you can’t learn how to function as a member of a team until you know what the team you are going to be a part of is like

Blumengart School Children 1963This anonymous interview is with an academic librarian who has been a member of a hiring or search committee. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:

Information literacy librarians

This librarian works at a library in a rural area in the Southern 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?

√ Project Management
√ 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?

A lot of vacancy announcements for information literacy-related positions require experience teaching (preferably teaching information literacy in some form). Very few applicants seem to have that experience, even through coursework, and some do not even seem familiar with what information literacy is. Teaching students who are interested in academic library work about information literacy and pedagogy is something that is sorely missing from most programs.

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)?

Functioning as a member of a team is usually learned best on the job because you can’t learn how to function as a member of a team until you know what the team you are going to be a part of is like. A lot of software and databases can be learned on the job.

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)?

None. I check to make sure the candidate has or will have the necessary degree by the date of hire and pay very little attention to where they got that degree or what their GPA was. The experience level matters to me much more than where the candidate went to school.

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

Unaccredited ones.

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

Get experience working in a library. Preferably, this experience should be in the type of library work you want to do when you graduate, but any experience at all, even as a volunteer, shows that you know what being a librarian is like on more than just a theoretical basis. It’s very hard to take a candidate who has no experience of libraries outside the classroom seriously, no matter how focused their in-class work was during their time in library school. Find vacancy ads for the type of job you want to do and use that as a model for the experience you seek and the classwork you do. Have a realistic (but not pessimistic) view of what the job market will be like when you graduate and how best to position yourself in that job market.

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 Academic, Rural area, Southern US, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

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