People Who Know How to Learn and Adapt to Change are the People Who Work Out the Best

Joan NeslundJoan Neslund has worked at the Ellensburg Public Library (10-50 staff members in a city/town in the Western US), for over 20 years. Ms Neslund been a member of a hiring or search committee. She hires:


Here is how she describes her library and career:

We are a small university town just over the Cascade Mountains in Washington State – two hours from Seattle. Our location has enabled both me and the library many opportunities with grants and committee work that most small libraries haven’t taken advantage of. All of that said, in my 20+ years I have sat on boards and committees that have designed collaborative websites, WA State Consumer Information Portal and more.

I do not have my MLS. I have been lucky enough to lead a small reference staff for the last 15 years. My current library passion is encouraging people on how important it is “learn how to learn” and adapting to the changes in technology. Our state library has just teamed up with Microsoft’s IT Academy and we are helping people advance in the tech job world for free.

Keeping up is tough, but if I can do it – everyone can.

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?

√ Project Management
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Programming (Events)
√ Programming (Coding)
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Metadata
√ Digital Collections
√ Archives
√ Services to Special Populations
√ Outreach
√ Marketing
√ Instruction
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)

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

Personnel management, leadership, conflict resolution, social media for authoritative research, general cleaning and public communication

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

√ Yes–I value skills gained through a student job more highly

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

New hires need to know how to learn. Everything changes and critical thinking skills and how to adapt to new technology is what is needed. All things taught will eventually change.

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

√ Library work experience
√ Internship or practicum
√ Other presentation
√ Other publication
√ Other: Blogging

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

All I know is the UW iSchool

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

I do not have my MLS but have been doing the job for 20 years. People who know how to learn and adapt to change are the people who work out the best.

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 10-50 staff members, City/town, Public, Western US, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

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