbal communication (97.8%)
• Listening (96.6%)
• Approachability (95.3%)
• Comfort with instruction/teaching (92.5%)
• Adaptability/flexibility (91.8%)

Public Library

• Verbal communication (97.8%)
• Listening (97.1%)
• Approachability (94.8%)
• Adaptability/flexibility (88.9%)
• Sense of humor (87.2%)

As with general skills, there was a lot of similarity between the two lists. Regardless of type of library setting, verbal communication, listening, and approachability are crucial for all reference librarians as they will spend much of their day interacting with the public. It is reasonable that academic librarians identified instructional comfort as important so frequently, as it is such a significant part of many academic library jobs. In some academic libraries, reference librarians will spend equal amounts of time providing instruction and staffing more traditional reference service points. Public librarians commented the need for a sense of humor to effectively deal with the fast pace of work on the reference desk, and also to avoid being overwhelmed by the huge diversity of patrons who come into the library for help. Both instruction and sense of humor are important in both types of libraries, but as with certain technology skills, each setting seems to emphasize or prioritize one over the other somewhat.

There was a lot of similarity between academic and public libraries on the competencies they felt were most important for success at the reference desk, so were the least selected competences also comparable?

Academic Public

• Programming 8.5% (Technology)
• Foreign Language 11.9% (General)
• Budgeting 24.8% (General)
• Second Master’s degree 28.2% (General)
• Research/publishing 33.5% (General)

Public Library

• Second Master’s degree 5% (General)
• Research/publishing 12.5% (General)
• Programming 13.1% (Technology)
• Web design 22.4% (Technology)
• Foreign Language 28.3% (General)

It is often taken on faith that academic librarians will need a second Master’s degree to be employed; but this survey suggests that a second Master’s is not considered essential by most academic librarians. The data did suggest, however, that reference librarians in research universities were more likely to consider a second Master’s degree important than those in other types of academic libraries. Another Master’s degree was almost universally viewed as unimportant in public library reference work, as was research and publishing. Interestingly, only a third of academic librarians identified this as important; we did not ask whether respondents were required to publish to obtain tenure in their libraries, but presumably libraries with these requirements would be more likely to value it than libraries where it is optional. The lack of importance given to a foreign language might be surprising.Public librarians are required to deal with the entire spectrum of a community, including those with weak or non-existent English skills, and many academic institutions are seeing increasing numbers of international students whose English language skills can vary widely. This is an interesting area for potential follow-up study.

After looking at all these data, the main conclusion is that the differences between academic and public libraries are not as pronounced as people may have previously thought. The heart of library work is always going to be customer service, and that is emphasized in these soft skills such as communication, listening, and flexibility identified by librarians in both academic and public libraries. Librarians, and library students, hoping to be successful at reference work will do well to focus time and attention specifically on developing these skills to make themselves valuable regardless of the institution. The biggest differences seem to be in the areas of the harder skills, such as research and publication, certain technology skills, and assessment and evaluation. Librarians who aspire to move between academic and public reference desks would benefit from restructuring their resumes and the answers they use in the interview process to emphasize the skills of interest to the hiring libraries.

We thought this was a very interesting study, and hope it put to rest some of the misconceptions about reference work as well as helping to guide some training for good reference work. If your library would like us to come talk to you about this or other studies we have done; or if you would like us to do some other training for you, do not hesitate to contact us!

Laura SaundersLaura Saunders Laura Saunders received her PhD from Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science in May 2010.  She holds an M.S.L.I.S from Simmons as well as a B. A. from Boston University in English Literature and Italian.  She worked as a reference librarian and branch manager of the Career Resource Library for Simmons College from 1999 to 2003, where she provided reference and instruction services, as well as participated in collection development, Web page maintenance, and marketing of library services.  While completing her PhD, she worked as an adjunct faculty member.  Currently, she is an Assistant Professor at Simmons College, teaching in the areas of reference, evaluation of information services, information literacy, and academic libraries. Her first book, Information Literacy as a Student Learning Outcome: The Perspective of Institutional Accreditation was published in June 2011. Her research interests include information literacy, assessment, accreditation, reference services, and the place of libraries in higher education.  She has had articles published in The Journal of Academic Librarianship, Library & Information Science Research, College & Research Libraries, and portal: Libraries and the Academy.  You may also recognize her from the Hiring Librarians post: Researcher’s Corner: Reference Competencies from the Academic Employers’ Perspective.

Mary Wilkins Jordan (425x640)Mary Wilkins Jordan came to Simmons College GSLIS from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, where she earned a PhD.

Prior to entering academia, Jordan worked in public libraries as a Director and administrator.

Her research and consulting work now focuses on ways to help libraries to function better and to serve their communities more effectively. She teaches Management and also Evaluation classes, as well as Public Libraries, Reference, and the Internship class, all with a focus on helping students acquire the skills they need to be successful in their professional careers.

Jordan also has a J.D. from the Case Western Reserve University School of Law and worked as an attorney before entering the library field.


Filed under Academic, Public, Researcher's Corner

Researcher’s Corner: Who’s Retiring From Library Work, and Who Isn’t ?

The myth of the tidal wave of retiring librarians is pervasive and persistent (for example, see this recent Public Libraries article about mentoring Gen-X librarians). But is there a grain of truth?  I’m happy to introduce this piece by Eric C. Shoaf, in which he takes a deeper look at what exactly is happening with those boomer librarians, what this means for recent graduates, and how it affects the profession as a whole.

