The mistakes I see are embarrassing

School Children in Keene New HampshireThis 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/ bibliographic instruction, catalaogers, serials, collection development, access services.

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?

√ Cataloging
√ Grant Writing
√ Project Management
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Metadata
√ History of Books/Libraries
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Readers’ Advisory
√ Outreach
√ 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?

As I talked to current or recent grads I sometimes don’t even know what the course is about from its title. It makes me wonder how they are going to succeed in real life situations. We recently had an intern that didn’t really know how to enter into a reference exchange with patrons.

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)?

Coursework should lay the groundwork and then you build on that on the job. We would expect a cataloger to be pretty proficient upon on hiring but willing to learn what’s is demanded from our particular library’s system, etc. As they grow professionally we would expect them to refine and/or make changes as needed.

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

√ Internship or practicum
√ Student organization involvement

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

Library work experience is a plus.

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

Hate to say it, but we haven’t been impressed with the online program grads yet as opposed to brick and mortar grads.

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

Try and do an internship or practicum towards the end of your coursework. Have someone else (whose skills you trust) to look over your cover letter and resume/vita. The mistakes I see are embarrassing.

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

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