Tag Archives: staff

Who moved my goal posts?

planningIn the wonderful world of Careers Information Management things are never the same 2 years running, it’s what makes it a great place to work. When it comes to making plans it can make it a little challenging!

So when we were told less than a year ago that we would be moving to a new location I never thought it would be easy.

We had a few expectations and assumptions

  1. We would not be consulted, the architect would do whatever they wanted and we would end up with an unusable space.
  2. We would not be trying to move at the busiest time of year – because that would be a bit silly.
  3. Once we had a plan it would be a simple matter of packing up and moving over.
  4. We wouldn’t move exactly as we are there would be some adaptations to make and a certain amount of slimming down of resources to fit a smaller space.
  5. We would have some say over basic things like shelving and display units.
  6. At least our information staff team have been here a while so the transition should be easier than having to train new staff.


  1. There has been loads of consultation, meetings coming out of my ears – great!
  2. We seem to have come to compromises on some things but have lost other battles. (We shall have to see how it pans out when we open.)
  3. Yes you guessed it, we are due to move around freshers week. So not busy at all !
  4. Packing is the least of our issues, we now need to rebrand, reformat and reprint over 40 publications with 1 month to go!
  5. We have had to make tough decisions on what resources to keep and how we will display them.
  6. We will have to see when we get in what shelving there is and order more if we need it, things are not set in stone and we can adapt as we go along.
  7. Two staff have left the team and we are now in the middle of recruiting for new staff with the clock ticking!

Learning outcomes

  • Get a sense of humour fast!   It’s not going to be plain sailing so just deal with it and laugh. (try not to laugh hysterically!)
  • Keep records of all correspondence so that you know who agreed to what and when.
  • It’s not going to be perfect immediately.
  • It’s not going to be like it was.
  • You are not going to please everyone.
  • Expect the unexpected.
  • Take small steps – you can’t do everything at once.
  • Stay positive and take your team on the journey with you.

Recruitment and selection for information and library staff, a recruiters guide.

iStock_000015337955Small Nervous interview queueI recently went on some recruitment and selection training at the university.  We need to keep it up to date to be allowed to be on recruitment and selection panels for recruiting new staff. Plus working with students at the information desk in a careers service it’s a great source of tips!

Information staff in careers, libraries and other settings have some things in common in terms of skills and attibutes. Although specific resource knowlege will be different the ability to research, structure and disseminate information is common for many areas of work.  So when many of us see an information/library job advertised it’s a quick skim through the advert to see what it’s about then a dive into the job description to find out more.  It can be quite annoying to see ambiguous job adverts and sketchy job descriptions it doesn’t fill you with confidence to apply.

I thought I’d pass on a few tips and a few thoughts.

We were given a wonderful flow chart of how the recruitment process works starting with the need for a staff member.  In practice things don’t seem to work quite in the order they should. Sometimes (and I suspect many times) you can’t recruit for what you need you can only recruit for what you have money for, so compromises need to be made and job descriptions must be appropriate for the grade.

Make the job description clear

Help the applicant understand how the job is performed so that they can assess if it is something that they are interested in. What are the aims of the organisation and this role or team. Clearly outline the duties and responsibilities and give some indication of the environment they will be working in.  Will they be on their own, in a team, on multiple sites? Is the work fast paced and subject to tight deadlines?  All these things help candidates decide if they want to work with you.

Writing a person specification

We all know about desirable and essential skills, knowledge, qualifications, experience and attributes.  Don’t forget essential means that without this they would be unable to do the job successfully. It’s not really optional!

There are some considerations around what you ask for and how that will get you a different pool of applicants.Recruitment selection form2

  1. How many applicants do you want?
  2. How specialist is the role? If the knowledge and skills you need are really niche and you say they are essential you may get only 2 or 3 who fit the bill. Is that enough?
  3. If you make the person spec. too generic you may be faced with 300 applicants none of whom can really express why they fit the bill.
  4. Use the desirables to sort the wheat from the chaff.  Make your essentials achievable but your desirables very specific if you need them to be.  It gives applicants the chance to self select and you should be able to cream off the best ones easily.

Remember you will be using these criteria for shortlisting at application and at interview so they need to be measurable, and specific.

Think about how you will test them.  Will it be via the application at interview or via tests?

