American Library Association (ALA)

Placement Center: Background/Chronology

In 1971, the ALA Council approved the following policy: That the appropriate agency of the American Library Association take positive steps to insure that a staffed placement service be available at all future annual and midwinter meetings of the Association.

"Conference Placement Center Guidelines" developed and placed in the Current Reference File addresses issues such as equal opportunity, employer and job-seeker conduct and related matters. The preamble to these guidelines states that "facilities are made available at no cost to the users…"

The ALA Office for Human Resource Development and Recruitment (HRDR) - previously Office for Library Personnel Resources (OLPR) - has Placement Center statistics back to 1965. During the period for which records exist, the Placement Center operation continued virtually unchanged: job ads were available in binders for examination on site and employers were given an opportunity to interview on site. Some larger library systems, wishing to highlight their library system in order to recruit for many positions, also used reserved table space and related support. Some costs were recovered from these "recruiters" for reserved and furnished spaces in which to highlight their library system - furniture, electrical hookups, computers. There were also cost-recovery charges for photocopies and various special orders.

Beginning in the mid-90s, OLPR/HRDR began receiving requests from members to upgrade and modernize this service, to use technology to make it easier for employers and job-seekers to find each other. The HRDR Advisory Committee began discussion of options and of mechanisms for partially offsetting the financial impact.

Beginning in 1997, HRDR began offering employers the option of making Placement Center job advertisements available to potential employees for a period immediately following the Midwinter Meeting or Annual Conference in which their position(s) had been posted, to reach job-seekers not able to review binders on site (or not attending the meeting/conference at all) and to increase the potential of matching job and job-seeker. There was a $50 fee for that service.

In 1999 the HRDR Advisory Committee began discussion of a proposal to expand Placement Center operations, using technology to extend the reach of the Placement Center for both employers and job seekers. It became clear that there would be significant costs associated with such expansion - for web design/support and for significantly expanded furniture and equipment rental and electrical/internet connections on site. HRDR Advisory Committee believed that Council clearly did not want job seekers charged for the Placement Service; that offering free access to job-seekers was consistent with practice in similar associations; and, most important, that continued free access for job seekers was ultimately beneficial to libraries. HRDR and the Advisory Committee therefore focused on modest cost-recovery from employers, in return for provision of enhanced service to employers.

A prototype online/onsite placement service was piloted at the spring 2000 PLA National Conference in Charlotte. Member response was generally positive. Feedback from the pilot was used to refine the system.

Beginning in 2001, employers may register and post positions well in advance (4-6 weeks) of the midwinter meeting or annual conference; job ads remain online until the month following the midwinter meeting or annual conference. Job seekers register free - indicating basic information, such as type of position sought and geographic region. (Job seekers are not required to register online in advance; they may use the system without registering.) Job ads are available online to registered employers and any job seeker - for over three months, whether or not they are able to attend the midwinter meeting or annual conference. This represents a substantial gain in service to both employers and job-seekers. Job seekers and employers are able to schedule face-to-face interviews in advance of the meeting/conference.

In October 2000, HRDR presented a proposal to the Budget Analysis and Review Committee (BARC) for an enhanced combination online/onsite Placement Center, described above, partially funded through cost-recovery fees paid by employers. Following discussion, BARC recommended approval to the ALA Executive Board.

In November 2000, at their Fall Board Meeting, the ALA Executive Board voted to approve BARC's recommendation of the "Placement Center Proposal" establishing an employer registration fee for a new enhanced employer service in concept. HRDR was asked to bring a specific pricing proposal for "test implementation" at the Midwinter Meeting in 2001. (2000-2001 CD#15)

In December 2000, the ALA Executive Board received a follow-up report from HRDR. HRDR proposed to "go live" with an automated Placement Center, as well as an array of additional, standalone services, including booths and interview rooms for recruiters; a Career Resource Center for counseling, resume critiquing and career development presentations; a reference and literature area with career materials; and, pre-arranged interview scheduling. HRDR recommended that there be no charge for the "test implementation" of the basic automated Placement Center at the 2001 Midwinter Meeting since (a) employers would not have adequate notification and (b) employers would not have had an opportunity to become familiar with the new services. HRDR proposed an "introductory" fee of $100/employer (including multiple listings) at the 2001 Annual Conference, increasing to $200/employer by the 2002 Midwinter Meeting. HRDR noted that approximately 65% of employers had one listing only. Recruiters from larger systems who wanted dedicated, booth-like space would continue to pay additional charges for renting space to highlight their institutions, but those services, too, would be enhanced. The Executive Board received information regarding charges for comparable or related services, as well as a proposed budget for the Placement Center. The Executive Board reconfirmed their Fall Board Meeting decision.

A report on the new Placement Center service was provided to Council at the 2001 Midwinter Meeting (CD #36), including Placement Center statistics and Recruiter statistics. Employer and job seeker response to the new service at Midwinter was generally positive. Employer response to a letter sent out by HRDR advertising both new services and registration fees has also been generally positive. The HRDR Advisory Committee and BARC will continue to monitor implementation of the new service.

Please note that while there is a significant imbalance between the number of jobs and number of job seekers (more jobs than job seekers), the statistics overstate the gap. Employers must register; job seekers are encouraged to register, but in some cases do not do so.

For additional information, contact Lorelle Swader, Director, HRDR.