During 2012, Nathan Long and myself conducted a study on the retirement plans for library workers. Nathan, currently Head of Systems at Francis Marion University Library, and I had known each other for several years and wanted to collaborate on a research project. At first we looked at several aspects of librarianship where we had mutual interest: skills training to learn new technology, career arc choices related to family and work/life balance, effects of a mature workforce in libraries, and impacts on early career librarians entering the field. There were a couple of false starts in the study as we tried to hone the direction. Especially when looking at skills and experience of early career librarians, we weren’t sure we could get the data needed for analysis. Then Nathan found the Colorado study that ended up being the catalyst for our own survey (Retirement, Retention, and Recruitment: The Future of Librarianship in Colorado [2004]) because it had data from a decade earlier that we could compare, and also because we could use some of the same questions they used in order to collect comparable data in our own survey.

Because of our experiences attending succession planning programs at ALA, reading the library literature, and discussions about imminent retirements expected in the library profession, we decided to focus on whether or not it could be determined whether there is about to be a large-scale retirement boom among library workers. This is important for a number of reasons. There is evidence that new MLS graduates have difficulty finding jobs, and that as libraries currently do have job openings, whether due to retirement or not, they sometimes look for different skill sets to fill evolving needs. Many of these new skill sets are found outside those possessed by traditional library workers. It seems that we have been hearing anecdotally about impending library retirements since the 1990s. Given that Nathan and I already had data from the Colorado study that was almost ten years old, and that the data showed that 20% of the 1,400+ respondents intended to retire in the next five years, which would have been around the time of the economic downturn in 2008-09, we wanted to try and determine on a national level library worker retirement intentions in 2012. And since the Colorado survey had happened well before the economic downturn, one of the things we were interested in was how much the downturn might have affected library worker retirement plans because of the pervasive negative effects it had on savings and retirement funds, and long-term concerns generally about the viability of the economy.

The literature review we conducted focused on recent reports in all types of media, many outside library literature and validated our idea that library workers may not be planning to retire as expected. There were a number of articles about heavy retirement fund loses from the economic downturn and predictions this would affect all segments of society and all businesses and institutions, including higher education, as well as tax-funded spending that includes public libraries. Some of the warnings were rather dire about the ‘baby boomer’ population’s lack of financial readiness for retirement. At least one report cited mature workers who said they did not think they would ever be able to stop working and retire. This was, for us, an indication that there had been a fundamental change because of the economic climate, or because the reality of retirement financing becomes clearer as retirement age approaches, or both.

Our survey was much shorter than the one used for the Colorado study. Knowing that people receive any number of survey queries every month, we wanted to use an online survey that would be relatively easy and painless to fill out. Hence, ours had only thirteen questions and all were geared to uncovering data about retirement planning as well as some demographic information. This is probably why our response rate was so high (4,400+ responses to the survey). In fact, we were quite overwhelmed with the response. On the other hand, we probably spent more time than most who circulate these sorts of surveys, actively publicizing it in a variety of venues and working to identify and notify state library associations in all regions of the country. I number of people sent personal email asking to be notified of the results of the survey. Certainly, it was all rather gratifying and made us feel that we had pinpointed an issue that a lot of library workers are thinking about.

Neither were we surprised by the results. Nearly half of the survey respondents indicated that the latest economic downturn had affected their career plans and would lead them to retire later and/or stay in their current job, which is a significant increase over the eleven percent from the 2003 Colorado survey. The strength and duration of the 2008-09 economic downturn has both surprised and deflated workers’ retirement accounts and their plans including library workers. The survey shows that library workers not yet close to retirement age are planning to work longer. At the end of our article we ask the question, Is sixty-five the new fifty? We included that because one of the highlighted trends of the baby-boomer generation has been a focus on living longer, refusing to “get old” in demonstrable ways, and we think that will extend to delayed retirement among this group as well. On the other hand, nearly 40% of the survey respondents indicated that the economic downturn had no effect on their career plans.

What the results of the 2012 survey mean for the library profession and for job seekers is not completely clear, and the news may not be all bad. Technology and other changes have already been driving the need for new skill sets in new types of library jobs for almost a decade. This is not expected to change. A maturing workforce that is not ready to retire is likely to reduce the number of new positions that are available, but it may not be appreciably different from the present. According to some past predictions, those library workers were to have already retired by now, but didn’t, and there are still jobs available. What is more likely to change is the type and character of jobs available, with new skill sets continuing to be needed in evolving library technological environments. Expect more mature workers to seek part-time employment as an option to full retirement. For two former full-time jobs that become part-time, one new full-time job can be created. Job seekers should also remember that despite national surveys, purported trends, and a sometimes bleak economic outlook, job offers happen at the local level, and it only takes one to secure employment.

The full article on our survey and analysis was published as Shoaf, Eric C. and Flowers, Nathan. “Library Worker Retirement Plans: A Large Survey Reveals New Findings” Library Leadership & Management (Vol. 27 no. 4) Fall 2013, and accessible here .

Eric ShoafEric C. Shoaf, Clemson University Libraries

Eric C. Shoaf received his BA from Duke University, the MLS from North Carolina Central University, and an MPA from the University of Rhode Island.  He is currently Associate Dean of Libraries at Clemson University.

