IARLA (ARL, CARL, CAUL, LIBER and RLUK) hosted an online event on 14 June 2022 on the Great Resignation. Over 100 individuals attended from Australia, Canada, Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States. In a wide-ranging discussion, panelists and delegates shared their views and opinions regarding the talent crunch for research libraries, how our institutions can compete within a highly-competitive labor market, and collaborative opportunities to advocate for our sectors as attractive places to work.

Audience members participated both via the discussion and through a series of interactive Mentimeter polls, giving their views and perceptions on the topics discussed. This is a brief summary of the long table discussion among research library leaders and the broader community from across the IARLA membership. We invite you to view the session here and the results of the Mentimeter polls are included below.

Key takeaways

Overall consistency stands out among the international community – starting with broad agreement that we are in a time of a great resignation and great retirement, with a different value proposition than before the pandemic.

The value proposition of working in a research library has evolved. The evolution can be stymied by the systems in place in the parent institution, particularly as it relates to human resource policies. For potential hires and existing staff the trade off between compensation, opportunity and stress is less compelling than before. Today, equitable pay and flexibility are imperative. Marketing is more important than ever – reflecting openness to a diverse set of skills, a diverse workforce, flexible workplace options, and an inclusive culture.

The pandemic presents an opportunity to reposition the nature of the work as holistic –  strategically aligned with the institutional priorities as an institutional partner and inclusive of, yet much more than, physical location.  Employers seek people with a high adaptive quotient, and are encouraged to take a candidate centric approach focused on competencies along with credentials appropriate for the job. Job sharing, rather than internal competition, for highly sought after skills is recommended.

Research library leaders are exploring alternative organisational models in order to sustain, evolve, and grow the organisation. A central theme is to pay much more attention to the workplace structure and culture: developing it with the full team. Further, as a community, we need the courage and trust to try new things and offer strong leadership.

In closing the attendees and long table discussants proposed collective opportunities to position the sector going forward.  These include developing a human resource strategy that focuses on what the role requires in terms of competencies and credentials, rather than depending on one degree; with confidence, telling key stakeholders what research librarians do, including case studies about how we advance our respective institutions and more broadly, demonstrate the wonders and opportunities within a library; create a culture that is innovative, where experimentation happens; and continue to share tools and knowledge as we make our way.

What our audience thought

The event included a series of interactive Mentimeter polls through which members of the audience could add their reflections and perspectives. The results of these polls are below and reflect opinions drawn from across the international research library community.