Talk to your references and make sure they know who you are!

Library, 1959This 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:


This librarian works at a library with  100-200 staff members in a multi-type cooperative 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?

√ Budgeting/Accounting
√ Grant Writing
√ Project Management
√ Programming (Events)
√ Services to Special Populations
√ Outreach
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)
√ Other: common sense–but you can’t teach that

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

Most of the people I interview think that cataloging is the ideal job. I hate to tell them this, but we’re about public service and everyone works the front desk/reference. We outsource as much cataloging as we can, and that’s no longer a professional level job for the most part. Lacking often are the presentation skills, the ability to speak coherently to a group, the ability to get an idea/s across. Can you tell a story? Can you present budget ideas? Can you write a grant proposal?

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 of the following experiences should library students have upon graduating?

√ Internship or practicum
√ Other presentation
√ Student organization involvement
√ Other: Direct public involvement

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


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

No but I hesitate from those who do online programs only as they miss a lot of the intellectual discussion of ideas and theories. These online programs are fine to a point.

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

Get involved in your community. Participate in some of the activities be it book sales, sports team coaching or whatever you’re interested in. And by all means, talk to your references and make sure they know who you are. Lately, I’ve had people use references that have claimed they didn’t know the person. Fatal flaw!

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?”:

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 100-200 staff members, Public, Southern US, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

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