Active Recruitment Within Academic Libraries
by Andrew Morton, Linda Fairtile, Rachel Frick, Lisa Scott, and Keith Weimer
Librarians currently in the early stages of their careers are acutely aware of a major challenge we will face — the looming shortage of librarians. Many of our older colleagues will retire in the years ahead and our schools are not producing enough graduates to replace retirees. The age-old "image" problem, exacerbated by low salaries for librarians, discourages college students from considering librarianship as a career, if they even think of it as an option.
The American Library Association projects that 2009 will be a pivotal year for librarianship as retirement and other career changes will result in nearly 25% of librarians exiting the workplace.1 Library literature has also closely documented this trend as well as the need for active recruitment within all types of libraries. The February 1, 2003 issue of Library Journal featured several articles focusing on recruitment. In his article "Tackling Recruitment," Michael Rogers outlines the need for libraries to utilize the personnel resources already present within our institutions. Creative solutions include internships for students, active recruitment of paraprofessionals, and following the successful practices of other professions.2
A recent article in College & Research Libraries News also highlights recruitment and retention as one of the most important issues academic libraries must recognize and address.3 This issue is of great concern to all professional librarians and its solution demands grass roots action. Our group of relatively new librarians has responded by promoting librarianship to the student population at our home institution. The idea originated at the American Library Association Annual Conference in Atlanta in 2002. At that time we began to explore the possible recruitment opportunities that exist on our campus of approximately 4,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. After a planning meeting, we decided to offer an informal miniature career fair where we would meet with interested students and discuss the evolving world of information science and librarianship.
Our planning meetings focused upon structure and logistics of the event, content and information to be presented, collaboration and advertising efforts, and distribution of responsibilities. We selected a date and time that fit well into the typical undergraduate schedule. The date was mid-way through the spring semester to avoid final exams and intensive periods of study. The time was late in the afternoon during the typical dinner hour. We offered a window of two hours, which allowed students the freedom to stop by after leaving class or immediately after dinner. We made the session informal in order to make the atmosphere as inviting as possible, and picked a central location on campus along a main thoroughfare in order to make the event highly visible and easy to find. The library funded snacks and beverages, as oftentimes refreshments do wonders to increase attendance!
When deciding on the session's content, we explored each participating librarian's background and strengths. Two of the librarians, our Music Librarian and Social Sciences Librarian, have public library experience. The Social Sciences Librarian has also worked in a corporate and school library. Our Head of Bibliographic Access Services worked as a health sciences librarian and library services representative and was able to provide insight into work as a library vendor. Our Government Information Librarian talked about librarianship at the federal and state level. The Head of Access and Delivery Services also contributed and discussed some of the technological aspects of library service. Our goal was to provide the attendees with a broad perspective of the employment opportunities they can pursue upon completion of a Master's degree in Library and Information Science.
For additional content and materials, we contacted several schools of library and information science and requested brochures and other recruitment materials to distribute during the event. Most of the programs responded and one offered to have a representative on hand. To preserve the informal nature of our program we declined this offer. We placed all handouts on an information table at the room's entrance. The brochures gave the attendees further opportunity to explore programs of interest and obtain additional information.
To advertise the program we sent out multiple announcements on a campus wide email distributed daily to alert faculty, staff, and students to upcoming campus events. Two messages were sent. The first was released two weeks prior to the event, and the second was sent the day before as a reminder. Within these messages, we advertised a website we created with links to numerous recruitment and informational sites. We later decided to maintain the website as an ongoing recruitment tool and occasionally re-advertise the link. We also drafted a message that our library liaisons forwarded to the faculty of the academic departments with whom they work. We asked the faculty to advertise this event to their students and encourage attendance, especially those within the humanities who typically pursue additional degrees in other fields. We also worked with the Career Development Center so students seeking career information there would be aware of the upcoming session.
During the event we placed a whiteboard outside the room advertising the session inside. We also posted greeters outside to encourage people to visit. Librarians inside the room welcomed attendees. Upon entering, attendees signed a registration sheet and listed their email addresses, which we used later to thank them for coming, to re-advertise our website, and to encourage them to forward any questions they might have. We chose round tables for the session so that everyone present would be encouraged to participate and ask questions. The discussions focused upon the role each librarian plays on our campus, his or her background and experience, and ideas on the future of library and information science. We also talked with the attendees about their backgrounds and ideas for future careers and employment. Two paraprofessionals at our institution, both currently pursuing their master's degrees in library science, also attended. They provided the attendees with their unique perspectives as library school students. Throughout the session, we displayed a PowerPoint slide show that ran automatically in the background giving the attendees supplementary details and websites, including our own, where they could obtain additional information via the Internet.
Six students, of whom four were student employees within the libraries, attended. Two of these students have since graduated and will be attending library school, and a third is considering the possibility. The other students in attendance are interested but are still early in their undergraduate work. After the event we met to evaluate the success of the recruitment session and discuss possible changes. We intend to hold another session this coming academic year. We are exploring various ideas before the next event such as pursing additional advertising and possibly visiting classes to announce the event. We will also target our non-traditional student population, of whom many have returned to complete their bachelor degrees. In addition, we will utilize further technological tools such as displaying the PowerPoint inside and outside the room during the event to encourage more attendance.
If you are interested in holding a similar session, we encourage you to meet with the staff of your career development to discuss successful recruitment techniques. Work with the library schools within your area or region to obtain materials and any other recruitment ideas they may offer. We also suggest tapping the distinctive talents and abilities of the librarians at your institution. Identify those who will provide varied perspectives for the attendees at your event. Also remember that offering refreshments is a wonderful incentive.
It is important for the success of future library service that librarians actively recruit the next generation of librarians. As many current articles suggest, recruitment-fromwithin efforts can be successful given that most paraprofessionals and student employees are already interested in libraries. In addition to promoting information science to those already within our library, we are also introducing career possibilities to our institution's student population. To learn more about our recruitment efforts, please visit our website at: http: //oncampus.richmond.edu/is/ library/recruit.Footnotes
1 American Library Association, ALA Town Hall Meeting: Recruitment @ Your Library, [Online] available from http://www.ala.org/Content/ NavigationMenu/Education_and_ Careers/Recruitment/ALA_Town_ Hall_Meeting__Recruitment_@_ Your_Library_Summary.htm; accessed 07 May 2003; Internet.
2 Rogers, Michael. "Tackling Recruitment." Library Journal 128 (February 2003): 42.
3 Hisle, W. "Top Issues Facing Academic Libraries." College and Research Libraries News 63 (November 2002): 714.
Andrew Morton, Linda Fairtile, Rachel Frick, Lisa Scott, and Keith Weimer are librarians at the University of Richmond. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org. Special thanks to Renee Morton and Jim Rettig for editorial contributions.