This anonymous interview is with a person who, when asked if they were a librarian, responded “It’s complicated” This person works in an academic library and has been a member of a hiring or search committee. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:
Reference Librarians, Access Services, Tech Services, Paraprofessionals
S/he works at a library with 10-50 staff members in an urban area in the Southern 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?
√ Grant Writing
√ Project Management
√ Programming (Events)
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Research Methods
√ 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?
Marketing, project management, usable instruction techniques, cataloging understandably or how electronic resources operates
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)?
Reference which is specific to the individual library, though basic skill should come from school or experience. Most MLS programs lack in teaching real instruction techniques to their students, as such this is normally an on-the-job learned skill.
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 don’t think the program matters as much as the person and how much effort they take to learn past what library schools teach.
What advice do you have for students who want to make the most of their time in library school?
Get a job in a library- any job. Any experience, even as a volunteer, is invaluable when looking for work. Learning skills like web design, coding or any strong computer skills, project management, and having experience as a teacher or speaker will help too. Library school does not teach how to do the job (or even how to do the job well). Students must put in considerable effort to learn past what is lacking in their formal education.
Do you have any other comments, for library schools or students, or about the survey?
For some context, take a look at the most recently published summary of responses to this survey, or specific analysis of the responses discussing online school, the amount of coursework students should take, and preferences/reluctances for candidates from certain schools.
Do you hire librarians? Tell us your answer to, “What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School?”: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibschoolsurvey