I have been very disturbed by the quality of pre-professional reference and instruction experience new graduates have described

School children singing, Pie Town, New Mexico (LOC)This anonymous interview is with an academic librarian who has been a member of a hiring or search committee. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:

Reference/Instruction Librarians; subject liaisons

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

√ Budgeting/Accounting
√ Collection Management
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Instruction
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)
√ Field Work/Internships
√ Other: Statistics

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

New graduates seem to lack practical experience, especially in public services reference; I have been very disturbed by the quality of pre-professional reference and instruction experience new graduates have described when they have applied for our reference jobs. In addition, if new graduates have practical experience in academic libraries, they have not learned how to articulate how practical experience in one library might relate to another. MLS/MLIS holders in general appear to lack training in budgeting and accounting.

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)?

The reference interview; information literacy lesson planning (with actual experience teaching an instructional session); library programming for a specific patron population; creation of learning objects; cultural competence and demonstrated ability to work with diverse populations.

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

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

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

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (on-campus program)

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

University of Wisconsin-Madison; San Jose State University

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

Hustle. Get practical experience in the kind of library where you see yourself working when you finish your degree. Don’t stop at a 4-5 month practicum. Volunteer or work hourly if you can’t get a graduate assistantship in a library. My colleagues and I value the learning involved in the MLS/MLIS; however, it’s meaningless if new graduates haven’t applied their learning from school in a workplace setting.

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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Filed under 10-50 staff members, Midwestern US, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

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