1 Comment

Filed under Researcher's Corner

Researcher’s Corner: Tenure and Promotion Experiences of Academic Librarians of Color

I’m happy to share this post, written by Ione Damasco and Dracine Hodges.  It is based on their survey study of academic librarians of color.  It provides a clear description of some of the obstacles and challenges for academic librarians of color, and recommends solutions.  If you’d like to look at a more in-depth account of their research, it is freely available online.  Please read:

Damasco, Ione & Dracine Hodges. Tenure and Promotion Experiences of Academic Librarians of Color. College & Research Libraries, vol. 73 no. 3 279-301.

Inspired by our own experiences as faculty librarians of color on the path toward tenure, in 2009 we decided to undertake a research project that would qualitatively explore the experiences of academic librarians of color who were either seeking tenure, or had completed the process for earning tenure and/or promotion. After reading some studies that explored the unique, and often challenging, experiences of teaching faculty of color, we wondered whether those experiences would be echoed by their librarian counterparts whose professional lives were governed by tenure and promotion policies. We felt it was especially important to explore these issues since the recruitment and retention of librarians of color had become a focal point for our profession. Unfortunately, we did not find much research that looked specifically at academic librarians of color, so we deliberately chose to conduct our research from a critical race theory standpoint. By taking this approach, we placed the experiences of librarians of color at the center of our research, rather than in relation to the experiences of White academic librarians.

Our research was guided by three specific questions:

  • What are the obstacles to earning tenure and/or promotion from the standpoint of librarians of color?
  • What initiatives, resources, programs, etc. are in place to ensure tenure-track librarians of color successfully achieve tenure and/or promotion?
  • What is the relationship, if any, between the tenure and/or promotion process and the retention of academic librarians of color?

In order to answer these questions, we constructed a survey designed to look at the key areas that impact academic librarians of color trying to earn tenure and/or promotion: tenure policies and processes, scholarly activities, service, professional development, perceived obstacles to earning tenure or promotion, and organizational climate. The full study is available to read online at

The survey started off with an examination of tenure policies. Were they being distributed to new hires in a timely manner? Did these librarians have a clear understanding of the expectations and criteria outlined in their policies? Then we asked about specific activities that typically make up the bulk of the work by which academic librarians are evaluated. We looked at the scholarly/research and service activities of the respondents to our survey. Were they actively engaged in research and writing activities? What types of scholarship (articles, presentations, poster sessions, etc.) were they producing? How much time did they spend on scholarship, beyond their day-to-day duties? Service at different levels (library, institution, statewide, regional, or national) is also often a big component of tenure evaluations, so we asked respondents about the amount and type of service work in which they were engaged, and how their service compared to their colleagues.

The survey then asked about the different types of professional development the respondents had undergone. We asked about formal and informal mentoring relationships, continuing education opportunities, leadership development programs, peer support programs, and writing support, such as workshops on research methods or how to write for publication. Respondents shared with us how important they felt those types of opportunities were, versus how effective they actually were. Disappointingly, we found a disparity between how highly these programs were valued by respondents and how ineffective they actually found many programs to be.

As we conducted our literature review for the study, we found several studies that have shown teaching faculty of color have often experienced working in hostile or “chilly” workplaces. These faculty have also expressed feelings of isolation and lack of support from their colleagues. Furthermore, this type of racial climate can negatively impact retention rates for faculty of color. We wanted to see how academic librarians of color characterized the climate and culture of their organizations, and how that impacted their experiences trying to earn tenure. The survey asked respondents to comment on the climate and culture of their libraries to explore these issues. Was racial discrimination an issue at their libraries? Did the respondents perceive unfair differences in the ways in which they were treated or evaluated? Did they have access to the same resources and networks as their White counterparts? Respondents shared with us very mixed experiences, ranging from explicit racist attitudes from colleagues or supervisors, to race not being seen as a factor at all in their work or interactions with colleagues. Notably, however, was the number of librarians who stated they were asked to engage in library diversity initiatives or undertake additional liaison work to diversity groups on campus beyond the library, presumably because of their race. The additional burden of diversity service expectations could surely negatively impact their ability to manage their time and workload effectively.

We also asked respondents to share with us what they thought were obstacles to earning tenure, as well as commentary about their overall experiences with the process. Several topics came up repeatedly throughout their comments: the challenge of conducting research and writing for publication, the need for better mentoring relationships and more peer support needs, and the role of race as a part of their tenure experiences. Issues of time management, research and writing skills, and mentoring are certainly not limited to librarians of color; racial climate and racial perceptions are factors that are implicitly interwoven into their lives in ways that can complicate those issues.

Summary of our findings and recommendations
The initial intent of this research was to study the experiences of librarians of color engaged in tenure and promotion activities. However, our investigation also revealed challenges librarians of color faced during the process. Some of the challenges such as the difficulty of balancing day-to-day workloads against research and writing for publication are typical for all librarians pursuing tenure and promotion. However, there were also issues unique to librarians of color such as obligations to perform service to provide “diversity” at their institutions. Many respondents also shared their struggles with both subtle and overt occurrences of racism. The survey findings also stressed the unfortunate need for many library faculty of color to develop survival skills in order to navigate these issues.

Our findings allowed us to highlight specific areas where leaders of academic libraries with tenure and promotion tracks might improve the supporting processes and subsequently the organization’s culture. Recommended activities include:

  • Regular policy and process assessment for strategic alignment and transparency
  • Follow-up of mentoring or peer support program participants to gauge program effectiveness
  • Creation of opportunities to develop successful grant writing skills
  • Recognizing contributions of librarians of color engaged in diversity research and service activities.

