When Brianna Marshall and I piloted the What Should Candidates Learn in Library School survey, one of the testers commented that the questions on preferring or being reluctant to hire candidates from different schools felt “dangerous.”
I completely agree that these are not comfortable questions.
The questions I’m referring to are:
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?
The person that we were thinking of, when we wrote these questions, is the person who asks, “Which library school should I go to? Which are the best? Which are the worst?”
Now, these two survey questions are not questions that might determine which are the “best” or “worst” library schools.
What they can determine, is if the person who took the survey has a bias for or against a particular school.
They can determine if the idea of “best” and “worst” schools exists in the mind of the person who took the survey.
This question addresses perception, not reality. It looks at the opinions of people who hire.
I also agree, as one or more commenters have said, that these questions might have been more helpful if the words “and why?” had been included. One person put it very elegantly, saying,
“We are always happy to hear feedback about our MLIS program (my contact info is all over the place online, so feel free to reach out), but for us to be able to be responsive to the profession, it has to be clear.”
Hindsight is 20/20. With all that being said,
These stats are based on responses as of October 20th – 307 responses. You will see that there are some slight differences from the numbers I tweeted earlier this week. I apologize. I was tweeting from memory, and I got it wrong.
Answering the question, “Which library schools give candidates an edge (you prefer candidates from these schools)?”
Out of 307 responses, 115 left this question blank. An additional 3 respondents put a dash or other mark. One wrote “I won’t state specific schools in this forum”. Four more responses were irrelevant – it seemed like the respondents had misread the question. That brings the total to 123 unclear responses. In other words, 40.06% of total respondents may or may not have had a preference for graduates from a certain school. For this post, we will disregard these “unclear responses”.
There were a total of 184 “clear” responses.
94 respondents stated that they did not find that any particular school gave candidates an edge. That’s 51.08% of clear responses.
90 responses named preferred schools. That’s 48.91% of clear responses.
That’s pretty close to even, with a slight majority who don’t really care what particular school a candidate went to.
Categorizing Responses where no particular school gave candidates an edge
Of those 94 responses where no particular school gave candidates an edge, 14 did specify that the school must be ALA accredited. That’s 14.89% of those that did not name a preferred school, and 7.6% of the 184 clear responses to this question. This doesn’t mean that only 14 wanted an ALA accredited school, it only signifies that 14 cared to mention it. It may be that hiring from an ALA accredited school is such a given, that other respondents did not feel the need to mention. In fact, only two respondents said in response to this question, that whether or not a candidate’s school was ALA accredited was not a factor in their decision. In other words, two people said they would hire the “best” candidate, even if that candidate’s degree did not come from an ALA accredited school.
There were a few different categories when examining the reasons why respondents did not feel any particular school gave candidates an edge.
43 (45.74% of 94 who did not care, 23.37% of 184 total clear answers) gave no reason why they would not name a specific school. They said simply, “no preference” or “none” or “any ALA accredited school.”
18 (19.14% of 94, 9.78% of 184 clear answers) felt that other characteristics of the candidate were more important, such as experience or quality of application. These people also often mentioned some version of the phrase “even the best schools sometimes graduate bozos.” The quote below is representative of the responses in this category:
It’s the people not the schools. Good candidates go to so-so schools and bad candidates sometimes graduate from good ones. If a school is accredited, that’s good enough. I look at the candidate. Having gone to library school very recently I can say unequivocally that it’s about what the student puts into the work far more than it’s about the overall quality of the school. Even good schools sometimes have a bad instructor or two…
12 (12.76% of 94 who did not name a preferred school, 6.52% of 184 clear answers) identified particular characteristics that were important for the school to have, but did not name a specific school. These responses specified things like “brick and mortar”, “prefer a MLIS degree over other “information science” degrees,” “local schools,” “Canadian,” or “i-schools.” The response I found most interesting talked about fitting the candidate in with other staff members, in order to have a wider range of strengths:
We are located near Baton Rouge, so we see a lot of LSU applicants. I have four professional positions in the library; two have LSU degrees, one from elsewhere, one position is currently vacant. I’d like to have applicants with credentials from various schools because schools have different strengths and weaknesses; mixing it up gives us different strengths.
