I would rather hire somebody who has a ton of IT experience or has a PhD in education or who actually understands about research than a person who only has an MLIS

Paramaribo market scene. Women and men. 1922.This anonymous interview is with an academic 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:

just librarians, plain and simple

This librarian works at a library with 10-50 staff members in a suburban area in the Northeastern US.

Approximately how many people applied for the last librarian (or other professional level) job at your workplace?

√ more than 100, but less than 200

Approximately what percentage of those would you say were hirable?

√ 25% or less

And how would you define “hirable”?

someone who met our characteristics of what we specified in the job description. We even had people apply who didn’t yet have their degrees. That job was specifically for someone with supervisory experience, and hardly anybody had that.

How are applications evaluated, and by whom?

HR doesn’t weed out any. They are evaluated by a committee using the position announcement.

What is the most common reason for disqualifying an applicant without an interview?

They don’t have any professional library experience at all.

Do you (or does your library) give candidates feedback about applications or interview performance?

√ Other: sometimes

What is the most important thing for a job hunter to do in order to improve his/her/their hirability?

In your resume, don’t give me the generic “sat at reference desk, delivered instruction” when describing your reference & instruction experience. I already know exactly what a reference & instruction librarian does. Tell me HOW YOU MADE A DIFFERENCE.

Oh yeah, and get a crapload of IT knowledge too.

I want to hire someone who is

ambitious

How many staff members are at your library/organization?

√ 10-50

How many permanent, full time librarian (or other professional level) jobs has your workplace posted in the last year?

√ Other: 0

How many permanent, full time para-professional (or other non-professional level) jobs has your workplace posted in the last year?

√ 1

Can you tell us how the number of permanent, full-time librarian positions at your workplace has changed over the past decade?

√ There are more positions

Have any full-time librarian positions been replaced with part-time or hourly workers over the past decade?

√ No

Have any full-time librarian positions been replaced with para-professional workers over the past decade?

√ No

Does your workplace require experience for entry-level professional positions? If so, is it an official requirement or just what happens in practice?

Even for entry-level professional positions, we look for experience, like an internship or a grad student job in a library. We have in the past specifically advertised for “new graduates” with 5 years or less since their MLIS. But even those, we were looking for someone with a little experience.

Is librarianship a dying profession?

√ Yes

Why or why not?

In the sense that you need a “library degree.” That was just a hoop to jump through 25 years ago, and it’s a hoop to jump through now. I would rather hire somebody who has a ton of IT experience or has a PhD in education or who actually understands about research than a person who only has an MLIS. The MLIS is just for enculturation. There is NOTHING, and I mean nothing, unique about library knowledge. Give me a good, knowledgeable person, and I can indoctrinate them into librarianship on the job.

Do you hire librarians?  Take this survey: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibjobmarketsurvey or take other Hiring Librarians surveys.

For some context, look at the most recent summary of responses.

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3 Comments

Filed under 10-50 staff members, Academic, Northeastern US, State of the Job Market 2015, Suburban area

3 responses to “I would rather hire somebody who has a ton of IT experience or has a PhD in education or who actually understands about research than a person who only has an MLIS

  1. Matt Thomas

    This response is precisely why Librarianship is a dying profession: librarians themselves don’t value their profession and place it lower than almost every other profession or skill set. For some positions yes, an IT background or PhD in Ed would be better, but not for a librarian position. Enculturation isn’t nothing (values are an important part of our profession) and we do have sets of skills and knowledge that are unique to our profession: cataloguing, collection development, the nature of the information industry, searching behaviour, etc. Understanding research from the point of view of the researcher is one small part of the whole. Librarians understand (or rather should understand) the bigger picture. Thinking that a person who does research is the best person to be a librarian is like assuming that any given driver is would be the best mechanic, urban planner, or even will always buy the best car for their own needs. That’s simply not true and we all know that.
    Also, does anyone else see the convenient contradiction in requiring experience for entry-level positions? I’m sure it’s not meant this way, but it seems like a case of having your cake and eating it too, to pay someone at an entry level salary but then reap the rewards of not having to train them from the start. More experience is almost always better than less, but you shouldn’t get it for free.
    Finally, it’s not very consistent is say that someone is hirable because they “met our characteristics of what we specified in the job description” and then say “don’t give me the generic ‘sat at reference desk, delivered instruction’ when describing your reference & instruction experience”. Sure, give more than the generic, but don’t fail to mention the basic fact that you provided reference service when the job ad requires experience provided reference service. No one on the hiring committee wants to play the game of “did they or didn’t they” for any of the job requirements.

  2. Pauline

    What is “a crapload of IT knowledge”? What KIND of IT knowledge? Programming? Troubleshooting? How are we supposed to know?

    • pigbitinmad

      My question exactly. A crapload of IT to me means that you write programs from scratch (MySQL and Network administration for places like NASA). Not the kind of stuff I do, but I usually know a lot more than the people sitting next to me. For some reason I was not able to post my original comment here. I tried to because the person writing this annoyed me so much with their arrogance.

      Why would someone with high level IT skills want to be a librarian? I never met anyone like that in a library outside the IT department.

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