Common recruitment pitfalls

  • Recruiting in your image.  Just because your highly effective team happen to all be graduates, do you need a degree for the job or would other experience be acceptable? (Your HR department may decide this for you based on the grade you are recruiting for)
  • The type of experience is important not the length.  Obviously some experience can only be gained after a time, but that will vary for individuals.  Some who have worked 5 years may not be at the same level as someone who has 2 years experience.
  • Discriminatory words. Those of you working in careers will know all this. Words like fresh, energetic & junior all imply youth and are a definite no no. Funily enough no-one seems to be kicking off about use of the word senior!
  • Bias in shortlisting – there should be at least 3 on a shortlisting panel to ensure that applications all get a fair viewing. TIP Start at different places in the pile so that the ones in the middle or end don’t get overlooked due to fatigue.
  • Don’t use interviews as your only method of selection.  As we know it is possible to teach someone how to give a good interview. Test out some of the requirements on the job description. Written tests, role plays, ability tests. Get them to meet your users or staff and get feedback from them – but make it clear that this is part of the assessment. I’m thinking of asking for evidence of writing style perhaps a blog post, and advice style perhaps an email to a student about a CV or cover letter.

The interview

  • You need a mix of male and female interviewers on your panel idealy a minimum of 3. Tricky in some organisations I must say!
  • All candidates internal & external MUST be asked the same opening questions but follow-up questions can vary.
  • We were told  – Don’t ask “why do you want to work here? or why do you want this job?”  If the interviewee says it’s because of the money or it’s shorter hours that may be truthful but it may rather prejudice the following conversation.  I would argue that a candidate who came out with that is really not trying but I suppose it depends on what grade you are recruiting for. Instead you should ask something like “What is your understanding of the work of an Information Assistant and why does that interest you?”
  • Be careful however of multi part questions. In an interview situation lengthy questions are hard for the candidate to remember. It might be better to break it up into “what is your understanding of the work of an Information Assistant?” followed up with “Why does that interest you?”
  • It really helps to elect a chair for the panel – someone who collects the candidates does the introductions and wraps things up at the end.  We were given a chairs check-list which is a really useful tool.

What to do about giving feedback?

The policy of my employer is to give feedback at application and at interview on request.

  • If someone rings up you don’t have to give it there and then.
  • Arrange a time to ring them back.
  • Make sure your shortlisting proformas are available, legible and in a fit state for a candidate to request.  Keep comments factual and brief.

Some random thoughts…

In an organisation like mine where jobs have to go through rounds of internal recruitment before external applications are permitted it takes some thinking to make recruitment process fair to all.  If you have team members applying you will know perfectly well what they are capable of but the tests must be fair and the same for everyone. definitely advisable to get someone who doesn’t work directly with your team to help with recruitment.

If your employer is a two ticks employer and offers a guaranteed interview scheme, candidates must still meet all the essential criteria.

There is some slightly naive thinking around in HR/ recruitment if they genuinely think that candidates will self select on the basis of having all the essentials and some of the desirables.  Last time we recruited we got around 200 applicants for 1 role and many met hardly any of the essentials. Next time i’ll be a little more specific (if i’m allowed!)

The benefits of networking for library and information staff

iStock_000019310804XSmall Career Growth AheadStaffing cuts, increased work-loads and diversification all seem to be making it more difficult for information and library staff to find time in the day / week / year for professional development or training.  If you are not there who will cover the enquiry desk?

I confess it’s all too easy to just get on with your day job and let everything pass you by , after all you probably don’t have time for all the things you HAVE to do never mind all the things you would like to do.

Our impending move to a new building has given me a fresh impetus to get out there…

This year has been all about information seeking & networking for me, it’s been great getting to talk to people in a wide variety of roles about information & library work. There have been discussions, debates, controversial ideas and comforting similarities.

Whether you are new to the job, find yourself managing change or just want to get some new ideas for your workplace, these are my top tips:

Go on visits:
I visited a couple of our own university libraries plus MMU, Glasgow and Exeter University Careers Services this year to look at different ways of providing information and guidance services.  It was really interesting to see trends in action!

  • Shared service desks
  • New multi service buildings – hubs
  • Information resources disappearing and reappearing

It was even more interesting to hear the inside story about why those decisions were taken and the impact they are having.

Can’t get away? Network from your desk.

Do some research and share it
If you have specific questions and need to hear from a lot of people then create a simple survey and send it round AGCAS – CIO.  If you want a wider audience use LinkedIn or Twitter!
Tell people what you found out – often other people have the same questions in mind.

Pick up the phone
If you need to find a solution to a problem or want to know what best practice is, then looking at other library / careers services websites can be a good start.  You can benchmark quickly and then follow-up with a phone call or email, if you try to find the person who does a similar job to you they often feel some sympathy with your quest and are really helpful.

