I am Optimistic about the Profession

Brian Reynolds Brian Reynolds is the director of the San Luis Obispo County Library, which has 50-100 staff members and is located in the Western US. Over the past 20 years, this system has been able to handle increasing levels of customer service and increasing the square footage of County Library branch libraries by approximately 50%….60,000 sq. ft. to approx. 90,000 sq. ft., with limited staff and during some very difficult economic times. Mr. Reynolds has been a hiring manager. He is bilingual and lived abroad in both Spain and Nicaragua. This year he initiated a countywide market research study to make Library services more effective and efficient. He says,

I received a Master’s Degree in Library Science from UCLA in 1974. In 1984, I received a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from CSU Chico. I think part of my professional success can be attributed to having these dual and complementary degrees.

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

√ Yes

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
√ History of Books/Libraries
√ Reference
√ Readers’ Advisory
√ Services to Special Populations
√ Outreach
√ Marketing
√ Field Work/Internships
√ Other: teamwork and team building

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

Handling performance problems, including supervision/subordinate issues and chain of command issues. Strategic planning.

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)?

Local policies, procedures, and practices. Getting acquainted with work colleagues, customers, and Library support groups.

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

√ Library work experience
√ Internship or practicum

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

Library schools that teach leadership/management skills and interpersonal/job performance skills. Libraries are more about people interacting with people than people interacting with data or metadata. I think some library schools concentrate too much on e-technology issues and trends and not enough on how to promote successful teams and teamwork.

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?

Try to decide what your professional specialization(s) will or might be and then, as much as possible, focus your coursework and writing in those areas.

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

Librarianship is a great career…and I am optimistic about the profession. I’ve worked in libraries a long time (40+ years) and have been a library director for over 30 years. I love it and would do it over again, no question.

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 50-100 staff members, Western US, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

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