Even with informative findings and recommendations resulting from this study we recognize the need for additional research. One goal would be to provide a more granular view of the range in experiences of librarians in specific racial and ethnic categories as well as White academic librarians. Another focus could be the exploration of other facets of diversity such as gender and ability as an added layer of complexity created for academic librarians of color. There are many opportunities to create richer scholarship for the profession on this topic—not only as it relates to recruitment and retention of librarians of color, but also to better inform leadership and practices that create professional equity.

Ione DamascoIone T. Damasco, Cataloger Librarian, University of Dayton

After graduating with a B.A. in English from Ohio State University and holding down various jobs (including working in a bookstore!), I finally found my calling as a librarian and earned my M.L.I.S. from Kent State University in 2005. Since then, I have been working as a Cataloger Librarian at the University of Dayton. I happily earned tenure and promotion to Associate Professor in 2011. I am mostly focused on cataloging, metadata and digitization projects, as well as collection development for several subject areas. Over the years I have served on many different committees, worked on a variety of projects, and implemented several public programming grants. I have also engaged in several research projects that have emerged from personal experiences I had as a newer librarian. Those projects resulted in two co-authored articles on the role of practicums in cataloging education, and most recently, a large survey project that resulted in a co-authored article on tenure and promotion issues for academic librarians of color. I am very committed to issues of diversity in the field, and plan to continue conducting research on the intersections of diversity, librarianship, and higher education.

DracineDracine Hodges, Head, Acquisitions Department, University Libraries, The Ohio State University

I am a tenure-track faculty member and Head of the Acquisitions Department at The Ohio State University Libraries. I provide leadership in the procurement of collections materials in all formats and oversight for related policy and procedures. I am also an active member of the ALCTS division of the American Library Association where I’ve served on multiple committees and presented at the ALA Annual Conference. I am grateful for the experiences I’ve had as a participant in the Minnesota Institute and ARL’s Leadership & Career Development Program. My research interests include the e-book market, usage-informed collection development, and diversity in academic librarianship. I received my MLIS from Florida State University and BA from Wesleyan College.




1 Comment

Filed under Academic, Researcher's Corner

Researcher’s Corner: Experiences that Influence the Outcome of Recent Grads’ Academic Library Job Searches

I’ve been looking forward to sharing this with you for a while!  I caught the authors’ call for participants on the NMRT listserv – although I didn’t fit the demographic, I knew the results of their research would be fascinating.  And they are!  I think this will be very useful for job hunters across the board, but particularly for students looking to go into academic libraries.

As three recent Library and Information Science (LIS) graduates, we know finding a position in an academic library can be challenging for new graduates. LIS students are frequently encouraged to seek out experience, network, and improve upon their technology skills in order to have marketable skills when they apply for positions, yet little research actually supports such advice. We decided to test the advice given to students and determine what academic and work experiences of recent LIS graduates most significantly influence the outcome of their academic library job searches.


In 2013, we sent out a survey that asked questions about seven primary categories: basic information, job search, professional effectiveness, professional development, service, technological competency, and previous careers. We asked about student’s graduate program, parameters of their job search, their academic and work experience, as well as other skills or professional involvement that could influence their ability to land a first-time academic library job. The link to the survey was emailed to 2008–2012 graduates from the LIS programs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, North Carolina Central University, and Dominican University. We also emailed the survey link to members of the ALA New Members’ Round Table (NMRT) listserv, distributed links on index cards to ACRL 2013 conference attendees during a related poster presentation, and electronically posted the link on the ACRL New Member Discussion board.


Our results included the expected and unexpected (from our points of view). There were 360 total respondents to our survey and 56% (N = 201) reported they wanted to work in academic libraries. These 201 respondents represented 33 different LIS programs with the highest number of students graduating from the University of Illinois (56) and Dominican University (39).

We used our results to compare successful and unsuccessful job seekers to discover trends. Overall, we found the two groups to be fairly similar. Only certain factors in job search, professional effectiveness, professional development, and service made a significant difference in improving the odds of success in securing a job. Briefly outlined below are our key findings:

  • Applying for jobs four to six months before graduation were nearly seven times more likely to obtain a job than candidates who did not.
  • Having any academic library experience increased the odds of success for a job seeker and those who had participated in an internship or practicum improved their odds of success by 2.75 compared to those with no internship or practicum.
  • Attending conferences increased the odds of success by 3.33 when compared to candidates without this experience, attending workshops and seminars increased the odds by 2.05 and publishing increased the odds by 4.83.
  • Completing committee service work increased an individual’s odds of securing a job by 3.


If you’re an aspiring or current LIS student, on the job market, or are looking to help out new librarians, we have some advice. Advice backed up by our research. Start applying for jobs around the start of your last semester in library school. While in school, look for any opportunity to get some experience in an academic library, even if you don’t get paid. Join some committees, and attend some local or, if you’re able, national conferences. And, even though it’s extra work, take that professor up on the offer to co-author an article with you

To read our full findings and analysis, please take a look at our open-access journal article published by The Journal of Academic Librarianship available here:


rosener_ashley-1Ashley Rosener, Liaison Librarian to the School of Social Work, School of Public, Nonprofit, and Health Administration, and the Johnson Center for Philanthropy, Grand Valley State University

Ashley Rosener graduated with her Masters from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and is excited by all things related to library instruction.


