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Miami-Dade Public Library System
At Miami-Dade Public Library System, the recruitment of entry level librarians was a difficult challenge for two reasons: a severe reduction in the number of existing library schools over the years had resulted in the near extinction of qualified candidates, plus the library system was preparing to grow like never before. Miami-Dade Public Library System was in desperate need of good people to hire. Technology and timing meshed when “distributed” learning became an acceptable mode of education, allowing people who had no choice but to work a full time job to also attend classes online during off-work hours. Those who could not suspend their family or working lives to move to Tallahassee or Tampa were now provided with an option. At Miami-Dade Public Library System, our problem became “how do we harvest these students?” as a means of growing our workforce.
Drawing participants from both our internal paraprofessional workforce, as well as the local population, the program puts employees through several phases: Intern – fewer than 18 credits, Trainee – 18 or more credits, Librarian on probation 1 – 12 months, Librarian 1 – a permanent professional position. These program phases give employees ample time to determine if the profession suits them, and gives Library Management an opportunity to see how well the employee fits in with the organization. Every student gets paired with a mentor, is exposed to a vast variety of learning opportunities, and is at least briefly immersed in a diversity of library services. There is a maximum of five years to complete the program, however most complete it in 2 years. Support from the Library System is crucial in the form of flexible scheduling, recognition, and financial support. The County allows for a 50% reimbursement of tuition expenses, the annual Guilford Scholarship Award provides a stipend for transportation, childcare, or at-home broadband service. Partnerships with the Urban Libraries Council, Florida State University, the University of Florida, and Southeast Florida Information Network (SEFLIN) have been invaluable elements of this effort. Internal support from Library Administration, Branch and Public Service Department Managers, HR staff, and Labor are also essential.
Currently there are 60+ librarians on the workforce who were part of the program, and they occupy positions ranging from Librarian 1 through Librarian 4. Many of them have promoted relatively quickly. They are multilingual and multicultural. We have added speakers of Spanish, Creole, and Chinese to our workforce. The staffing complement is ethnically diverse and reflects the variety of communities within this sprawling county. These employees have ties to the community, strengthening their commitment to public service. The future of Miami-Dade Public Library System will be in the good hands of these leaders of tomorrow.