We have lost a number of reference librarians because we are too small to have promotional opportunities all the time.

Keene High School (old) Graduating Class of 1875, Keene, New HampshireThis anonymous interview is with a public 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:

children’s librarians, reference librarians. Hope to be hiring managers as several existing managers prepare to retire

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

retirement county with rural agriculture and tourism

in the Southern US.

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

√ Other: sometimes

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
√ Programming (Events)
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Digital Collections
√ History of Books/Libraries
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Readers’ Advisory
√ Outreach
√ Marketing
√ Instruction
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)
√ Other: people skills–like working with people

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

People skills–both internal and external. Common sense (HR keeps pointing out that common sense depends on your definition). Realistically looking at purpose of public library; what to expect, local politics. Building/renovation project management. Change management.

When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently?

√ No preference–as long as they have the skill, I don’t care how they got it

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

Specifics of local area. (our new hires are generally from outside region.)

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

√ Library work experience
√ Internship or practicum
√ Professional organization involvement

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

Those from the Midwest. Have had recent good hires from Tennessee, Minnesota, Indiana.

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

Not really. But those schools outside US.

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

Work in the type of library in which you want to spend your career. If not work, do some kind of volunteer project for a library–not a make work project, but something that would help the library: even if it is not ‘professional’: help shelve books after a big holiday; help with a program; etc.

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

I know there is a need or desire to take any job. But be honest with the people you interview with–if you will not consider a job with us, don’t come for the interview.
We are a medium sized library–we do not have ‘instant’ jobs that we can promote people into. If you stay long enough, there may be a chance for promotion–but don’t expect it after 6 months. …we have lost a number of reference librarians because we are too small to have promotional opportunities all the time.

Come to the job wanting to do the job we hired you for–not looking to change the responsibilities to those you like.

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, Public, Southern US, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

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