Tag Archives: Education for librarianship

I Make Sure That I Qualify, First and Foremost

This is a repost of a survey originally posted January 7, 2013.  A follow-up interview will be posted shortly.

EDITED 6/13/2013: This interviewee has asked that I change her non-anonymous interview to anonymous.

This interview is with  a recent graduate, who is currently working part time scanning materials and doing reference work, among other things, for an academic library. This person has been job hunting for six months to a year, looking in academic libraries, archives, special libraries, and museums at the following levels: Entry level and Requiring at least two years of experience. Here is how this new grad describes her internship/volunteering experience:

I did a little volunteering at my current part time job before I was hired on. I live in a rural area and the other libraries in the area don’t take volunteers anymore so I’m very limited in terms of internship/volunteer experience.

Although currently in a city/town in the Western US, this person is willing to move anywhere. 

What are the top three things you’re looking for in a job?

1) That I qualify. There are a lot of mis-leading job titles out there.

2) What kind of duties will I be performing. At this point, I’m not really picky and will do almost anything in the archival field that I qualify for.

3) Location. I would love to stay on the west coast but I’m not picky and will apply for most anything. I’m trying to stay away from the East coast just because there are a lot more library schools out there.

Where do you look for open positions?

I have a whole bundle of RSS fields that someone posted in my school’s fb group. It covers  both library and archival positions

Do you expect to see salary range listed in a job ad?

√ No (even if I might think it *should* be)

What’s your routine for preparing an application packet? How much time do you spend on it?

I make sure that I qualify first and foremost for most the qualities they’re looking for. Then if I feel I can write a good cover letter to put that all in, I do. Then I tailor my resume. Once that’s all good I either send it to the email address listed or I go through the application process. Which to be honest, with some companies is so damn repetitive to what I have listed on my resume! Its such a waste of time. I usually spend about 2 hours on average.

Have you ever stretched the truth, exaggerated, or lied on your resume, or at some other point during the hiring process?

√ No

When would you like employers to contact you?

√ To acknowledge my application
√ To tell me if I have or have not been selected to move on to the interview stage
√ Once the position has been filled, even if it’s not me

How do you prefer to communicate with potential employers?

√ Email

Which events during the interview/visit are most important to your assessment of the position (i.e. deciding if you want the job)?

√ Tour of facility
√ Meeting department members/potential co-workers

What do you think employers should do to get the best candidates to apply?

Be honest. If I’m going to be doing just a bunch of processing, say that! For the most part, the employers I’ve talked to have been honest and upfront about what the job will entail but there have been a few who have not and it has been frustrating

Also don’t list a bunch of qualifications that may or may not be what you want. It’s really disheartening to see a job that I could potentially be good at, only to see they want some crazy expectations like major coding when the job description doesn’t really lend itself to being that.

What should employers do to make the hiring process less painful?

Don’t be repetitive! If you ask us to upload our resume and cover letter, don’t ask us to retype that information in an application field!

What do you think is the secret to getting hired?

Unfortunately, a lot of it is networking and knowing the right people.

This survey was co-authored by Naomi House from I Need A Library Job – Do you need one?  Check it out!

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Filed under Academic, Archives, City/town, Job hunter's survey, Special, Western US

Researcher’s Corner: Experiences that Influence the Outcome of Recent Grads’ Academic Library Job Searches

I’ve been looking forward to sharing this with you for a while!  I caught the authors’ call for participants on the NMRT listserv – although I didn’t fit the demographic, I knew the results of their research would be fascinating.  And they are!  I think this will be very useful for job hunters across the board, but particularly for students looking to go into academic libraries.


As three recent Library and Information Science (LIS) graduates, we know finding a position in an academic library can be challenging for new graduates. LIS students are frequently encouraged to seek out experience, network, and improve upon their technology skills in order to have marketable skills when they apply for positions, yet little research actually supports such advice. We decided to test the advice given to students and determine what academic and work experiences of recent LIS graduates most significantly influence the outcome of their academic library job searches.

Survey

In 2013, we sent out a survey that asked questions about seven primary categories: basic information, job search, professional effectiveness, professional development, service, technological competency, and previous careers. We asked about student’s graduate program, parameters of their job search, their academic and work experience, as well as other skills or professional involvement that could influence their ability to land a first-time academic library job. The link to the survey was emailed to 2008–2012 graduates from the LIS programs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, North Carolina Central University, and Dominican University. We also emailed the survey link to members of the ALA New Members’ Round Table (NMRT) listserv, distributed links on index cards to ACRL 2013 conference attendees during a related poster presentation, and electronically posted the link on the ACRL New Member Discussion board.

