Basic Skills for Advocating for One’s Library on Funding, Staffing, and Collection Support

Laura Orr, a Washington County (Oregon) Law Librarian, has her J.D. from Temple Law School in Philadelphia and her B.S. and M.L.S. from Indiana University, Bloomington. She has worked for the Free Library of Philadelphia, Multnomah County Library, University of Maryland Law School Library, two law libraries in Bristol (England), Willamette Law School library (Oregon), and the Yale Law Library in Connecticut. She has published articles and taught classes on American and English legal research and served as coordinator and panelist on various lawyer and librarian conference programs. She is currently responsible for the 8-year old Oregon Legal Research blog , the Washington County (Oregon) Law Library website, and the “Oregon Legal Research” website (with Justia). She is also the Gutbuster Project Manager.She has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring or search committee. She says:

We’re a small (ish) public law library and hire well-rounded entry level librarians (and library assistants) who after a couple of years will be prepared to run their own small or medium public law libraries. Reference, online, and financial/management skills are especially important, but cataloging, instruction, and programming are a close second.

Ms. Orr’s library has 0-10 staff members, and is in an urban area in the Western US.

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
√ Metadata
√ Archives
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Outreach
√ Instruction
√ Other: Indexing and Government Documents

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

Advocacy: basic skills for advocating for one’s library on funding, staffing, and collection support – closely related to how to work with library boards.

How to apply for a public sector job, e.g. how to fill out the application form and, especially, how to answer “supplemental” questions

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 can give a qualified “yes” to this question: I generally value skills gained through a job (volunteer or paid) more highly than coursework or even an internship, but some courses have all the rigor of a job so I never discount classroom experience without looking more closely at what transpired. The same evaluation applies to internships, some of which provide excellent experience, while some job are big nothings.

From a hiring perspective, especially from a civil service application scoring perspective: Coursework alone will still gain you a point or more, whereas having neither coursework nor work (volunteer or paid) will gain you nothing – zero points. Points Rule when applications are “scored.”

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

I do not expect new librarians to have the bibliographic or other skills of a seasoned librarian so look primarily to interest in the subject. But I wouldn’t make the hire unless there was clear evidence of aptitude and interest in the specific type of work and service we provide.

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

√ Library work experience
√ Internship or practicum
√ Conference presentation
√ Student organization involvement
√ Professional organization involvement
√ Teaching assistant/Other instructional experience
√ Other: Evidence of basic digital management, taxonomy, web, social media, and related skills (with samples, preferably library ones, not personal)

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

No preference.

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?

Engage fully in the experience:
1) Start building your library-network starting with your classmates and favorite faculty members.
2) Live, eat, and breath libraries, principles of librarianship, and the literature of librarianship.
3) Expose yourself to as many library and information disciplines, skills, and learning opportunities in class, outside of class, at conferences, etc.
4) Join professional associations and even if you can’t attend meetings, share the listserves, dig deep into their websites, get to know association leaders, read the newsletters, etc.
5) *Take a local librarian out for coffee every chance you can. (Most will be happy to treat!)

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

Great survey!!!

And thank you for this – finally, someone has figured out it is absolutely necessary for an online survey: “You can take a look at the questions and browse through the entire survey without having to answer anything.” Laura

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, Urban area, Western US, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

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