Hiring Early Career Professionals with Kindness and Respect: A Practical Approach for Library Diversity Residencies
Inclusive hiring, Library diversity residencies, hiring lifecycle
Contribution to Book
Library and Information Science
In 2017, Grand Valley State University Libraries began developing a diversity residency program. The Libraries wanted to go beyond a commitment to diversity and inclusion. We wanted to move to an active practice of inclusion, equity and accessibility. The early steps were to re-envision its hiring process in collaboration with the Division of Inclusion & Equity, while crafting a partnership towards the diversity residency.
In critically examining the hiring and work lifecycle practice, we wondered if the interview and onboarding process could be a kinder, more accessible, candidate-focused experience, meant to develop connections. Our professional values and core principles are meant to inform our practice as librarians and library professionals. How would it work if we took those values and working principles into the realm of recruitment and hiring? How might it change the norms of hiring practices? How might it lead to greater recruitment and retention of historically under-represented groups in the profession?
Ultimately, the authors developed and documented a set of inclusive recruitment and high-empathy hiring practices centered on the principles of equity and accessibility. The practices were implemented as part of the diversity residency hiring process, setting candidates up for success. We want to support the candidates through the interview process so that we may gain an understanding of their strengths and areas of growth, lowering the stakes on interview skills. This approach was defined by the experiences and the identities of the process leads, who understood the challenges of the hiring process, the nerve-wracking anxiety that comes from uncertainty in the process, and the need to improve the on-ramp to the profession.
The authors worked to bring respect, empathy, kindness, transparency, and active bias mindfulness to every stage of the hiring lifecycle. In particular, the authors considered the intersection of diversity, lifelong learning, user-centered practice, empathy, and respect. They made a commitment to transform the recruitment processes from a grueling challenge where only the worthy may be left standing at the end to a learning opportunity for all. They committed to bring the compassion and empathy that libraries regularly demonstrate to users to the candidate experience.
The program launched in 2018 with two positions, with the Dean as the coordinator. This intentional choice was to ensure a clear sense of support for the Diversity Residents that would be the inaugural cohort. Ahead of the start dates, the Libraries also did a series of workshops on interpersonal skills, feedback conversations, and core workplace principles. These workshops and exercises prepared the organization to better have honest, cognitively empathetic conversation and dialogue. Combined with a more than a third of colleagues trained as Inclusion Advocates, we were prepared to have healthy, future-focused residencies.
The Grand Valley State University’s program strengths rest primarily on the hybridized approach, which provides a 60% in-depth commitment to one area while supporting projects across the Libraries and with administration. It also provides space for service, scholarship and training. In acknowledging the need to improved, over the first year, we collaborated with the Diversity Residents to improve and refine the program. This included increasingly defined roles and a new onboarding approach as well as increasing mentoring support.
Bélanger, Annie; Ayotte, Scott; and Beaubien, Sarah, "Hiring Early Career Professionals with Kindness and Respect: A Practical Approach for Library Diversity Residencies" (2022). Books and Contributions to Books. 33.
Bélanger, A., Ayotte, S., & Beaubien, S. (2022). Hiring Early Career Professionals with Kindness and Respect. In Residencies Revisited: Reflections on Library Residency Programs from the Past and Present (pp. 93–110). Chapter 6, Library Juice Press.