I was not ready for some of the questions, behavior and issues I faced once I was around living, breathing patrons

Westmoreland School House Number 9, New HampshireThis anonymous interview is with a public librarian who has been a member of a hiring or search committee. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:

adult and children’s librarians, pages

This librarian works at a library with 10-50 staff members in a suburban area in the Northeastern US.

Do library schools teach candidates the job skills you are looking for in potential hires?

√ Other: Yes AND No, Some skills were valuable and some were not taught.

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
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Programming (Events)
√ Digital Collections
√ History of Books/Libraries
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Readers’ Advisory
√ Information Behavior
√ Outreach
√ Instruction
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)
√ Field Work/Internships
√ Other: Customer Service

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

I found that I was not prepared for some of the situations that arise at my library on a daily basis. I did learn about information behavior and I did learn about reference interviews, but I was not ready for some of the questions, behavior and issues I faced once I was around living, breathing patrons. I felt like I missed a whole class on how to deal with people who are upset, desperate, angry, confused, or clueless (or some combination of these states). Maybe that makes me naive, but I felt like a class on general customer service would have been helpful – how to talk to people, how to calm down an angry patron, how to prevent angry patrons, etc.

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 on the skill. For example: Web design can be successfully learned from a class but reader’s advisory takes real practice.)

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

I feel that Reader’s Advisory really takes practice on the job. You really need to get to know your patrons and a collection. To an extent, Programming (events). That also takes practice – you learn what works and what doesn’t in your community.

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

√ Internship or practicum
√ Other presentation

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

No.

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

If you have the opportunity to work in a library while you’re in school or do an internship, absolutely do it! It helps to be able to see and experience what you’re learning in a real environment.

This survey was coauthored by Brianna Marshall from 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, Northeastern US, Public, Suburban area, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

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