Potential Fit to the Department Outweighs Professional Criteria in the Hiring Process in Academic Libraries

Yvonne Hultman Ozek


Objective – To identify key factors affecting the probability of obtaining an interview and being hired for an academic library position.

Design – An online survey was distributed via the following electronic mail lists: ACRL, LITA, COLLIB, METRO, ACQNET, COLLDV, ULS, EQUILIBR, and ALF. The questionnaire was posted via StudentVoice, an assessment survey provider.

Setting – Academic libraries in the United States.

Subjects – The 242 academic library search committees that
responded to the online survey.

Methods – The authors reviewed the literature on the hiring process in academic libraries. A questionnaire for an online survey was developed. The instrument contained closed questions with the option to add comments. The survey was available for completion June 3 to June 15, 2008.

Main Results – Skills and performance of job requirements were rated as the most important criteria by 90% of the 242 academic library search committees that responded to the survey. Previous academic library experience was rated as essential by 38%. The findings also showed that committees are positive towards hiring recent graduates, and over 90% check references. In addition, 75% of the respondents emphasized the importance of skills in bibliographic instruction (BI), particularly when choosing staff for public services. Furthermore, of the 242 respondents, 47.52%, answering the corresponding question indicated that a relevant cover letter, correct spelling, and declaration of the candidate’s activities over all time periods are crucial aspects.

Those in favour of using a weighted scoring system, 37% of 218 respondents, felt that it served as a tool to level the playing field for gathering accurate information, and it also helped to improve the efficiency as well as speed of the hiring process. However, 62.84% of the respondents commented that a weighted scoring system is too prescribed, and some universities did not allow the use of this method. Of 218 respondents, 65% employed evaluation forms after an interview, 38% reported that they would go beyond the applicant’s given references, and 61% felt that the applicant’s potential to fit into the department was important. The “potential fit” criteria scored the highest of these criteria: demonstrated performance of job requirements; cover letter; and knowledge of trends in latest developments in library science (p. 74). Of 211 respondents, 47.39% reported that the average length of the search process was 4 to 6 months. Most respondents perceived the search process as slow.

Conclusion – In general, the survey offered an overview of current practices of academic library search committees, which can aid those on the hiring side as well as those who are seeking a job. Based on the results, the authors state that, in addition to all of the job requirements, it is vital to consider the potential fit of the applicant within the department. The hiring of candidates with less experience emphasizes the significance of fitting into the department and can be weighed against selection of individuals with more experience. This conclusion is encouraging for those who have recently graduated from library school.


academic libraries; recruitment; hiring criteria

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