Results

Our results included the expected and unexpected (from our points of view). There were 360 total respondents to our survey and 56% (N = 201) reported they wanted to work in academic libraries. These 201 respondents represented 33 different LIS programs with the highest number of students graduating from the University of Illinois (56) and Dominican University (39).

We used our results to compare successful and unsuccessful job seekers to discover trends. Overall, we found the two groups to be fairly similar. Only certain factors in job search, professional effectiveness, professional development, and service made a significant difference in improving the odds of success in securing a job. Briefly outlined below are our key findings:

  • Applying for jobs four to six months before graduation were nearly seven times more likely to obtain a job than candidates who did not.
  • Having any academic library experience increased the odds of success for a job seeker and those who had participated in an internship or practicum improved their odds of success by 2.75 compared to those with no internship or practicum.
  • Attending conferences increased the odds of success by 3.33 when compared to candidates without this experience, attending workshops and seminars increased the odds by 2.05 and publishing increased the odds by 4.83.
  • Completing committee service work increased an individual’s odds of securing a job by 3.

Conclusion

If you’re an aspiring or current LIS student, on the job market, or are looking to help out new librarians, we have some advice. Advice backed up by our research. Start applying for jobs around the start of your last semester in library school. While in school, look for any opportunity to get some experience in an academic library, even if you don’t get paid. Join some committees, and attend some local or, if you’re able, national conferences. And, even though it’s extra work, take that professor up on the offer to co-author an article with you

To read our full findings and analysis, please take a look at our open-access journal article published by The Journal of Academic Librarianship available here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0099133314000123

 


rosener_ashley-1Ashley Rosener, Liaison Librarian to the School of Social Work, School of Public, Nonprofit, and Health Administration, and the Johnson Center for Philanthropy, Grand Valley State University

Ashley Rosener graduated with her Masters from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and is excited by all things related to library instruction.

 

LindyheadshotLindy Scripps-Hoekstra, Liaison Librarian to the Area and Religious Studies programs, Grand Valley State University.

Lindy Scripps-Hoekstra graduated from Dominican University’s Library Science program and, as a former high school teacher, is particularly interested in reaching students through library instruction.

 

Eckard_Max_MovemberMax Eckard, Metadata & Digital Curation Librarian, Grand Valley State University.

Max Eckard is a [relatively recent] graduate of North Carolina Central University, and is passionate about digital preservation and librarianship as service.

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Filed under Academic, Guest Posts, library research, Researcher's Corner

Researcher’s Corner: Tenure and Promotion in Libraries, Part 2 – Resource List

Last week I posted the first part of this research into tenure and promotion by Lori Smith and Penny Hecker.  If you’re a current or future academic librarian (or just interested in the status of librarians), this week’s post provides an excellent resource list to help you learn more about librarians and the various ways they might achieve tenure.


On Tenure across the U.S.

(Penny Hecker)

I created the list of sources below because it’s wise to familiarize yourself with the varying status of librarians within the academy. Just as there are multiple types of academic librarians, there are multiple types of “faculty status” for librarians. Although the argument for how to classify academic librarians began in the 19th century, it wasn’t until 1943 when librarians at the University of Illinois were the first to be granted “faculty status”.

With the variety of terminology, procedures, and criteria that exist across just our University of Louisiana System, determining the “norm” for tenure and promotion practices nationwide would take a monumental amount of research. Therefore, I’ve created a list of sources limited to the publication scope of 2001-2013, except for one article published in 1994. The following sources provide both research and opinion on librarian faculty status. They are organized loosely by descriptive headings and alphabetized by author name or title.

Just the Facts 

Academic-Librarian-Status is a very accommodating wiki source which delineates the main categories and lists several universities under each category. In some instances, there are direct links to the institution’s criteria and procedures for tenure and promotion.

A Guideline for the Appointment, Promotion and Tenure of Academic Librarians (ALA)

Association of College and Research Libraries Standards for Faculty Status for Academic Librarians

Bolin, M. K. (2008, May 28). A typology of librarian status at land grant universities. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 34(5), 220-230. Accessible @ http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/libraryscience/156/

Bolin, M. K. (2008, September 5). Librarian status at US research universities: Extending the typology. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 34(5), 416-424. Accessible @ http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1176&context=libraryscience

Hosburgh, N. (2011, June 1). Librarian faculty status: What does it mean in academia? In Library Philosophy and Practice. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1603&context=libphilprac

Rosenberg, Bonnie. Faculty status and academic libraries.  www. weebly.com, n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2014. <http://375138250656935668.weebly.com/uploads/1/9/9/3/19932831/ils560_faculty_status_rosenberg_copy.pdf>.  (Rosenberg wrote this for a library school course and I thought it was excellent. I stumbled across this after I had completed my source-gathering and was tempted to direct readers just to this source because it’s such a great snapshot of faculty status, and it already contains many of my sources.)

