This anonymous interview is with someone who has been a hiring manager, a member of a hiring or search committee, and a training coordinator at a public. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:
All levels and positions – from hourly pages to full time librarians — for every department in a mid-size public library system.
When asked, “Are you a librarian?”, this person chose the response, “It’s complicated.” This person works at a library with 200+ staff members in an city/town in the Western US.
Do library schools teach candidates the job skills you are looking for in potential hires?
√ Depends on the school/Depends on the candidate
Should library students focus on learning theory or gaining practical skills? (Where 1 means Theory, 5 means practice, and 3 means both equally)
What coursework do you think all (or most) MLS/MLIS holders should take, regardless of focus?
√ Project Management
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Readers’ Advisory
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)
√ Field Work/Internships
Do you find that there are skills that are commonly lacking in MLS/MLIS holders? If so, which ones?
The ability to manage — people, projects, and money.
When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently?
√ Yes–I value skills gained through a student job more highly
Which skills (or types of skills) do you expect a new hire to learn on the job (as opposed to at library school)?
The community or institution specific rules or norms.
Which of the following experiences should library students have upon graduating?
√ Library work experience
√ Internship or practicum
√ Teaching assistant/Other instructional experience
Which library schools give candidates an edge (you prefer candidates from these schools)?
UCLA and FSU. One of which is my alma mater so I might be a little partial.
Are there any library schools whose alumni you would be reluctant to hire?
No necessarily reluctant per se, but I get a lot of applications from SJSU students/graduates and have found that the quality of these candidates is very hit and miss. SJSU is viewed as a diploma mill; they’ll pretty much let anyone in and you can really see it when their 500+ graduates start flooding the market every year.
What advice do you have for students who want to make the most of their time in library school?
Get work experience in the type of library environment you hope to make a career – volunteer or intern if you can’t get a paid job! Take initiative during that experience, treat it like one big long interview. Show professionalism and display leadership. And be very, very careful with your online reputation through social media. If we like you, know that we will likely Google you before coming to a final decision on whether to bring you into our organization — we’re researchers and you are only as secure as your least private online friend.
Special Note: From December 6, 2013 to October 24, 2014, the ALA will accept comments on the Draft revised Standards for Accreditation of Master’s Programs in Library and Information Studies. More information about the process of changing these standards is here. If you have opinions about what people should be learning in library school, here’s a way that you can influence change.
Do you hire librarians? Tell us, “What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School?”: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibschoolsurvey