It was in the 1994 Bowker Annual that ALA's Office for Library Personnel Resources first noted that librarians were advertising jobs on e-mail discussion lists. Since then, the trend toward online recruitment has increased. Currently, 45 states sponsor Web-based employment sites through their state libraries or library associations, and most trade publications make their online classifieds free to job-seekers. However, despite libraries' current struggles with declining budgets and ALA's focus on recruitment, little attention has been paid to the role played by online advertising.
As the longtime Webmaster for a library-employment site, I have often wondered about librarians' success with online recruitment. In order to more thoroughly document their experiences, last summer I created a survey of library employers who had posted jobs online.
Reasons frequently mentioned for going the online route included speed, efficiency, low cost, and the potential for a larger applicant pool, Few librarians expressed any disappointment with the process.
"Online recruitment has become the norm; I would be stunned to find any academic library which does not use this medium," stated one university library director. Another summed it up: "It's just easier, cheaper, and faster for everyone involved."
Along with the growing technical comfort of employers comes a desire for increased technological competence among employees. As one human resources director at a midwestern public library declared, "For professional librarians, I now prefer to advertise online only, which saves lots of money and ensures we reach people with computer savvy. If they're not looking online, I'm not interested. When we do place a brief ad in a newspaper, we refer readers to our Web site for details. And when I ask interviewees if they visited our Web site, the answer I want is 'Yes.'"
Public-service positions (75%) were the type most frequently advertised online, followed by technical services (55%), administrative positions (49%), and jobs with a mix of responsibilities (41%). In all, 83% of the respondents posted jobs requiring an MLS plus additional experience, but they also advertised for entry-level librarians (68%), department heads (43%), library directors (29%), support staff (28%), and non-MLS professionals (24%).
Demonstrating that online recruitment is no longer a novelty to employers, the majority (81%) said they had been advertising online for at least two years. Only 5% had first turned to the Internet for recruitment within the last year, and 27% had been doing so for five years or longer.
Finding the best candidates
Due to the speed of distribution and low cost, it should come as no surprise that most of those responding to the survey chose to advertise their positions on e-mail lists. The majority (67%) posted jobs on lists with a nationwide audience. Slightly fewer advertised on their regional or statewide jobline and on their library's Web site, followed by, in descending order, their local newspaper, a regional e-mail list, local library schools, and free library-employment Web sites.
In terms of the quality of the applicants they reached, national e-mail lists were judged the most successful advertising source, and librarians felt that these lists were helpful in obtaining a wide applicant pool. Subject-specific mailing lists were mentioned as ideal recruitment tools, not only because they reached a dedicated target audience, but also because they reached people who weren't specifically hunting for a job. Also, although librarians frequently advertised jobs in the local newspaper, this was not felt to be effective for professional positions. Figures 1 and 2 illustrate the most common and most successful venues used by all respondents.
If publications offered separate pricing structures for combined print/online and online-only ads, librarians responded positively. …