How does a librarian ask for a full time job?
January 27, 2011 11:02 AM   Subscribe

How does a librarian ask for a full time job? Yes, I know I'm very lucky to have work at all!

Electronic Resources Librarian at a community college. Hired part time. Would like to transition to a salaried position with benefits.

Other staff: Library Director (only other employee with an MLIS), library aide, and library technician. We also have four to five work-study students.

Director originally campaigned for another full time librarian, but my position was approved as part time.

When I was hired (beginning of September - so I've been here five months), both the director and the president of the college mentioned full time as a future possibility, but I took the job knowing my hours and pay are limited.

I (young, fresh librarian, with 1.5 years of professional experience) was hired over several older applicants, most of whom had spouses and children, and didn't need or want to be full time. The director seems to be very fearful that I'll leave.

The library aide (who works about the same amount of hours, is responsible for desk coverage and circulation) may soon be leaving. I think her responsibilities could be split up between myself and the library technician (though he might object!). At the moment I don't cover our front desk at all. Basically, the division of labor is strange and could definitely be streamlined. But I'd like it to include me.

So! How do I bring up the topic of becoming full time again? Should I go to my boss (the director) or someone else? What are some things I should mention?

I've changed quite a bit since I've been here, have kept my own personal statistics for instruction and reference, and have instituted my own routine for updating my boss monthly on my progress (she doesn't hold other library staff members accountable for their actions AT ALL - don't get me started!)

I know it's only been five months, but as a part time employee I don't have an official performance review. I'm willing to wait before asking about a full time position, but what's a good length of time? What are some things I should be doing in the mean time?

I think I can accomplish a lot here, I love the location and the people, but I'm looking for another part time job because I can't live on these wages.

(Also, I am still on my parents' health insurance - lucky! - but only until June.)

Any advice - similar experiences, insight from managers, etc. - is welcome! Thank you in advance!
posted by Isingthebodyelectric to Work & Money (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Given that the director campaigned to have you on full time to begin with, and now seems afraid that you'll leave, he or she probably isn't the one that needs convincing. Have you talked to the director about this? Have they given you any feedback on what is or isn't possible right now?

In any case, I would not try going over the director's head.
posted by jon1270 at 11:45 AM on January 27, 2011

Best answer: The library aide... may soon be leaving. I think her responsibilities could be split up between myself and the library technician. At the moment I don't cover our front desk at all. Basically, the division of labor is strange and could definitely be streamlined.

This is what you go in with. You see a Problem and you offer a Solution that happens to include you being full time. Talk to the Director who doesn't want you to leave and wanted you full time from the start. Explain the Wonderful Things that you have accomplished since starting, and explain how your Solution will streamline things and benefit the library as a whole.
posted by rhapsodie at 11:47 AM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Work with the director not against her. If she tried to create a full-time position before she probably would still be interested. Rhapsodie hit it on the head.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 11:54 AM on January 27, 2011

I'm a librarian so here are my thoughts on this.

At least in my area (Western NY), it's a given that newly-graduated librarians often have to work part-time for quite a while before getting a full-time job. In my case, after getting my MLS I worked part-time library jobs for over 5 years (while working a second non-library part-time job) before I became full-time at my current one. And yes, it sucked because I had to live with my parents for longer than I would have liked, and later had to rely on my husband as the breadwinner and source of my health insurance.

Your thought about combining your role with the outgoing library aide is a possibility I guess, but in my experience it was never very likely for me. I worked in two different colleges with lots of other part-timers, and when one of them left, they'd just hire another part-timer. Combining 2 part-time jobs into full-time just wasn't an option, because that involved paying benefits too. It wasn't a simple case of 2 part-time = 1 full-time. Plus, if this person is an aide, it's likely they make less than an MLS, so the college would most likely want to just pay for another aide.

Also, creating a new position (which is essentially what it would mean to give you a full-time position) is often not just the director's decision. In my second college library job, my boss wanted to make me full-time, and she and the director put a request into the next year's budget to create a new position (which she told me that they had me in mind for). Unfortunately, the request was denied by the powers-that-be at the college, so we were out of luck. And yes, my boss was very concerned about me leaving, but stated that her hands were tied. She said she'd love to have me be full-time, but there was no full-time job to give me. I eventually lucked into a full-time job somewhere else a few months later.

