This 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:
This librarian works at a library with 200+ 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?
√ Project Management
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Digital Collections
√ History of Books/Libraries
√ Readers’ Advisory
√ Field Work/Internships
Do you find that there are skills that are commonly lacking in MLS/MLIS holders? If so, which ones?
In my experience management and teamwork skills would be of great help to MLIS students. I think by nature librarians are “quirkier” than the average person, which can be great, but also leads to problems when they learn that a lot of the job involves dealing with the public. The most important class I took when getting my MLIS was library management, because I learned a lot about myself and working with others. I believe strongly there needs to be a stronger focus on these skills in the MLS/MLIS degree.
When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently?
√ No preference–as long as they have the skill, I don’t care how they got it
Which skills (or types of skills) do you expect a new hire to learn on the job (as opposed to at library school)?
Using the software specific to our library system. I do expect new librarians to have at least some reference and library experience, at the very least from volunteering or an internship.
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)?
Doesn’t matter, I would take great experience over a top “school” degree.
Are there any library schools whose alumni you would be reluctant to hire?
Only non-ALA accredited.
What advice do you have for students who want to make the most of their time in library school?
Be involved in your local chapters, state chapters, ALA to learn about how libraries work and network. They must have some experience, it is way too competitive for people to graduate without any library experience.
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.