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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.

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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.

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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.


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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 http://works.bepress.com/eric_shoaf/8/ .

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.

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Further Questions: What advice do you have for job seekers, particularly those new to librarianship, looking to build professional networks?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

What advice do you have for job seekers, particularly those new to librarianship, looking to build professional networks? What are some appropriate ways that networking can be used in the job seeking process? Please share your best tips for networking and professional etiquette.

Definitely get involved in your state library association (or if you are wanting to move to another state, get involved with that state library association) as well as the American Library Association. If you have a specialized area of expertise, such as genealogy, there are groups within both that you should consider joining. If you do not know how to get involved or feel like you cannot get your “foot in the door” by all means, just show up to a meeting of your round table and let them know you are interested and that you would like to be involved in a committee, these round tables are always looking for help! This will help you build up your professional networks and you may meet future employers, coworkers or job references in those meetings. In addition, make sure you have a 30 second elevator speech prepared so you can make a good first impression, tell everyone who will listen what your career goals are, if people know what you are looking for they are more likely to help you by introducing you to people that may be hiring.

– Julie Leuzinger, Department Head, Eagle Commons Library, University of North Texas

Cathi AllowayOver 4 decades as a librarian, I have built my network slowly but surely through professional library organizations and, particularly, NON-library groups and organizations.
My launch into public library administration was totally due to networking. I was an officer in the local Special Libraries Association chapter and got recruited and offered a job because of it.  It was a career-changing moment for me.  Ironically, I was in SLA to make friends and get some professional support when times got tough.    SLA was my social life as a young mother and full-time working librarian in a city where I had no family and few acquaintances.  Hint:  if you join an organization simply to get job leads – it tends to show and can be a turn-off to other members. Make sure you have some real passion and alignment for the group’s activities.  Networks help you solve work problems, not just the unemployment problem.  I have many contacts who can help me with personnel, strategy, IT and other issues, and when that happens, you become a valuable asset to an employer.
I have made great community contacts through two different metropolitan community “Leadership” programs.  The training and networking and friends were priceless and gave me skills and contacts that were long-lasting and beneficial.  I continue to volunteer for the one in my community.
In one of my previous library director positions, the library was building a controversial new building.  By joining the local and influential Rotary club, I was able to get to know many community leaders and slowly but surely change their impression of the project and libraries.  Rotary is a huge commitment – weekly meetings – and by rotating around to different tables at each meeting I learned how to introduce myself, converse, convince…and even offend….some people.  It was a great learning lab for professional etiquette.
I recently heard a talk by Renee DiPilato, who is Deputy Director at Alexandria (VA) Public Library.  She is doing a dissertation on library leaders and has found that most of them belong to Rotary clubs and have utilized NON-library networks and conferences to advance their skills and networks.
Catherine Alloway, Director, Schlow Centre Region Library
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.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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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: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0099133314000123


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

Further Answers: Are People Just Applying for Everything?

Someone who hires librarians recently contacted me for some answers about what job hunters want.  If you’ve got opinions, she’d love to hear them.  Comments are open.

The background:

This person is about to have an opening for a tenure-track, faculty-status, entry-level academic librarian job. Currently the title is Collection Development librarian (a stretch as an entry-level position but with a lot of support and participation from three more senior librarians, and providing an opportunity to grow into the job). When they last filled this position, despite a careful search process, they found someone who has ultimately been less interested in collection and the publishing, etc. required for tenure, and more interested in the reference and teaching aspects.

The question:

Are people just applying for everything? How can this library be sure to are hiring someone who is interested in technical services? The other option is to move another librarian into this position and create a new User Experience Librarian position that would include systems and usability. Would that be a sexier position for a new grad?

fallon bleichI would say, as a job hunter, the longer you are in the job hunting game, the more desperate you are, especially in the LIS field. I try not to apply to jobs that I’m not suited for, but if you aren’t getting any results from applications, it becomes less about THE job and more about A job to get your career started. That being said, I don’t think changing the title of a job will help these employers find someone better suited to the job, unless they completely overhaul what the duties are for that job. A title does attract me to a job, but a well-written job description is even better. Don’t just tell me that I will be doing “library duties”; if the job is primarily collection development, stress this in the job description. That way people who are applying to the job know what you are looking for and you might get better suited candidates. Brief job descriptions are the worst and are becoming a giant pet peeve of mine. And as a side note: I would love a job that was entirely based on collection development! I don’t know what that last person was thinking, but there are plenty of us who love that particular skill that they don’t need to worry about changing the name of the job. We’re out here and we want to work for you!