LindyheadshotLindy Scripps-Hoekstra, Liaison Librarian to the Area and Religious Studies programs, Grand Valley State University.

Lindy Scripps-Hoekstra graduated from Dominican University’s Library Science program and, as a former high school teacher, is particularly interested in reaching students through library instruction.


Eckard_Max_MovemberMax Eckard, Metadata & Digital Curation Librarian, Grand Valley State University.

Max Eckard is a [relatively recent] graduate of North Carolina Central University, and is passionate about digital preservation and librarianship as service.


Filed under Academic, Researcher's Corner

Researchers’ Corners: A Guide for the Evidence-Based Job Hunter

I’m so grateful to the authors on this list, who took the time to work with me to create a post that shared their recent research into LIS careers and hiring.  This list is in order of appearance on Hiring Librarians, from first to most recent.  Click on the underlined heading to go to the Hiring Librarians guest post, an informal summary of the research.  The citation will lead you to a more formal account.

Evidence-Based Strategies for Interview Success

Meghan Hodge and Nicole Spoor surveyed 430 people who hire librarians in order to discover the qualities and characteristics of a successful interview.  In this guest post, they summarize research that appears more formally in:

Hodge, Megan and Nicole Spoor, (2012) Congratulations! You’ve landed an interview: What do hiring committees really want?, New Library World, Vol. 113 Iss: 3/4, pp.139 – 161, 10.1108/03074801211218534

The New Archivist’s Job Search

Shannon Lausch describes research into what a job search for a new archivist actually entails, attempting to answer “how long is the average job search?”  “Is relocation usually necessary?” and “What kinds of jobs are applicants ultimately finding?”  This post summarizes research reported at the 2012 annual conference of the Society of American Archivists (SAA):

Goldman, Rebecca and Shannon M. Lausch, (2012). “Job search experiences and career satisfaction among recent archives program graduates.” Conference presentations. Paper 4.

Entry Level Job Opportunities for Academic Librarians

Eamon Tewell combed through 22 different sources (including national, regional, and local listings) to collect and analyze a total of 1385 job advertisements from the years 2010-2011.  A more formal account of this research can be found:

Tewell, Eamon. (2012). Employment opportunities for new academic librarians: Assessing the availability of entry level jobs. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 12(4), 407-423. 10.1353/pla.2012.0040

Education, Training and Recruitment of Special Collections Librarians

Kelli Bruce Hansen analyzed 88 job announcements for entry-level special collections librarians, in order to better describe employers’ expectations.  Her guest post provides a brief account; the full reporting of her research can be found in:

Hansen, Kelli. (2011). Education, Training, and Recruitment of Special Collections Librarians: An Analysis of Job Advertisements. RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage, 12(2), 110-32.

Entry-Level Reference Skills in Academic Libraries: Ad-ing Them Up

Robert Detmering and Claudene Sproles looked at 192 ads for entry level reference librarians, and use their findings to describe what employers really want.  A more formal account of this research was published here:

Detmering, Robert and Claudene Sproles. (2012) Forget the desk job: Current roles and responsibilities in entry-level reference job advertisements.  College & Research Libraries 73(6), p. 534-555.

Does Choice of School Matter? Becoming an Academic Law Librarian

Ashley Ahlbrand and Michael Johnson examine online profiles of law librarians (primarily from institutional websites) to compare the ranking of the librarians’ alma maters to the ranking of the librarians place of employment.  Further discussion of their results is available here:

Ahlbrand, Ashley and Michael Johnson. (2012). Degree pedigree: Assessing the effect of degree-granting institutions’ ranks on prospective employment at academic law libraries. Law Library Journal, 104(4), 553-68.

Art Librarians’ Professional Paths

Eamon Tewell reports on a survey of 280 professional art librarians, attempting to answer “Was art librarianship a career goal for most professionals currently in the field?” “Why do individuals choose a career in art librarianship?” and “What factors contributed to current professionals successfully obtaining a position as an art librarian?”  Further details of his research are available in:

Tewell, Eamon. (2012). Art librarians’ professional paths: A careers survey with implications for prospective librarians. Art Libraries Journal, 37(1), 41-45.

Job Trends in Music Librarianship

Joe Clark examines 9 years of job announcements for music librarians, identifying trends in areas such as amount and type of jobs.  More details are provided in:

Clark, Joe C. (2012). Job Trends in Music Librarianship: A Nine-Year Analysis from the Music Library Association’s Job List. Notes, 69(1). 10.1353/not.2012.0131

Comparative Employability of ALA and CILIP Accredited Degrees

Dana Hamlin (née Goblaskas) describes her examination of the similarities of competencies required by ALA and CILIP accreditation, and summarizes results of surveys of both job hunters and employers.  She finds that although educational requirements are similar, it remains difficult for graduates of CILIP programs to have their credentials recognized in the US and Canada.  Her research is more formally described in:

Goblaskas, Dana. (2012). Assessing the Transferability of Library and Information Science (LIS) Degrees Accredited by the American Library Association (ALA) and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP). Library Student Journal, p.5.

Reference Competencies from the Academic Employers’ Perspective

In this second researcher’s corner focused on academic reference librarians, Laura Saunders talks about the competencies academic employers identified as the most important.  This guest post discusses research also described in:

Saunders, Laura. (2012). Identifying Core Reference Competencies from an Employers’ Perspective: Implications for Instruction. College and Research Libraries, 73(4).

