Jonathan Harwell is the Head of Collections and Systems at Rollins College, where the Olin Library is a 2013 winner of the ACRL Excellence in Academic Libraries Award.
Mr. Harwell has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring or search committee for the following types of LIS professionals:
Reference librarians, serials & e-resources librarians, discovery & systems librarians, archivists, digital archivists, collection development librarians– all librarians & archivists here serve as liaisons and provide reference, instruction, & collection development.
In a prior life, Mr. Harwell was a teacher in Albania. You can find him on Facebook.
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?
√ Grant Writing
√ Project Management
√ Library Management
√ Web Design/Usability
√ History of Books/Libraries
√ Research Methods
√ Readers’ Advisory
√ Field Work/Internships
√ Other: Licensing & administrative metadata
Do you find that there are skills that are commonly lacking in MLS/MLIS holders? If so, which ones?
Interlibrary loan, original cataloging, project management
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)?
Familiarity with specific URM, ILS, or ERM software
Which of the following experiences should library students have upon graduating?
√ Internship or practicum
√ Other presentation
√ Other publication
√ Professional organization involvement
√ Teaching assistant/Other instructional experience
Which library schools give candidates an edge (you prefer candidates from these schools)?
Any ALA-accredited schools
Are there any library schools whose alumni you would be reluctant to hire?
What advice do you have for students who want to make the most of their time in library school?
Find any way you can to get experience in teaching/presenting, and to get some sort of hands-on library experience. Volunteer to get involved with the USA’s only professional organization for library employees, the ALA-APA; or if in Canada, get involved with CAPAL. (ALA exists only to promote libraries; it’s not a professional organization.) ALA meetings can be helpful, but seek out smaller conferences to attend if possible– state library associations, the Charleston Conference, the Acquisitions Institute at Timberline Lodge, the American Theological Library Association, etc.
Do you have any other comments, for library schools or students, or about the survey?
I agree with my mentor professor, Dr. Marcella D. Genz, whose philosophy is that library school should prepare you not for your first job, but for your last one. In other words, you should have a theoretical and ethical grounding that will ultimately serve you as a library director.