– Fallon Bleich, MLIS

Leigh MilliganFrom my own experience, library students are very anxious to get a professional position in the library. I was given the impression when I left school that there were not many jobs available, so I can imagine library students and new job seekers in the field could be applying for anything or everything whether the interest is there or not.

Since applying for jobs, I have learned to only apply to jobs tailored to my experience, my interests and me. I feel I will find a job that fits this way, even if it takes a long time, and I won’t be wasting my time or the search committees time if I apply for something I am not interested or qualified for. If you are looking to hire someone for a position geared towards technical services, gear the description towards technical services versus an entry-level librarian position. I personally feel that the User Experience title would be a sexier position geared towards a grad. I feel that Collection Development title can be misleading to newer librarians as they might think Collection Development goes hand and hand with the Reference Librarian field even though in the academic library, Collection Development is part of technical services. User Experience Librarian sounds more geared to those interested in technical services.

-Leigh Milligan, Librarian, Magee Rehabilitation Hospital Patient Resource Center in Philadelphia, PA; Head Editor of INALJ PA


I fully understand the trajectory that unfolded with the previous situation. I think there is a tendency for those who want to work in a specific type of library–whether academic or otherwise–to apply for whatever role they think they can reasonably get. That way they are gaining experience and have a chance for internal jobs that suit their fancy more when they come up.
I don’t get the impression from recent graduates of my program that they are particularly picky–it really does seem that they are applying for anything and everything. I think that (aside from the generally lacklustre job market) a huge part of this is because graduates honestly don’t know what they want to do (especially if they have no prior experience in a particular type of librarianship, such as cataloguing or collection development). I’m not sure what types of questions the interviewer asked with the previous applicant, but I think general questions such as “why do you want to be a librarian?” or “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” or “describe your career goals” would be a good indicator about the aspects of that job that someone may or may not be drawn to. If the person describes the teaching aspect of librarianship as the ideal, it’ll be more obvious that the passion for technical services just isn’t there. Sounds basic, but I think those general feeling based questions can tell you a lot about what an applicant wants from a job and from an environment.
I think the “sexier” position of a User Experience Librarian position would be a stronger draw. And not just because UX seems to be another buzzword! It suggests that there’s more opportunity to connect to the community/patrons, which might address applicant potential fears of being siloed off with their computers. I can’t speak to other LIS programs, but the one I’m enrolled in is very much lacking in technological skills, so I know a lot of its recent grads would jump on the chance to become involved in systems and usability (especially since it can be difficult to attain this experience once in a different role).


That’s a tricky question. The job hunt and market for new grads is quite tough and competitive and anything that will actually accept fresh graduates is going to get a lot of shotgun-approach applications. I didn’t shotgun, but I had a paraprofessional job so I could keep working for the 6 months it took me.

I’d say that if they post the position as such, they should look for some kind of technical services experience on the resume. I’m a metadata librarian and I spent 5 years as a technical services paraprofessional before and during grad school, so I knew what I was getting into. (And personally, I wouldn’t apply for a collection development job precisely because I know what I do and don’t want to do in technical services.) Even experience as a student worker would give some picture of how things work in such a behind-the-scenes job. As part of screening, I’d also ask them questions about how they’d feel about working in the back and why that appealed to them as a librarian. As someone who does want to work in the back, I have good answers for that and I think others would too.

I think the UX position would greatly thin the herd on candidates who are truly qualified. I honestly don’t think library school prepares grads for that position as well unless either they concentrated on it, they had some exceptional professors, or they have additional experience which makes them qualified. Asking people to describe experience or education on the subject would probably do a better job identifying qualified candidates than anything you could ask for collection development. It’s certainly a “sexier” position and one which sounds less overwhelming than collection development.

