Students on an academic librarianship track should be required to take at least one instruction course

New England Girls School, ArmidaleThis 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:

Archivists, tech services/ e-resources librarians, reference and instruction librarians

This librarian works at a library with 0-10 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?

√ Project Management
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Research Methods
√ Information Behavior
√ Outreach
√ Marketing
√ Instruction
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)

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

In the context of academic libraries, I’ve seen many candidates sorely lacking instructional know-how and experience. Students on an academic librarianship track should be required to take at least one instruction course and heavily encouraged to gain some practical classroom experience before graduation. An entry level reference and/or instruction librarian should come into the profession with more than vague inklings and untested theories.

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)?

Some of the finer points of management.

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

√ Library work experience
√ Internship or practicum
√ Conference presentation
√ Student organization involvement
√ Teaching assistant/Other instructional experience

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

Illinois, Washington, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Syracuse, Alabama, N. Texas, and Oklahoma.

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

Those without ALA accreditation.

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

Be self-directed and ambitious when it comes to acquiring relevant experience and developing a serviceable set of critical frameworks you can immediately apply to your job. Bring your library school theories with you, but remember passing a class with an “A” doesn’t hold nearly as much weight as demonstrating your knowledge and abilities in real world situations.

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

Give students a realistic portrait of their job prospects and the nature of their work. Some ALA’s propaganda has given students a false sense of the job market, what it takes to be truly hire-able and what they will likely encounter once they make it into the workplace.

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?”:

1 Comment

Filed under 0-10 staff members, Academic, City/town, Midwestern US, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

One response to “Students on an academic librarianship track should be required to take at least one instruction course

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