This anonymous interview is with an academic librarian who has been a hiring manager (you are hiring people that you will directly or indirectly supervise). This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:
Interns, secondary school librarians and librarian assistants, teacher librarians, catalogers
This librarian works at a School Library with 0-10 staff members in an Urban area in Asia.
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
√ Collection Management
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Research Methods
√ Readers’ Advisory
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)
Do you find that there are skills that are commonly lacking in MLS/MLIS holders? If so, which ones?
Policy writing and the legal aspects of careers in libraries. It’s so important to protect yourself, your staff and patrons from legal situations that can be prevented with proper policies being written up.
When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently?
√ Yes–I value skills gained through a student job more highly
Which skills (or types of skills) do you expect a new hire to learn on the job (as opposed to at library school)?
Practical skills related to tasks can be learned on the job, such as book repair, book processing (i.e. new books, donations), office and desk organization and management (essential when working with a team), specific software skills (there are so many new types of software coming out it is not reasonable to expect this to be taught in library school).
Which of the following experiences should library students have upon graduating?
√ Library work experience
√ Professional organization involvement
√ Teaching assistant/Other instructional experience
Which library schools give candidates an edge (you prefer candidates from these schools)?
ALA accredited institutions, they have high standards. Library Schools from Europe, North America, or Australia. I would have to research certificates or degrees coming from lesser known institutions in Asia, Africa or South America.
Are there any library schools whose alumni you would be reluctant to hire?
Chinese institutions – Sadly, I have a hard time trusting that the standards of skills are a good fit for what I want candidates to be able to do in a North American style library. Many of the websites are in Chinese with no English option so I cannot verify what skills candidates have been taught, nor can I guarantee that the certificate is genuine.
What advice do you have for students who want to make the most of their time in library school?
Work or volunteer in a library at the same time! If you can’t get a library job, at least volunteer in one. You need the hands on practical experience to compliment your studies, it makes your education that much more meaningful and solidifies what you are learning.