– Ruth Kitchin Tillman, Metadata Librarian at an undisclosed government library


Freelin JonesOn if people are just applying for everything:I am not to the point that I am applying for every academic library position I see on ALA JobList or Indeed.com. I don’t see the point in quantity over quality. However, I’m heading into my third career so I’ve been around the block a few times. My philosophy is that I want a position that suits my particular skills set. I have a background in journalism and marketing with a lot of research and web site architecture. It wouldn’t behoove my career ambitions to apply for positions as an archivist or cataloguer just because they are in an academic library. My search is still limited to reference, e-communications, and digital librarian positions. That is where my library passion is, and would best serve both the institution and myself.

On ensuring they are hiring someone who is interested in technical services: Make it abundantly clear in the job description for the position. I for one pour over the description to make sure that a) I would enjoy the job, and b) I am qualified for the position. I pay less attention to the experience portion and more to the skills required. This is because I have no library experience but I do have 14 years of professional skills in public relations, journalism, and marketing. I have to figure out how to translate those skills to the academic library setting. I certainly understand the mentality of just-getting-your-foot-in-the-door approach to job searching. However, the candidate should be able to articulate why they are the best candidate for a technical services position even if they have not been trained in graduate school or had formal professional experience. So make the posting as technical services oriented to weed out those who are applying for everything, and allows the candidates who are qualified and passionate about YOUR position.

On using the title User Experience Librarian:A ‘sexy’ job title is fine but again I would concentrate on the duties. Again, I am speaking from the point of view of someone who has gone back to school mid-career. My focus is on what I am doing rather than what I says on my CV. I would definitely look at this position based upon the job title, because coming from a marketing background, my initial feeling would be that I would be qualified for it. But again if I were to read the job description and it doesn’t align with the impression that the job title gave, I might not apply at all even if I was the candidate you had in mind. I have found that many job titles don’t reflect the actual job description. So I I tend to base my decision to apply or not on the actual description.

– Freelin Jones, MLS, Academic Librarian for Hire


Sorry to take so long with my reply. I have thought about your question a lot. Of course, I don’t know how others feel about this; I can only speak for myself. Personally, I do not apply for everything — however, I do try to be very flexible and apply for many entry level academic librarian positions. There aren’t a lot of options out there for recent graduates, and I have been advised by mentors to be as flexible as possible. Rather than narrowing my choices down to the jobs that suit me, I tend to filter out jobs that I know for sure would NOT suit me.
That brings up another aspect of this question: as a recent graduate, I can only speculate the kind of library position that would be perfect for me. I only want to brand myself so much at this point. I imagine myself doing research, reference and instruction, but my research interests are in copyright and licensing, so I would absolutely apply for a Collection Development position. In most cases that I’ve seen, Collection Development positions require several years of professional experience, so if there were an opportunity to do that job with support from senior librarians, I would jump at it. Having said that, User Experience Librarian is definitely a trend in entry-level positions, and something new grads would be drawn to.
In my program, we were encouraged to explore different aspects of librarianship, so, again, I hesitate to brand myself too narrowly at this point, and I think many recent grads probably feel the same way, considering the job market. Coming at that from a different perspective, I hope (and honestly believe!) I would be able to wear several different hats in an academic library position, filling whatever role needed to be filled.



Ruby LavalleeI graduated 10 months ago, and have been in my position for roughly three months.To answer your first question: yes, many people are just applying for everything they are remotely qualified for. It’s a rough market for a new grad. I applied to any positions that I felt I could do well in, which was a broad range – I made a point of diversifying my coursework and experience, as do many grads coming into a slower job market. It’s usually still fairly obvious where an applicant’s enthusiasm lies, especially if you ask them about their ideas for the position during the interview (if they’re really into the job itself, they’ve probably been imagining how they’d do it).

