Attitude versus skills

Happy 2012 to all the high visibility cataloguers out there! Here at HVCats HQ, we have great plans for this year, starting with a post hoping to generate some debate.

This guest post is from Robin Armstrong-Viner, Head of Collection Management at the University of Kent. It’s an interesting look at how to go about recruiting in a time of almost continuous change, with a bonus job advert at the bottom if anyone’s jobhunting at the moment.  What do you think? What is most important now, specific defined skills or the attitude of the person recruited in the face of changing times? How do you describe what you’re looking for to make sure you get the right candidates? And what skills and attitudes should cataloguers be looking to in their professional development (#catcoders, I’m looking at you – post to follow about that!). Over to Robin…

Like many (if not all) HE institutions the University of Kent is experiencing a period of rapid change. The most obvious driver is the increase in tuition fees for new entrants later this year but there are a number of reasons for this. The need for the University to offer an inspiring student experience and produce innovative world-leading research while operating in an effective, efficient, sustainable and professional manner (three of the key messages from the University’s Plan for 2009-12) creates significant challenges for Information Services including Library Collections.

During 2012-13 we expect to see transformational change within Library Collections as we review each of our core processes including the selection, acquisition, cataloguing, classification, processing, delivery, preservation and disposal of learning and research materials in all formats. We are fortunate in being able to recruit a Project Manager to help lead and support these projects working with the teams involved but there has been much discussion about what should be included in the person specification for that role.

Most of the discussion has been around how to find someone with the right attitude. Naturally job descriptions tend to focus on specific tasks and skills, but is this the best approach in a period of uncertainty and change? What are the skills associated with innovation? Can you write a job description around attitudes such as being keen to explore new ideas and develop new skills? Is it appropriate to demand that candidates are not only comfortable with technology but eager to exploit it to achieve its maximum potential? How do you attract advocates and champions?

And where does this leave traditional library skills? Should a formal qualification in librarianship be an essential criterion? By making it one would we risk creating a barrier to those outside the profession (or even those within it but who haven’t ever taken that final step) who could bring the very attitudes and approaches we need? An understanding of library processes, MARC, etc would help, but could someone who has been involved in process improvement and the transformation and repurposing of data in other contexts use that experience to benefit us?

I don’t know that we’ve found the answer (yet!) but we’ve had a go in the job description we’ve created at http://tinyurl.com/8yrpzgp. And if you’re a High Visibility Cataloguer who is looking for a challenge we’d love to receive an application from you!

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Posted on January 5, 2012, in high visibility opportunities and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Heather Jardine

    This is a perennial problem, isn’t it? Which isn’t to say that I am too weary to be sympathetic. I’ll just make two points:
    1) yes, there may well be people who are not qualified or chartered librarians, but who can do the job. Once you prove this by appointing one, however, what case can you make for appointing qualified librarians in the future? Where qualifications = grading, that leaves us all looking at lower-paid jobs.
    2) how do you filter applicants and justify selection without at least some “hard” criteria (whether those are qualifications, length of experience or whatever)? “The right attitude” is what you are looking for, but try to explain to a disgruntled unsuccessful candidate (or even a gruntled one asking for feedback) in exactly which way their attitude wasn’t “right” and you could end up in a minefield of arguments about equalities, some of which may be justified.
    Good luck – let us know how you get on!

  2. Is there any way to post the job description? It’s been taken down and so those of us who are late coming to the conversation have missed it. (And I’m always on the lookout for well-phrased job ads!)

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