The problem with research methodology is that the social science model used by most librarians is so primitive.

school cafeteriaThis 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:

Special Collections librarian

This librarian works at a library with 50-100 staff members in a city/town in the Southwestern 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?

√ Cataloging
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Metadata
√ Digital Collections
√ History of Books/Libraries
√ 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?

1) Supervisory/management skills; these need to be taught by an experienced manager, not a tyro.
2) Research skills for academic librarians, particularly if they have done any research. The problem with research methodology is that the social science model used by most librarians is so primitive.

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: I value internships and paraprofessional experience 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)?

Functioning in a tenure-track appointment–specifically tenure and promotion and working with other faculty
Working on committees
Local procedures for materials processing, reference
Supervision–treatment of staff
Skills in scholarly research and writing (since they won’t learn it in Library School)
Working in a highly bureaucratic environment

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

√ Internship or practicum
√ Professional organization involvement

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

University of Maryland (for archivists)
University of Texas at Austin
Not a library school, but Rare Book School

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

A library school that is not accredited by ALA

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

Figure out what you want to do and focus on that
Find a mentor with a lot of experience
Spend time learning how academics work
Learn how to teach
Do an internship or practicum in your chosen area
Ask questions about the details and about the presuppositions
Read up on the theoretical background and questions in your chosen area of concentration

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

If you get an interview, check out the institution’s website, both the library and the college/university
If you are on an interview, always have some questions to ask

Library schools need to do a better job of offering students mock interviews in their type of library/institution and help in tailoring resumes to a particular library/position

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, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

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