Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Academic Librarians & jobs

I just read an interesting article, actually was directed to it from the ACRLog, concerning the length of time often taken during a job search for academic librarians. Chronicle Careers posted the article titled Endless Searche on July 27, 2006.

In the last few years I have applied for and interviewed with different colleges and universities. Generally speaking, none of the positions offered the career advancement, opportunities, or pay that I have in my current job. I admit the process can take time, especially with the larger schools who have political hoops to jump through, but only once was I tempted to withdraw because of the time span. More often than not, I was worried about how to turn down an offer (not as snotty as it sounds). In the current climate of librarianship, every other library journal has an article about how hard it is for recent graduates to find jobs, I have to wonder about the statement regarding now being in a "sellers market." The author of the article, Todd Gilman @ Yale University, says:

"Few recent Ph.D.'s searching for faculty jobs would reject a tenure-track offer out of resentment over how the search process was handled. But academic librarians are in a seller's market and may be able to afford that luxury. A good academic librarian might not think twice about turning down an offer, since a move elsewhere is not only possible but will almost certainly come with a raise and an increase in prestige and responsibility." - Gilman

Is academic librarianship a perceived seller's market because of the somewhat more stringent qualifications required? I agree that often jobs posted in academia include requirements and/or preferences for second masters degrees in subject specialty areas, doctoral degrees for tenure, and experience with instruction is generally preferred. In that respect, an experienced academic librarian would have an opportunity to select offers best representing their needs. However, smaller academic institutions may not offer tenure. Generally speaking they may offer twelve month contracts and in many cases do not consider librarians faculty. I feel in these instances the employer has an advantage.

The rest of Gilman's article discusses much needed common sense pointers for conducting library job searches. It is almost foolish that someone would have to be reminded to keep in contact with applicants or to be sure the people selected for on-campus interviews successfully meet qualifications stated in the initial job posting. Unfortunately these pointers are as necessary as warning tags on hair dryers telling users to not dry their hair in the bathtub. They are there because someone, somewhere, made that jump. I can only hope hiring committees reading this article take heed instead of thinking "he can't be talking about me."

I don't have any specific anecdotes to share regarding this particular issue. But, I have noticed a few interesting job hunt trends and will mention a pointer or two from my experiences:

  • Calling references: A recent trend has potential employers calling references before even offering candidates an interview. Do not put your current boss on that first reference list unless he/she knows you are searching. Offer that information only during or after an actual interview. It has happened to me, a University called my boss for a reference before I knew I was being considered for the interview. Luckily, I have a supportive boss who told me about the call. Since then, he is off my initial reference list.
  • Applying for a position: Only apply for a job opening you would seriously consider uprooting your life and family to take. In other words, do not go the "gee that sounds interesting" route and fire off resumes and vitaes without thought. Several different things may happen in that case. (1) You get a call for an interview and do not have a graceful way out of giving it serious consideration. Academic librarianship is a small pond, calling off is a way to get a bad reputation in the field. (2) You get a name for applying for any and all positions in a particular area or field. See previous mention of small world.
  • Portfolio: Yes, librarians can and should create portfolios for interviews. This can be done in power point, as a web page, or even a nice hard copy binder. If you can, do an electronic and hard copy of the portfolio, it facilitates more than one person being able to look at the information at a time.

Gilman mentions he will be taking a look at "working conditions in academic libraries" in future Chronicle columns.

I look forward to them.

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Unknown said...

Thanks for the insight.

M Taher said...

You are going in the same direction as me - Looking around to see the current trends in job market for the new grads.... (my the blog is for Library Technicians, and hence I facilitate this process).

See my post on this subject: Promoting your grads