A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

Dispatches from PLA 2014 — Diversifying Your Workforce

by on March 24, 2014

At the “Diversifying Your Workforce” program during the PLA 2014 conference, presenters from the King County Library System (KCLS) in Washington State detailed a successful program  that has increased staff diversity at their library. The program is called the Page Fellowship Program and has been in place for ten years. The program has resulted in 75 percent diversity for KCLS. In addition, more than one tenth of their current workforce (in Public Services) are graduates of the Page Fellowship Program.

This exemplary program provides strategies and tools on how to recruit, hire, educate, and retain a workforce that better reflects and directly connects with the communities you serve. It helps organizations and managers to learn how to develop recruitment efforts to identify external and internal populations, interview effectively, and mentor, coach, supervise, support, and retain staff. It was designed to be replicable regardless of the population or organization size. The program has three different tracks or versions. For external (people not already working/volunteering in the library system) candidates there is a two-year program. It is the most involved and requires the most recruitment. For current employees, there is an internal one-year program. Then for either of the participants in the first two programs, they can go on to a one-year program as a library assistant trainee, which involves shadowing and mentoring in various departments within the institution, not necessarily always in Public Services.

The program does seek to branch out and find potential candidates, but it is wise to point out that the program is not for everyone. Like with any good hiring and training practices, good candidates must show interest and commitment. The first step is to identify employees to lead the program and promote it within the library institution. Each community is unique so an assessment of the needs and cultural components should be conducted. Recruitment is key and can be labor-intensive. In order to locate potential candidates the idea is to go to them, not wait until they come to you.  This requires a lot of “meet and greet” presentations and career fairs. The recruiter has to know the job, be enthusiastic and absolutely love it in order to sell it.

Presenters included Jo Anderson Cavinta, Nu’u Fuavai, and Elsa Steele,  King County (Washington) Library System.