June 2015

A Hiring Plan and Focusing on the Future

I’m on my way back from the CIC library directors meeting and recently returned from the ARL meeting, so I owe you a report on discussions in those two groups, but I’ll save that for next month. For now, I’d like to focus on a couple of related topics—the question why we devote energy to a hiring plan during a time we’re modeling budget cuts, and generally the need to keep our focus on the future.

Many of us have been through budget crises in the past, and our Library has certainly responded admirably. The effort that we undertook to design and implement the New Service Model process reflects a thoughtful and creative response to external pressures. At times like these, the temptation is great to hunker down, to protect existing resources and existing ways of doing things. Ironically, this is a moment where the need is greatest for us to think creatively and act strategically. Our role on campus and our value to our community depends significantly on our being the most vital and responsive organization we can be. That always means using the resources we have in the most effective ways. The circumstances call on us to rise to the challenge and adapt, to shift resources to activities that are more important and ensure the long-term viability of our work. Inevitably, in these circumstances, we’ll need to stop doing some things and postpone others in order to accomplish our goals. Efforts like strategic planning become all the more important to help us distill a vision and identify priorities.

Recently some have asked me whether we should be working on a June hiring plan at the same time that we’re modeling budget cuts. This is a natural question. Hiring plans suggest growth and it’s hard to reconcile “growth” with the message that our resources are shrinking. There are several reasons why it’s important for us to devote energy to a hiring plan now. Perhaps the most important point here is the need to maintain forward momentum, again to be the most vital organization we can be. Many of you will recall the note sent on behalf of EC:

As in every cycle, EC must prioritize which positions will be included in the hiring plan based on existing and anticipated future needs of the Library as they relate to our strategic goals balanced with funding availability. At this time, we do not know how the Library will be affected by the state budget uncertainty. To that end, while we encourage full participation in this important process, it is possible that few or even no positions will be approved for this cycle, pending campus budget decisions. However, we are still interested in seeing requests, as this helps us better plan for the future and understand the full range of needs across the organization.

And of course hiring plan requests are not always about growth, but rather sometimes about supporting existing activities. We continue to have positions open up for natural reasons: people move, people retire, and some of our existing positions are visiting and need to be filled. While we may have opportunities to shift an existing person into an open position, that won’t always be possible. The hiring plan is one of our most important tools for filling academic positions.

There are other reasons to engage in the hiring plan right now, and some of them are related to the point I made earlier about strategic planning. It’s always important to think creatively, to blue-sky about the sorts of positions we need. This is valuable in part to help our leadership—the Executive Committee and members of Cabinet, and of course me—to have a better appreciation of emerging needs. These sorts of requests can help us better shape our strategic planning.

It will always be important for us to give thought to our highest priorities. Accomplishing those goals may require new resources or shifts in existing resources. As the EC note about the hiring plan process made clear, we should always be planning for our future, and we should adjust strategies to the resources available to us. Because of budget woes in the state, we’re likely to face budget challenges for some time to come, and while that happens we cannot afford to stand still: we must always strive to be the best library we can be.

John Wilkin
The Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Dean of Libraries and University Librarian