I think the easiest way to tell if you’re hiring someone interested in technical services is to pay attention to how their interests, both library related and otherwise, line up with the duties of the job description. Does the person you’re looking to hire have a history of investigating technical ideas or new technologies in school or other jobs? Do they have collections of their own, or do they have an interest in budgeting and finance? When you ask them about their research interests or the reason they’re interested in the job, do they at least make a glancing reference to the sort of work they’d be doing the majority of the time? If you hear genuine enthusiasm regarding tech, you can usually tell, and I feel like that’s a decent predictor of whether someone wants to stay with tech services or move elsewhere.

The question about creating a User Experience Librarian position is a little confusing to me. It’s not necessarily that a position like that would be a more attractive proposition for a new grad – it’s just a different animal. In my experience at library school, there wouldn’t have necessarily been more applicants for a UX job than a Collections job. They’re both niche interests among library students.
I desperately wanted my User Experience Librarian job because I love tech and asynchronous service systems, but I also love people. This position allowed me to spend some of my time hiding and doing design and tech work, but also allowed me to reach out and deal with patron service and assessment. If you have a real need for UX work (which you probably do) and currently invested librarians interested in moving into collection development, it sounds like a fine decision. But don’t count on it driving your applicant numbers up like crazy.
– Ruby Lavallee, User Experience Librarian, University of Manitoba Libraries
I finished my MLIS in August 2013 and started applying to entry-level positions in academic libraries about six months before. I have an undergrad degree in computer science & before I went back to school I’d been working in the systems department of an academic library for about ten years. When I started my job search I wanted to find a position as a systems librarian but would have also considered entry-level positions in areas where I had less direct experience but had taken related courses & found them interesting (e-resources management, user experience), as long as I thought I could make a case for meeting other requirements in a job posting.
I definitely would not have applied to positions to collection development or reference and instruction. Despite taking several really great courses in these areas, I have very little related experience. My MLIS program had a co-op option though and many who participated found that it was really helpful to get experience in areas they might not have thought they were interested in but found out otherwise with some hands-on experience. If you can find someone who’s worked in technical services as a co-op student and gets pretty excited about the position, that’s probably a good sign. Although given the person asking for hiring advice they conducted a careful search process, they’ve probably already considered this.
During my MLIS there were often information sessions for students interested in working in different types of libraries. The academic libraries session emphasized the research and publishing aspects of the role so I knew these responsibilities would be expected of anyone hired to fill the positions that I was applying to.
As for whether user experience librarianship would be “sexier” for a new grad: I found that I expected my classmates to be more comfortable with technology than they often were and I was a bit surprised at the number who really resisted required technical courses. Even so, for those students who were interested in technical courses, I wouldn’t say my MLIS program offered enough to prepare someone for an entry-level UX or systems position. But the relatively few students who wanted to work in those areas tended to do a lot of work on their own to keep up with developments & trends in the field.
Your correspondent says it would be a stretch to have a new grad function as a collections development librarian without a fair bit of support but I would say that’s of a UX/systems position as well. I’ve been working as a systems librarian in an academic library for about ten months now and even with quite a bit of experience I can’t imagine making the transition from support staff to librarian without the kind of mentorship I’ve had from colleagues.
– Anonymous
Whitni WatkinsAlthough I am a recent library graduate student, I am fortunate enough to already have 4+ years of library technical and management skills under my belt, unlike many graduating library students. The toss up here is that applicants like myself who already have work experience in libraries know what they do and do not like; the flip side to that is, because there has been such a drive on the “lack” of library jobs or the need for experience for the job they want is that some students are applying for whatever library position they come across. I think this situation is sitting at a 75/25 ratio and less students are applying for everything. I only apply for positions that meet my requirements (salary, place and responsibilities).
One thing an employer can do to narrow applicants geared toward that position is to require a copy of the applicant’s unofficial transcript. This will give them a list of the courses the applicant took during their education; students have easy access to their unofficial transcript and it can give great insight on what interests the student has. I attended SJSU SLIS, who had developed unofficial career pathways (http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/current-students/career-pathways) that helped guide students into taking the courses for the focus of librarianship they wanted to pursue.
If the two position were listed Collection Development or User Experience Librarian, I as a technology focused applicant would jump all over the UX position. It is definitely sexier than “Collection Development” but it also is a more specialized position and would in itself, weed out those who are not interested in working with systems or do not have the expertise that a position of that sort would require.
Finally, I just interviewed for a tenure-track faculty position and in that interview I met with the tenure committee who made it very apparent to me what would be required of me if I were to be offered and accepted the position. They also explained tenure to me, as a recent grad. tenure has been more or less a foreign concept as until I received my MLIS I wasn’t being considered for faculty level positions. The employer should put a great emphasis on what tenure is and what it entails. This can be linked to the job description but it needs to be brought up in the interview process foremost, especially as it gets down to the final interviews.
– Whitni Watkins, LMS Assistant, San Jose State University
I fully understand the trajectory that unfolded with the previous situation. I think there is a tendency for those who want to work in a specific type of library–whether academic or otherwise–to apply for whatever role they think they can reasonably get. That way they are gaining experience and have a chance for internal jobs that suit their fancy more when they come up.
I don’t get the impression from recent graduates of my program that they are particularly picky–it really does seem that they are applying for anything and everything. I think that (aside from the generally lacklustre job market) a huge part of this is because graduates honestly don’t know what they want to do (especially if they have no prior experience in a particular type of librarianship, such as cataloguing or collection development). I’m not sure what types of questions the interviewer asked with the previous applicant, but I think general questions such as “why do you want to be a librarian?” or “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” or “describe your career goals” would be a good indicator about the aspects of that job that someone may or may not be drawn to. If the person describes the teaching aspect of librarianship as the ideal, it’ll be more obvious that the passion for technical services just isn’t there. Sounds basic, but I think those general feeling based questions can tell you a lot about what an applicant wants from a job and from an environment.
I think the “sexier” position of a User Experience Librarian position would be a stronger draw. And not just because UX seems to be another buzzword! It suggests that there’s more opportunity to connect to the community/patrons, which might address applicant potential fears of being siloed off with their computers. I can’t speak to other LIS programs, but the one I’m enrolled in is very much lacking in technological skills, so I know a lot of its recent grads would jump on the chance to become involved in systems and usability (especially since it can be difficult to attain this experience once in a different role).
– Anonymous