 For & Against; Pros & Cons; Advice

Coker, C., van Duinkerken, W., & Bales, S. (2010). Seeking full citizenship: A defense of tenure faculty status for librarians. College & Research Libraries, 71(5), 406-420.

Cronin, B. (2001). The mother of all myths. Library Journal, 126(3), 144.

Dunn, S. (2013, March 18). As their roles change, some librarians lose faculty status. In The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved April 25, 2014

Garner, J., Davidson, K., & Schwartzkopf, B. (2009). Images of academic librarians: How tenure-track librarians portray themselves in the promotion and tenure process. Serials Librarian, 56(1-4), 203-208. doi:10.1080/03615260802690694

Gillum, S. (2010). The true benefit of faculty status for academic reference librarians. Reference Librarian, 51(4), 321-328. doi:10.1080/02763877.2010.501419

Hill, J. (1994). Wearing our own olothes: Librarians as faculty. Journal Of Academic Librarianship, 20(2), 71.

Hoggan, D. B. (2003, July). Faculty status for librarians in higher education. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 3(3), 431-445. doi:10.1353/pla.2003.0060

McKinzie, S. (2010). 590: Local notes — tenure for academic librarians: Why it has to go. Against The Grain, 22(4), 60.

Smith, F. (2006). Tenure and promotion: How university system of Georgia librarians rate what we do. Georgia Library Quarterly, 43(1), 11-16.

Spires, T. (2007). The busy librarian: Prioritizing tenure and dealing with stress for academic library professionals. Illinois Libraries, 86(4), 101-108.

Stouffer, C. M. (2011). Tenure and other sticky situations. AALL Spectrum, 16(1), 11-13.


Smith-Lori-L-2

Lori L. Smith, Government Information Librarian, Southeastern Louisiana University, Sims Memorial Library

Lori L. Smith obtained her M.L.S. from Indiana University in 1987, spent a few years as a Government Information Specialist at the St. Louis Public Library, and has been the Government Information Librarian at Southeastern Louisiana University since 1991.

 

Penny Hecker

Penny Hecker, Associate Professor & Reference/Instruction Librarian, Southeastern Louisiana University, Sims Memorial Library

Penny Hecker has worked in both public and academic libraries since 1991. She is currently a reference/instruction librarian and Associate Professor at Sims Library, Southeastern Louisiana University, where she teaches the credit course Library Science 102. 

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Researcher’s Corner: Tenure and Promotion in Libraries, Part I – Louisiana Libraries

I’m happy to provide this two-part informal summary of research by Lori Smith and Penny Hecker on a topic which may be of great interest to you current and aspiring academic librarians.  In this post, Smith and Hecker offer a look at the tenure process within the University of Louisiana system, and their personal reflections.  Next week, they’ll broaden this information by providing resources on librarians’ tenure across the US.


Around 2007 at Southeastern Louisiana University, Lori Smith was assigned to provide tenure and promotion mentoring to Penny Hecker. One day Penny was lamenting how difficult it was to come up with a research topic for a publication.  Lori said it was easiest to pick something related to a task or project you were currently doing.  Since both had just left a meeting at which revisions to the library’s tenure and promotion guidelines had been discussed, Lori suggested an article comparing tenure and promotion requirements among libraries in Louisiana.  They agreed to collaborate on the article and it only took them five long years to get it written and published.  (They’re both very busy people: Lori is the Government Information Librarian at Southeastern and Penny is a reference librarian and an instructor for the university’s credit information literacy course, Library Science 102.)

In order to simplify the research they agreed to focus on the libraries within their own University of Louisiana System, rather than looking at all the academic libraries in the state. The article “Tenure and Promotion: Criteria and Procedures Used by University of Louisiana System Libraries” appeared in Volume 2, Issue 2 (2012) of Codex: Journal of the Louisiana Chapter of the ACRLhttp://journal.acrlla.org/index.php/codex/article/view/71.

Summary of What We Found in Louisiana

(Lori Smith)

Though it did take quite a while to do it, writing the article was actually quite interesting.  The first challenge was obtaining copies of the tenure and promotion policies for the libraries in the University of Louisiana System (ULS).  (The library at McNeese University was the only one that didn’t have its own policy.)  While the university policies were often available online, none of the library policies were.  Fortunately, through my connection with the government documents librarians across the state and the help of some colleagues who used their connections, we were able to get copies of the policies we needed.

