If they can’t sell themselves, they are not going to be able to sell programs or services

Blumengart School Children 1963This 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:

Reference/instruction librarians, tech services librarians, archivists.

This librarian works at a library with 10-50 staff members in an 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?

√ Project Management
√ Library Management
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)
√ Portfolio/ePortfolio
√ Field Work/Internships

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

Yes, public speaking skills tend to be lacking. I also wish they were savvier about how to sell their skills; if they can’t sell themselves, they are not going to be able to sell programs or services.

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)?

I expect them to master the specific software and hardware we have on the job, although I expect them to be familiar generally with how those types of programs or equipment work. Ditto for databases and collections. I think it is hard to learn to do instruction in library school, so that is on the job, too.

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

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

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

Any of the top schools

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

I would be reluctant to hire alumni of schools that aren’t ALA-accredited. I also am more inclined to hire people from schools where the particular aspect of librarianship is a specialty rather than where there are only one or two courses in that area.

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

Take the challenging professors and courses. Work in a library. Always try to understand how your coursework and the theories you learn are applied in real life. Try to learn about many different types of libraries, and go to conferences to broaden your horizons. Put together a portfolio. Talk to people who work in the kind of jobs you think you want, and find out what they consider the most important skills or training for their jobs.

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, Academic, Northeastern US, Rural area, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

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