New Hires Should Come with a Broad Understanding of Libraryland

School children learning to dance, Longreach, Queensland, ca. 1928This anonymous interview is with an academic librarian who has been a chair of search committees. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:

All types needed to staff a large academic library

This librarian works at a library with 100-200 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

√ Grant Writing

√ Project Management

√ Library Management

√ Collection Management

√ Web Design/Usability

√ Metadata

√ Digital Collections

√ Research Methods

√ Reference

√ Instruction

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)?

Beside the obvious of learning the individual library culture, organization structure, and specific policies, I think new hires should come with a broad understanding of libraryland. If I had to pick some area, I think supervision of staff can be learned on the job.

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

√ Library work experience

√ Internship or practicum

√ Student organization involvement

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

Illinois, Wisconsin-Madison

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

San Jose State

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

Get as much on the job experience as possible even if it is not in your intended field of employment. If you do not have library experience, market your other skills into library context.

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

10 responses to “New Hires Should Come with a Broad Understanding of Libraryland

  1. It would be useful to know WHY this hiring manager feels that graduates of Illinois and Wisconsin-Madison have an edge and would be reluctant to hire graduates of San Jose State. Is that simply bias at work? Or is there a rational reason for ranking graduates in this way?


  2. ServingWisdom

    That’s sad for me [too] to read as a San Jose State MLIS grad… a very proud one, up till this very moment. What’s the reason this individual came to this conclusion? She hires them and they screw up OR they are never good enough to be hired OR ???


  3. I’m an SJSU grad too. If I were redoing this survey, I’d probably have included “and why” with those two questions. Hindsight.
    However, I didn’t, so here’s a few things to think about:
    This is just one person’s opinion. They don’t know you, and they weren’t there while you were doing your coursework.
    SJSU actually shows up on both sides of this question. I’m working on a stats post which will show this, but it takes a while and I have other jobs that, you know, pay me money.
    SJSU is such a big school that chances are most people have encountered at least one graduate or heard about it’s reputation as a large school. It’s not surprising it should show up, because people actually know about it. Contrast this to some of the smaller schools, which may only be familiar to people in their region.


    • ServingWisdom

      I wasn’t really crying! I feel I did receive a very, very good overview and intro to “libraryland” and also non-“libraryland” — where many, many other info professionals dwell – at San Jose State.

      Of course, for every ‘thing,’ I guess, there is an ideal but for me San Jose State was great and it excited me about the future and it kept me in the career field, so I think that ought to confirm the basic rqmts of any program.

      Thanks for writing back; I appreciate your responses and yes, when one is applauding or decrying, it would sure be good to know “why.”

      Pat Margulies


  4. Oh good! No Hiring Librarians tears please! 🙂
    I’m very happy with my own education from SJSU – met some great people, honed my tech skills, got to work on some great research with Dr. Lili Luo…all in the convenience of my own home and comfort of my pajamas. Not a bad deal at all.


  5. As a current SJSU student, I’ve seen a lot of disappointment levied at SJSU grads. It’s scary to keep seeing your school considered to be so poor for your chosen field. I agree with other commenters that it would be good to know why this is the general opinion. My personal belief is that SJSU does graduate a lot of students with MLIS degrees, it’s because the program is so accessible because it is online-only (one of the reasons I chose it, as I’m a student at home mom). Being online only can have caveats. Yes, it’s highly accessible and the acceptance and grad rates are high as well, but of the 599 recent grads, how many of them took full advantage of SJSU SLIS’s program. I’d like to know specifics of the employed grads-what specialization did they choose (academic, public librarianship, etc) did they participate in student organizations and get involved or did they just take their courses and graduate?
    I think in the current market it’s difficult to show employers that online-only programs are high-quality. But it doesn’t stop at the program. Students need to also be involved in their education beyond just taking classes. I think especially for SJSU grads they will need to “prove” themselves more by being involved-participating in student organizations and writing blogs and making the most of the technology they have in order to shine for employers.


  6. Current MLIS student at SJSU…just started my second semester. These things I hear about SJSU scare me. But then I think who cares? But then I get scared again. But then I hear good stories…and think of how much I am learning so far and how excited I am…but then I get scared that I am going to waste time (everyone says library school is a waste and that SJSU is a diploma mill…etc.). HELP?!


    • I went to SJSU and I have a job that I like and I am a reasonably good librarian. And I know several other SJSU grads that are respected and employed. The thing is, SJSU graduates the most students each year – over 500 (compare to other schools, which seem to do more like 100-200 grads: So there are a lot of us, and there are all sorts of people, with a wide range of skills and attitudes. Including some librarians that are meh.
      Combine that with the fact that online-only education is still a new-ish thing, one that some librarians still regard it with suspicion, and I think that’s the place where a lot of the negative things that you’re hearing are coming from.
      SJSU, and grad school in general, is what you make of it.


      • Madeline

        I question whether in 10 years the MLIS is going to be required versus other relevant degrees in combination with a library certificate due to our quickly changing education system and cultural shift; what libraries are transitioning to is different than the typically offered coursework.

        I am currently researching MLIS programs and I am specifically avoiding SJSU. Although it’s a reputable program and I know successful graduates, there are simply TOO many graduates. My consideration has nothing to do with it being online, simply my meh view of being another SJSU graduate. I’m looking at UNTs online program as an alternative, however, I now see that they are also in line with SJSU and graduate high numbers. USCs new MMLIS is attractive, but it still seems to lack courses that specifically address the quickly shifting values of our society.

        As someone who has worked in a library for a number of years successfully performing a variety of jobs from public desk service, organizing programs, creating lib guides, working with the library board and in administration as well seeking relevant educational opportunities, I know that I will have a considerable advantage once I have my MLIS. However, it is frustrating that my work experience equates to that of a librarian yet without a MLIS degree I will never be considered or rise higher despite the experience, knowledge, and passion. Even more frustrating is the fact that most people are completely unaware that librarians must have a MLIS. I’m often referred to as a Librarian by the public but in the eyes of ALA and likely many other librarians, without the degree I am not. I hope to one day see a one year program coupled with an apprenticeship.


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