Don’t take courses from instructors who have very little real librarian experience.

New England Girls School, ArmidaleThis anonymous interview is with a librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring or search committee. When asked what type of institution they hire for, the respondent replied with “have done several types.” This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:

Have hired everything but archival, IT, and children’s (but I was a children’s).

This librarian works at a library with 10-50 staff members in a city/town in the Western 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
√ Budgeting/Accounting
√ Project Management
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Programming (Events)
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Digital Collections
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Readers’ Advisory
√ Information Behavior
√ Outreach
√ Marketing
√ Instruction
√ 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?

Resume writing and interviewing! (a shortcoming they share with a lot of others)

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)?

I do not expect them to really know most skills. They should know about them enough that I do not have to start from zero, but they will be proficient in few skills unless they are “2nd” career. I expect them to be able to do most computer functions and I expect them to be able to write intelligently and proofread.
It would be nice if they had an idea of how to dress for work as a professional.

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

√ Library work experience
√ Other presentation
√ Professional organization involvement

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

It helps if they went to school or have lived in the area (region) where the library is located so we do not have to deal with culture shock and they have some understanding of the people they will be serving. What courses they took and who their instructors were is more important than the School. If I am hiring for a specialty such as archival work, then I want a graduate from a school that teaches that well.

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

Not so far in my experience.

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

Take some of everything. Even if you never catalog it helps to know what is involved so you can relate to the staff.
Try to do some “real world” work in as many different types of libraries (school, academic, public, etc.) as possible so they have a realistic idea of what they are really like.
Don’t take courses from instructors who have very little real librarian experience. They need to have “been there and done that”. Avoid those who think only one type of librarian (academic or school or public, etc.) is a real librarian.

Do you have any other comments, for library schools or students, or about the survey?

Every librarian should have some knowledge of dealing with library boards, city/county councils, or other types of administration. Some time should be spent on budgeting and understanding how they work.

It should be presented to them early and often that if they are not willing to move around they can expect it to be much harder to get a job and or promotion.

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?”:

1 Comment

Filed under 10-50 staff members, Western US, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

One response to “Don’t take courses from instructors who have very little real librarian experience.

  1. MJW

    Don’t take courses from instructors who have very little real librarian experience. They need to have “been there and done that”.

    Perhaps it is better in other programs, but where I graduated from, all the core courses were taught by people who were LIS professors by trade, and it wasn’t until I took electives that I was able to have classes taught by practicing librarians. You can tell the difference.

    In other words, that is great advice, but I wonder if many MLS students will have the opportunity to heed it even if they’d like to.


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