In the past couple weeks, I’ve listened to a few librarians talk about the woes of their supposed IT specialists.
The problem? They are really good with buzzwords and not so great with applications. Some have complained that their IT specialist were generally unfamiliar with basic computer competencies. And while it is generally deemed okay for a ‘normal’ librarian to be unfamiliar with computer applications and some 2.0 technologies, this should be essential for a person who specialized in IT for their library. If not, we are then left with libraries that stagnate in their IT competencies and fall behind the tech-trend.
So, let’s lose the buzzword interviews. Let’s plan an application process that would really test the abilities of your IT specialist.
When the job is posted for a general IT position, require that the application and cover letter be sent via email in an attachment. If they can’t do this, which is largely considered a basic competency, then they are not qualified for the job. Require a cell phone number (more on this later).
If they are applying for a webmaster position, require them to post their resume online. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a site with resume and a link to download the resume as well… to show they have basic web-design skills.
If the person’s resume and cover letter meet your standards, TEXT their cell phone to set up an interview. Unorthodox? Perhaps, but part of the IT personality is embracing modern technology. Texting is one of the most popular means of communication with our younger population and, if we want to stay current with our patrons, then we need make sure our IT people are familiar with it as well.
Next, set up a time to talk meet your potential employee ONLINE. Nothing complicated, have them meet you on G-chat, Meebo, AIM or whatever. Once they get there, just hold a brief conversation about what the upcoming interview will entail, quick clarification questions, or see if they have any questions. Better yet, perhaps ask them, for the interview; to prepare a brief demonstration on their favorite 2.0 technology that they think would be useful or popular with the community. The importance is not the conversation itself but more that, once again, they are familiar with using this technology. Again, IM is a popular method of communication and your IT specialist should be comfortable with it.
By this time the interview comes, you will have a basic understanding of the applicant’s technological ability. If they needed instruction or familiarization with any of these things, that should be a warning flag. When they give their demonstration, you will also be able to see how well they can communicate the use of these technologies to other people and just how ambitious their Library 2.0 goals are.
Yes, I do realize there is a possible flaw in this method; it requires that someone on the interview team be familiar with technology as well. It’s a conundrum, that’s for sure. But, let’s look beyond that.
Oh, and if you want to have a little fun with them at the interview, put them in front of a computer with the machine on but the monitor off (or unplugged) and ask them to figure out the problem. Tell them you’ve tried hitting the machine but ‘nothing happened.” If they look at you, remark, “I just don’t think this machine likes me very much.” Then watch for a reaction.
If you were in a band with a bunch of other librarians, what would you call it? Would you refer to your profession in the title?
Personally, if I were to be in a rock band with fellow librarians, I would go with:
The Dewey Decibel System
If it were an alternative band, I think it would favor:
Mending Potter’s Spine
So, let’s have a little fun this Friday; what are some great band names you can come up for the profession?
As great as the Guitar Hero III game is, it received some negatively publicity for the Wii version.
And deservedly so.
You recently received a Guitar Hero III Legends of Rock Wii replacement disc. To show our appreciation for your patience during the re-mastering and manufacturing phase of GHIII, enclosed is a complementary Guitar Hero Faceplate.”
Wow, really? My local gaming store hasn’t had a Wii faceplate in stock for a good two months. Now I don’t have to bother looking each time I go in!
PEW Internet and American Life Project has a quick 10 question test for people to see what kind of technology user they are.
When looking at the different types of users, I was pretty suprised to see that the American population was well dispersed between the 10 different categories.
My results pegged me as an Omnivore, which comprises 8% of the general population. The provided description was pretty accurate, the only big miss being that I do not own a Blackberry/iphone.
But I will…. oh yes, I will. bwahahahahahaha!
I feel like such a chump. I feel like I just went back into an unhealthy relationship and, despite my hopes that things will be better this time around, I know it will all be the same.
I went back to Napster. I’m giving them a second chance…
I know, I know what you are going to say to me. You left Napster eight months ago because of the way it treated you! They’re going to treat me the same as before. Napster is still going to put those programs into my computer and mp3 player. It is still going to pseudo-forbid me from using players b/c it likes to be controlling. It’s still going to make me link to it once a week, because Napster always wants to know what I am doing (it is jealous of me using other programs).
But, can’t you see that Napster was good to me price-wise?!
And I’ve tried to break the habit. I’ve used other music programs and, although friendly at first, all they really wanted to do was get deeper into my pockets. I even tried buying individual albums, but that only made me realize how much money I was spending and how much I was still missing out.
I’m sorry, but I had to go back for something that was going to offer me better financial stability. If not for me, for the children… Birthdays are coming up for crying out loud. Do you want me to get them nothing!?
So, okay Napster, you got me back. I hope you are happy. You will see me linking my mp3 player to you and letting watch who I’m listening to, but that doesn’t mean I love you!
If someone leaves your system for the same job in another (i.e. lateral move), that should get you thinking.
If the average new-employee retention is less two years before they move on to another position, you definitely want to take notice.
If your system sees people leave and then watches them flourish in another position, you shouldn’t brag that “they started off in this system.” It should raise questions as to why your system couldn’t seem to hold on to him/her.
Employee retention has always been difficult in our profession but, sometimes, we unknownngly encourage people to leave.
The list below is a compilation of reasons I’ve heard Librarians give for leaving their positions. If any of these sounds like a familiar complaint of former employees, you may want to consider it, especially from the employee’s perspective.
Pay- Bosses, Directors and Board Members tend to roll their eyes when this issue is brought up. However, this is going to be a key factor for applicants. If two positions are posted and one offers more money than the other it is no surprise which will get more applications. Furthermore, I know several people over the last two years who have earned up to ten thousand dollars a year difference in pay simply by moving, laterally, into another system. How much of a difference can that be? How about the difference of affording your own rent or having to live with someone else.
Vacation and/or Holidays- Some New Jersey Library systems offer 10 days of vacation a year while others offer 24+ days. This does not include federal, personal, floating holidays or sick time. If everything else is equal (pay, benefits, etc.) which system would you rather work for?
Hours and/or Nights- How many nights a week do you require your librarians to work? How many Saturdays and/or Sundays a month?
Yes, we are in public services but we are also highly educated professionals with families, friends and social needs. On the nights that I work I don’t get to see my children or wife. One night is tough enough but two nights a week would be nearly impossible and a bigger strain on my family as it means my wife would have to feed, bathe and put both kids to bed by herself. The effects of working multiple nights are further reaching than just the employee’s schedule.
Professional Investment- Some systems have a budget for training and others do not. Some systems encourage employees to pursue professional interests and others look for a homogeneous staff. Employees who feel invested tend to support their systems and be happier as they know they may not get the same treatment elsewhere. This can also be a big draw for new employees as it shows the system’s interest in professional development. And consider this; the more an employee can pursue their interest, the more they are noticed in the professional realm as an expert in that subject which, in turn, is good for the system’s noticability.
Advancement- A professor once told me that Librarians tend to have to promote themselves and that means they leave the system they are working in. Obviously, we cannot promote everyone as there are fewer positions the higher up we go. But, other than steady employment, what are we doing to encourage these people to stay?
If employees leave because of these reasons it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are in a bad system but it should rasie a warning flag. As systems, we are in competition with each other to employ the best possible professionals. Although we may hire that professional, what are we doing to keep him/her?