Have a plan B

School Children In AlgeriaThis anonymous interview is with a public librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring or search committee. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:

Reference and Children’s

This librarian works at a library with 50-100 staff members in a city/town in the Midwestern US.

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?

√ Cataloging
√ Budgeting/Accounting
√ Grant Writing
√ Project Management
√ Programming (Events)
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Reference
√ Readers’ Advisory
√ Services to Special Populations
√ Outreach
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)
√ Field Work/Internships

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

project management, interpersonal skills, basic knowledge of what a public library stands for, unrealistic daily job expectations, and once in a while, a basic lack of truly wanting to help ALL people.

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)?

The policies and procedures of that institution. Internal communication. Latest hot topics. Community needs.

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

√ Library work experience
√ Internship or practicum
√ Other presentation
√ Student organization involvement
√ Teaching assistant/Other instructional experience

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


Are there any library schools whose alumni you would be reluctant to hire?

Something that is totally on-line and no face to face is required. “Most” librarians work with people. It is odd to get a degree for that kind of job online…I believe that many folks are graduating that should not….university thoughts are we promise folks an education not a job…however, that is messy on the other end when they try and get a job. We are not doing them any favors!

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

make contacts, take any library job to get a foot in the door and experience. Have a plan B.

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

Nice survey, good luck. We need more cooperation between library schools and the “real” world : )

This survey was coauthored by Brianna Marshall from Hack Library School. Interested in progressive blogging, by, for, and about library students? Check it out!


Filed under 50-100 staff members, City/town, Midwestern US, Public, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

6 responses to “Have a plan B

  1. “Most” people deal with other humans day to day regardless of where their school is (IRL or Online). Another one that completely does not get that online does not mean we never interact with people- ugg! Seriously most of my classmates were working full time (like me and at libraries or on off shifts) so we had to go to school online or not go at all?!? How archaic … and online reference is not a new thing. Sounds like a hiring manager who has never once reached out and spoken with candidates, schools, etc that are online only. As someone whose online only degree from Rutgers was a phenomenal experience with phenomenal faculty and co-students I find this outdated attitude very hurtful to candidates who work hard and do interact with people each day. And I am also someone who helps people find jobs.

  2. I find your reluctance to hire online-only students to be archaic and misinformed; unfortunately I’ve seen it several times before. Yes, librarianship is often about customer service and communicating with people. But it is also about interacting with technology and being able to use it, oftentimes to help library patrons. I don’t see a better way to learn the technology than be forced to use it to complete classwork. I completed my MLIS in an online program at Wayne State that was accredited separately, though using the same exact process, from the traditional program. Finally, I find it rather disheartening and discouraging that there are still hiring managers that are thinking in this outdated way. By excluding online graduates from the hiring process, ultimately some passionate and talented will be overlooked for jobs merely because of how they earned their degree.

  3. Eric Cormier

    I agree that an online education is far inferior to a “real” learning experience. I do understand that some students do not have time or ability to get to school, so I have no problem with having online classes available…However any program that offers online classes exclusively is in effect saying that hey really don’t care about the quality of education they offer.Their interest is only in the tuition the money the programs bring in..>Are you listening San Jose State? USC? Ken Haycock?…The expert of offering inferior education, then lying about the reasons!!!

  4. Andrea

    There are many reasons for pursuing an online only degree, and for those of us who are only able to attend library school online, it is life-altering to find one of the many genuinely rigorous, well-taught, well-managed and educational all-online MLIS programs out there. Those who don’t fully take the time to understand the quality of online programs (and yes it does vary, but many are excellent), or to consider the skills online students develop, are doing their institutions, and these candidates a huge disservice. At the University of Washington, online students must develop great strengths in time-management, self-motivation, collaboration and communication (often across time/state/country differences), and communication technologies. These are also required skills listed in so many posted library positions, and I believe an online education fosters these even more than a residential program. Participation requirements are rigorous and enforced, much more so than any face to face class I’ve experienced at the grad or undergrad level. Regardless of why some employers hold an unfairly negative opinion of online education, it is no longer a valid reflection of the quality of education available online, nor is it fair and helpful to our profession.

  5. Tracy Dodge

    I certainly wish there were more options for library school, but with only two programs in California, if it wasn’t for online most people wouldn’t be able to get their degree at all. I’m close enough to SJSU that I could take classes on campus if they offered them, but even for local people like me who are already working in libraries online is the most practical. How can someone say that they value work experience more than education and then be reluctant to hire someone because of their school? It’s attitudes like that that make me think the whole MLIS requirement is just a form of credentialing and a really high standard for entry-level positions.

  6. Pingback: Stats and Graphs: Biases Against Online Library School | Hiring Librarians

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