Librarian as Recruiter

April 30, 2008, 8:29 am

I’ve written about my efforts to reach students before they arrive on campus, but what about pushing it even further? What about convincing them to attend your school?

I was invited to an open-house weekend for prospective engineering graduate students, but could not attend due to a scheduling conflict. I was later included on an email to faculty urging us to contact candidates who had been accepted but were still considering their options.

This was an interesting insight because you often read about the drama of athletic recruiting, and it appears that the same thing happens (on a much smaller and less sexier scale) for academics as well.

I could see that we had top prospects in mechatronics, manufacturing, and thermal sciences. Just like a running back’s sprint time, I could see their undergraduate GPA and GRE scores. As well as the University they attended and whether or not we were offering them a Teaching Assistantship, as well as several other attributes.

I decided to contact some of the candidates and sent 20 of them a very casual email introducing myself as the librarian dedicated to their discipline and briefly mentioned a few of the resources and services that we offer to Georgia Tech students, customizing it a little for their field.

Surely they care more about the funding and research opportunities available to them – but it was an experiment and a chance for me to dabble in the recruiting effort. I figured it couldn’t hurt, I mean, are librarians from MIT, Stanford, or Michigan talking with these top prospects? It gave me the chance to humanize the library and offered them a direct communication channel to learn about research and resources for their area. It also showed that our librarians are thoroughly engaged and hopefully planted a few ideas and expectations of what we offer.

Long story short – it totally bombed. Three weeks later and no one wrote back. Although it only took about 15 minutes to send each candidate a separate email, it would have been nice get at least a “thank you” reply.

Perhaps I over estimated the value of the library or perhaps they decided to sign with someone else? I was operating on the principle that everyone likes to be wooed – whether they are choosing a college or being recruiting for a new job, people like to feel important. I figured that if I can give up a few minutes of my time to try and convince the next great nanotech scholar to attend then I’ve done my part. Imagine several professors calling to express their interest in you as well as a librarian emailing to say that the journals and conference papers you’ll need are all available in full text… it all works together to position our Institute as a more desirable option. 

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