Thanks to all these new grads and aspiring  academic librarians who were willing to share their viewpoints.  We’d love to hear yours too!  The comments are open.

And thank YOU for reading!  

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Filed under Academic, Further Answers

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 @ http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/libraryscience/156/

Bolin, M. K. (2008, September 5). Librarian status at US research universities: Extending the typology. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 34(5), 416-424. Accessible @ http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1176&context=libraryscience

Hosburgh, N. (2011, June 1). Librarian faculty status: What does it mean in academia? In Library Philosophy and Practice. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1603&context=libphilprac

Rosenberg, Bonnie. Faculty status and academic libraries.  www. weebly.com, n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2014. <http://375138250656935668.weebly.com/uploads/1/9/9/3/19932831/ils560_faculty_status_rosenberg_copy.pdf>.  (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. 

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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 ACRLhttp://journal.acrlla.org/index.php/codex/article/view/71.

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. 


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Researcher’s Corner: What Skills and Knowledge do Today’s Employers Seek?

I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but it is only since graduating from SJSU that I started noticing and appreciating the work that goes into shaping the program. SJSU SLIS not only performs and posts a self-assessment of program performance, but each year it performs and publishes a report on informal research into career trends.  The Associate Director of SLIS, Dr. Linda Main, helps steer this project and very graciously agreed to write a guest post describing the research and findings.  (Incidentally, Dr. Main co-teaches what was one of my favorite classes in library school, the History of Books and Libraries. I highly recommend it, current students.)

A topic of conversation on the minds of many information professionals is the job market. Many practitioners are concerned about being prepared for future employment opportunities – a concern that is echoed by graduate students who hope to be tomorrow’s information professionals. 

To help practitioners, students, and future students gain a better understanding of employment trends in our field, each year, the San José State University School of Library and Information Science (SJSU SLIS) publishes Emerging Career Trends for Information Professionals: A Snapshot of Job Titles.

