CLIR Postdoctoral Fellowship Frequently Asked Questions
The Council on Library and Information Resources is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning.
CLIR aspires to transform the information landscape to support the advancement of knowledge.
CLIR promotes forward-looking collaborative solutions that transcend disciplinary, institutional, professional, and geographic boundaries in support of the public good.
In pursuing its mission, CLIR is committed to:
- Building trust
- Retaining independence
- Fostering collaboration
- Cultivating effective leadership
- Capitalizing on strategic opportunities
The organization advances its mission through project initiatives and partnerships, publications, the DLF program, and award and fellowship opportunities.
The CLIR Postdoctoral Fellowship Program offers recent Ph.D. graduates the chance to develop research tools, resources, and services while exploring new career opportunities. CLIR Postdoctoral Fellows work on projects that forge and strengthen connections among collections, digital technologies, and current research. Partner organizations benefit from fellows’ field-specific expertise by gaining insights into their collections’ potential uses and users, scholarly information behaviors, and current teaching and learning practices. CLIR facilitates the fellowship application processes. Fellows are then hired directly by partner organizations.
Hosting a fellow
Partners may include any academic, independent, public, or government library, archive, or museum, or any partnership or consortium made up of the same. Partners may also include academic departments and nonprofit organizations.
The Meet the Fellows page includes the names of partner organizations hosting the fellows. Fellows have been hosted by a wide range of organizations around the US and the world, including the University of California, Los Angeles, Fisk University, University of New Mexico, Grinnell College, the University of Toronto, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the New York Public Library
In effect, this is more like a job placement program. Partner organizations have substantial control over their fellows’ day-to-day activities and assignments and expect outcomes that advance institutional goals and build institutional capacity. Fellows often have time set aside for independent research, but unlike research fellowships that offer opportunities to direct and pursue an independent research agenda, this may not be the sole focus of their work. Many organizations have been so pleased with their fellows’ performance that they have transitioned them into permanent roles at the end of their fellowships.
The Join the Program page contains more information on current fellowship hosting opportunities.
The fellow is a full-time member of your staff and works on a project or projects relevant to your organization’s mission while developing vital skills and experience. When considering whether the CLIR Postdoctoral Fellowship is the right program for your needs, think about how someone with a recent Ph.D. and specialized research expertise could advance your project(s), collaborate with current staff, and promote your mission, as well as how your organization can foster an environment of exploration and development for the fellow.
Think the CLIR Postdoctoral Fellowship Program is right for your institution? See Drafting a position description below.
Drafting a fellowship position: things to consider
Consider how someone with a PhD could work with staff, faculty, or students to advance strategic objectives, especially in new or emerging areas. The fellowship provides an opportunity to experiment with defining new roles and new ways of accomplishing work with active collaborators in the research and knowledge production processes. Fellows often work on projects that are designed to be implemented within and across units or partnering organizations, working alongside colleagues with different educational and professional backgrounds. If specialized skills related to research or scholarship aren’t your primary needs, you may want to consider a wider range of candidates outside CLIR’s program, such as those with recent masters degrees in library and information science.
Supervisors are often administratively based in a library or other collecting unit, but may also be in an academic department, research center, agency, or another service unit. Some fellows have more than one supervisor (see below, What is a joint appointment, and what are the advantages?). Weekly meetings between supervisors and fellows help establish priorities and set expectations throughout the fellowship appointment. Supervising a fellow is different from supervising a full-time permanent employee; because of the short-term nature of the fellowship, a fellow’s needs for professional development support, for mentorship, and for clear guidance can be more pressing than they would be for someone without a limited-term appointment. CLIR staff and consultants are available to advise both fellows and supervisors throughout the fellowship term. See Supporting the fellow, below.
A fellowship with a joint appointment is a position that belongs to two different units in an organization or to two different organizations. This kind of appointment is often desirable to deepen the fellow’s impact and to create opportunities that strengthen collaborative partnerships across units or organizations. It can also help the fellow build relationships with scholars and other professionals during their fellowship, as well as expand post-fellowship career opportunities. A fellow who holds a joint appointment with a library and an academic department, for example, may find it easier to pursue teaching opportunities during the fellowship as well as to seek future employment in either a library or an academic department.
Joint appointments may be more suitable at some organizations than others and are not required.
Given that applicants are usually recent Ph.D.s, candidates may have limited recent experience outside their disciplines of study. At the same time, candidates for this program tend to be creative thinkers who will catch on quickly with the right direction and guidance.
Hiring a new fellow
- Why are you interested in CLIR’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program as opposed to a more traditional research fellowship?
- What do you hope to gain at the end of your fellowship?
- What kinds of collaborative work have you undertaken that you found meaningful?
- Offer an example of a professional situation that was ambiguous/unexpected/challenging and describe how you dealt with it.
- Clear goals and expectations toward which a fellow can make appreciable progress within the fellowship period.
- Specific project(s) that help advance the organization’s mission.
- Giving the fellow credibility and flexibility to work across campus units.
- Specifically allocated, clearly defined independent research time for the fellow.
- Solid support for the fellow’s professional and career development.
- Look for open-mindedness and a creative, innovative thinker who can cope with ambiguity while maintaining their focus on top-priority outcomes.
- Is the candidate eager to learn new skills?
- How easily would the candidate shift between the role of leader vs. the role of learner?
- How would the candidate’s experience and strengths bring a new perspective to existing staff? Faculty? Students?
The negotiation and hiring process is between the organization and potential fellow because all fellows are hired directly by their host organization. In the past, fellows have negotiated for joint appointments with an academic department or center; moving expenses; additional conference/travel/professional development funds; equipment; the ability to work remotely; and additional research time, including for remote fieldwork.
