This anonymous interview is with a public librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring or search committee. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:
4 positions here – Director, Assistant Director, Youth Services/Outreach, and Adult Services/Reference.
This librarian works at a library with 10-50 staff members in a rural area in the Southern 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?
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ History of Books/Libraries
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)
√ Other: Library Law and legal issues
Do you find that there are skills that are commonly lacking in MLS/MLIS holders? If so, which ones?
Management/budgeting/accounting, library law.
When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently?
√ No preference–as long as they have the skill, I don’t care how they got it
Which skills (or types of skills) do you expect a new hire to learn on the job (as opposed to at library school)?
Our particular computer system, our hierarchy, staff interaction.
Which of the following experiences should library students have upon graduating?
√ Library work experience
√ Other: A grasp of the theory and history of libraries and librarianship coupled with practical experience in using libraries and library work.
Which library schools give candidates an edge (you prefer candidates from these schools)?
We are located near Baton Rouge, so we see a lot of LSU applicants. I have four professional positions in the library; two have LSU degrees, one from elsewhere, one position is currently vacant. I’d like to have applicants with credentials from various schools because schools have different strengths and weaknesses; mixing it up gives us different strengths.
Are there any library schools whose alumni you would be reluctant to hire?
I would look carefully and investigate unfamiliar and unaccredited programs before hiring their graduates just to make sure the degree is not from some diploma-mill that doesn’t teach much. I need librarians who bring every skill and strength possible to the workplace because we are small – but mighty!
What advice do you have for students who want to make the most of their time in library school?
Open your head and LEARN everything you are exposed to. Get practical experience either before or during library school to go with the theoretical coursework you’ll have. Know your direction and pursue it avidly. Libraries are complex entities which offer the perfect jobs for many kinds of personalities – match yourself to the type of librarianship where you can thrive and enjoy your work – you’ll be working for a long, long time!
Do you have any other comments, for library schools or students, or about the survey?
Prepare public librarians for the business side as well as the library side of the profession, especially if they have administrative aspirations (and even if they don’t, because the earning opportunity is far greater). Accounting basics (you can hire an accountant, but you’d better be able to understand what they do) and library law are MUSTS.
Also, accepting candidates to library school should screen potential students more carefully – I hate getting super smart candidates who are lacking soft skills and can’t function successfully in a public environment!
This survey was coauthored by Brianna Marshall from Hack Library School. Interested in progressive blogging, by, for, and about library students? Check it out!
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