Think carefully about the system you want to be part of

Alma Public School - opening of new playground for infants departmentThis anonymous interview is with an academic 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:

Catalogers, subject librarians, digital services librarians, archivists, etc.

This librarian works at a library with 50-100 staff members in a suburban area in the Southern 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
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Metadata
√ History of Books/Libraries
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Information Behavior
√ Outreach
√ Instruction
√ Field Work/Internships
√ Other: Scholarly communication topics

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

Appropriate presentation skills; the “hook” that makes me want to hire you over someone else. For the academic librarian, familiarity with copyright, publishing cycle, metrics, etc.

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: Additional non-library job experiences & library-related internships/grad assistantships held.

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

I think there are core courses every librarian needs, if only to be familiar with the options of the discipline and the rudimentary practices of each area (e.g., reference/instruction, cataloging, collection development, management).

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

√ Library work experience
√ Internship or practicum
√ Other presentation
√ Student organization involvement

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

None, it’s based on the individual’s experience and personality; will that person “fit” well into the existing structure of our library; does that person bring skills that will enhance the services offered or a new service to be developed.

Instructional experience is a definite plus but most librarians teach informally every day; a mentoring program could help a new librarian gain more formal teaching skills.

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

None that I know of.

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

Take a variety of courses and don’t pigeonhole yourself. You never know where you might wind up working. I’ve worked as an archivist, public librarian, and academic librarian. For the 1st position, I took classes specifically in that area; for the second, I began as a part-time person and ended as a manager; for the third, I had a second Master’s degree that gave me the edge I needed to get hired as a Liaison Librarian.

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

Being a librarian has been the most fulfilling job I have ever had. There is a lot of opportunity and you are ALWAYS learning something new. Be flexible, like working with people, like working by yourself and as part of a team.

There is a lot of political stress on libraries around the world. Think carefully about the system you want to be part of. If it doesn’t work out, be willing to move to another job.

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

Special Note: From December 6, 2013 to October 24, 2014, the ALA will accept comments on the Draft revised Standards for Accreditation of Master’s Programs in Library and Information Studies. More information about the process of changing these standards is here. If you have opinions about what people should be learning in library school, here’s a way that you can influence change.

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Filed under 50-100 staff members, Academic, Southern US, Suburban area, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

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