The similarities between the policies were clear in that all evaluated job performance, research/professional activity, and service, but significant procedural variations did arise.  Some libraries did tenure and promotion reviews in the fall, and others in the spring.  The University of New Orleans, which had just recently been moved into the ULS, had deadlines for both fall and spring reviews.  Some libraries used all tenured faculty at or above the rank being applied for as the peer review committee, and others used a smaller number of members.  The required contents of the review portfolio also differed slightly from library to library.  Southeastern seems to be the only institution that requires all job descriptions from the probationary period to be included in the file.  Since colleagues aren’t always familiar with each other’s duties, this is a useful addition to the file.

The weighting of the three areas being evaluated varied widely.  In most cases, job performance was weighted most heavily, followed by research/professional activity, and then service.  The only university that weighted service more heavily than research/professional activity was Grambling.  Given the amount of time that librarians at Southeastern spend on committee work for the Library and University, it may be that Grambling has the right idea.

There was very little detail in the policies about the requirement to “publish or perish.”  Various types of publications were mentioned along with other typical accomplishments within research/professional activity, but rarely was a specific number of publications mentioned.  For early promotion the policy of Nicholls State required a specific number of “scholarly works,” which topped out at three for promotion to Full Professor.  Southeastern’s policy mentioned that two “publications” were required to achieve a rating of “Excellence” in professional activity, and that a “substantial record of publication” was required for promotion to Full Professor.  None of the policies specified that publications had to be based on empirical research, though many included language (“outstanding,” “distinguished,” etc.) that emphasized the quality of the works.

After completing the article, we concluded that:

1) it would be more beneficial for future research if all ULS tenure and promotion policies were published online for easier comparison;

2) future tenure/promotion research in Louisiana might compare its two public university systems, compare its private and public universities, and eventually compare Louisiana to other states;

3) other relevant topics for future research might be faculty opinions about the process and the effect mentoring has on the process.

Our Personal Experiences of the Tenure and Promotion Process

Penny:

First, I want to note how helpful Lori’s mentoring was to me in the process. It’s common in our profession to have librarians mentoring new colleagues; it’s almost a necessity when climbing the mountain of tenure and promotion. And that’s what it felt like after I completed the process and earned tenure and promotion: like I had just scaled the academic equivalent of Mount Everest for 6 years. I was awarded tenure in 2013 and promoted from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor.

My experience of tenure was closer to the traditional experience of tenure-seeking teaching faculty because I teach credit-bearing term courses in library research to undergraduates. Thus my tenure file, like non-library teaching faculty had to include documentation of peer teaching observations, student opinion of teaching, grade distributions, course content examples, research, publication, and service duties. The aforementioned was in addition to my scheduled daily duties of desk reference and virtual reference. However, I had to jump through the hoops of tenure as a 12-month employee of the university, unlike non-library tenure-track faculty who are usually contracted to work 9-10 months, allowing them the summer to work on necessary activity toward tenure. Thankfully, our library slows down somewhat in summer so the pace is more amenable toward achieving at least some of your tenure goals.

If you think that you want a tenure-track position in an academic library, consider whether or not you will be required to teach credit courses and whether your appointment will be 12 months or 9-10 months. Although the rewards of teaching can be many, there are also many unknowns in dealing with students. These unknowns may affect how much time and energy you have left over to do research, committee work, publishing, and professional activity.

Lori:

I was awarded tenure in 1996.  At that point Sims Library had only one tenured faculty member and no written policies on tenure and promotion.  We followed the overall university policy, and, since peer review committees were required to have at least three members, I had to recommend faculty from outside the Library to serve on my committee.  I don’t teach any credit-bearing classes, so it was nerve-wracking trying to explain and document my duties thoroughly enough for non-librarians to understand and appreciate what I had accomplished.  Since the committee awarded me tenure but refused my request for promotion from Assistant to Associate Professor, I probably could have done a better job.

In any case, shortly after I was tenured I served on a Library committee that drafted tenure and promotion guidelines for the Library.  We wanted to ensure that librarians in the future would know what was expected from them and that outside reviewers, when necessary, would have an overview of what the Library considered to be superior performance.  The guidelines have been revised many times over the past several years, but I think they’re an invaluable tool for everyone involved in the process.  I certainly wish I’d had them when I was starting out.

To end on a positive note, I did eventually get promoted to Associate Professor and as of this year, I’m well on my way to being promoted to Full Professor.  With sufficient guidance, it is indeed possible to climb to the top of the ladder.


