There are many more MLS holders than there are jobs, so we can be picky

school cafeteriaThis 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:

Catalogers, children’s librarians, reference librarians.

This librarian works at a library with 10-50 staff members in a rural area in the Midwestern 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
√ Vocabulary Design
√ Budgeting/Accounting
√ Project Management
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Programming (Events)
√ Programming (Coding)
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Digital Collections
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Readers’ Advisory
√ Outreach
√ Marketing
√ Instruction
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)
√ Field Work/Internships

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

There are many more MLS holders than there are jobs, so we can be picky. Personality is important. People generally learn the theory of libraries while pursuing an MLS, but personal organization, people skills, and enthusiasm are not things that everybody possesses, but are key when working in a service-oriented library.

We want people with experience, but lack of experience is not a dealbreaker. However, if someone received an MLS through an online program, and has no experience, we are not going to grant an interview. As librarians we are concerned about the dumbing down of the education system, which we are a part of, and many of us here feel that an online degree is not the same as immersing one’s self with other MLS candidates.

The things students should focus on while at library school vary from person to person, depending on background. Someone with a BS from a business school should not need to take as many management courses. Someone with an IT background should not need to take as many computer courses. As someone with an IT background myself, one of the things that frustrated me in my program was that I could test out of two rudimentary computer classes and a statistics class if I chose to, but I would still need to pay full tuition for them plus the three elective courses I would have replaced them with. This made no financial sense, so instead of taking nine credits that would have expanded my knowledge, I took three prerequisite courses that I could ace with little effort. Frankly, these courses were not nearly as demanding as when I had taken them as part of my BS. This was an opportunity for the library school to be flexible, and allow me to expand my education. Instead, ¼ of the credits I took and the dollars attached to them were completely redundant.

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)?

How libraries actually work in practice.
How to work with patrons who are stakeholders in the library.
How libraries are funded.
The relationships that libraries have with each other.
How to deal with difficult patrons.


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

√ Library work experience
√ Internship or practicum
√ Other presentation
√ Professional organization involvement
√ Other: Interpersonal relations training

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

Go in person if at all possible. Make friends. Have discussions and debates. Identify mentors and keep in touch with them, even if it is only at a yearly conference. Be memorable.

Do you hire librarians?  Tell us your answer to, “What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School?”:

This survey was coauthored by Brianna Marshall from Hack Library School. Interested in progressive blogging, by, for, and about library students? Check it out!

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