Q: Any hints for a husband and wife seeking to relocate together to another academic institution? Can it be done? (He’s in archives/special collections, I’m currently in resource sharing, but have cataloging experience and have worked in public libraries in various capacities. Both of us have an MLS.) If either of us were a finalist for a position somewhere, would it be proper to inquire about job possibilities for the other spouse?
SM: Dear Librarian + Spouse,
The good news is that yes, it is possible, and even somewhat common in higher education for institutions to hire spouses. This is usually called dual-career hiring. It is fortunate that both of you are seeking academic positions.
My advice is for the two of you to apply for positions, ones that you are qualified for and truly want. Don’t concern yourselves at this point about whether or not a particular institution will also hire a spouse. Before you go for an interview, do your research into dual career resources at the university or institution. Gather all the information you can on it, and contact the correct people at the institution, if needed, to ask questions. Keep in mind that this is all moot until you actually get a job offer.
At the interview stage, do not mention to the search committee that your spouse is also looking for a job at the same institution. The search committee cannot legally ask you about marital status and by bringing it to their attention you could put the committee at risk of investigation if you were not hired. If your spouse applies for a job at the same library, chances are the search committee already knows this, but still do not mention it. Once you get a job offer, then you can bring it to the attention of the library director, or human resources (or the person who formally offers you the position), and ask what kind of program they have in place for spousal hiring. Some institutions will have well-defined programs and others will not. After you have been offered the job, it is your right to negotiate terms and your right to ask for time to consider what they have to offer.
As you’ve probably already figured out, you and your spouse need to decide if securing jobs for the two of you is a deal breaker. Will you only take a job if they have one for your spouse? What factors (e.g., your dream job, dream location, salary, benefits, etc.) will you need to consider when making this important decision?
I know several faculty members (including a few librarians) whose spouses were hired along with them (not all were faculty positions). In an ideal world, if the university/library/search committee really wants you then it would be in their best interest to find a job for your spouse. But, in reality, finding jobs for the two of you at the same institution, or even in the same city, can be a complicated and prolonged process. Best of luck to you both.
Here are some informational sites and resources from higher education institutions on dual-career hiring:
Realities of Dual Careers
Inside Higher Ed
Dual Career Academics
Lessons of a Dual Hire by Rebecca Manderlay
Chronicle of Higher Education, August 19, 2009
The Dual Career Network
The University of Iowa
Dual Career FAQs
University of Virginia
Faculty Spousal and Partner Hiring Assistance Program
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Spouse/Partner Employment: Dual Career Services
The University of Minnesota