Of nepotism…

Okay I’ve posted a reply in the comments, but can anyone else see where I ‘imply’ that it’s ok for libraries to recruit ‘friends’ without regard for the needs of the public?

Comments are from Tim Coates’ blog, following a post on public library recruitment policies:-

Well, I think many people see Public LIbraries as closed to non-Public Library people, whether they are qualified librarians or not. Certainly a colleague of mine felt this when going for jobs.

Posted by: Pete at June 4, 2007 4:37 PM

Is that how it should be? Isn’t it amazing what we have found out on this blog?

Posted by: tim.coates at June 4, 2007 7:21 PM

Oh, I think many people knew this already Tim. I don’t think it’s a universal problem, and the same problem has been talked about in regard to health libraries too.

Posted by: Pete at June 5, 2007 8:45 AM


But we say that public libraries ought to have young staff- so that young people feel at home; and that they should have staff from “diverse” backgrounds- for the same kind of reason.

You imply that it’s ok for librarians to recruit their friends with no regard for the public need.

I’m sorry, I don’t agree– and when you say “many people knew this already” — I think you must mean that many librarians knew it; I’m certain that the public didn’t. They would assume that you recruit the best people you can find.


13 Responses to Of nepotism…

  1. It must have been subliminal ๐Ÿ˜‰ I don’t think there is anything sinister about this trend though. There simply aren’t enough library jobs to match up with the number of librarians coming out of LIS courses every year. It makes sense to recruit those who already have PL experience *if* they are the best person for the job. If there were two great people, and only one had the relevant PL experience, then surely that person is best? It’s difficult yes, but not impossible to move between sectors in librarianship.

    There’s also the consideration that some folk might be great at interview and less great in the job – that’s happened with someone I was involved in recruiting who was absolutely the best person on the day with the requisite experience, and then turned out to be hopeless when in post. Although it seems inevitable that TC’s correspondent would think they’d be better at the job than those who have the post already.

  2. Pete says:

    Well, I got a job as a teacher then turned out to be shite, so I feel that argument ๐Ÿ˜€ You make a judgement I guess, and sometimes it’ll be wrong.

    I see what you mean re: experience, I guess the fear is that if you take *no* ‘outside’ peple it all stagnates.

  3. Well yes, but I’ve seen it happen so many times, particularly where people move within a local authority, or even within the same company. Employers like it when someone already knows how to use their internal systems, or has perhaps already had People’s Network training and will be less hassle to train up. Wrong, I know, but there you go. I don’t envy any of us jobhunting in the library sector, but blaming PLs for our woes is misdirected (and there could be any number of other reasons why that correspondent isn’t getting interviews).

  4. PS I’m sure you weren’t ‘shite’ – you just hadn’t found your library calling ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. PPS
    I wonder, do the public know how much TC is claiming on their behalf? Did they nominate him as their spokesperson? Why wasn’t I informed? Are librarians exempt from being part of the public due to their many many shortcomings? Enquiring minds need to know!

  6. Pete says:

    No, I was shite as a teacher. I assure you, I really was.

    I agree with the use of the ‘public’- see Stop Using Users as a Weapon. And in another post I pointed out that I’m a patron when it comes to PLs.

  7. Michael says:

    Is this really any different to, say, HMV requiring prior experience of retail? And wouldn’t you want a Chief Inspector to have worked as a copper previously, or a chef to have worked in a kitchen? It’s a nice, straightforward way to guarantee that people have at least a vague idea of what they’re supposed to do in a job.

    Yes, the Police can (and do) appoint non-coppers into senior posts, but the same thing happens in libraries too. At a strategic level, hands-on experience is less relevant. It’s still important, but it’s no longer the most important thing at that level.

  8. Miriam Palfrey says:

    Hi Pete,

    I can’t see that you implied that at all but then again I am not sure that TC and I even speak the same language a lot of the time.

    I am not sure abut the difficulty of crossing from one sector to another, I’ve heard that going to academic libraries from public can be difficult but I also know of at least two people who have managed it sucessfully as well as a couple who have crossed over the other way.

    The recruitment proceedures in most local authorities are fairly strict, I’m not sure that nepotism would go down too well.

  9. Pete says:

    Hi Miriam,
    I’m using nepotism in a very loose sense here ๐Ÿ™‚ Strict nepotism is vanishingly rare I’m sure, outside of some colleges ๐Ÿ˜€

  10. From observation, crossing between sectors does seem relatively rare, but certainly possible. For relatively high up positions in the library food chain, they naturally want people who understand the sector, so some universities seem to be trading library staff back and forth all the time. Then you get to the top of the food chain, and they stop caring which sector you worked in, and just want you to have management experience. Or that’s how it seems from my viewpoint in the academic library world.

  11. Pete says:

    Michael and SL, yes, absolutely. I think the issue is with people trying to get on to the PL ladder.

  12. Miriam Palfrey says:

    I was talking to one of my managers about this today and she said that as far as she knows public libraries are actually finding it quite difficult to recruit new staff at the moment (perhaps a lot of people are being put off by bad publicity).

    From what I know of recruitment within local authorities there are a LOT of guidelines in place to ensure that the process is as fair as possible. It could be that people who have worked in public libraries before are at an advantage when applying for posts because they already know all the right boxes to tick but that is largely a matter of experience.

    Personally I have never had any trouble getting an interview for a job that I have the experience and skill to actually do. Of all the interviews I have been to I have either been successful or there has been a clear reason why I wasn’t (I gave all the wrong answers, there were more experienced candidates, I discovered I didn’t want to work there etc).

    If I were applying for public library jobs on a regular basis and never even got to the interview stage then I would ask for some feedback, I wouldn’t just assume that fault lay with public libraries.

    The fact is that “the public” couldn’t care less how we recruit unless they are applying for a library job. TC is just using this as another chance to put down those of us who already work in public libraries: we are just old* reactionaries who are holding back the new young blood (who would presumably all agree with him about everything).

    For someone who isn’t supposed to be taking part in all of this I am talking a lot … bah ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    *I’ve got to be at least 25 years younger than TC!

  13. Pete says:

    Yes, it is another stick to beat librarians with, as I’ve said over on his blog.
    Your comments are welcome Miriam ๐Ÿ™‚

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