What Awards Mean to Me When I Hire Someone

I will never hire you because you won an individual award, moved, shaked, emerged, or anything else that was for your individual achievements.

That being said…

I’ve been thinking a lot, I mean A LOT, about what to write about for my first post on my new sort of professional blog. I mean, I say sort of because I will probably swear a lot but it will cover professional topics. My original idea was for it to be about this journey of being a new library director (which is very, very lonely actually) and all of the things I am learning (which is A LOT), but I feel like I need to address the whole awards, gender, blah blah blah going on in our profession right now, but in my own way.

First, everyone loves recognition. I mean, that’s supervision/management 101. I write note cards when someone on my staff does something really great or I get an e-mail from someone telling me how helpful someone was. I try to recognize the talent around this library every day. And I am not immune to having my own recognition needs, though once you are a library director, accolades are fewer and farther between. My boss, the Provost, meets with me regularly, but I don’t get notecards or pats on the back. I do my job and I keep him in the loop on things. I have never been a Mover & Shaker, though I have moved and shaked my way up the library ladder, working at seven libraries in four states and compiling a fifteen page curriculum vitae that includes national presentations, national committee work, peer-reviewed journal articles, and experiences with many, many fantastic students who still keep in touch. By the time Emerging Leaders was a thing, I had already emerged. No big deal.

I was, however, part of a winning library staff once and the award remains one of my biggest accomplishments, to this day. I worked at a library whilst it won the Excellence in Academic Libraries award one year, due in part to the work our library and librarians had done to integrate information literacy on our campus at the time. And I was in charge of that program, but it certainly took the whole lot of us to make it excellent. At the time, I probably totally thought that I deserved all the recognition for that award, but I never said that out LOUD.

In my twelve plus years of being a librarian, I’ve been on many screen and search committees. And now, I’m about to start putting a job description together for my very first librarian position at *my* library. That’s a lot of pressure. So, over the years, I would guesstimate that I have probably read at least 100 resumes and CVs per librarian position advertised, for a total of at least 2,000 of them. Never have I wanted to phone interview or bring someone to campus *because* of their awards, no matter how prestigious. What does mean something to me? What makes your resume stand out? Well, first, are you qualified…but secondly, and most importantly for me? Do I see your passion and enthusiasm? Do you want to be part of something great? Do you want to help the library’s mission?

(Does your letter have the right institution name and not look like copy/paste. No, seriously.)

What does enthusiasm and passion look like? Well, you’ve got one cover letter to get that through to me. You should tell me what you’ve done that will make you great here. You should outline how you’ve grown either through graduate school or in your professional choices. You should tell me how you’re going to try and make my library better without making me feel bad that it isn’t perfect already.

And if you have won an individual award and it means a lot to you…tell me how you then turned around and helped your library, your community, your profession in a positive manner.

I run a small college library. I have no time or patience for people who are going to want to come here and just be their own shining stars. I need team players. I need people who are going to understand that not every idea they have is going to be a success, but who know I will mentor to the best of my ability, be supportive and tell them the library is their oyster.

I have met many, many librarians through conferences, association committee work, teaching, workshops, and social media. Most of them are not award winners. Every day, I wish I could pluck a few of my favorite librarians right off of the Twitter and hire them. Is it because they won awards? No. And by the way, when you bitch about your colleagues winning awards all of the time, you look like sour grapes and I don’t want to hire that either. I think professional dialogue and conversation is great, but shaming people into not voicing a contrary opinion is bullying and I’ve seen a lot of that lately on the Interwebs. So, I just wanted to add a little note that I wouldn’t hire someone with recognition for that either.

5 thoughts on “What Awards Mean to Me When I Hire Someone

  1. This isn’t my field, but do you think we have experienced, in general, award inflation to match the plague of title inflation?

  2. Funnily enough I’ve been thinking about awards recently so was quite pleased to stumble across this post. Personally, I tend to think too much weight is put on awards and, whilst I would never bitch about people winning awards (I’m genuinely pleased for them), I do question their value. Like you, I’ve delivered national presentations, I’ve spoken to the national media about library things and written a number of articles for journals, newspapers, NGOs etc…but I don’t really feel the need for an award to validate this stuff. I do it and what I get out of it is its own reward (yeah, that does sound lame).

    I’d certainly go with you on the contrary thing…my contrarian views are now met by a weary sigh on Twitter, Facebook etc but, let’s face it, I’d rather someone questioned and antagonised than just accepted the status quo. Personally, I feel it is important for people to speak out and express a contrary perspective. People who do not give space for contrary views are simply close-minded and egotistical for being so precious about their personal views. It’s by challenging that we learn and move forward. I guess I would say that though 🙂

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