Further Questions: Does Where You Go to School Matter?

This question is from a reader who considering a second Master’s. For more information on this topic, please take a look at these two posts:

Further Questions: When Should Library Students Start Applying

Researcher’s Corner: Does Choice of School Matter? Becoming an Academic Law Librarian

This week I asked people who hire librarians:

Does where you go to school matter?  Would attending a for-profit school count against a candidate? Do you hire for any positions that require a second Masters? If so, do you give more weight to candidates from prestigious schools?

Laurie Phillips

On if where you go to school matters: – yes and no. We have found that certain library schools tend to produce more marketable candidates. Their curriculum is more up-to-date and their students are more polished and ready for a library faculty position. So, in a way, yes. No, in that if you are an excellent candidate and have all of the skills we’re looking for (hard and soft) and can express yourself well about those skills, then the name of the school on the diploma has no bearing. In our case, the MLS must be from an ALA-accredited program and there are no exceptions to that rule.

On if a for-profit school would count against a candidate: – I don’t know. Would this be for a second master’s degree? I don’t think we’ve ever had someone apply who fit this category so we’ve never had the conversation. It might, but since we don’t require a second master’s degree for any library faculty position, it may have no bearing at all.

On if she hires for any positions that require a second Masters: No, we do not. Several of us have a second master’s degree, but for three of us, it’s in the same field (music), so obviously we can’t all be working with the School of Music. People end up with liaison responsibilities that sometimes have little or no relationship to their educational background.

– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

Times may have changed since my days hiring cataloguers for an academic library (professional staff of ten).  Western Ontario was the first one year MLS program in Canada.  We found their graduates less versed in practicalities than library tech graduates.   We tended to favour two year programs.
We valued second degrees, e.g., nursing for the medical cataloguer, music for the music cataloguer, and second languages for all.  We were not that concerned with institutions attended for the subject degree.
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging

Marleah AugustineI think as long as you stick with an accredited program, you are good to go. I think it also may be a good idea to choose a school that folks who are going to possibly hire you in the future are familiar with. For example, for a while my husband and I planned to move out to the Bay Area, so I chose San Jose State’s online MLIS program. I could complete that while still working my current job, and in the event that we moved there, folks in the library world would likely be familiar with the faculty and the program itself. I ended up not following that path, so I don’t know if it would’ve given me the edge or not.

I do not hire for any positions that require a second Master’s degree.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Christine Hage - Dark backgroundIt depends on the type of job I’ve posted.  All of our librarians are required to have a degree from an ALA accredited program.  Here in Michigan we are fortunate two have two ALA accredited programs, but one offers more practical public library type classes, while the other is a bit more theoretical.  I tend to hire from the closer school that is a bit more practical even though the other school is more prestigious and my alma mater.  The accreditation is important to me.

I recently got burned when I hired an IT Manager from a for profit school.  Three months after he was on the job I actually called to verify he graduated, because he truly didn’t have the knowledge or skill I expected from a person with a BA in IT Management.  Many of the courses were online and frankly I’d never consider a candidate from that school again.  I figured if he successfully graduated from the school they must be selling the degrees.  I’m less impressed with online degrees.  I feel that the face-to-face interaction with other students and faculty is important.

A second master’s is not important to me, but I have hired people who got their library degree after another masters and that is important.  It seems to me that an attorney, teacher, accountant, public administrator that went back to get a library degree really wants to be a librarian.  The first masters may be helpful, but the library degree is more important to me.  I’ve had two attorneys work as children’s librarians and they were good, but not because they formerly were attorneys.  They were just good librarians.

What really impacts my decision more than anything is the candidates attitude and personally.  Library science isn’t brain surgery and we can teach someone one the job what they need to know about our library.  I can’t change a person’s personality or attitude.  If they don’t sparkle at the interview, when I assume they are presenting themselves at their very best, they aren’t going to sparkle on the job.  The public library is an institution of people serving people and people skills rule.

– Christine Hage, Director, Rochester Hills Public Library
Petra MauerhoffIt doesn’t matter to me at all where you went to school. I have heard colleagues say that they prefer hiring candidates from certain schools, but this is not at all the case in our situation. I have never encountered the situation of having an applicant from a for-profit school, but I don’t THINK it would matter, either.
We currently do not have any positions that require a second Masters degree. I would probably have an unconscious bias towards someone from a more prestigious school…
– Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library System

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please contact me.

Thank YOU for reading!  If this is that once in a lifetime, this is the thrill divine, go ahead and leave a comment.


Filed under Academic, Further Questions, Other Organization or Library Type, Public

7 responses to “Further Questions: Does Where You Go to School Matter?

  1. Anne Childress

    Where you decide to go: get a MLIS instead of a M.Ed. in library media. You can move around more. What I learned the hard way.


  2. Kiersten

    This may be an ignorant question, but which library schools are considered prestigious? I got my MLIS from San Jose State, which served my purposes, but I’m pretty sure is not one of the “prestigious” ones, so I’m just curious as to which schools are.


  3. Pingback: Further Questions Questions | Hiring Librarians

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