I’ve Actually Hired Non-MLIS Candidates for Professional Positions

lynn hoffmanLynn Hoffman spent the first fourteen years of her career at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, IN, wearing a wide variety of hats: Children’s Librarian, Branch Manager, Training Manager, and “Special Projects” Librarian. Since then, she has found her niche as a public library administrator, focusing on organizational development, customer service, and implementing big ideas on the front lines in her work as Library Operations Manager at the Brown County Library (100-200 staff members) in Green Bay, WI. Ms. Hoffman has been a hiring manager, a member of a hiring or search committee, and a human resources professional. She hires:

children’s and teen librarians, general reference librarians, branch supervisors, catalog & archive librarian, genealogy librarian, IT librarian

She likes obsessive-compulsive crafting: the more intricate and fiddly, the better, and baking, especially nerd baking, like teeny apple pies for Pi Day (March 14 – get it? 3.14…). She says:

What really makes me happy, though, is being a supervisor, and even more than that, being a supervisor and leader in a public library. Most people who work in public libraries are kind, and smart, and work hard because they ultimately believe in what they do. I love being able to make a positive impact on how people feel about the place where they work.

Do library schools teach candidates the job skills you are looking for in potential hires?

√ Other: Some; some are only marginally teachable

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
√ Project Management
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Metadata
√ History of Books/Libraries
√ Reference
√ Information Behavior
√ Field Work/Internships
√ Other: Intellectual Freedom, Professional Ethics

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)?

Anything about specific tools or products (ILS, databases, etc.)

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

√ Internship or practicum
√ Other presentation
√ Professional organization involvement

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

Don’t worry so much about a particular track; instead focus on areas of study that have broad application (i.e. information-seeking behavior, reference techniques rather than sources, etc.).

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

I look for the MLIS to give a candidate a solid foundation in what’s important in library work: philosophical basis for what we do, approaches to meeting information needs, information organization and access, and a survey of specific tools and techniques. With that said, if a top grad comes to me without basic problem solving and communication skills, or unable to demonstrate the confidence to dive in and try new things, that foundation isn’t going to get them very far. I’ve actually hired non-MLIS candidates for professional positions because I know I can teach them the fundamentals if they have have good librarian instincts.

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 100-200 staff members, Midwestern US, Public, Urban area, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

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