Your behavior during class time and team work is more crucial than you know

Timestamp: 8/9/2013 16:08:40

Digital ID 434250. Girls in classroom, Traveling Library at Public School Playground July 1910.. Hine, Lewis Wickes Photographer. 1910This anonymous interview is with a public 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:

Reference librarians, Acquisitions managers, Branch supervisors,Outreach librarians

This librarian works at a library with 50-100 staff members in a city/town in the Western 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
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Reference
√ Information Behavior
√ Services to Special Populations
√ 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?

Most of the time it’s management experience but that has to be learned and earned. Experience is the best way to get it.

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)?

They have to learn about the collection and the patrons through experience although backgrounds in collection development and community needs analysis certainly do help. A management course is helpful but until you’ve managed, it’s all just book-learning. Management presents unique and ambiguous learning opportunities every day. You get better with practice – or you learn that management is not for you. Also, soft skills are so hard to teach but they are so necessary. Team work in school with a strong emphasis on peer evaluation and feedback – as well as an instructor who is tuned into the strengths and weaknesses of teams/ team members is one of the only opportunities to teach soft skills in an MLS curriculum. I don’t think it’s an easy task at all.

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

√ Library work experience
√ Internship or practicum
√ Other presentation
√ Professional organization involvement

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

It’s the people not the schools. Good candidates go to so-so schools and bad candidates sometimes graduate from good ones. If a school is accredited, that’s good enough. I look at the candidate. Having gone to library school very recently I can say unequivocally that it’s about what the student puts into the work far more than it’s about the overall quality of the school. Even good schools sometimes have a bad instructor or two…

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

No. See the above.

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

Treat assignments like they are job tasks. Imagine you are being paid by taxpayers and evaluated by them and your supervisor.

Act like an adult when you are in class. Don’t talk while the teacher is talking. Don’t mess around on Facebook with your iPad.

Your behavior during class time and team work is more crucial than you know. It’s not just practice. If you let your team down or do shoddy or late work, that word gets out. People won’t hire you. Trust me, the library world is very small.

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

To library schools: Take your students’ feedback about instructors seriously, even when it is angry. School is a large investment of many resources. Bad instructors need to reform or go.

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 50-100 staff members, Western US, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

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