many applicants lack the breadth of education needed to excel in my setting (an academic library)

Blumengart School Children 1963This anonymous interview is with an academic librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring or search committee.

We have a cataloger/acquisitions/webmaster position which also does some reference work (we are a small institution and have only two LIS positions).

This librarian works at a library with 0-10 staff members in a rural area in the Western 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?

√ Collection Management
√ Digital Collections
√ History of Books/Libraries
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Readers’ Advisory
√ Information Behavior
√ 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?

I find the “soft skills” are often lacking and that many applicants lack the breadth of education needed to excel in my setting (an academic library). I prefer applicants who have a minimum of a BA or BS in an academic subject in addition to their MLIS, and a MA or MS would be even better.

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: Depends on the skill. Some skills (such as instruction) cannot be fully learned without practical experience.

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

Policies and procedures that are specific to our institution, our ILS, etc..

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)?

If it’s an accredited institution I have no preference. However, I do prefer a MLIS degree over other “information science” degrees.

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

Not that I know of

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

Decide on the type of library you want to work in and the type of job you want to have, and focus your coursework on the necessary skills. Always, always, get all the relevant practical experience you can. Schools do not always make this easy, but it’s vital. Most positions requiring the MLIS are not “entry level” as such and will want you to have experience.

This survey was coauthored by Brianna Marshallfrom 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.

Do you hire librarians? Tell us, “What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School?”:

Leave a comment

Filed under 0-10 staff members, Academic, Rural area, Western US, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.