My Preference is for Practical and Intelligent Candidates, Even if They Attended a Non-ALA Program.

BobJonesBob Jones is the director of the Milton-Freewater Public Library, a library with 0-10 staff members in a city/town in the Western US. In 2003 MFPL built a brand new building, funding the $2.5 million cost solely through grants and gifts, no bond issue necessary. Mr. Jones himself created a new program, “OLDIES NIGHT @ THE LIBRARY, or 3 Hours of Cheap, Trashy Rock ‘n’ Roll,” at MFPL in January 2006. It is now in its eighth year as a monthly event. Mr. Jones has taken it on the road to other libraries across Oregon, and gave a presentation on it at the Nebraska Library Commission’s Big Talk from Small Libraries online conference in 2013. Mr. Jones hires:

Whatever we need and can attract. Could include youth services, cataloging, genealogy and local history, interlibrary loan, etc.

With a BA (English), University of Dubuque, an MA (English) and MSLS, Eastern Illinois University, and a CAS (Library Science),University of North Texas, Mr. Jones certainly has a lot of experience in higher education. He is proud that he

Convinced the State of Texas to broaden the definition of “professional librarian” from only holders of an ALA/MLS to holders of a master’s degree or higher academic credential from an ALA-accredited library school. This includes CAS, a specialist degree, or a doctorate.

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
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ History of Books/Libraries
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Readers’ Advisory
√ Marketing

Do you find that there are skills that are commonly lacking in MLS/MLIS holders? If so, which ones?

There seems to be a current trend away from requiring any cataloging courses.

When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently?

√ Other: I’d like to see both

Which skills (or types of skills) do you expect a new hire to learn on the job (as opposed to at library school)?

Essential non-professional skills often required in small libraries, such as processing and repair of materials, circulation desk procedures, interlibrary loan procedures.

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

√ Other presentation
√ Student organization involvement
√ Professional organization involvement

Which library schools give candidates an edge (you prefer candidates from these schools)?

This is a throw-away question for two reasons: Almost no respondents will be familiar with all library schools or their graduates, and most will lean toward their alma mater and/or nearby schools. My preference is for practical and intelligent candidates, even if they attended a non-ALA program.

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

See above. Even the best schools sometimes graduate bozos.

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

Don’t focus too narrowly when choosing electives. You never know where life will lead you.

Do you have any other comments, for library schools or students, or about the survey?

Never assume your graduates will not need to know a bit of everything, because in a small library, they will. They may be the only professional, or even the only staff member. Knowing selection and cataloging and reader advisory services is of limited value if you are the entire staff but know nothing about acquisitions or processing or circulation. Most graduates will not end up in a narrow specialty in a large library with a big support staff. You do your students a great disservice if you fail to prepare them for the real world, which is filled with small libraries which need professional librarians with a complete basic skill set.

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

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, City/town, Public, Western US, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

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