Frequently Asked Questions

CLIR Postdoctoral Fellowship Frequently Asked Questions

CLIR is taking time in 2020 and 2021 to support our current fellowship cohorts and is not currently planning to accept applications for a 2021 cohort. Once we have the next fellowship cohort plans confirmed, we will post all eligibility requirements, etc. on the program webpages. Potential host institutions and fellows may sign up for CLIR’s Programs & Grants Mailing List to keep up to date on all our program announcements and deadlines.

General FAQs

CLIR 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.

The program offers recent Ph.D. recipients opportunities to develop as information professionals, scholars, scientists, and teachers while learning about modern librarianship, instructional technologies, research data management, data curation, digital humanities, e-publishing, archives, and/or collection development, both digital and analog.

Host FAQs

Hosting a fellow

Host institutions may include any academic, independent, public, or government library, archive, or museum, or any partnership or consortium made up of the same, provided the organization has a demonstrable need of the fellow’s subject expertise to pursue a project or initiative commensurate with its mission and in alignment with this program’s goals.

The Current and Previous Fellows page includes the names of current and former host institutions.

In effect, this is more like a job placement program. Host institutions have substantial control over their fellows’ day-to-day activities and assignments and expect outcomes that advance institutional goals and build institutional capacity. That is different from research fellowships which offer opportunities to direct and pursue an independent research agenda. Many institutions have been so pleased with their fellows’ performance that they have transitioned them into permanent roles at the end of their fellowships.

The Potential Hosts and Potential Fellows pages outline the different types of available fellowships. All fellows are part of one cohort regardless of the type of fellowship each fellow holds.

Hosts of Postdoctoral Fellowships in Academic Libraries cover all costs for their fellows, including costs associated with the fellow’s participation in educational activities organized by CLIR. Costs vary according to institution size and type.

Hosts also cover costs associated with the employment of the fellow, including but not limited to costs associated with targeted advertising for the fellowship (apart from CLIR’s advertising), interviewing candidates, convening hiring committees, and relocation and independent professional development costs for the fellow as determined by normal institutional practice.

Grant-funded fellows’ salaries in recent years have been set in a range from $67,500 to $75,000. CLIR recommends that salaries should be set at self-funding institutions in keeping with positions requiring similar levels of expertise at the institution. Hosts should also provide the fellow with benefits equivalent to those of the organization’s regular full-time employees.

Hosts should provide paid leave allowing the fellow to attend the one-week mandatory orientation seminar for all new fellows and two mid-fellowship seminars, as well as for any other required program meetings. Hosts should provide paid leave for at least 12 days per year to pursue research activities or to attend fellowship-related professional and academic meetings and conferences. This paid leave should be granted in addition to the paid leave extended to the fellow to attend the mandatory orientation and mid-fellowship seminars. All grant-funded fellows receive an annual professional development stipend of $3,000 directly from CLIR; if possible, CLIR recommends that self-funding hosts provide the same or a similar benefit.

The 2020-2022 Fellowships page contains more information on current host opportunities.

The fellow is a full-time member of your staff and works on a project or projects relevant to your institution’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 institution could 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

Consider how someone with a Ph.D. 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 libraries and campus units, working alongside colleagues with different educational and professional backgrounds.

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 for the host institution 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 host institutions than others and are not required.

A sample of previous position descriptions may be found here.

CLIR receives a diverse set of applications from scholars across disciplines, but it is very rare to find a candidate with the full range of disciplinary and technical qualifications that many organizations expect when hiring a candidate for a permanent role. For this reason, it is important to be flexible and realistic about which qualifications are most critical for success. In particular, it can be useful for hosts to limit requirements for specific kinds of technical expertise to a minimum, recognizing that the fellow can be expected to learn these skills from colleagues or courses. By making the technical experience “desired” rather than “required,” review committees can focus on finding candidates who have the best understanding of the issues the fellowship was created to address and the best potential to work together with colleagues to create resources that will benefit the institution over time. Given that applicants must have received their Ph.D. within the past five years, 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 two years?
  • 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 two years.
  • Specific project(s) that help advance the institution’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 a motivated, self-starter who is 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 host and potential fellow because all fellows are hired directly by their host institutions. 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 while in residence at the host institution; 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 institution, 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 institution’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 host institution, 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 almost all fellowships are two-year appointments, 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 institutional 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 summer 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 host institutions 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 second year of 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.

Fellow FAQs

Applicants must have received a Ph.D. in a discipline no more than five years before applying (i.e., after January 1, 2015, for the 2020-2022 cycle); if a Ph.D. has not yet been received, all requirements for the degree (including dissertation defense and final dissertation editing) must be completed before starting the fellowship.

Applicants can be citizens of any country but MUST be legally permitted to work in the US and/or Canada between 2020 and 2022 in order to be eligible to apply.

Remuneration varies by sponsoring institution and by type of fellowship; benefits and some travel expenses are routinely provided. Most fellowships are for two years.

Fellows must reside at their sponsoring institution for the duration of the fellowship.

Fellows work in libraries and research centers, where they learn about librarianship and allied information professions as well as about challenges facing the future of higher education and scholarly research. Fellows contribute expertise in research information behaviors, research data analysis, pedagogy, technology, and research collections, both digital and analog. Fellows participate in the intellectual life of their institutions by working within the areas of research support; academic librarianship; archives and archive management; special collections; curriculum development; techno-pedagogy; and digital resource production and use.

All fellows must attend an intensive summer 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, and allied professions; and attend conferences and meetings. Other requirements may vary by institution.

Fellows have done the following:

  • consulted on the best, pedagogically sound ways to integrate technology and digital materials into the undergraduate classroom;
  • 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 faculty using digital visual resources in their teaching and research;
  • worked in special collections and rare materials archives, learning and performing tasks including material review and selection, creation of catalogue records, metadata entry, and authoring of abstracts;
  • authored front matter for printed catalogues 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 in area collections;
  • 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 host institution to conduct research in archives, libraries, and museums in the United States and Europe.

Since 2004 when the program started, about half of former fellows are employed in libraries and half in adjunct or tenure-track teaching positions. Previous fellows are working as reference librarians and subject specialists, library administrators, assistant professors of literature, library consultants, writers, coordinators of faculty development and digital resource management, visiting professors and lecturers, and research associates. Several fellows are pursuing additional degrees in library and information sciences, technology, and/or intellectual property law. For more information about current and previous fellows, click here.

Link to the 2020 Application Form
Important Note: You must hit the “review and submit” button once your application is complete in order to receive an email confirmation of your submission.

Your application will be forwarded to all host institutions looking for candidates with similar qualifications. Note that the list of hosts on CLIR’s website is not comprehensive because new hosts and position descriptions are added throughout the academic year. The hiring process can take as long as five months, so you may not hear anything from hosts and/or CLIR until June 2020 or later. Each host determines who from the pool they are interested in pursuing and contacts those applicants directly. It is then incumbent on the host and the individual applicant to discuss the exact nature and terms of employment. Since hosts 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.

Host Institutions
Postdocs in the USA
Postdocs in Canada & Overseas
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