This anonymous interview is with a public 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:
Public services, reference, collection management, adult and children’s.
This librarian works at a library with 10-50 staff members in an urban area in the Western US.
Do library schools teach candidates the job skills you are looking for in potential hires?
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?
√ Grant Writing
√ Project Management
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Programming (Events)
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Information Behavior
√ Field Work/Internships
Do you find that there are skills that are commonly lacking in MLS/MLIS holders? If so, which ones?
1) they don’t think like professionals. They need to learn the big picture stuff so they can understand their role in it and then understand what their employer is trying to accomplish.
2) internships need to be mandatory. They need practical experience or they will never get a job after graduation. The hard truth is that no one is hiring – and when we can finally hire someone, we need them to hit the floor running.
3) it’s not about technology. Tech skills are great, but I need someone who can manage a budget and a collection. I don’t care if they can code or blog. I need someone who doesn’t need me to hold their hand and tell them what to do every step if the way.
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)?
They need to know the basics of their speciality, whether adult or children’s, reference or cataloging, instruction or reader’s advisory. They need a basic understanding of customer service. And patience and respect. We will teach them to finesse these with training, mentoring, and time doing the job.
Which of the following experiences should library students have upon graduating?
√ Library work experience
√ Internship or practicum
Which library schools give candidates an edge (you prefer candidates from these schools)?
I prefer students who took courses in person rather than online. My own experience has taught me that you learn MUCH less in an online environment.
As for schools, I’m in California so I see a ton of graduates from San Jose State. Personally, I’m not a fan. They are churning out degrees to people who will never get a job – there are no jobs. And, I’m not remotely impressed by the quality of graduates. I’d rather see more graduates from other schools like Arizona, North Carolina, Illinois, and Washington.
Are there any library schools whose alumni you would be reluctant to hire?
San Jose State.
What advice do you have for students who want to make the most of their time in library school?
Work in a library in any capacity you can while in school. And do internships. Learn the theory; gain the experience. Then you will be more hirable.
Do you have any other comments, for library schools or students, or about the survey?
The profession needs to figure out whether we are “professionals” or “workers.” If you teach how to do library work, then we’re not justifying our requirement to mandate the degrees. Anyone can learn how to answer a reference question or order books or teach a class. And, we need to stop churning out these graduates. It’s not fair to rob them of several thousand dollars and then let them loose into a jobless market. Just stop.
Do you hire librarians? Tell us your answer to, “What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School?”: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibschoolsurvey