I Would Be Reluctant to Hire Someone Who Completed an Online-Only Degree

Digital ID 434250. Girls in classroom, Traveling Library at Public School Playground July 1910.. Hine, Lewis Wickes Photographer. 1910Here’s the first of our anonymous interviews for the “What Should Potential Hires Learn in School?” survey.

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:

Children’s librarians

This librarian works at a library with 50-100 staff members in a suburban of the Midwestern 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?

√ Cataloging
√ Budgeting/Accounting
√ Grant Writing
√ Project Management
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Programming (Events)
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Metadata
√ Digital Collections
√ History of Books/Libraries
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Readers’ Advisory
√ Information Behavior
√ Services to Special Populations
√ Outreach
√ Marketing
√ Instruction
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)
√ Field Work/Internships

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)?

Specifics of searching the library’s catalog and placing holds; registering people online for library programs; creating required statistical reports; operating a reading incentive program (summer & school year & one thousand books before kindergarten)

Which of the following experiences should library students have upon graduating?

√ Library work experience
√ Other presentation

Are there any library schools whose alumni you would be reluctant to hire?

I would be reluctant to hire someone who completed an online-only degree.

What advice do you have for students who want to make the most of their time in library school?

Find opportunities to observe different library jobs and talk to librarians, and get whatever hands-on experience you can, whether volunteer, practicum, internship or paid position.

This survey was coauthored by Brianna Marshall from Hack Library School. Interested in progressive blogging, by, for, and about library students? Check it out!


Filed under 50-100 staff members, Midwestern US, Public, Suburban area, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

9 responses to “I Would Be Reluctant to Hire Someone Who Completed an Online-Only Degree

  1. Anonymous

    The answers to this question are really interesting. In doing research for another project I learned that 52% of all public library directors do not have an MLS. They are from small, often rural, libraries where the board either doesn’t have much money or just doesn’t choose to hire someone with an MLS. To me this opens a whole field of potential jobs for a newly graduated MLS who might want to start his/her career at a lower salary and get some leadership experience. Which gets me to the answers to the question you posed. Library schools don’t teach leadership. They teach skills what increasingly are for jobs that para-librarians do. They teach skills but not how to decide what kinds of service a modern public library should be doing and how to manage those decisions. If I remember right, only about 35% of your responders felt that grant writing was important and yet it can be critical to managing a small public library. I don’t have a percentage but anecdotally I’ve heard from PL directors without an MLS that when they did go to library school, the educational program did not teach them what they needed to know about leadership, management, and administration – even as simple as how to work with a library board. Library education is still training worker-bees and not the people we need to really make all public libraries viable it today’s world.

  2. Pingback: A kick in the gut: Defending the online degree | Beta Librarian

  3. Wow. Very sad for the interviewee. I find it particularly disappointing that, on the one hand, they say, “No preference–as long as they have the skill, I don’t care how they got it,” yet they *do* seem to care if they learned the skill via distance education. The interviewee is missing out on a wealth of wonderful LIS graduates, many of whom have 21st century skills that are superior to their classroom-only counterparts. Chances are, we don’t want to work for them, either. We’ll be onto bigger and better things.

    • landelizabeth

      Well said, Brittany! I am personally hoping that this respondent’s opinion is a minority opinion in the field.

    • Michelle Frost

      I was also surprised that someone would blindly disqualify candidates based on the fact that they received their degree from an online program, especially after saying “as long as they have the skill, I don’t care how they got it.” It sounds like this person has an irrational bias against online education. I guess we are all entitled to our own opinions, but this person is missing out on some excellent candidates because of their reluctance to hire those with online degrees. As a future GSLIS grad, it’s disheartening to read this, especially in the children’s librarianship area where libraries should want innovative and inspired librarians who are tech savvy and understand what kids are doing online (many areas are offering online high school educations now).

      I have over 17 years of both academic and public library experience and have placed a lot of the emphasis of my education on library management and youth services. To hear that my chances of even being looked at by some librarians because I attended a *mostly* online school (the #1 ranked LIS school in the country, at that) is sad.

  4. TrevLove

    I hope so too! Some of us had no choice but to get our degree online. I would have preferred going to campus but because of a variety of reasons, I wasn’t able to. I did manage to become a peer mentor of students in the online program and went to campus a few times a semester for orientation and meetings. I also went out of my way to go to a ton of conferences, seminars, webinars, etc. I know quite a few people who went to a brick/mortar program and felt they didn’t learn the skills they needed to function in a library position. It’s all in what you make of things.

  5. Youth Services Director

    Sorry I appeared to reject online degree programs and appeared to favor brick and mortar programs. What I meant was that someone who has not had any face to face experience with patrons and librarians will need to find a way to show they are ready for the all-important customer service challenges of being a public service librarian. Regardless of where you got your degree, if you have not experienced the working environment in person before you interview for a public service position, you are at a disadvantage.

  6. I think that a MLIS is like any degree. It gives you a foundation to start from but it isn’t necessarily going to make you amazing in your field. Regardless of whether you go to classes on ground or online, experience is going to supplement that degree. As someone who takes and teaches online classes, I can attest to the fact that an online degree program requires just as much dedication, hard work, and self-motivation as being in a face-to-face classroom. And I would, quite frankly, be appalled if my academic worth was questioned in an interview because I achieved one of my masters degrees online. Don’t ask me about how I got my degree, ask me about what I can do and who I can be.

  7. Pingback: Stats and Graphs: Biases Against Online Library School | Hiring Librarians

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