What are the Qualifications for an Entry-Level Music Librarian?

In Joe Clark’s second guest post, he elaborates on his research into 9 years of music library job postings, this time describing common desired competencies.  More details in:

Clark, Joe. (2013). What Employers Want: Entry-Level Qualifications for Music Librarians. Notes, 69(3). 10.1353/not.2013.0009

What Not to Do During the Interview

Melissa Laning and Emily Stenberg analyzed 36 essays detailing personal job hunting experiences (all found in The Chronicle of Higher Education between 2007-2011), and came up with three common interview errors.

New Academic Librarians’ Perceptions of the Profession

Laura Sare and Stephen Bales detail some of the aspects that new librarians find satisfying and dissatisfying in their first jobs.  More aspects are described at:

Sare, Laura, Stephen Bales, and Bruce Neville. (2012). New Academic Librarians and Their Perceptions of the Profession. portal: Libraries and the Academy (12)2. 179-203.

What Skills and Knowledge do Today’s Employers Seek?

Dr. Linda Main describes the results of research conducted by SJSU, detailing emerging job trends and providing tips for job hunters to keep on top of these trends.  More information is contained in the report:

State University School of Library and Information Science. (2013). Emerging Career Trends for Information Professionals: A Snapshot of Job Titles.

Tenure and Promotion in Libraries, Part I – Louisiana Libraries

Lori Smith and Penny Hecker describe criteria used by Louisiana libraries to determine if a librarian will get tenure, and include their personal experiences.  This is an informal account of research published as:

Smith, Lori and Penny Hecker. (2012). Tenure and Promotion: Criteria and Procedures Used by University of Louisiana System Libraries. Codex: Journal of the Louisiana Chapter of the ACRL (2)2.

Tenure and Promotion in Libraries, Part 2 – Resource List

Lori Smith and Penny Hecker provide a resource list for those interested in learning more about tenure and promotion in academic libraries.

Experiences that Influence the Outcome of Recent Grads’ Academic Library Job Searches

Ashley Rosener, Lindy Scripps-Hoekstra, and Max Eckard report four experiences that increase the likelihood of a new graduate finding an academic job.

Eckard, Max, Ashley Rosener, and Lindy Scripps-Hoekstra. Factors that Increase the Probability of a Successful Academic Library Job Search, The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 40(2). 107-115.

Tenure and Promotion Experiences of Academic Librarians of Color

Ione Damesco and Dracine Hodges report on their survey study of academic librarians of color. They provide  a clear description of some of the obstacles and challenges for academic librarians of color, and recommend solutions.

Damasco, Ione & Dracine Hodges. Tenure and Promotion Experiences of Academic Librarians of Color. College & Research Libraries, 73(3). 279-301.

Who’s Retiring From Library Work, and Who Isn’t ?

Eric C. Shoaf takes a deeper look at what exactly is happening with those boomer librarians, what this means for recent graduates, and how it affects the profession as a whole.

Shoaf, E. & Flowers, N. Library Worker Retirement Plans: A Large Survey Reveals New Findings. Library Leadership & Management, 27(4), .

Comparing Reference Service in Academic and Public Libraries

What skills do you need to be a good reference librarian? Laura Saunders and Mary Wilkins Jordan uncover similarities between what public and academic libraries want.

Saunders, L. & Jordan, M. Significantly Different? Reference Services Competencies in Public and Academic Libraries. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 52(3), 216–23.

Education and Training of Access Services Librarians

Michael Krasulski looks at how a Head of Access services might gain the skills necessary to the position.

Krasulski, M. (2014). “Where do they come from, and how are they trained?” Professional education and training of access services librarians in academic libraries. Journal of Access Services, 11(1), 14-29

Job Ads and Academic Standards and Proficiencies

Melissa Gold and Meg Grotti look at the relationship between the skills we have determined are essential to librarianship via written standards, and the skills that are sought in job ads.

Gold, M. L., & Grotti, M. G. (2013). Do Job Advertisements Reflect ACRL’s Standards for Proficiencies for Instruction Librarians and Coordinators?: A Content Analysis. Journal Of Academic Librarianship, 39(6), 558-565. doi:10.1016/j.acalib.2013.05.013

Is there research that I’ve missed?  Tell me what should be added to this list!


Filed under News and Administration, Researcher's Corner

Researcher’s Corner: Tenure and Promotion in Libraries, Part 2 – Resource List

Last week I posted the first part of this research into tenure and promotion by Lori Smith and Penny Hecker.  If you’re a current or future academic librarian (or just interested in the status of librarians), this week’s post provides an excellent resource list to help you learn more about librarians and the various ways they might achieve tenure.

On Tenure across the U.S.

(Penny Hecker)

I created the list of sources below because it’s wise to familiarize yourself with the varying status of librarians within the academy. Just as there are multiple types of academic librarians, there are multiple types of “faculty status” for librarians. Although the argument for how to classify academic librarians began in the 19th century, it wasn’t until 1943 when librarians at the University of Illinois were the first to be granted “faculty status”.

