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CODE4LIB  February 2023

CODE4LIB February 2023

Subject:

Re: Systems - to librarian or not to librarian?

From:

"Martin, Will" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Code for Libraries <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 17 Feb 2023 23:14:11 +0000

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Wow, great responses. Thanks to everyone who replied! Sorry it took me all day to get to writing this response -- a series of meetings got in the way.

I'm going to go through and answer questions people asked in one lump rather than replying individually over and over.

Kate Deibel asked a couple of questions:

> 1. Are there benefits or advancement differences between a librarian and technical position at your institution?

You're speaking of things like Librarian I, II and III, effectively a sort of promotion within your existing job? We don't have defined advancement tracks for librarians or technicians. I think we probably should, but those were eliminated some time in the '90s, for reasons that are unclear to me. I should also note that librarians are not eligible for tenure at UND. Thus, if you want job advancement, you have to take a new job.

As for benefits, they're generally pretty good and the same for both tracks. The institution covers 100% of medical insurance premiums (except dental and vision, which are add-ons), a generous retirement plan through TIAA-CREF, UND matching contributions to retirement up to 15% of your salary, 3 free classes per year for employees, half-price tuition for immediate family members. Probably some other stuff I'm forgetting.

At the same time, our HR department has a track record of consistently lowballing the salaries for, well, everything. I mean yeah, the cost of living is low in Grand Forks compared to major urban centers. But the city is small, remote, cold, and flat. Very few people have "move to Grand Forks, North Dakota" on their bucket list. Low salaries plus undesirable location = difficult recruitment. No amount of good benefits is going to fix that when most people look at the salary and the location and immediately decide not to apply.

The last time we advertised this job, we got five applicants. Two were totally unqualified, two washed out during interviews, and the last one took a job elsewhere. So we ran a new search and got four applicants. Two were unqualified. The other two were reasonable candidates, and one took the job -- but is moving on to warmer pastures a year and a half later.

Recruiting for general tech positions isn't any easier. I was on a search committee for a general, ground level tech support person. The search failed four times running before we finally got someone who took the job on the fifth search.

> 2. Is the MLIS requirement strict or do you consider also equivalence such as experience plus technical degrees?

To date, the requirement has been strict: you must have a Master's degree from an ALA-accredited program.

At least we got rid of the phrasing about "MLS" -- in past we had failed recruitments because HR threw out qualified candidates whose degree acronym didn't match the one in the job advert. We in library land know that library schools have adopted at least nine different acronyms for their degrees, but the HR department didn't.

Eric Phetteplace asked:

> ... how much of a learning curve [are you] willing to accept?

It's hard to say. Chances are good that no matter who we hire they'll have a learning curve to climb; it's just a matter of which one. Last time, we got a good hire who had two years' experience with Alma, but knew little to nothing about Linux, EZ Proxy, PHP, APIs and so on. So they were great at the Alma stuff, but required a whole lot of training for the other bits. If we take the library degree requirement off, we may well reverse that, winding up with a good techy who has no familiarity with Alma.

Jingjing Wu commented:

> I wonder how many people with technology backgrounds but no
> library experience will apply for a "Systems Librarian" position.

If we removed the library degree requirement, then we would naturally change the title as well. Probably to "Systems Administrator" or similar.

I've found everyone's feedback very useful. I'm going to discuss it with my boss -- it's her decision, ultimately. And there may be other factors, like the HR department's procedures. I doubt the HR department would let us post a job with two different titles depending on which qualifications were possessed by the successful candidate, for instance. We can ask. But I have this sneaking suspicion that there's a Holy Chart Of Job Titles Into Which All Candidates Will Fit.

Thank you all very much!

Will Martin

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