This anonymous interview is with an academic librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring or search committee. The respondent also listed that he/she has been a department chair and library director. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:
cataloger – we only have 1
branch librarians in music, architecture, science, engineering, visual resources
Regardless of what title we hire into, every librarian teaches in our Information Literacy program and every librarian acts as a subject liaison for one or more areas. If they don’t know it, they have to learn it.
This librarian works at a library with 10-50 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?
√ Grant Writing
√ Project Management
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Digital Collections
√ Research Methods
√ 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?
HR skills – supervision and evaluation of non-professional staff/student staff
pedagogy – teaching effectively
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)?
perfecting the art of the reference interview
the technical skills they need to deal with our web presence
assessing and functioning within the prevailing political climate
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 – NYC is an anomaly – we ‘say’ we do national searches, but we know that people won’t move to NYC for a library job (at the prevailing salary scale) unless there is some motivating factor to do so. All our searches end up as de facto regional searches for that reason, so we are telescoped down to graduates of the schools in the area – Rutgers being about the furthest away.
Are there any library schools whose alumni you would be reluctant to hire?
No, but there is a concern now about the Queens College program which is appealing its accreditation review. Let’s hope they get their act together.
What advice do you have for students who want to make the most of their time in library school?
Learn time management, and be as flexible as possible. Get some real world experience. If you aren’t already, become web and social media savvy.
Make sure to understand that if your chosen career path is academic libraries, you will probably be pursuing additional higher education – our university requires two master’s degrees – and be prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to undertake that additional education.
Do you have any other comments, for library schools or students, or about the survey?
I believe leadership ability is one of the most critical skills for success as a librarian today. Any training one can acquire to develop it is worth doing. Flexibility, creative thinking and common sense will go a long way in any library position as well.
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