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Further Questions: How have generational differences affected your organization with hiring?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

Generational differences can influence workplace dynamics, but are not often discussed in the context of hiring/interviewing. How have generational differences affected your organization with hiring at any level–for professional, paraprofessional, or even student workers? Any tips for candidates to mitigate generational differences throughout the application and interview process? Or is this not an issue at all?

I haven’t seen generational differences have a huge impact on interviews. Do they have an impact in the workplace once a person is hired? Absolutely. But, it’s really hard to get much of a feel for those sorts of issues in a short, scripted interview. Age doesn’t always dictate whether a person is mature or sensible or how well they deal with stress or “interesting” co-workers. For me, it really comes down to personality. I like interviewees who aren’t afraid to ask questions, who are engaged, knowledgeable and know when to stop talking (it’s painful when a candidate is either so nervous or socially awkward that they can’t read body language or get broad verbal hints like “OK, great, thanks” and take that as a hint to STOP TALKING). I have found age isn’t really a factor in interviews.

Margaret M. Neill, Regional Library Branch Manager, Main Library, El Paso Public Library

Celia RabinowitzAh – this is an issue I have been thinking about a lot.  In my previous director position a series of retirements led us to hire several new librarians.  The influx of new, and much younger, talent also meant a different generation of librarian.  And we all needed to adjust more than any of us anticipated.  Family needs were different, professional training was different, and in some ways the newer librarians had different ideas about what it means to be a librarian.  A few of the older librarians were still wedded to traditional patterns of staffing our Reference Desk.  The newer library faculty wanted to look at our usage and propose changes in order to take maximum advantage of the work day and benefit from a more flexible schedule.

I am not sure we would have been aware of some of the differences in an interview situation.  And, to be honest, I am not sure the candidate bears any responsibility for mitigating potential generational differences. But it helps for an established staff and for new hires to be aware that generational differences will mean that people are at different career stages.  The profession has changed, the professional needs of our staff members are different, and the way we think about libraries is different.  And that’s a really good thing.  There can be tension.  But ultimately this is how our libraries, and institutions, evolve.
– Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH

angelynn kingI think generational differences are highly overemphasized in the business literature. If anything, it’s more a question of how much work experience you have, or how long you’ve been in the same job. Some new employees not previously socialized to workplace culture may need mentoring in everything from phone etiquette to the meaning of hierarchy, while others with long tenures may need help overcoming resistance to change and risk.

But everyone is different. There are young fuddy-duddies and rambunctious seniors. In my opinion, the most important attribute in a potential coworker is the ability to learn new things, whether it’s learning a new culture, a new skill, or someone else’s new idea. Putting yourself in a box labeled “Baby Boomer” or “Millennial” hinders your personal development as well as the functioning of the organization.

-Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College, Owens Campus

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

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