Smith-Lori-L-2

Lori L. Smith, Government Information Librarian, Southeastern Louisiana University, Sims Memorial Library

Lori L. Smith obtained her M.L.S. from Indiana University in 1987, spent a few years as a Government Information Specialist at the St. Louis Public Library, and has been the Government Information Librarian at Southeastern Louisiana University since 1991.

 

Penny Hecker

Penny Hecker, Associate Professor & Reference/Instruction Librarian, Southeastern Louisiana University, Sims Memorial Library

Penny Hecker has worked in both public and academic libraries since 1991. She is currently a reference/instruction librarian and Associate Professor at Sims Library, Southeastern Louisiana University, where she teaches the credit course Library Science 102. 

 

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Stats and Graphs: How much coursework should you cram in to library school?

It’s STATURDAY!

I often hear grousing on Twitter about the number of responses checked off for the question “What coursework do you think all (or most) MLS/MLIS holders should take, regardless of focus?

“They’ve picked too many answers,” the grousers say. “These hiring managers are out of touch.  Library schools only require a few core courses.  No one could ever take all these classes!  You need to restrict them to just picking a few.”

Well, ok.

I think the major problem here is mistaking the word “coursework” for “course.”  The question is really soliciting topics, rather than classes.  For example, 149 respondents (48%) indicated that they thought all students should have coursework in budgeting/accounting.  We covered budgeting/accounting in my collection management class. 72% of respondents said all students should do coursework in collection management.  Hey, I killed two birds with one stone!

This question might be more analogous with core competency requirements, rather than core courses.  In another personal example, San Jose State required me to take only five core classes: an orientation to online learning, information and society, information retrieval, information organizations and management, and research methods.  In contrast, it required me to demonstrate that I filled 14 core competencies, ranging from instruction to communication to ethics.

This also brings up the question, is it appropriate to say hiring managers are out of touch?  Isn’t it the job of the school to know what managers need, rather than the job of hiring managers to know what schools are teaching?  Aren’t schools supposed to be preparing students for work, and shouldn’t they therefore be teaching the things that hiring managers need us to know?  

Methods

Here’s what I did.  First, I copied and pasted the auto-generated table for this question’s responses from Google Forms onto an excel spreadsheet. Then I recalculated the percentages to show the percentage of total respondents that picked each topic (how many out of 308).  I also used Excel to generate a graph showing the spread of responses.

Second, I copied and pasted the column containing  the text of all of these responses to this question into excel, used text to columns to separate topic choices into cells, cleaned it up a bit, and counted the number of topics each respondent picked.  I used excel to find different kinds of averages, as well as to count the the number of occurrences for each quantity of topics picked.  This second step took quite a while.

Thirdly, I looked at the write-in answers.  There weren’t a lot (62 topics, by 45 respondents).  Maybe because they had so many options already! I coded and counted the occurrence of similar answers.

Lastly, I sat down to write this.

Findings

Respondents had a choice of 25 topics, plus the option to write in their own. Here is the range of choices, with the number of times each was picked, and the percentage of total respondents who picked it:

Reference 237 77%
Collection Management 223 72%
Project Management 199 65%
Library Management 191 62%
Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations) 183 59%
Research Methods 182 59%
Web Design/Usability 175 57%
Cataloging 174 56%
Instruction 168 55%
Field Work/Internships 165 54%
Marketing 157 51%
Outreach 152 49%
Budgeting/Accounting 149 48%
Digital Collections 134 44%
Information Behavior 130 42%
Readers’ Advisory 117 38%
Grant Writing 115 37%
Programming (Events) 108 35%
Metadata 96 31%
Services to Special Populations 82 27%
History of Books/Libraries 76 25%
Other 45 15%
Programming (Coding) 38 12%
Archives 29 9%
Vocabulary Design 27 9%
Portfolio/ePortfolio 15 5%

Here is the same information, only as a graph (click it to see one big enough to read):

coursework choices

The average (Mean) number of options each respondent picked?

10!

The dead center number of options each respondent picked (Median)?

10!

The most frequent number of options each respondent picked (Mode)?

7!

But what was the full range of picks?  What are the different quantities of topics picked, and how many people chose each of the different quantities?

I’m glad you asked, please look at this table:

No. of topics picked How many picked that number of topics?
0 2
1 1
2 5
3 6
4 14
5 14
6 26
7 32
8 24
9 24
10 26
11 26
12 19
13 20
14 20
15 9
16 15
17 3
18 3
19 9
20 2
21 3
22 0
23 2

Here’s that in graph form:

number of topics

And what did people write in?

