I see far too many resumes for students who are specializing in archives and digital preservation when most libraries need instruction librarians

Keene Grammar School Class, Keene New HampshireThis 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:

Mostly reference and instruction librarians

This librarian works at a library with 10-50 staff members in a city/town in the Southern 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)

3

What coursework do you think all (or most) MLS/MLIS holders should take, regardless of focus?

√ Cataloging
√ Project Management
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Information Behavior
√ 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?

Information literacy instruction, there is very little knowledge of teaching and learning theory, good curriculum development, instructional design,developing student learning outcomes, performance measurement, active-learning, classroom control and development–all are essential to librarians
most librarians at one time or another will supervise others, whether students, classified staff or other librarians and most are woefully unprepared to do this, there is little understanding of management and leadership, how to cast a vision, strategic planning, setting goals and objectives at all levels, and project management, and evaluation

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)?

communication skills, how to work within an organizational culture, how to do assessment in alignment with university guidelines and standards, development as teacher, searching on library’s databases and using technology effectively

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

√ Internship or practicum
√ Professional organization involvement
√ Teaching assistant/Other instructional experience

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

none

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

no

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

look at the job market and ads for librarians to determine areas where librarians are being hired, decide what area you want to specialize in and then learn all you can about that area
I see far too many resumes for students who are specializing in archives and digital preservation when most libraries need instruction librarians. Most small to mid-size universities have limited staffing in archives. Digital preservation is usually a grant funded project with time-limited positions, so there is not a huge market for archivists and digital specialists if librarians want permanent, full-time employment.

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

Most students do themselves a disservice by sending out generic cover letters and CVs. They need to tailor their documentation to the job ad and use their cover letter to show how they meet the basic requirements.

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

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5 Comments

Filed under 10-50 staff members, Academic, City/town, Southern US, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

5 responses to “I see far too many resumes for students who are specializing in archives and digital preservation when most libraries need instruction librarians

  1. Pingback: This is Why It’s Important to Look at the ALA Job List During Library School | Rule Number One: A Library Blog

  2. MJW

    There are a few things that I would like to say about some points in this particular survey, though not necessarily just to this particular hiring manager.

    Information literacy instruction, there is very little knowledge of teaching and learning theory, good curriculum development, instructional design,developing student learning outcomes, performance measurement, active-learning, classroom control and development–all are essential to librarians
    — I know my school did not require a class in information literacy instruction when I graduated. Perhaps that was a fault of theirs (they have changed their graduating requirements; whether they include information literacy I do not know), and perhaps it was a fault of mine for not seeking a class, but then again, my interest is in technical services, not public services. And while I am very much accepting, even welcoming, of reference work and one-on-one sessions, I have absolutely no interest in trying to manage a classroom of college students, let alone different students every time I walk into a classroom. Moreover, if I wanted to teach, I would have either gotten a degree in education or a Ph.D., not a MLS. Hence, why do libraries not hire or use librarians who like to teach and/or have a background in teaching to be classroom literacy instructors?

    most librarians at one time or another will supervise others, whether students, classified staff or other librarians and most are woefully unprepared to do this, there is little understanding of management and leadership, how to cast a vision, strategic planning, setting goals and objectives at all levels, and project management, and evaluation
    — No matter what theoretical ideas you are taught, there is no substitute for work in an organization to see how it functions and experience in doing it. In other words, you have to see a leader in action to know how to be (or how not to be) a leader, and you will not truly know how good of a lead you are until you get a chance to lead. In other words, expecting newly-minted LIS students to have anything more that a rudimentary and theoretical grasp on leadership — especially younger ones with little to no library work experience — is a bit much to ask, to say the least.

    look at the job market and ads for librarians to determine areas where librarians are being hired, decide what area you want to specialize in and then learn all you can about that area
    I see far too many resumes for students who are specializing in archives and digital preservation when most libraries need instruction librarians. Most small to mid-size universities have limited staffing in archives. Digital preservation is usually a grant funded project with time-limited positions, so there is not a huge market for archivists and digital specialists if librarians want permanent, full-time employment.

    — A more cynical person would say this means “specialize in what you want, as long as what you want to specialize in is library instruction.” 🙂

  3. mla

    “Digital preservation is usually a grant funded project with time-limited positions, so there is not a huge market for archivists and digital specialists if librarians want permanent, full-time employment.”

    This strikes me as somebody who has not kept up the the profession, at least with regards to digital preservation.

  4. KD

    Thank you for this post! There is much that rings true in my experience about the glut of people entering librarianship interested in archives, digital preservation, and digital special collections (although I personally think “instruction librarian” is a too narrow description — I’d broaden it to say “people with teaching experience” because such experience helps with any sort of public services positions in libraries…I also think there is much room for library school students to focus in areas such as e-resources, which is so hidden from them…and that any tech skills you can bring into public services are a huge plus…just my two cents).

    As someone who regularly comes in contact with library school students, I’ve become concerned in the past few years that there are too many students concentrating (or hoping to concentrate) in digital collections and archives. The reality is that the profession cannot support so many people in these niches. In fact, I’m concerned that the students can’t even get enough experience while in library school because they have to compete with so many others like them for the few student positions, internships, field experiences, etc that might be available. This makes it challenging for the students to make themselves marketable to compete against each other — and I should add, with experienced practitioners in the field — upon graduation.

    I think it’s important to keep in mind the context in which this contributor framed his/her responses. The contributor is speaking from his/her experience hiring for the kind of library they work in. The person says “Most small to mid-size universities have limited staffing in archives” — which is true. Also, based on my experience in the field, I do know very talented archivists who work grant to grant to grant, even for big academic libraries. So I agree with the contributor and believe that it’s critical for library school students to be aware of this reality. I think the glut of library school students specializing in archives and digital preservation denotes (yet another) discrepancy between library science education and library science practice. Library school faculty are often specialists in these fields, which makes it attractive for library schools to push these concentrations. I can also understand the appeal of these interesting areas of work for library school students. But it’s important for students to know what the job market looks like, regardless of their interests so they know what things are really like and also seek advice on how to build the best resume possible while in school. They may also need to think creatively about where they can apply their skills and interests outside academic libraries and perhaps think about building a diverse portfolio so they have other areas of librarianship to fall back on if they can’t get a job in archives, digital preservation, or digital collections.

  5. Anonymous

    As someone who has been trying to move into reference/instruction after years in archives—-

    GIVE ME A SHOT. I cannot tell you how many instruction positions I’ve applied for, only to see the job re-listed and re-listed because I didn’t take an instruction course in school. Forget my 4 years of experience, I didn’t have a class 6 years ago.

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