The informal report explores recent job postings for information professionals.  It’s not a comprehensive study, but instead is a snapshot of job postings during a brief point in time.

To develop the most recent report, we scanned job listings for information professionals posted during the summer of 2013.  We searched general job listings websites, as well as websites aimed specifically at recruiting information professionals.

Emerging Job Trends

After a brief analysis of the data, some trends emerged.  For example, job titles are changing. Many job listings still use titles that we categorized as “traditional” in the report, such as Reference Librarian or Collection Manager.  Yet we also found job titles that reflect some newer employment trends, such as Metadata Manager or Digital Initiatives Librarian.  The report provides many examples of what we call “traditional” and “emerging” job titles.

In addition to exploring job titles, the report also provides a snapshot of job responsibilities included in the listings, along with skills employers seek in job applicants. For example, an Informatics Specialist needs to understand metadata standards, know how to manage digital materials, and troubleshoot software.

And as you might expect in today’s evolving work environments, many job titles suggest a blend of responsibilities.  For example, consider the scope of work for someone who is both a SharePoint Librarian and Research & Outreach Assistant.  That’s one of the positions we found.  It’s a good example of how today’s employers seek job candidates who can offer a range of skills.

The report also recaps what hiring managers are looking for in applicants in terms of their education, skills, and work experience. A growing number of hiring managers are looking for applicants with strong technology skills, leadership skills, and the ability to deal with a rapidly changing work environment.  That should come as no surprise, as our profession is rapidly changing, and even “traditional” work environments are being transformed. 

Tips for Keeping Up with Employment Trends

Conducting this informal research each year helps our school stay in touch with employment trends, which helps us do a better job advising our students about the courses they might want to take, as well as the types of internships and volunteer experience that can prepare them for tomorrow’s jobs.

Of course, we don’t just rely on this one report to advise our students or update our curriculum.  We also rely on input from our faculty, and from advisory groups made up of leaders in our profession.  They help us spot emerging trends, allowing us to ensure that our curriculum is up to date.

And while you may not have access to a formal advisory group like we do, you can follow a similar process.  Chat with colleagues about the trends they are noticing.  Attend a professional conference and see what topics are presented, or at least visit the conference website and scan the list of presentations.  For example, at the recent Library 2.103 Worldwide Virtual Conference, topics included mobile technologies, virtual learning commons, MOOCs, information governance, data visualization, and social media strategies.  Can you picture yourself working in any of those areas?

You can make it a priority to keep your skills up to date by attending conferences, reading blogs, and viewing webinars, like the free career trend webinars offered by our school.  Or to make an even bigger investment in updating your skills, you could complete a post-master’s certificate program.  Several ALA-accredited programs offer these types of certificate programs.  At our school, professionals can complete a post-master’s certificate fully online.

Finally, there are some outstanding resources that can help you explore career options for information professionals.  Our school offers a web-based career development resource, which is freely available to anyone interested in learning more about careers for information professionals.  On the site, we provide links to other resources that can help you keep up with employment trends in our profession.

Regardless of the path you choose to keep up with changing trends in our profession, I hope you are optimistic about the future of our profession.  It’s an exciting time to be an information professional.

linda mainDr. Linda Main is the Associate Director of the San Jose State University School of Library and Information Science. Shereceived her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign). She also holds Masters degrees from the University of Wales (Aberystwyth) and the University of Dublin, Trinity College (Ireland).

She spent many years working in the library of Trinity College Dublin rotating through many different departments including rare books and manuscripts. She was also a project Coordinator for CELDS (US Army Corps of Engineers) and a database coordinator for the Recidivism Database (US Dept. Justice).

Main has written three books and published many articles. Her research interests are in designing information products for a global audience, Web programming languages delivered online and digitization of medieval manuscripts.

Main has been involved in many consultancy projects including projects for the British Library, the Bibliotheque National, the Benito Juarez Autonomous University (Oaxaca, Mexico), the State Technical Library (Prague), Udaras na Gaeltachta and the National Library of Malta. She also works with a small Eastern European consultancy business that develops Web sites and digitizes manuscripts.

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