Library schools need to update the curriculum for children’s and YA librarians

Blumengart School Children 1963


This anonymous interview is with a public librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring or search committee. 

This librarian works at a library with 200+ staff members in a suburban 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?

√ Budgeting/Accounting
√ Grant Writing
√ Project Management
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Programming (Events)
√ Metadata
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Readers’ Advisory
√ Information Behavior
√ Services to Special Populations
√ Outreach
√ Marketing
√ Instruction
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)
√ Field Work/Internships
√ Other:  child development; business writing; public speaking; evaluation techniques, including community needs assessments;

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

Evaluation, including the whys and hows of community needs assessments; comfort in outreach to various racial and ethnic groups; public speaking; how to be an effective advocate with elected officials and policy makers, not just the general public who Loves us. (the professional needs more political hacks and I mean this in the best sense of the term)

When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently?

√ No preference–as long as they have the skill, I don’t care how they got it

Which skills (or types of skills) do you expect a new hire to learn on the job (as opposed to at library school)?

How to adapt classroom learning to the policies and procedures of the hiring practices evolved in the field and evaluated locally or nationally, i.e. ALSC/PLA’s Every Child Ready to Read do not necessarily conform to some outmoded class work.


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

√ Internship or practicum
√ Conference presentation
√ Other presentation
√ Other publication
√ Student organization involvement
√ Professional organization involvement
√ Teaching assistant/Other instructional experience

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

St. Catherine’s University
University of Wisconsin, Madison
University of Illinois, Champagne Urbana
San Jose State

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

Get involved in your state ALA chapter…great networking opportunities; follow what’s going on in ALA divisions in your area of interest; attend conferences if possible. Initiate a practicum or internship in your area of interest. Sumit an article for publicaton that’s related to your practicum.

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

Library schools need to update the curriculum for children’s and YA librarians. Less focus on programming and more intensive work on project management, budget, grant writing, etc…all the skills a manager needs to be successful.

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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Filed under 200+ staff members, Midwestern US, Public, Suburban area, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

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