Applying common sense in situations (1 person), content management (1), Copyright (1), customer service (4), data curation (1), facilities – particularly unplugging toilets (3), flexibility and willingness to change (1), Government Documents (2), indexing (1), intellectual freedom (1), IT/Technology (5), knowledge Management (2), Library Law and legal issues (1), networking/self promotion (3), people skills–like working with people (1), presentations/public speaking (4), Professional Ethics (1), psychology (1), Scholarly communication topics (1), searching techniques (1), social media (3), SQL (1), statistics/data analysis (2), strategic planning/community assessments (3), supervision/HR (6), teamwork and team building (1), Writing (2), youth services or related skills – e.g. storytime, child development (5)

A Note on Diversity

Did you read Black OR Queer? Life at the Intersection over at Hack Library School? If you haven’t, go read it.  It’s good.  I’ll wait for you here.

In it, Ettarh asks:

For instance, why does Rutgers require all of its MLIS students to take a class like Cataloguing, but not Planning Outreach Services? If that is not possible, why is there no mandatory webinar or colloquium on diversity and intersectionality? If MLIS programs reflect the knowledge deemed important to become an information professional, does this therefore mean that Rutgers does not place an importance of learning to deal with diverse populations?

It’s a question worth considering.

In this survey population, 49% of respondents indicated that they thought students should complete coursework in Outreach and only 27% chose services to special populations.  We didn’t ask about coursework in diversity or intersectionality. It was probably partly because we looked at course catalogs for inspiration, and we didn’t see those classes listed.  It was probably also partly because intersectionality isn’t really a word that’s deep in my psyche, and it wouldn’t have occurred to me to ask about it (although, living in the Bay Area means diversity is a very familiar concept and concern).  It’s maybe also because personally I’m increasingly focused on practicalities of librarianship, rather than the theory.

But if it’s important to us to be a diverse and inclusive profession (and I think it is – what good is it to espouse intellectual freedom, to protect and present materials from all points of view, if we are not providing access by and for people of all kinds?), then shouldn’t this be reflected in our coursework?

In Conclusion

Ok that’s all folks!  

I’ve got to go apply common sense and people skills to unplug my toilet!

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Filed under MLIS Students, Stats and Graphs, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

MANAGEMENT

Alstead School House and Students, Alstead, New HampshireThis anonymous interview is with an academic librarian who has been a member of a hiring or search committee. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:

instruction, access services, cataloging

This librarian works at a library with 0-10 staff members in a city/town 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)

4

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)
√ Programming (Coding)
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Metadata
√ Digital Collections
√ Archives
√ History of Books/Libraries
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Readers’ Advisory
√ Information Behavior
√ Outreach
√ Marketing

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

MANAGEMENT

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)?

circ, some readers advisory, customer service

Which of the following experiences should library students have upon graduating?

√ Library work experience
√ Internship or practicum
√ Other presentation
√ Student organization involvement
√ Professional organization involvement
√ Teaching assistant/Other instructional experience

Which library schools give candidates an edge (you prefer candidates from these schools)?

The school does not make the difference, the candidate does.

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

see above.

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

find a job! even if just volunteer, find out if you really want to BE a librarian.

Do you have any other comments, for library schools or students, or about the survey?

again….management skills!

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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While Non-library school, A High Level of Competency with Microsoft Office products

School Children In ParaguayThis 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:

Instruction and reference librarians who also have other responsibilities such as circulation, cataloging, or collection development.

This librarian works at a library with 0-10 staff members in a city/town 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)

4

What coursework do you think all (or most) MLS/MLIS holders should take, regardless of focus?

√ Cataloging
√ Budgeting/Accounting
√ Collection Management
√ Programming (Events)
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Metadata
√ Digital Collections
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Information Behavior
√ Outreach
√ Instruction
√ 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?

No

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)?

A specialized skill or two that one hadn’t taken in library school – can’t have them in school for 4 years! – such as archives or metadata.

I expect them to have these skills: instruction, instruction, instruction including the preparation of audio, video and online tutorials, reference, collection development, the basics of cataloging (i.e., about LCCS, LCSH, RDA, and how the automated system affects the user), the basics of serials management, and, while non-library school, a high level of competency with Microsoft Office products.

Which of the following experiences should library students have upon graduating?

√ Library work experience
√ Internship or practicum
√ Other presentation
√ Student organization involvement
√ Teaching assistant/Other instructional experience

Which library schools give candidates an edge (you prefer candidates from these schools)?

Can’t answer this. Haven’t had to hire enough people over time to identify schools in one camp or another.

In the end, the school doesn’t matter. The demonstrated ability of the candidate is what I use to determine whether to hire.

