Students too often graduate thinking they have the power to change the way a university has functioned for 200 years

School Children In Anzac AlbertaThis 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:

Instruction and distance librarians.

This librarian works at a library with 10-50 staff members in a rural 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
√ Collection Management
√ Programming (Events)
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Digital Collections
√ History of Books/Libraries
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Information Behavior
√ Services to Special Populations
√ Outreach
√ Marketing
√ Instruction
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)
√ Field Work/Internships

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

Instruction: Students need to learn how to teach. They need to learn different pedagogical techniques, and an additional module on distance learning would help too. Reference & Instruction can be combined, and marketing needs to play a larger role in the curriculum too. Students too often graduate thinking they have the power to change the way a university has functioned for 200 years. This is simply not true. No one can do that. They need to learn that to create change is to work WITH those involved: teaching faculty, administration, and students. A librarian with 0-5 years of experience has no business thinking that they know everything about how an institution works. This is why it’s important to focus on marketing. I don’t mean, show students how to create flyers. I mean, marketing in the larger sense…as in, learning about all the elements that together create a unified message about information literacy to the university community.

When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently?

√ Other: It’s not as easy as black and white, unfortunately. Of course, skills gained through practice are ideal, however I also like to give a chance to someone who is eager to learn and be mentored but might not have had the opportunity to learn by practice yet. It all depends on the attitude of the candidate. You can teach skills on the job; you have a much harder time teaching attitude to someone who comes in rather smug.

Which skills (or types of skills) do you expect a new hire to learn on the job (as opposed to at library school)?

Inter-personal communication with students and faculty, collection development (beyond the basic foundation), and how to use specific databases or reference guides (because this will vary according to what each institution has to offer its patrons).

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

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

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

It all depends. I’m not sure that I can answer this question fairly as we get a range of candidates from various schools. Lately, top candidates came from McGill University in Montreal, I think Syracuse has a good program, some schools in Michigan have great students.

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

Again, I’m not sure I can answer this fairly. If someone went to a “lousy” school because that’s all s/he could afford or it’s all that was available geographically but the candidate otherwise showed a lot of promise and willingness to learn new skills, I’d absolutely consider them.
It’s like the saying goes, “there’s doctors from Harvard and then there’s DOCTORS from Harvard”.

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

Go to a specialized conference if you can afford it, read up on what’s new, read up on what works, and read up on how to apply whatever you’re reading about. Don’t graduate thinking you can change long-established university policies if only someone is “smart enough” to listen to you. Instead, learn how to work in a team and how to effectively craft a message. Don’t think you need to learn every single thing out there and every new trend. Learn what you can, find a niche that you’re good at, and hone that skill.

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


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?”:

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Filed under 10-50 staff members, Academic, Northeastern US, Rural area, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

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