Use LinkedIn
Join a group or create your own?  It’s a great way to debate, share ideas & information. Theres the added bonus that it probably doesn’t do your professional profile any harm either.  I’m still amazed at the amount of library and information staff who don’t use LinkedIn at all.

Yes really,  Twitter is good for you!

If you are a newbie start small, follow a few colleges and maybe any professional bodies you are interested in.  You will soon find out about associated groups and find people who are talking about interesting stuff and you can follow them too.

Whats it good for:

  • Making new contacts in your profession and outside it.
  • Debating issues – you will often hear more radical views than you would in your workplace.
  • Gathering information
  • Hearing the news first
  • and on occasion having a bit of a laugh

Do something for yourself
Join a professional interest group. I’m a committee member of CILIP ARLG NW (Academic, research Libraries Group) I only attend meetings outside work time, but even so it keeps me in touch with the wider profession and we have a lot of issues in common.

In my tweet week for @VoicesLibrary I had 42 retweets, 21 new followers, 146 mentions, my blog traffic increased and so did views on my LinkedIn profile and my personal twitter account.

I’m not looking for a job or career change right now but if I were then a bit of professional activity can’t hurt.

Cost / benefit analysis

Cost: Possibly a little of your free time, and a little of your employers money if they will pay for visits.


  • Increased knowledge and understanding of your sector which will help you do your job better!
  • New ideas from outside your normal communication channels that might cause you to reflect on or challenge the status quo.
  • Awareness of social media channels and how to use them.
  • Plus a little professional profile raising into the bargain.

Could careers information work be for you?

careers serviceTo celebrate my week tweeting for Voices for the Library @VoicesLibrary starting 3rd June, and for the benefit of any new readers I thought i’d tell you a little bit more about me and the role of Information Staff in Higher Education Careers Services.

I started out as a fairly traditional librarian, work experience in public libraries (working in the stacks – amazing!) and jobs in FE college libraries.  I never guessed that a job working at the University Careers Service would keep me there for 15 years and still going!

My job title is information manager but I could be called Information Officer, Resource Centre Manager or any number of other titles to describe a very similar role.   In my team there are 2 other grades –  Information officer and Information assistant.

Because Careers is not usually part of the Library staffing structure the same qualification and grading structures do not always apply. Careers Information Managers often have Library and Information qualifications but its not always an “essential” on the job description. However I would say that in recent years it seems to have been attracting more qualified information professionals (possibly due to the drop in opportunities in other sectors)

So what does the job involve?

All University Careers services are different and the roles vary widely, you could be involved in:

  • Managing the website
  • Researching and writing for publication and the web
  • Managing a physical library or resource centre
  • Managing a team of staff
  • Diagnostic questioning to deliver information and advice to clients
  • Booking appointments
  • Managing and monitoring appointment schedules and availability
  • Training staff
  • Delivering user education / library tours to students, staff and visitors to the university.
  • Delivering 1-1 CV and application advice in person or by email.
  • The collection of the DLHE statistics for the university.
  • Managing a vacancy and events database
  • Marketing, including outreach
  • Managing social media accounts

What skills / attributes do you need?

  • You need to be reasonably socially motivated.
    Not only will you be doing a lot of talking to students, but Information staff are usually open access and fair game for anyone to chat to. A task centred person who needs peace and quiet and no distractions may find it hard.
  • You need to be a multitasker, one minute you could be editing a website then a student asks a question and you swap into information and advice mode.
  • You need to be a sponge –  absorb information and release it when needed.
  • Be interested in everything. You need to develop a really broad knowledge of careers resources so that you can find information on request.  Specialist information is a bonus!

So why am I still here?

The pace of change.
You would think it would be the same patterns every year and it would get dull and repetitive. NOT SO.

  • The students change all the time and even our regulars move on and progress.
  • Trends in recruitment and the information and advice around them are always changing and we need to be on the ball.
  • There are always new projects to get involved in or learn about.
  • Technology, technology, technology. You think you have it nailed, and then ….
  • This year we are moving to a new location on campus which is exciting and scary!


  • It’s a proactive environment – if you are interested in being involved in something, people are usually really happy to have extra help.  Of course you can’t just run around doing what you want, but a can do attitude is really appreciated.
  • The people here are passionate about their jobs, and doing the right thing for our clients.  Ask for an idea and you will get a 1000, its narrowing it down that can be hard.

For more information about Careers Information staff roles check out the occupational profile on the Prospects website ( It will most likely have been researched and written by a member of information staff at a University somewhere in the UK)