With the variety of terminology, procedures, and criteria that exist across just our University of Louisiana System, determining the “norm” for tenure and promotion practices nationwide would take a monumental amount of research. Therefore, I’ve created a list of sources limited to the publication scope of 2001-2013, except for one article published in 1994. The following sources provide both research and opinion on librarian faculty status. They are organized loosely by descriptive headings and alphabetized by author name or title.

Just the Facts 

Academic-Librarian-Status is a very accommodating wiki source which delineates the main categories and lists several universities under each category. In some instances, there are direct links to the institution’s criteria and procedures for tenure and promotion.

A Guideline for the Appointment, Promotion and Tenure of Academic Librarians (ALA)

Association of College and Research Libraries Standards for Faculty Status for Academic Librarians

Bolin, M. K. (2008, May 28). A typology of librarian status at land grant universities. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 34(5), 220-230. Accessible @

Bolin, M. K. (2008, September 5). Librarian status at US research universities: Extending the typology. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 34(5), 416-424. Accessible @

Hosburgh, N. (2011, June 1). Librarian faculty status: What does it mean in academia? In Library Philosophy and Practice. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from

Rosenberg, Bonnie. Faculty status and academic libraries.  www., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2014. <>.  (Rosenberg wrote this for a library school course and I thought it was excellent. I stumbled across this after I had completed my source-gathering and was tempted to direct readers just to this source because it’s such a great snapshot of faculty status, and it already contains many of my sources.)

 For & Against; Pros & Cons; Advice

Coker, C., van Duinkerken, W., & Bales, S. (2010). Seeking full citizenship: A defense of tenure faculty status for librarians. College & Research Libraries, 71(5), 406-420.

Cronin, B. (2001). The mother of all myths. Library Journal, 126(3), 144.

Dunn, S. (2013, March 18). As their roles change, some librarians lose faculty status. In The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved April 25, 2014

Garner, J., Davidson, K., & Schwartzkopf, B. (2009). Images of academic librarians: How tenure-track librarians portray themselves in the promotion and tenure process. Serials Librarian, 56(1-4), 203-208. doi:10.1080/03615260802690694

Gillum, S. (2010). The true benefit of faculty status for academic reference librarians. Reference Librarian, 51(4), 321-328. doi:10.1080/02763877.2010.501419

Hill, J. (1994). Wearing our own olothes: Librarians as faculty. Journal Of Academic Librarianship, 20(2), 71.

Hoggan, D. B. (2003, July). Faculty status for librarians in higher education. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 3(3), 431-445. doi:10.1353/pla.2003.0060

McKinzie, S. (2010). 590: Local notes — tenure for academic librarians: Why it has to go. Against The Grain, 22(4), 60.

Smith, F. (2006). Tenure and promotion: How university system of Georgia librarians rate what we do. Georgia Library Quarterly, 43(1), 11-16.

Spires, T. (2007). The busy librarian: Prioritizing tenure and dealing with stress for academic library professionals. Illinois Libraries, 86(4), 101-108.

Stouffer, C. M. (2011). Tenure and other sticky situations. AALL Spectrum, 16(1), 11-13.


Lori L. Smith, Government Information Librarian, Southeastern Louisiana University, Sims Memorial Library

Lori L. Smith obtained her M.L.S. from Indiana University in 1987, spent a few years as a Government Information Specialist at the St. Louis Public Library, and has been the Government Information Librarian at Southeastern Louisiana University since 1991.


Penny Hecker

Penny Hecker, Associate Professor & Reference/Instruction Librarian, Southeastern Louisiana University, Sims Memorial Library

Penny Hecker has worked in both public and academic libraries since 1991. She is currently a reference/instruction librarian and Associate Professor at Sims Library, Southeastern Louisiana University, where she teaches the credit course Library Science 102. 

1 Comment

Filed under Academic, Researcher's Corner

Researcher’s Corner: Tenure and Promotion in Libraries, Part I – Louisiana Libraries

I’m happy to provide this two-part informal summary of research by Lori Smith and Penny Hecker on a topic which may be of great interest to you current and aspiring academic librarians.  In this post, Smith and Hecker offer a look at the tenure process within the University of Louisiana system, and their personal reflections.  Next week, they’ll broaden this information by providing resources on librarians’ tenure across the US.

Around 2007 at Southeastern Louisiana University, Lori Smith was assigned to provide tenure and promotion mentoring to Penny Hecker. One day Penny was lamenting how difficult it was to come up with a research topic for a publication.  Lori said it was easiest to pick something related to a task or project you were currently doing.  Since both had just left a meeting at which revisions to the library’s tenure and promotion guidelines had been discussed, Lori suggested an article comparing tenure and promotion requirements among libraries in Louisiana.  They agreed to collaborate on the article and it only took them five long years to get it written and published.  (They’re both very busy people: Lori is the Government Information Librarian at Southeastern and Penny is a reference librarian and an instructor for the university’s credit information literacy course, Library Science 102.)

In order to simplify the research they agreed to focus on the libraries within their own University of Louisiana System, rather than looking at all the academic libraries in the state. The article “Tenure and Promotion: Criteria and Procedures Used by University of Louisiana System Libraries” appeared in Volume 2, Issue 2 (2012) of Codex: Journal of the Louisiana Chapter of the ACRL

Summary of What We Found in Louisiana

(Lori Smith)

Though it did take quite a while to do it, writing the article was actually quite interesting.  The first challenge was obtaining copies of the tenure and promotion policies for the libraries in the University of Louisiana System (ULS).  (The library at McNeese University was the only one that didn’t have its own policy.)  While the university policies were often available online, none of the library policies were.  Fortunately, through my connection with the government documents librarians across the state and the help of some colleagues who used their connections, we were able to get copies of the policies we needed.

