Being a librarian means continuing to learn new skills for the rest of your life.

Keene High School (old) Graduating Class of 1875, Keene, New HampshireThis anonymous interview is with a law firm 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:

Assistant Librarian at the law firm

This librarian works at a library with 0-10 staff members in an urban area in the Northeastern 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
√ Budgeting/Accounting
√ Project Management
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Metadata
√ Digital Collections
√ Archives
√ History of Books/Libraries
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Marketing
√ Instruction
√ Field Work/Internships

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

Often soft skills are missing and that’s not something that can really be taught in Library School. Not sure how to address this. If the person is intelligent and can communicate and has a solid background in library theory from school then I can train them/teach them the on the job skills. That said if the person is going to be working as a solo librarian or mostly on their own then they are going to need to have prior practical work experience of some sort.

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)?

Local practices at the particular library
Experience working with real live patrons
Experience working with a particular library computer system or online catalog system (as opposed to having knowledge of how they work or experience working with a different system)

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

√ Internship or practicum
√ Student organization involvement
√ Professional organization involvement

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

Do an Internship or Practicum! Work in the library on campus if you can. Then take as many and varied courses as you can. If you determine what “specialty” you’d like to be in — and don’t do that too soon — then take more classes in that area. It’s more important to learn how to learn new skills than it is to try and learn everything — particularly in technology which is constantly changing. Know where and how you can keep up to date once you graduate. I know HTML and web design because I’ve taken courses and taught myself — these things didn’t even exist when I was in library school, but knowing how computers think and having some experience with them in school laid the foundation for future learning.

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

Being a librarian means continuing to learn new skills for the rest of your life. You need to demonstrate that you are interested in doing this and have the ability to do this. Your library degree is the foundation, and it should be a strong one, but it is not the be all and end all of your career

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 0-10 staff members, Northeastern US, Special, Urban area, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

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