Simply working as a student shelver isn’t enough

School Children In ParaguayThis 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:

Catalogers, reference, and instruction librarians

This librarian works at a library with 50-100 staff members in an urban 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)

3

What coursework do you think all (or most) MLS/MLIS holders should take, regardless of focus?

√ Cataloging
√ Budgeting/Accounting
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Metadata
√ Digital Collections
√ Reference
√ Information Behavior
√ 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?

I’ve found that many candidates lack any real working experience, whether in a library or not. The need to be practical when working and/or solving problems, to meet professional expectations, to be able to work with people, both coworkers and “the public,” are often lacking.

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 depends upon the position I’m hiring for. If its for an instructional librarian, then coursework and any teaching experience. If its for a cataloger then coursework, unless they had worked in a cataloging dept. Simply working as a student shelver isn’t enough.

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

How searching in the catalog actually works or doesn’t; what data bases are available to answer what types of questions/meet needs of public; how the library’s budget is broken down by type of expenditure; how to handle specific patrons, or types of patrons; and how to work with the available staff, whether professional or not.

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

√ Library work experience
√ Internship or practicum

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

Take all the basic courses, but try not to favor one type vs another because you might not find that new position in your area of “expertise.” Be open and adaptable to new things/ideas/work.

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 50-100 staff members, Academic, Northeastern US, Urban area, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

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