Continuing the Discussion: Hiring for HSPLS
[I've received several encouraging comments from recent alumni regarding the excerpted quote in this week's Advertiser article (see below), but also might have ruffled some feathers along the way without intending to do so. Outgoing State Librarian Jo Ann Schindler kindly sent me a copy of her Letter to the Editor, and also gave me permission to share them here on my personal blog.]
To: Stephen J. Downes, Deputy Editorial and Opinion Editor, Honolulu Advertiser
From: Jo Ann Schindler, State Librarian
Subject: Advertiser Article "Hawaii libraries face challenges ahead" 071219
Date: December 22, 2007
Thank you very much for the Advertiser’s interest in the Hawaii State Public Library System’s (HSPLS) challenges and initiatives to improve services and collections for the public. I appreciated and enjoyed our discussion yesterday afternoon.
I thought I would clarify two matters which I did not address adequately yesterday.
The 82 or so vacancies, which we update the Board of Education about each month, are not the same vacancies from month to month. For example, on December 6, 2007, I reported the following to the Board:
“As of November 30, 2007, after filling 340 vacancies since April 2003, our initial 70 vacancies stood at 82 out of 583 positions (557.55 FTE). Fourteen of the vacancies are librarian positions. Approximately 63 recruitments are currently in progress. One hundred fifty eight employees have been recruited from outside HSPLS. With the help of DHRD and the UH Library and Information Science program, HSPLS has decreased its vacancy count from a high of 135 vacancies in August 2004.”
As you can see, while we started out with 70 vacancies in April 2003 and ended with 82 on November 30th, we actually filled 340 vacancies in the process. Of these 340, we attracted 158 new employees from outside HSPLS. Since vacancies are open to internal applicants first, we usually experience a domino-effect, as staff apply for and successfully move from one HSPLS position to another. Each successful recruitment leaves new pukas in the system, until we finally recruit externally and can bring in brand new staff from outside. All the while, staff (like me) continue to retire due to boomer demographics or otherwise leave the system, so it is a constant challenge to keep our heads above water, in terms of vacancies.
On a second related matter, we have been long indebted to the Department of Human Resources Development (DHRD) for its ongoing help. DHRD’s Directors and staff have been concerned about HSPLS’ vacancy situation and extremely supportive in their efforts to attract both local library school graduates and experienced mainland librarians to fill HSPLS’ vacancies. DHRD has adjusted recruitment periods to align with UH LIS’ graduation dates, have scheduled open recruitments for shortage categories of library vacancies, and conducted an extraordinary promotional campaign to attract library school students. This effort featured very attractive recruitment posters and brochures with photographs of recent graduates who were employed by HSPLS. An application package, complete with application forms, instructions and tips, an invitation to apply from me, and quotes from new graduates about their experiences working in public libraries, were put into the hands of every student. A similar web-based promotion was developed for experienced local and mainland candidates.
HSPLS administrators and staff were very distressed that the front page December 19th article about Hawaii’s libraries painted an uncomplimentary and inaccurate picture of HSPLS’ relationship with DHRD. We are very grateful for DHRD’s efforts and support over many years. We, and I’m sure they, would certainly like to see recruitment times shortened, and it is our hope that this will be accomplished. However, as we know from our own experience in the library world, external mandates and internal requirements, such as reference checks, are sometimes imposed which add on time and effort, but which are necessary to avoid more serious problems down the road.
Thank you very much for this opportunity to share these thoughts with you.
I responded to her with the following:
Dear Jo Ann:
Thank you for kindly sharing your letter to the Advertiser with me.
I hope that my comments regarding recruitment did not step on toes vis-a-vis your relations with DHRD. I am sorry that I did not realize that the recruitment poster was by DHRD rather than the HSPLS PR office. I knew that campaign was a major advance, especially after the hiring freeze years. In my quoted comments, I was voicing the frustrations of some good alumni who were unable to secure a permanent position as well as comments from HSPLS professionals who shared with me their frustration that they could not hire because of problems with the List.
I'd be happy to meet with you or Richard and anyone from DHRD if there is anything the LIS Program could do to assist with this process. We in the LIS Program are working on a recruitment campaign too, and will appreciate the help of HSPLS in distributing fliers and posters to the branches. We are also trying to improve our distance education offerings so we could better serve current and potential students on neighbor islands. We realize that positions on neighbor islands are often the hardest to fill.
I've also been meaning to say thank you for all of your efforts and work together. You've made some real advances for libraries in the state, including the start of a statewide discussion on digital libraries (when you brought the OCLC team). I also appreciate your active participation in the LIS Advisory Group. You helped greatly to improve ties between HSPLS and LIS, for which we are most grateful.
I am sorry that we were unable to send an official delegation to a reception honoring your retirement, but haven't heard a date for any event. My point is that we really do appreciate all you've done.
I regret that I'll also be unable to attend Richard's reception since I'll be at ALA/ ALISE in Philadelphia, but hope some colleagues will be able to represent LIS in order to show our warm feelings towards our friends in the HSPLS.
Thank you again for all you've done.
Yours with Aloha,
[I corrected my previous post, since I did not realize that the poster and brochure were created by DHRD. We do value our warm relations between the HSPLS and the LIS Program. Dr. Harada and I are working on a recruitment campaign also, to help bring more future public librarians to the LIS Program. It is good to be able to have an open discussion concerning this question since educating LIS professionals is key to both of our futures -- in order to best serve Hawaii's future library / information needs.]