This anonymous interview is with an academic librarian who has been a hiring manager, a member of a hiring or search committee, and a human resources professional. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:
I’ve served on search committees for all types of librarians: collection development, music, cataloging, reference, discovery/IT, etc.
This librarian works at a library with 100-200 staff members in a city/town 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?
√ Vocabulary Design
√ Grant Writing
√ Project Management
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Research Methods
√ Field Work/Internships
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 of the following experiences should library students have upon graduating?
√ Library work experience
√ Internship or practicum
√ Student organization involvement
√ Other: Needs vary depending on position & status (tenure-track or not)
What advice do you have for students who want to make the most of their time in library school?
Get a library job during school or volunteer at one — ideally do so before going to grad school to ensure you like the actual work. Work at or at least visit multiple libraries; talk in depth with librarians. Read the library literature, as horrid as much of it is. Theory/history classes aren’t too helpful unless those topics will be your research/teaching foci. Socializing in a program track is good, but know doing so limits you & there aren’t that many jobs out there. If you want an academic librarian job, research, publish, present, attend ALA, & begin committee service now.
Do you have any other comments, for library schools or students, or about the survey?
Think twice before embarking on this career. Budgets are being slashed year after year. We aren’t as valued (or needed) as before. Space is reassigned to non-library roles. The MLS degree is increasingly undermined and dismissed as unnecessary, even for library directors and reference librarians (a subject masters alone or even no degree is becoming ok). Patron demand is for instant access to everything for free, which just isn’t possible. We’re now expected to be more concierges (providing everything without effort or waiting) than guides. You’ll most likely spend much more time performing administrative tasks (budgets, statistics, schedules, HR issues, building renovations, outreach, fundraising, marketing, report writing, business analyses (SWOT, ROI, cost/benefit, time/process, etc) than you will helping patrons with research, building collections, cataloging, etc. You’ll also probably answer more IT questions than research ones. Long, stressful, often thankless days are ahead. Oh, I’m only 35 with about 10 years in the field, so am not exactly a Luddite curmudgeon pining for the library of my youth.
Do you hire librarians? Tell us your answer to, “What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School?”: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibschoolsurvey