Episode 303: Hiring and Staffing

Now Hiring

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Note: Lady Grey was in-house while we recorded this episode; so the parts that sound particularly great may have been influenced by her calming presence!


Welcome to another episode of Linking Our Libraries! This week our Guest Host is Carla Lydon, director of the East Central Library System here in Minnesota.

If you like libraries, archives, or history centers; or if you work in a nonprofit; or if you just want to learn more about management and leadership, you are in the right place!

We are the Central Minnesota Libraries Exchange, and our job is to help libraries! We are a multitype library system, with member libraries of all sorts: public, schools, academics, special libraries, archives, and history centers. Yes – we are pretty lucky!

This season we are looking at a variety of topics related to management and leadership. Our focus is on libraries, but our topics are relevant to all types of nonprofits working to improve their leadership skills.

Do you want to talk with us about a topic? Want us to set up some training for you? Check out website under “Can We Help You?” and let’s talk!



First we are going to look at a somewhat idealized hiring process. Every library varies in how they are able to hire: some have no input and a new person is just plopped into the library, some have complete freedom to structure their hiring as they want. Hopefully, the steps we look at today will happen, at some level!

One of the most important things a manager can do for an organization is to hire well. You need good staff to have a well-functioning organization, and a bad hire – one that brings in an unskilled, unmotivated person, or person who spends time complaining, giving bad customer service, or just doing poor work – can throw the whole place into chaos. The cost of a bad hire can be very high, and this problem can be very difficult to fix. A good hire will do good work, and add to the positive organizational environment you want to build!


First, you need to think about recruiting. Writing up a recruiting plan is the best way to stay focused.

Think through the needs you have to do, and the things you would like to do. When bringing in staff, or making staffing plans, think about what they will do and what that position can contribute to the library. When you have an opening, think about what needs to be done with that job – and what could that job do for your library.

Talk with staff and stakeholders. Where are the holes in the current staffing work? What can we aspire toward? What would we be if we were a fantastic library? What services and/or people can staff do if we grow? This is scary stuff for staff to discuss with you. What if you decide they are not important anymore? That fear leads to puffing the necessity for their job, and an incomplete look at the job in question; try to allay it when you can.

We know what we want someone to do, now we need to create a job ad.

We want something that is catchy, that will attract people to our words. If you have ever looked for a job, then you are already familiar with the horrible sameness of the ads, the boring lack of color and life in the text, and the soul-crushing boredom of reading them.

We want to have ads that are actually interesting, ads that make people want to come and work with us – then we can pick the most wonderful candidates.

Put a salary, or a salary range, into EVERY job ad! No one is coming to work in the library for free, and most libraries know exactly what they will pay -so just say it. Embarrassed your salaries are so low? Get over it.

Selecting your top candidates may be easy: toss out the applications written in crayon, the ones with unanswered questions. It’s surprising how easily people eliminate themselves from any real employment consideration by submitting poorly done applications! Try to pick out three to five people for interviews. In any hiring and staffing decision, think about how to bring diversity into your organization. People with different skills, different backgrounds, different educations, and ideas than you already have on staff will make your team stronger!

It is probably impossible to train someone to be nice, or friendly, or even pleasant; look for evidence of these soft skills from their application, and be ready to train new employees in the specifics of the job.

Interviewing is surprisingly stressful for people on both sides of the table. Whenever possible, have at least two people as interviewers. That way, one can take notes while the other talks; and you can switch roles back and forth. Have forms with the questions written out in advance; do not deviate from that order when talking with candidates, so they can show their skills in similar ways.  After each candidate, write up a quick recap so you will be ready to share your ideas later in a group discussion when making the final decision.

Before you make the offer, check references. It is astonishing how many libraries do not do this. You do not need to call everyone’s references – definitely wait until you are ready to make an offer. Once you establish your prospective candidate is indeed as great as you think, offer them the job!

Orientation programs are keys to bringing in good people – and in keeping them. It is the chance for people to learn about your culture and to become part of it in successful way. You have spent a lot of time working on bringing in the best employee; do not blow it now and let them have a bad opening experience.

Think about the first hour, the first day, the first week, the first month. What will make the new employee feel like part of the team? What do they have to know? What would be useful to know? Getting people started with the organizational culture and practices will help them to fit in better, and will provide them with some guidance.



Guest Host Material

Now that we have done a whirlwind overview of a hiring process, we want to see how staffing really happens in libraries. Carla recently worked on a task many libraries face as their budget and service needs change: making staffing changes. The issues she had to solve were made more challenging by also being spread over several buildings in several different communities.



Book Recommendations

A Perilous Undertaking (A Veronica Speedwell Mystery), by Deanna RaybournLondon, 1887. At the Curiosity Club, a ladies-only establishment for daring and intrepid women, Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell meets the mysterious Lady Sundridge, who begs her to take on an impossible task—saving society art patron Miles Ramsforth from execution. Ramsforth, accused of the brutal murder of his mistress, Artemisia, will face the hangman’s noose in a week’s time if the real killer is not found.

But Lady Sundridge is not all that she seems, and unmasking her true identity is only the first of many secrets Veronica must uncover. Together with her natural-historian colleague, Stoker, Veronica races against time to find the true murderer. From a Bohemian artists’ colony to a royal palace to a subterranean grotto with a decadent history, the investigation proves to be a very perilous undertaking indeed….”

The Vanishing, by Wendy Webb “Recently widowed and rendered penniless by her Ponzi-scheming husband, Julia Bishop is eager to start anew. So when a stranger appears on her doorstep with a job offer, she finds herself accepting the mysterious yet unique position: caretaker to his mother, Amaris Sinclair, the famous and rather eccentric horror novelist whom Julia has always admired . . . and who the world believes is dead.

When she arrives at the Sinclairs’ enormous estate on Lake Superior, Julia begins to suspect that there may be sinister undercurrents to her “too-good-to-be-true” position. As Julia delves into the reasons of why Amaris chose to abandon her successful writing career and withdraw from the public eye, her search leads to unsettling connections to her own family tree, making her wonder why she really was invited to Havenwood in the first place, and what monstrous secrets are still held prisoner within its walls.”

Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell “Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.
So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be, she says, we’re 16.
What about Romeo and Juliet?
Shallow, confused, then dead.
I love you, Park says.
Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be.

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits-smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love-and just how hard it pulled you under.”




Hiring and staffing are extremely important challenges any library needs to face; and making good decisions, bringing in good people, and getting them deployed to best serve the mission of the library are crucial! It is tough to do, but if you have questions you can always check in with us here at cmle.org!

Tune in next Thursday for our next episode of Linking Our Libraries, where we keep going with our discussion of management and leadership topics.

Do you need more books in your life? Sure you do! Subscribe to our Books and Beverages book group podcast. Each week we look at a different genre, chat with our guests about their book suggestions, and sip our beverages. It is always good to find a new book!


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