Library school is another way of wasting time and money

Keene High School (old) Students, Keene, New HampshireThis anonymous interview is with a public librarian who has been a member of a hiring or search committee. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:

Outreach and children’s librarians.

This librarian works at a library with 50-100 staff members in a suburban area in the Western US.

Do library schools teach candidates the job skills you are looking for in potential hires?

√ No

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
√ Budgeting/Accounting
√ Grant Writing
√ Project Management
√ Collection Management
√ Programming (Events)
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Archives
√ History of Books/Libraries
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Readers’ Advisory
√ Information Behavior
√ Services to Special Populations
√ Outreach
√ Marketing
√ Instruction
√ Field Work/Internships

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


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)?

Customer services.

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

√ Library work experience
√ Internship or practicum
√ Conference presentation

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

None. Only experience in libraries give candidates an edge.

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

Try to get a job or volunteer in a library. That’s where you get your knowledge and practice. Library school is another way of wasting time and money. Librarians should be formed in the library environment and not in school.

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

I know many people who are efficiently in charge of libraries and don’t have a library degree. It shouldn’t be necessary.

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?”:


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

2 responses to “Library school is another way of wasting time and money

  1. Todd Pierce

    I suppose a library could be operated entirely by paraprofessionals or non-specialists; however, the service would be very poor, especially if one is doing any kind of research that demands some knowledge or specialization. Thus, one of the major flaws of this librarian’s position is that she does not define what she means by adequate service, nor does she specify the type of library she means. On the other hand, the current trend for most public libraries is to hire more paraprofessionals and fewer librarians to save money. This situation is very unfortunate, especially for those of us who expect libraries to have librarians who are educated, articulate, and well read.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gena

    It is very interesting that most libraries recommend that you “try to get a library job or volunteer” in order to attain employment in a library. I have ten years of experience as a volunteer and library worker, and yet every public library seems to think that you need to volunteer specifically with their library in order to be considered for employment. It sounds to me like public libraries simply want free labor as opposed to a truly experienced worker.


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