The delicate recruitment dance

Aug 24 2010 Published by under Miscellanea

This is actually the second recruitment letter I've gotten from North Carolina State University for a repository-manager position. Mostly this is a statement of how long I've been doing this; turnover in repository management is (in my anecdata-fueled estimation) quite high. A five-year repository manager is a rara avis indeed. (There's an article there for a motivated Ph.D student. My hypotheses would be that "maverick managers" are most likely to leave, and that turnover predicts turnover: a repository that loses one manager is more likely to lose the next than would be predicted by normal turnover numbers in the library profession.)

I'm impressed by how delicate the letter's wording is. See, employee-poaching is rude, so the letter can't actually up and say "we hope you'll consider applying." Instead, it asks to have qualified candidates referred to them (wink-wink-nudge-nudge) and assures me that they'll be discreet about their applicants: no sneaky reference-calling, inquiries to be kept confidential, and so on.

Anyway, no, I'm not a suitable candidate and I'm not applying, nor do I have a suitable candidate at my fingertips just at present. (My top students are all doing nicely, thank you; I'm very proud of them. Days I think they are my impact on the world, not anything I've said or written or done. There are many, many worse legacies.) I'm not a suitable candidate because five years of repository work is enough for me; I want to do other things now. (Not to mention that this position leans toward the technical end of repository management, and I'm not as techie as they want—certainly nowhere near as techie as the position's previous holder.)

There's a brief job squib on LISjobs, and going to their jobsite and searching "repository" will turn up the full position description and application instructions.

I have a lot of respect for NCSU Libraries. They get stuff done. I don't know anything much about the work environment, I admit, but if you're a firebreathing techie sort, you could do much worse than giving this a look.

There. I hope I have returned the courtesy of the letter sent me.

7 responses so far

  • Michael Golrick says:

    But don't you also think that the reason why so many of your students *are* your students is because of what you have said and done? Don't sell yourself short!

    • A few, maybe, but most of them have never heard of me, especially in my intro-to-tech course. No reason they should have!

      My teaching holds up pretty well, granting that the bar is pretty low.

  • Coturnix says:

    I second the statement that NCSU library gets stuff done. And done well and fast. I also used to work there for a little while before getting into grad school, so I can attest my personal experience that the working environment was very pleasant (even for me, then just an hourly wage student helper kind of employee). Then I got into grad school and used NCSU library for ten years, so from a user perspective I can also attest to their high professionalism.

  • John Russell says:

    I wonder, especially with at least three libraries looking for digital repository people now, if there are enough librarians who are qualified to fill these positions (or create a decent applicant pool). I have no sense of the supply, though the demand seems robust enough.

    • Dorothea Salo says:

      Insofar as there may be supply problems, I think I may be partly responsible. *g* I have had more than one library-school student say to me, "after reading about your difficulties, I know I don't want to work in this area."

      I have to say I think this is salutary. Library administrators have not in my estimation done enough reflection on what running an IR means, career-wise-speaking, for a librarian, particularly an entry-level librarian.

      If they're having trouble filling positions (and I must say I have no anecdata of this; I have plenty of turnover anecdata, but that's a little different), maybe they need to think about work climate, expectations, and how NOT to set these people up to fail, or feel like they're failing.

      Me, I've felt I've been failing as long as I've been doing this. And I'm a good deal more successful, speaking strictly as a careerist, than many!

  • Jim Tuttle says:

    I find the topic of turnover very interesting. Having recently moved from an institution that has a reputation for higher than average turnover to an institution of what I suppose must be average or below average turnover my view of it has become more nuanced, I think. I'll try not to philosophize in your comments section.

    NC State is a fabulous library in which to be a technologist. In particular, the Digital Repository Librarian position, which until recently I held, was, in my opinion, a very rewarding and enjoyable experience. I don't know what the relationship of the turnover there has to the culture, but it makes for a fantastic environment for someone who wants to innovate in repository services. NC State focuses more on short-term, smaller projects so for someone interested in very back-end intensive approaches (think METS, MODS, PREMIS, Fedora, etc), it might be less fulfilling. In my experience, though, the administration was very happy to let me meet with students, staff, and faculty, pitch ideas, and plan and implement projects.

    I loved that job. My departure from that position had nothing to do with NC State. The culture in the department in which this position is housed, Digital Library Initiatives, was awesome. DLI is filled with intelligent, hard-working, innovative people. In general, the library is very excited about technology, new ideas, and innovative thinking. Those are things that I suspect few academic libraries can claim.

    I only just looked at the position description at and looked at the requested qualifications. It does seem sort of technical. In my opinion, though, NC State often seems to hire for the person rather than the qualifications. Positions often seem to morph to fit the qualifications and interests of the incumbent. When I was in this position, there were two developers reporting to it, although they had responsibilities beyond repository work. So, perhaps it's possible that the position could end up being less technical. I usually characterized my work there as mostly planning, some implementing. It was useful to have some programming skills to handle the smaller tasks (such as metadata normalization, SIP creation, etc) while the developers worked on application-level projects.

    • Dorothea Salo says:

      Philosophize away! I would love to hear your thoughts.

      Also, thank you for your view of the position. I believe this will be very helpful to potential candidates, and attract NCSU a better pool.