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

Get as much practical experience as possible. If not within a library, in positions where the work skills transfer to a library situation: requires the ability to teach effectively, to find information and evaluate it, to make a case for a particular product/method/process, and to work well with many types of people.

Do you have any other comments, for library schools or students, or about the survey?

Well done. I hope it gives you and readers helpful information.

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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Researcher’s Corner: What Skills and Knowledge do Today’s Employers Seek?

I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but it is only since graduating from SJSU that I started noticing and appreciating the work that goes into shaping the program. SJSU SLIS not only performs and posts a self-assessment of program performance, but each year it performs and publishes a report on informal research into career trends.  The Associate Director of SLIS, Dr. Linda Main, helps steer this project and very graciously agreed to write a guest post describing the research and findings.  (Incidentally, Dr. Main co-teaches what was one of my favorite classes in library school, the History of Books and Libraries. I highly recommend it, current students.)


A topic of conversation on the minds of many information professionals is the job market. Many practitioners are concerned about being prepared for future employment opportunities – a concern that is echoed by graduate students who hope to be tomorrow’s information professionals. 

To help practitioners, students, and future students gain a better understanding of employment trends in our field, each year, the San José State University School of Library and Information Science (SJSU SLIS) publishes Emerging Career Trends for Information Professionals: A Snapshot of Job Titles.

The informal report explores recent job postings for information professionals.  It’s not a comprehensive study, but instead is a snapshot of job postings during a brief point in time.

To develop the most recent report, we scanned job listings for information professionals posted during the summer of 2013.  We searched general job listings websites, as well as websites aimed specifically at recruiting information professionals.

Emerging Job Trends

After a brief analysis of the data, some trends emerged.  For example, job titles are changing. Many job listings still use titles that we categorized as “traditional” in the report, such as Reference Librarian or Collection Manager.  Yet we also found job titles that reflect some newer employment trends, such as Metadata Manager or Digital Initiatives Librarian.  The report provides many examples of what we call “traditional” and “emerging” job titles.

In addition to exploring job titles, the report also provides a snapshot of job responsibilities included in the listings, along with skills employers seek in job applicants. For example, an Informatics Specialist needs to understand metadata standards, know how to manage digital materials, and troubleshoot software.

And as you might expect in today’s evolving work environments, many job titles suggest a blend of responsibilities.  For example, consider the scope of work for someone who is both a SharePoint Librarian and Research & Outreach Assistant.  That’s one of the positions we found.  It’s a good example of how today’s employers seek job candidates who can offer a range of skills.

The report also recaps what hiring managers are looking for in applicants in terms of their education, skills, and work experience. A growing number of hiring managers are looking for applicants with strong technology skills, leadership skills, and the ability to deal with a rapidly changing work environment.  That should come as no surprise, as our profession is rapidly changing, and even “traditional” work environments are being transformed. 

Tips for Keeping Up with Employment Trends

Conducting this informal research each year helps our school stay in touch with employment trends, which helps us do a better job advising our students about the courses they might want to take, as well as the types of internships and volunteer experience that can prepare them for tomorrow’s jobs.

Of course, we don’t just rely on this one report to advise our students or update our curriculum.  We also rely on input from our faculty, and from advisory groups made up of leaders in our profession.  They help us spot emerging trends, allowing us to ensure that our curriculum is up to date.

And while you may not have access to a formal advisory group like we do, you can follow a similar process.  Chat with colleagues about the trends they are noticing.  Attend a professional conference and see what topics are presented, or at least visit the conference website and scan the list of presentations.  For example, at the recent Library 2.103 Worldwide Virtual Conference, topics included mobile technologies, virtual learning commons, MOOCs, information governance, data visualization, and social media strategies.  Can you picture yourself working in any of those areas?

You can make it a priority to keep your skills up to date by attending conferences, reading blogs, and viewing webinars, like the free career trend webinars offered by our school.  Or to make an even bigger investment in updating your skills, you could complete a post-master’s certificate program.  Several ALA-accredited programs offer these types of certificate programs.  At our school, professionals can complete a post-master’s certificate fully online.

Finally, there are some outstanding resources that can help you explore career options for information professionals.  Our school offers a web-based career development resource, which is freely available to anyone interested in learning more about careers for information professionals.  On the site, we provide links to other resources that can help you keep up with employment trends in our profession.

Regardless of the path you choose to keep up with changing trends in our profession, I hope you are optimistic about the future of our profession.  It’s an exciting time to be an information professional.


linda mainDr. Linda Main is the Associate Director of the San Jose State University School of Library and Information Science. Shereceived her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign). She also holds Masters degrees from the University of Wales (Aberystwyth) and the University of Dublin, Trinity College (Ireland).