The similarities between the policies were clear in that all evaluated job performance, research/professional activity, and service, but significant procedural variations did arise.  Some libraries did tenure and promotion reviews in the fall, and others in the spring.  The University of New Orleans, which had just recently been moved into the ULS, had deadlines for both fall and spring reviews.  Some libraries used all tenured faculty at or above the rank being applied for as the peer review committee, and others used a smaller number of members.  The required contents of the review portfolio also differed slightly from library to library.  Southeastern seems to be the only institution that requires all job descriptions from the probationary period to be included in the file.  Since colleagues aren’t always familiar with each other’s duties, this is a useful addition to the file.

The weighting of the three areas being evaluated varied widely.  In most cases, job performance was weighted most heavily, followed by research/professional activity, and then service.  The only university that weighted service more heavily than research/professional activity was Grambling.  Given the amount of time that librarians at Southeastern spend on committee work for the Library and University, it may be that Grambling has the right idea.

There was very little detail in the policies about the requirement to “publish or perish.”  Various types of publications were mentioned along with other typical accomplishments within research/professional activity, but rarely was a specific number of publications mentioned.  For early promotion the policy of Nicholls State required a specific number of “scholarly works,” which topped out at three for promotion to Full Professor.  Southeastern’s policy mentioned that two “publications” were required to achieve a rating of “Excellence” in professional activity, and that a “substantial record of publication” was required for promotion to Full Professor.  None of the policies specified that publications had to be based on empirical research, though many included language (“outstanding,” “distinguished,” etc.) that emphasized the quality of the works.

After completing the article, we concluded that:

1) it would be more beneficial for future research if all ULS tenure and promotion policies were published online for easier comparison;

2) future tenure/promotion research in Louisiana might compare its two public university systems, compare its private and public universities, and eventually compare Louisiana to other states;

3) other relevant topics for future research might be faculty opinions about the process and the effect mentoring has on the process.

Our Personal Experiences of the Tenure and Promotion Process


First, I want to note how helpful Lori’s mentoring was to me in the process. It’s common in our profession to have librarians mentoring new colleagues; it’s almost a necessity when climbing the mountain of tenure and promotion. And that’s what it felt like after I completed the process and earned tenure and promotion: like I had just scaled the academic equivalent of Mount Everest for 6 years. I was awarded tenure in 2013 and promoted from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor.

My experience of tenure was closer to the traditional experience of tenure-seeking teaching faculty because I teach credit-bearing term courses in library research to undergraduates. Thus my tenure file, like non-library teaching faculty had to include documentation of peer teaching observations, student opinion of teaching, grade distributions, course content examples, research, publication, and service duties. The aforementioned was in addition to my scheduled daily duties of desk reference and virtual reference. However, I had to jump through the hoops of tenure as a 12-month employee of the university, unlike non-library tenure-track faculty who are usually contracted to work 9-10 months, allowing them the summer to work on necessary activity toward tenure. Thankfully, our library slows down somewhat in summer so the pace is more amenable toward achieving at least some of your tenure goals.

If you think that you want a tenure-track position in an academic library, consider whether or not you will be required to teach credit courses and whether your appointment will be 12 months or 9-10 months. Although the rewards of teaching can be many, there are also many unknowns in dealing with students. These unknowns may affect how much time and energy you have left over to do research, committee work, publishing, and professional activity.


I was awarded tenure in 1996.  At that point Sims Library had only one tenured faculty member and no written policies on tenure and promotion.  We followed the overall university policy, and, since peer review committees were required to have at least three members, I had to recommend faculty from outside the Library to serve on my committee.  I don’t teach any credit-bearing classes, so it was nerve-wracking trying to explain and document my duties thoroughly enough for non-librarians to understand and appreciate what I had accomplished.  Since the committee awarded me tenure but refused my request for promotion from Assistant to Associate Professor, I probably could have done a better job.

In any case, shortly after I was tenured I served on a Library committee that drafted tenure and promotion guidelines for the Library.  We wanted to ensure that librarians in the future would know what was expected from them and that outside reviewers, when necessary, would have an overview of what the Library considered to be superior performance.  The guidelines have been revised many times over the past several years, but I think they’re an invaluable tool for everyone involved in the process.  I certainly wish I’d had them when I was starting out.

To end on a positive note, I did eventually get promoted to Associate Professor and as of this year, I’m well on my way to being promoted to Full Professor.  With sufficient guidance, it is indeed possible to climb to the top of the ladder.


Lori L. Smith, Government Information Librarian, Southeastern Louisiana University, Sims Memorial Library

Lori L. Smith obtained her M.L.S. from Indiana University in 1987, spent a few years as a Government Information Specialist at the St. Louis Public Library, and has been the Government Information Librarian at Southeastern Louisiana University since 1991.


Penny Hecker

Penny Hecker, Associate Professor & Reference/Instruction Librarian, Southeastern Louisiana University, Sims Memorial Library

Penny Hecker has worked in both public and academic libraries since 1991. She is currently a reference/instruction librarian and Associate Professor at Sims Library, Southeastern Louisiana University, where she teaches the credit course Library Science 102. 


1 Comment

Filed under Academic, Researcher's Corner