If you can kind of teach, kind of catalog, and kind of code, but don’t have enough ability in any of these areas, it’s not very attractive to us

School at Pie Town, New Mexico is held at the Farm Bureau BuildingThis anonymous interview is with an academic librarian who has been a member of a hiring or search committee. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:

catalogers, metadata, eresources, digital services, subject librarians, administrative/management

This librarian works at a library with 50-100 staff members in an urban area in the Northeastern 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?

√ Web Design/Usability
√ Information Behavior
√ Field Work/Internships

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)?

Anything that is specific to the job, really. For example, it would be good for a job candidate to know basic principles of collection development and I would expect them to be able to apply those ideas to the specific collection environment, but I don’t really care if they know how to use gobi specifically. They have to be able to learn how to, though!

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)?

When I have served on committees, I haven’t really cared that much, but I do personally have a bias against online programs (having worked for a different online degree program). We haven’t had many candidates with those degrees, though, and in my department we do often ask for a second master’s.

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

If they did well in the phone interview and on-campus interview, no.

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

We always have on-campus interviews with presentations, even if it’s a cataloging job. You need to be able to give a coherent presentation and answer questions. This is definitely not something taught in most library schools, but if you bomb your talk, that’s kind of it. Our recent metadata, e-resource, and digital services hires *all* gave good talks. The other aspect you need to cultivate is flexibility/adaptability; do not be one of those people who freak out if an interface changes and you have to teach it tomorrow. Finally, if you are interested in going into academic libraries, you need to specialize in something. If you can kind of teach, kind of catalog, and kind of code, but don’t have enough ability in any of these areas, it’s not very attractive to us (we are a small research library).

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. 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?”: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibschoolsurvey


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

2 responses to “If you can kind of teach, kind of catalog, and kind of code, but don’t have enough ability in any of these areas, it’s not very attractive to us

  1. As someone who went to an online program, I hope this person takes another look at their bias against online programs. I was a full time student while also working with databases (creation/modifying/training staff) for a national non profit and I am not unique. I would think those of us who worked and went to school online have more real world experience- customer service, teamwork, etc. all skills that would be very applicable in the LIS realm. I sure hope (as I am currently job searching) this point of view is not a norm.


  2. I don’t understand the bias against online programs that a lot of employers express in these interviews. How can we as library professionals claim to support distance-education students, yet hesitate to hire someone who received their MLS degree online? For a lot of people, librarianship is a second (or third or fourth) career and if you have other obligations (such as work or caring for a family), it can be difficult find the time and means to attend face-to-face classes. I hope this attitude changes as more people enroll in online classes.


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