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Dispatches from PLA 2014 — Engagers, Innovators, Life-Long Learners, and Facilitators: Hiring Staff for the 21st Century Library

by on March 24, 2014

The main objective of this open forum was to address the hiring of library staff in the 21st century library.  Organizer and moderator, Thomas Fortin, Deputy Director, San Mateo (California) County Library, did an excellent job facilitating the discussion.  We also had the pleasure of having Jennifer Giltrop, Director of Public Services, Washington, D.C.  Public Library and Dale McNeill, Assistant Director for Public Services, San Antonio (Texas)  Public Library on the panel to discuss their experiences of job posting, interviewing, evaluating, working in HR, orienting new staff, mentoring, and retaining the best library staff in today’s society.

What should we look for in hiring a library staff member? Libraries today are looking for engagers, innovators, and lifelong learners.  Hiring is cyclical; we are re-imagining our spaces, creating community spaces,  fostering community outreach, and emphasizing early learning skills. Find a person with flexibility, adaptability, and someone who generally likes people. Look for energy, passion, and someone who expresses critical thinking. Look for people who can lead, and also be willing to fail. Relevancy of skill set is vital in the hiring process.  It is also important to seek out people that are outgoing, bright, open, flexible, in order to create an innovative staff that can lead library services in programming, outreach, and community building.

How essential is the HR department in the hiring process? The panel talked about how it is very important to get to know the human resource department, when you don’t have a problem, so that you already know them if a problem arisese. Treat them like human beings. Build relationship with the people who make it work.The panel also stated “don’t think about the limitations, but think about what you can do.”

What is the KSA model? KSA stands for Knowledge, Skills, and Ability.  The panel advised librarians who are looking to hire to find out if their requirements for KSA need to be tweaked.  Skills are the easiest to teach.  Abilities are harder, focus on interpersonal ability.

Where to find people to hire? Recruitment is everyday.  Help people grow in their positions. Think about strategies for succession and replacement.  Think about the position and how to fill it.  Recruit in the communities in which we serve. Look for people who want to become a librarians.  Be tough with library schools to identify their recruitment process. Diversify your staff and skills. Make sure you are reflecting the community. Hire what represents your community.