Supporting the fellow
- Because fellowships typically involve new, strategically important activities that advance larger goals at the organization, fellows can thrive when given a voice in how fellowship projects will be structured and implemented. This helps the fellow and colleagues tailor the fellowship’s goals as the organization’s strategic goals evolve, as well as to adapt expectations to the particular strengths of the fellow and the fellow’s immediate colleagues. Fellows may be less engaged creatively if only delegated tasks that are defined and prescribed by others.
- Since most fellows will be unfamiliar with the organization, or at least with the specific contexts in which they will be working, supervisors should endeavor to connect their fellows with colleagues who may contribute to or benefit from their fellowships as early as possible, framing the fellow’s contributions as complementing existing talent within the organization and as opportunities for mutual learning and growth.
- Given that the fellowships are contingent positions, supervisors should work with their fellows early in the fellowship on strategies that will support the fellow’s exploration of careers and opportunities that advance their interests.
Past supervisors recommend that new supervisors:
- Be an ally and meet regularly (at least weekly) with the fellow.
- Allow the fellow to discuss challenges openly and in confidence, recognizing that the organizational working culture may be unfamiliar to the fellow and unspoken or unclear expectations can easily lead to conflict.
- Clarify expectations for success as explicitly as possible, and, if need be, refine expectations as the fellowship evolves.
- Be open to any questions and help the fellow understand the scope of their work as well as its broader context.
- Help the fellow build important relationships by setting up meetings with fellowship partners and stakeholders while giving fellows space to explore.
- Seek and support new opportunities for the fellow to build skills and to teach those skills to others, when appropriate.
CLIR offers regular in-person and virtual opportunities to fellows, as well as formal and informal mentorship opportunities. In-person meetings take place provided there are no public health or other safety concerns that would make travel inadvisable
Supervisors meet during the introductory seminar and then every three to four months. During these meetings, CLIR and invited guests provide updates on the cohort’s work and exchange information. CLIR staff are always available to answer fellows’ and supervisors’ questions.
After the fellowship
Fellowship positions may be crafted as experiments that may inform the creation of an eventual, permanent position, or they may meet a specific, short-term goal. Either way it is important for the leaders of partner organizations to be open with the fellow about potential positions at the host institution that may become available and to support the fellow’s job search process. All parties benefit from honest conversations about whether opportunities at the host institution are real possibilities.
Beginning at the introductory seminar and throughout the fellowship, CLIR explores with fellows different career paths and how their experiences in the program translate into jobs either on the tenure track, within libraries, or other kinds of organizations. During the the fellowship, CLIR engages fellows in discussions about writing effective cover letters and curriculum vitae; interviewing and negotiating techniques; and applying for tenure track, library, government, and other kinds of positions.
Applicants should have received a PhD before applying; if a PhD has not yet been received, all requirements for the degree (including dissertation defense and final dissertation editing) must be completed before starting the fellowship.
All fellows must attend an intensive seminar before beginning their fellowship. Throughout their fellowships, fellows are asked to share works-in-progress; participate in virtual seminars with leading figures in the fields of librarianship, data and software curation, publishing, higher education, public service, and allied professions; and attend conferences and meetings. Other requirements may vary by organization.
Fellows have done the following:
- consulted on the best, pedagogically sound ways to integrate technology and digital materials into classrooms or public programming;
- collaborated with librarians, archivists, and information technologists on the development of writing and research guides for students;
- participated in the design and implementation of metadata standards for improving public access to collections;
- worked in special collections and rare materials archives, learning and performing tasks including material review and selection, creation of catalog records, metadata entry, and authoring of abstracts;
- authored front matter for printed catalogs in special collections;
- co-taught honors research skills courses;
- managed digital archives;
- provided support for discipline-specific research projects;
- developed institutional policies, tools, and practices related to research data curation;
- advised on and contributed to inventories of digital projects;
- authored and consulted on grant proposals for digital projects;
- presented at national and international conferences in various areas of librarianship, archive management, metadata, humanities computing, and discipline-specific topics;
- taught bibliographic instruction sections for particular disciplines;
- proposed new courses that integrate library and archival research into the undergraduate curriculum;
- taught courses in academic departments pertaining to the fellows’ area of specialization;
- curated museum and library exhibitions;
- organized conferences and colloquia; and
- traveled on behalf of their organization to conduct research in archives, libraries, and museums in the United States and Europe.
Since 2004 when the program started, former fellows have most commonly sought employment in libraries and as adjunct or tenure-track faculty, although many choose careers in public service or in the nonprofit sector. Previous fellows are working as reference librarians and subject specialists, library administrators, assistant professors, library consultants, writers, program officers at government agencies or nonprofits, and research associates. For more information about current and previous fellows, visit the Meet the Fellows page.
Your application will be forwarded to all partner organizations looking for candidates with similar qualifications. Note that the list of organizations on CLIR’s website is not comprehensive because new position descriptions are added throughout the year. The hiring process can take as long as five months, so you may not hear anything from partners or CLIR immediately. Each partner organization determines who from the pool they are interested in pursuing and contacts those applicants directly. It is then incumbent on the partner organization and the individual applicant to discuss the exact nature and terms of employment. Since partner organizations employ fellows directly, they make final hiring decisions and determine salaries and benefits, except in cases where fellowships are supported by grant funds from CLIR.
CLIR Reports provide good introductions to these topics, as well as suggestions for further reading.
Postdocs in the USA
Postdocs in Canada & Overseas