I will admit to sounding like an old biddy when I say that I am horrified by the lack of writing skills

HM Queen Mother at the formal opening of the new library in the Lionel Robbins Building, 10th July 1979This anonymous interview is with an 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:

Catalogers, children’s and teen librarians, reference librarians and archivists.

This librarian works at a library with 100-200 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?

√ Cataloging
√ Budgeting/Accounting
√ Project Management
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Programming (Events)
√ Digital Collections
√ Archives
√ History of Books/Libraries
√ Reference
√ Readers’ Advisory
√ Information Behavior
√ Outreach
√ Marketing
√ Instruction
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)
√ Other: Interviewing

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

I’ve found that a lot of candidates who don’t have previous library experience and whose school (usually an online program) didn’t require a practicum are woefully unprepared for actual library work. Their expectations are not grounded in reality. Also, although I’m not long out of library school myself, I will admit to sounding like an old biddy when I say that I am horrified by the lack of writing skills (spelling, grammar) displayed by a lot of the younger candidates I interview.

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)?

Learning the ebb and flow of their new library is an on the job thing. Library school can’t prepare you for the reality of your workplace, all the little fiddly things that each library does differently, the population you’ll be working with, the expectations of your management team, etc.

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)?

If I’m being honest here, I like to see students from the University of Illinois-Champlain, Syracuse University’s iSchool and Texas Women’s University. However, and this is a BIG caveat-although I am happy to see candidates with those schools on their resumes, if they have no practical experience, have a bad interview, can’t write to save their lives or drop in a lot of meaningless buzz-words without understanding their context, I will cross them off my list.

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

University of North Texas. I admit it. I have interviewed dozens of their alumni and I haven’t been impressed with any of them. Some UNT alumni that I work with that I have been impressed with attended just to get a degree, they already had years of library work under their belt.

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

Pay attention to the theory, but throw yourself into the practice. If your school doesn’t have a practicum requirement and you don’t have much library experience, volunteer on your own.

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

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, Urban area, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

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