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:
catalogers, reference, instruction
This librarian works at a library with 10-50 staff members in an suburban area in the Western 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?
√ Project Management
√ Collection Management
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Research Methods
√ Readers’ Advisory
√ Information Behavior
√ Services to Special Populations
√ 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?
Soft skills are problematic. MLIS students would benefit from learning more about public speaking and presentations, about networking in professional functions, and about writing ranging from a good cover letter to effective e-mails. I hear more and more that cataloging isn’t being taught, or that it’s only an elective. Organization of information is the backbone of so much library work, and it’s dismaying when I encounter those who could have used a course in cataloging.
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)?
Actual application of skills, such as when to make local decisions for cataloging materials so as to meet the needs of the users rather than what a classification system suggests. Organizational culture. You can’t interview for that precisely, but it is something that can be shared and inculcated after hire.
Which of the following experiences should library students have upon graduating?
√ Library work experience
√ Internship or practicum
√ Student organization involvement
√ Professional organization involvement
Which library schools give candidates an edge (you prefer candidates from these schools)?
No preference. The candidates I see are usually from a small pool based on the programs that are geographically closest.
Are there any library schools whose alumni you would be reluctant to hire?
I am wary of alumni from the larger online programs, but I would judge candidates on the merits each puts forward.
What advice do you have for students who want to make the most of their time in library school?
You can often tailor assignments to your career goals, so try to do so. Work in a library as a student worker if you can, or do a practicum or internship. Do not overlook management courses – all too often librarians get promoted because they have the most seniority, and having some course work to back that up is helpful.
Do you have any other comments, for library schools or students, or about the survey?
Your program or university should ideally offer career advice and workshops on applying for and interviewing for jobs. Seek out these resources and use them!
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!