in Libraries

Recruiting web workers for your library

In the past few years I’ve created a couple of part-time, then full-time, staff positions on the web team at VCU Libraries. We now have a web designer and a web developer who’ve both been with us for a while, but for a few years it was a revolving door of hires. So let’s just say I’ve hired lots of folks in just a few years as a manager.

A colleague from another library emailed a few weeks ago asking for tips on how to recruit talented web workers for a library web developer position. Here are some things I’ve done to get people in the door.

  1. Advertise on – these jobs are automatically forwarded to the code4lib listserv. Those listserv subscribers tend to tweet interesting jobs out as well.
  2. Advertise on non-library job websites including Craigslist (lots of spam but talented people too); and consider paying to advertise on LinkedIn and other tech job sites.
  3. Post the salary, both on the code4lib site and on your organization’s jobs site – even if it’s just a range or a minimum.
  4. Indicate some of the big projects you’d like the person to work on – where you would see this person contributing right away. Whet the appetite: “How can I grow? How can I help this organization grow?”
  5. Note your current tech stack. Are you developing your own web applications? Managing your own server? Using PHP, Ruby on Rails, Ember, Node?
  6. Sell the non-salary benefits. Advocate for and advertise soft benefits that tend to go a long way with digital folks:
    • telecommuting – a day a week minimum;
    • dedicated time and administrative support for working on innovative projects – bonus if it’s built into the official job description;
    • support for travel/training;
    • flexible hours;
    • 40-hour workweek – sadly, in the U.S. this is a perk;
    • all other non-salary benefits of working for a higher ed, government or nonprofit institution: retirement, tuition remission, gym membership, etc.?
  7. Sell the mission. Some people are tired of working for the bottom line and want to do work that matters. Libraries help people. Our work matters.
  8. Longer-term: get out there. If you are a web worker yourself, get involved in local web meetups, professional groups, etc., and meet people in your community of practice. This serves a couple of purposes beyond helping with your own learning: it expands the network of people you can reach out to when you’re hiring, and it gives your library some cred as a place to work.

Related: I gave a talk at the Code4Lib conference earlier this year about recruiting and retaining – it’s a repeat of some of the info above but may be helpful.