11 (11.7% of 94, 59.78% of 184) respondents said that school doesn’t matter, or that there was little difference between the schools. They said things like
I see no discernible difference in library schools. It is really all about what the candidate did while in school. (i.e. classes taken, skills learned, job experience)
None. They are all behind the times.
9 (9.57% of 94, 4.89% of 184) said that they didn’t know enough about the different library schools in order to prefer one over the other. As one respondent said,
I don’t have a broad enough experience with candidates to answer this question. We generally only get applicants from the closest library schools.
One person was extremely vague and therefore difficult to categorize, saying only “depends on the reputation of the individual school.”
Of the above responses, only one also talked about alumni solidarity, saying,
If someone happens to have graduated from my same school, I might take notice of them, but not to the point of giving them preferential treatment over another candidate from another school.
Answering the question, “Are there any library schools whose alumni you would be reluctant to hire?”
130 people out of 307 did not answer this question, either by leaving it blank, making an ambiguous remark, or declining to state. This leaves a total of 177 clear responses. 132 (74.58% of total clear responses) people said that there was no particular school whose alumni they were reluctant to hire. 45 (25.42% of total clear responses) named a school or schools (about half as many as named preferred schools – what a positive bunch!)
Categorizing Responses where no particular school made respondent reluctant to Hire
Of those who did not name schools whose alumni they were reluctant to hire, 65 (49.24% of those who did not name a particular school, 36.72% of total clear responses) did not include further reasoning. They simply said things like “no” or “not really” or “not particularly.”
19 (14.39%, 10.73%) expressed reluctance to hire people from online schools. I discussed this more in THIS post. These respondents said things like,
While the course work is fine, I am leery of total on-line course work. There is no sense of team-work or social skills involved and I have found that many people with a totally on-line degree have little/no library experience.
16 (12.12%, 9.04%) people expressed that they would be reluctant to hire candidates from non-ALA accredited schools.
I would look carefully and investigate unfamiliar and unaccredited programs before hiring their graduates just to make sure the degree is not from some diploma-mill that doesn’t teach much. I need librarians who bring every skill and strength possible to the workplace because we are small – but mighty!
14 (10.6%, 7.9%) said it depended on the candidate, not the school. They weighed the candidate’s experience, skill, and/or the way they presented themselves in the application and interview, and did not take school into account. People in this category said things like:
if they did well in the phone interview and on-campus interview, no.
No, it matters not. Each candidate is judged on their own merits.
One of the above respondents, and an additional respondent, felt that there was not much difference between library schools (2, or 1.5% of who did not name a particular school, and 1.12% of total clear responses).
Eight people (6.06%, 4.51%) felt that they did not know enough about the particular schools to use this as a criteria. They said things like,
Have no idea. I don’t pay much attention to what school they came from, I really care about the interview/experience.
Two people (1.5%, 1.12%) said they would not be interested in candidates whose schools did not include a particular focus or curriculum. One said,
any school that does not require students to take a reference course and a cataloging course.
Two people (1.5%, 1.12%) expressed a regional bias, one expressing reluctance to hire alums from outside the US, and the other naming Nigerian schools(the respondent was in Ghana)
One person (.75%, .56%) was an anti-alumni, saying
I am slightly reluctant to consider alumni from my library school which is way more theory than practice and really doesn’t offer much in the way of advanced courses, but I try to keep an open mind. And I don’t think it would help alumni much if I pointed out which school it is!
One person (.75%, .56%) expressed reluctance to hire people from small schools, more specifically
Small, traditional schools that don’t teach new technologies and require cataloging classes
One person (.75%, .56%) said they would be reluctant to hire candidates from for-profit schools.
One person (.75%, .56%) seemed to think that schools today were doing better, saying:
I have not experienced any in recent years. There were some in the 70s 80s and 90s
So there’s my break down of the responses that didn’t include specific schools. Next week I hope to have some analysis for you of the responses that **NAME NAMES**.
However, these stats posts take a long time, my friends, and I am only one person, with other attention-diverting things such as a husband, toothless cat, and two jobs that actually pay money. So please be patient, and don’t worry too much if you see your school’s name pop up. It’s just one person’s opinion. You know the quality of your education, and your expertise will bear that out.