Schedule your courses around real-world work.

School Children in 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:

Public library professionals in all departments.

This librarian works at a library with 10-50 staff members in a city/town in the Northeastern US.

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

√ No

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
√ Grant Writing
√ Project Management
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Programming (Events)
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Digital Collections
√ Reference
√ Readers’ Advisory
√ Services to Special Populations
√ Outreach
√ Marketing
√ Instruction
√ Field Work/Internships

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

If they don’t have any work or internship experience, there are usually other candidates with an MLIS who do. It all comes down to real-world work experience, whether as a paraprofessional or in an internship

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)?

Unless things have changed, students learn a lot of theory at library school which certainly is important. Employees who know how to think and plan are very important to an organization. From the most recent graduates, I expect them to have learned some basic budgetary, planning and stats skills.

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

√ Library work experience
√ Internship or practicum
√ Student organization involvement
√ Teaching assistant/Other instructional experience

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

Any ALA-accredited school that requires at least some in-person meetings is fine.

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

Alumni from completely online programs. To me, it’s important that a student at least attend a class or two in-person, even if it’s just an introductory and a final meeting. I don’t trust completely online programs.

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

Get as much work experience as you possibly can. Schedule your courses around real-world work.

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

It’s a tough time to come out of library school since there has been an explosion in the number of graduates recently. Do everything in your power to get library-related work experience while you are in school so that you’ll have a leg up on the graduates who don’t have that experience.

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?”:

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

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