Posted by: bluesyemre | September 17, 2021

Undertaking Inclusive Employment at a Public Library

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

In 2019, the Public Libraries Victoria (PLV) Shared Leadership Program produced a report called Who do we think we are? Understanding diversity in the Victorian public library workforce (pdf), which aimed to evaluate the current state of diversity in the Victorian public library workforce.

Among its key findings was that there is a broad lack of representation within libraries, particularly of LGBTQI+ people, people with a disability and culturally and linguistically diverse people. Ageism is an issue; library qualifications are seen as a barrier to hiring and advancement; and many staff felt that their organisations were not doing enough to ensure that diversity and inclusion was prioritised during recruitment processes.

But why is this important? The report noted that diversity and inclusion is incredibly important to the public library sector — with inclusive workplaces engendering a sense of pride and belonging.

Moreland City Libraries hold inclusion as an organisational value, and have been undertaking to ensure that its staff reflect the diversity of the community we serve.

In early 2021, Moreland City Libraries found itself with 12 roles to advertise and the Library Leadership Group saw it as an ideal opportunity to undertake an inclusive recruitment process that would increase diversity within our workforce.

The twelve roles included five library officers (Band 3 level), four library technicians (Band 4 level) and three librarians (Band 5 level).
Some of the tactical approaches we took included:

Leadership discussions. Moreland’s Library Leadership group discussed our inclusive hiring priorities such as ensuring our workforce reflects the cultural makeup of our community, and that experience was valid in place of library qualifications. While the Library Leadership Group is supportive of diversity in hiring, it was helpful to have the conversation up front and ensure we were all on the same page from the outset as to what we were trying to achieve.

Form hiring committees. Rather than individual team leaders leading recruitment of staff for their branches, we had one group hiring the library officers together, another doing library technicians and another hiring librarians. This was to ensure we could see the diversity of the candidate pool at each band, something which cannot be seen with separate recruitment processes. As part of our commitment to this, we also invited a member of Moreland City Council’s social inclusion team to join a recruitment panel too which provided a non-library perspective.

Being clear in recruitment ads that certain skills and experience — while not essential to do the role — would be looked upon favourably. ‘Ability to speak community languages’ was listed as a favourable skill in all the recruitment ads. We also noted that library experience was not essential.

Marketing widely. While we did utilise library channels for advertising, including internally and via the PLV mailing list, we put some effort into listing the job ads more broadly. We listed the library officer roles on Ethical Jobs and ArtsHub, and sent out the listings to a local Disability Employment Service agency and many of our community partners, such as Neighbourhood Houses, to request that they share with their networks as well.

Running group interviews. For our library officer roles we ran group interviews which enabled us to interview dozens of candidates easily across one day, where a typical panel style interview would see us undertake half a dozen interviews only across one or two days. The group interviews allowed us to really test the values and attitude fit of staff, as well as digital confidence. It was especially good to see how applicants with no library experience would fare in ‘library tasks’ like customer service and tech help. It gave us a strong insight into how the candidate would perform in the role, which panel interviews don’t always do.

So, how did we fare? Most importantly, the new staff hires brought a varied and focussed skill set including amazing customer service experience and digital proficiency. They are community-minded, have outgoing personalities and demonstrated a passion for libraries. Happily, they were also an excitingly diverse group.

While it’s uncomfortable to consider staff based on their ‘diversity’, of the 12 roles we advertised, we recruited several gender diverse people; many who are fluent in community languages — some more than one; a Muslim woman; and several people of colour. Within the library officer (Band 3) roles, half of the hires had never worked in a public library before. Of the library technician (Band 4) roles, one did not have formal library qualifications.

Excitingly, as we progressed along our inclusive hiring journey, the conversations we had with HR and others internally at Council saw a new opportunity arise, and as part of a Council initiative we were offered the opportunity to take part in an Inclusive Traineeship Program. Through that initiative we have hired a young disabled person as a library trainee.

Inclusive hiring practices should be enshrined in organisational policies and procedures, and increasingly are, but where there are gaps, this case study highlights some tactics that library managers can implement to assist them to diversify their workforce through recruitment.

Written by:
Narelle Stute, Library Coordinator, Customer Service and Programs
Lisa Dempster, Manager Cultural Development
Moreland Library Service

First published: ALIA’s Workforce diversity: digital INCITE supplement — July/August 2021

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: