Learn to teach – don’t be afraid!!

New England Girls School, ArmidaleThis 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 and Instruction Librarians

This librarian works at a library with 0-10 staff members in a suburban area in the Southern 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
√ Vocabulary Design
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Digital Collections
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Outreach
√ Instruction
√ Field Work/Internships

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

Yes, mostly instruction skills. I find that most recent graduates do not know how to give a good library instruction presentation. The main problem seems to be that they do not consider their audience – particularly when it comes to new undergraduates.

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)?

Collection Development, as it pertains to our institution. Each library is a bit different in this area. I expect them to know some reference desk work, but, again, this is something they will learn on the job as it pertains to our library.

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 North Texas

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

Not really, there is another school in our area that is good, but not as much for academic/community college libraries. They are better suited for school libraries. So, I would not say I am reluctant to hire these grads, because I am sure they are great in their area(s) of expertise. It just doesn’t happen to match our institution’s needs.

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

Learn to teach – don’t be afraid!! The best teachers have all been afraid, especially in the beginning. Any kind of public speaking helps – presentations, tours, etc. Also, be sensitive to your audience/patron needs. Find out where they are coming from and their level of knowledge. I know many schools teach this, but it surprises me how many people don’t actually learn this skill. I think this comes more from practice, so students need to be in the field working with a wide variety of patrons.

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

1 Comment

Filed under 0-10 staff members, Academic, Southern US, Suburban area, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

One response to “Learn to teach – don’t be afraid!!

  1. I agree! That definitely helped me get my current job. I learned how to teach by accident (and I’m still learning) but seek out opportunities…you never know what librarians will allow you to assist with if you volunteer while you’re in school!


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