Monday, December 7, 2015

The Academic Library Job Market is Broken

Here are some blind items from my interactions with academic libraries over the past few months. They don't paint a pretty picture of the hiring processes therein.
  • The university that schedules a phone interview, then, out of the blue, a second phone interview three weeks later with an entirely different search committee and no explanation.
    • That same university, when asked during the second phone interview, has no timeline to bring anyone in for an on-campus interview, a clear sign that they have no idea who or what they're looking for in the position.
  • The multiple instances in which the person you report to isn't part of the search committee.
  • On-campus interviews where the people you'd manage aren't part of the hiring process.
  • Places where you're told "the position is what you make it" even though there's a long, almost unicorn-like job description and a title that strongly suggests which area of academic librarianship the position falls into. Again, a clear sign that they have no idea what they're looking for in the position.
  • Places where more than a third of the students are non-white, but all the librarians are Nice White Ladies. 
  • Place that check your references and then ghost. 0_o 
  • Places that ask for a salary range and when supplied with one, with tons of wiggle room, might I add, feel the need to note that they're a non-profit. Passive aggressive much? 
  • Places that have lost a significant percentage of their staff, but those that remain are clinging to their silos rather than trying to reorganize, reward versatility, and become more agile and open. 
    • The counter: Places that awkwardly combine two or more positions into one to compensate for budget cuts. See that unicorn-like job description, above. 
  • Places where it's clear you'll be punished for wanting to publish, to share knowledge, whether that's peer reviewed, presented, or blogged.
    • "So, I see you publish," I was told, with a tone and body language that made it clear I shouldn't aspire to such things. 
    • "I've read your blog and twitter," remarked one hiring official, who did not and would not expand on that when I asked them what they thought of my online presence. 
    • "Why can't you stick to beer?" is something that I was told by someone in human resources at one institution. If I weren't a cis het white male, I'd send that into the LIS Microaggressions zine. 
Errata:
All directors, with no exceptions, think that if I, as an ex-director, interview for a librarian position, then I'm out to steal their job. Meanwhile, other library staff at these organizations can't fathom why I'd give up a directorship, not understanding how fraught middle management in academic libraries can be, often feeling trapped between library staff and academic administration, which can sometimes be at cross-purposes. Why is it not okay to be a librarian, a part of a team? We don't all have to aspire to management, even those of us in management. 
A sign you're in a good place: when someone eats a fruit cup with both breakfast and lunch and not once touches the honeydew. Honeydew is a garbage melon.  
The performance of whiteness is an important barrier to diversity in library and information science. I was aware of this before job hunting, but nowhere is this more true than when you're on the market. "Small talk" is crucial to determining whether or not one "fits" in an organization. I mentioned farmers markets, Cub Scouts, homebrewing, and many other topics, some consciously, some not, to show employers that I'm "like" them. No doubt it helps that I look like them, too. If you're looking for a job in libraries, I encourage you to read Angela Galvan's "Soliciting Performance, Hiding Bias: Whiteness and Librarianship," and April Hathcock's "White Librarianship in Blackface: Diversity Initiatives in LIS," both published in In the Library With the Lead Pipe
Do you have horror stories you'd like to share? If you're able to, I'm here for that.

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