She spent many years working in the library of Trinity College Dublin rotating through many different departments including rare books and manuscripts. She was also a project Coordinator for CELDS (US Army Corps of Engineers) and a database coordinator for the Recidivism Database (US Dept. Justice).

Main has written three books and published many articles. Her research interests are in designing information products for a global audience, Web programming languages delivered online and digitization of medieval manuscripts.

Main has been involved in many consultancy projects including projects for the British Library, the Bibliotheque National, the Benito Juarez Autonomous University (Oaxaca, Mexico), the State Technical Library (Prague), Udaras na Gaeltachta and the National Library of Malta. She also works with a small Eastern European consultancy business that develops Web sites and digitizes manuscripts.

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A Brief and Mild Rant from your Blogger

someone is wrong

I ran across a couple people last week whose opinions made me a little mad.

One of my personal rules for internet professionalism is to not post angry. Fighting on the internet is an endeavor in which no one wins. But that doesn’t mean I don’t get angry, and that doesn’t mean I’m 100% successful in following my own rules.

Now, I know that not everyone has to like Hiring Librarians, or to find it useful. And I know that there are a lot of people who do find it useful. In fact, last week two people told me that they’d just found jobs, and that Hiring Librarians helped make that happen. I can’t even describe how awesome that is. Getting a job is life changing, and life shaping, and means even more than the difference between ramen or pork chops for dinner.

The two people that bothered me basically said, “Hiring Librarians is just forwarding opinions, and the responses aren’t relevant past what that one person thinks.”

Well, yes, I guess, kind of. But also no.

Here’s the difference between opinion and good advice: good advice is something you agree with, an opinion is something you don’t.

Any internet blog that’s talking about hiring is presenting someone’s opinion. When someone tells you, “here is what you should do to get a job,” they are sharing their opinion. And its generally based solely on their personal experience or experiences.

The point, or a point, of Hiring Librarians is to show you a number of opinions, all in the same format, so you can stop taking any one person’s opinion as gospel. Including the individual surveys.

I try to give you the aggregate in two forms – mashed together into graphs and numbers, and slowly doled out as individual responses. That way you can read the summary and the detail. I’d love to be able to give you more stats and graphs posts, but I’d also love to stop being consumed by work and have more fun. So.

The individual surveys are each just one person’s opinion, yes.  But that doesn’t mean that they’re not relevant to you and your search.  They are the real opinions of real people that really hire. Really.  You may find yourself across the table from one of these people some day.

The “opinion-ness” doesn’t invalidate the possibility of learning something from the individual surveys. It’s ok for one person’s opinion to affect the way you hunt for a job. Or not. I think you should weigh the opinion with what you know and feel and want, and decide for yourself if it resonates with you. If you don’t like it, oh well, opinions. Everyone’s got one.

The other thing that happened last week is that people started noting their schools pop up in the “Are there any schools whose candidates you would be reluctant to hire?” question.  And that made some people angry.  Or hurt.  Or hurt and angry.

This is not the intention for this question.  I’m sorry that people have been upset by seeing their school pop up.  I’ve thought about if it’s an irresponsible question to ask, or to post individual responses to, especially when there is often no reason given for why they would be reluctant to hire someone from a particular school.

I stand behind asking it.

Here’s my reasoning: This is the type of question that everybody asks and no one answers. We all want to know if there’s a secret ranking of schools that everybody knows but us.  We want to know if our school is the “best” or if the school we’re choosing is really awful.  And negative opinions especially, are not often expressed in public.  No one wants to offend.

Personally, I want to know what I’m up against.  I want to know if people have preconceived notions about my school, so I can be prepared to shine anyway.  Because they don’t know me, and they don’t know what my education was like.  It was great!  I learned a lot!

I don’t get angry when I see my school come up, because I know that this person is wrong.

I also remember that the question asks about a reluctance, rather than a refusal.  The respondent is expressing a reservation, rather than an absolute decision.

So in conclusion, my darlings, if you find that you hate what’s being said, if the answers make you angry, well, those two people I talked about earlier, those two people that made me mad, are actually right. It’s just one person’s opinion. And if you don’t see a single person that you want to work for, well, not everybody in the world took the surveys. Only a few hundred. I’m sure there’s some hiring manager out there that’s to your taste. 

YOUR PAL,

Emily

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Stats and Graphs: Preferences and Reluctances for Candidates from Certain Schools, Part I

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)?

and

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,

It’s STATURDAY!

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)

And

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.

and

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

In Conclusion

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.

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Filed under Stats and Graphs, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School