So, it couldn't hurt to talk to your director about this, but just be sure you have realistic expectations about what may happen.
posted by LaurenIpsum at 12:43 PM on January 27, 2011

LaurenIpsum makes the key point. Assuming you are working 20 hours a week and the Aide is 20 hours a week, the math won't add up. A full time position will be around 30 percent more expensive than two part time positions, because of the cost of benefits. 1/2+1/2≠1&1/3. If you are making more per hour than the aide (which I assume you are as a professional librarian). The gap will shrink if your salary is closer to the aide's or if you already work more thna 20 hours a week.
posted by Jahaza at 12:54 PM on January 27, 2011

Best answer: You also need to pay attention to the funding issues in your area. Here in NC, the chances of any kind of increase (part-time job turned into full-time, raises, etc.) are close to nil, with a $3.4 billion hole in the state's budget.

Which is not to say don't discuss the idea. Use the vacancy as an opportunity to revisit the allocation of responsibilities. Make a respectful proposal, then keep a good attitude if it's not approved. You'll learn about How Things Work, and should still come across as helpful. (All depending on the precise characteristics of your supervisor and management.)
posted by ES Mom at 1:24 PM on January 27, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for your input so far!

Combining 2 part-time jobs into full-time just wasn't an option...

This makes sense! I'm not so good at math! But, honestly, the possible library aide vacancy is more a point I could use in my support, and as evidence that I'm committed to running the library as efficiently as possible.

I work 29 hours a week and she works 28, but I'm sure a salaried position with benefits would be more expensive than our two positions currently. It's something I hadn't thought about.
posted by Isingthebodyelectric at 1:26 PM on January 27, 2011

Best answer: You sound like a godsend for an academic library and the thought of how easily the good new librarians like you are lost to the tyranny of the budget process is a big reason the library director's job is so stressful. It won't speed up the process but it might save you some worry and help you plan your strategy if you look at this from the perspective of the director.

To understate a bit, academic libraries are not seen as income centers, so the powers that be tend to treat requests from the library director for new and upgraded positions as lower priority than similar requests from what they perceive as income-producing areas.

The budget cycle is probably annual and any position upgrades have to be approved before planning is completed for the next cycle in order to be funded. Those two factors alone account for why turning a part time position into a full time position can take years. Also, trying to get an upgrade or a new position in today's market must be monumentally discouraging.

I think you are going to have to be in job seeking mode continually until you land the full time job you really want. Try other libraries, including special libraries, for additional part-time work, seek opportunities to collaborate on projects on or off campus, and keep expanding your networking. You are probably doing all this already.

Be very flexible and don't let yourself get discouraged. Just keep on being the one everybody really wants to stick around. I've watched this process for years and it does take stamina. It matters that everybody wants to keep you; you can parlay that into opportunities. You might have to just keep on piecing it together for a few years. It shouldn't have to be that way but it is, I think, and the only good thing I can say about it is that you're in a good part of a good field (and at least it's not a law degree.)
posted by Anitanola at 2:13 PM on January 27, 2011

I'm not sure bringing up converting one part-time positions hours to another's is such a great idea. A full time employee with a Masters is a much bigger kettle of fish than a fulltime hourly paraprofessional. What happens if they agree that one position is better than two, but want to take the cheaper option and move to cut yours?

Talk to your director about this. You already indicated that she's on your side (picking you over other applicants, wanting a fulltime position in the first place, etc) so show you're on hers by signing on to her gameplan.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:27 PM on January 27, 2011

I had a vacancy for a part-timer a little while ago, and I wanted to move my other part-timer, somebody who sounds a lot like you, to full-time (I manage a small public library branch). Our part-timers get benefits, so we'd actually save money on that end. As my superiors pointed out, though, replacing two part-timers with one full-timer would also cause some problems scheduling-wise. My point, I guess, is that there might be things you're not seeing, and the advice to try to look at things from your director's perspective is worthwhile.

About the best you can do, I think, is to make sure your director knows that you're eager to move up to a full-time position (and, of course, do the best job you can at the job you have). The rest of it is probably out of your hands.
posted by box at 5:42 PM on January 27, 2011

Best answer: If all else fails, try your hand at grantwriting to raise additional resources for your library. Even if the grants are for something other than librarian salaries (and thus wouldn't fund you directly), most organizations recognize the wisdom of keeping around someone who brings in more than he/she eats.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:23 AM on January 28, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you all for your suggestions! I finally mustered up the courage to ask, and it turns out a full time position for me is in my supervisor's budget proposal! Alas, budget cuts mean it probably won't be approved. But I'm optimistic - while searching for other options.
posted by Isingthebodyelectric at 1:09 PM on March 9, 2011

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