An Opportunity for All: UB Libraries Tackles Equity in Hiring


By: Nicole Thomas, Senior Assistant Librarian-Undergraduate Education, University at Buffalo Libraries

Inequality in hiring is a significant issue being addressed across different sectors but what are academic libraries doing about it? Increasing diverse hires is a positive step forward, in theory, but to put the idea into practice there needs to be an overhaul of conventional methods already in place.

The Equity and Social Justice Action Group (ESJAG) Hiring Task Force was formed in late 2020 at the University at Buffalo Libraries in Buffalo, NY. A subgroup of the Equity and Social Justice Action Group, the charge of the Hiring Task Force is to improve the hiring landscape within UB Libraries. Representatives of the task force are volunteering their service and committee Chair, Sarah Patton, was appointed to the role by consensus vote among members.

The task force’s first undertaking was enriching the practices and procedures of UB Libraries’ hiring process. Each member of the task force first attended virtual anti-bias trainings offered by the university as a professional refresher and to also assess their effectiveness. The idea is if these trainings are utilized by search committees, those serving may reevaluate their own judgments and scan for any personal biases they may possess before meeting candidates.

Search committee guidance is just one component of the exemplary work being done to evaluate the steps of the hiring process. The task force has also acknowledged language used in job postings can make a difference in generating interest among a wide range of candidates as does the visibility of where jobs are posted. Each posting will have updated language to highlight the inclusivity of UB Libraries’ culture by displaying a clear message of dedication to equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. The positions will be advertised on a variety of job boards and websites but concern for active recruitment remains. How will UB Libraries scout diverse, yet highly qualified candidates beyond the locality of Buffalo?

The ESJAG Hiring Task Force has future plans to review the most effective recruiting strategies for diverse candidates. Previously, representatives were limited to appearances at conferences and job fairs to bring opportunities to potential candidates. The task force wants to look beyond the traditional and discover innovative techniques to generate the most diverse pool of applicants.

Recruitment should even extend to MLIS students and the task force realizes that to recruit diverse hires there needs to be diversity among graduates. The task force wants to be ambitious in exploring the possibilities of an outreach campaign, appealing to populations of undergraduates who may otherwise be underrepresented in the pursuit of an MLIS.

The ESJAG Hiring Task Force believes recruiting candidates of diverse backgrounds and experiences brings meaningful contributions to the workplace. By taking a comprehensive look into the existing gaps in how an institution employs diverse candidates, UB Libraries are showing a conscious effort to improve not only their hiring practices but to be an example for other institutions looking to make a change.