Tag Archives: Information Science

Seriously consider how your library and information science education can be used in other fields

Market scene. Women and men. 1922 2This 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:

Everyone, I’m the Dean of Libraries

This librarian (It’s complicated) works at a library with 200+ staff members in an urban area in the Midwestern US.

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

√ 25 or fewer

Approximately what percentage of those would you say were hirable?

√ 25% or less

And how would you define “hirable”?

Had the basic qualifications we were looking for

How are applications evaluated, and by whom?

HR uses a set of rubrics for each position type. The ones that “pass” the rubric are sent on to a hiring committee.

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

Does not meet minimum qualifications.

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

√ No

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

Address the requirements as stated in the job posting. If you send us a generic application letter, you’re very unlikely to be considered.

I want to hire someone who is


How many staff members are at your library/organization?

√ 200+

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

√ 2

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

√ 2

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

√ There are fewer positions

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

√ Yes

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

√ Yes

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

It depends on the position but, in general, yes there are experience requirements.

Is librarianship a dying profession?

√ Yes

Why or why not?

The profession has let too many opportunities slip by while contemplating our navels. Instead of being proactive, librarianship is extremely reactive and is now bearing the results of this. Information technology organizations have taken over large portions of work that could (and perhaps should) be done by people with formal library/information science training. But here’s the thing, WE LET THAT HAPPEN because we were too concerned about fighting against e-books and online access to material. Yes, this problem goes back more than a decade when the majority of people decided to fight against progress rather than embrace it. Now, it’s too late.

Do you have any other comments, for job hunters or about the survey?

Seriously consider how your library and information science education can be used in other fields. Your career will take many turns during your lifetime, so you should be prepared to adapt to changing conditions. 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.

Leave a comment

Filed under 200+ staff members, Academic, Midwestern US, State of the Job Market 2015, Urban area

Further Questions: If you hire interns, do you pay them?

The responses to this week’s Further Questions were a little sparse.  I’m hoping that you will have some comments, dear readers, about your own experiences.   

This week I asked people who hire librarians:

If you hire interns, do you pay them?  Why or why not?

Laurie PhillipsNo, we don’t hire interns. We accept SLIS students on placement or for reference observation, but those are not paid because they are part of the requirements for a class or the degree. We also don’t get a lot out of those placements. The observations are just for a few hours. We are more likely to hire a SLIS student for a part time or temporary reference position. It can lead to job openings for a tenure-track position but it can also offer a great opportunity for getting academic library experience and seeing how our organization works. We have a part-time temporary reference position open right now to cover for librarians on leave: http://finance.loyno.edu/human-resources/staff-employment-opportunities.

– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans 

It’s my understanding that if interns are hired for no pay, the position is part of a course for school, college or graduate credit. Otherwise, there is a requirement that the position is paid.

We don’t hire or place interns in our public library.

– Kaye Grabbe, Director, Lake Forest (Public) Library, Lake Forest, IL.

Jacob BergEmployment.

Side note to fellow hiring managers: pay your interns. Not doing so is classist, because only the well-to-do can afford to work for free. And because race, ethnicity, gender identity, mental illness, physical ability, and sexual identity, among others, often correlates with class, internships are discriminatory along those lines as well. Also, not paying people to work devalues our professions by sending signals to other employers that our labor, time, and effort is not worth compensation.
-Jacob Berg, Director of Library Services,  Trinity Washington University
So, what about YOU?  Have you been an intern?  Paid or unpaid?  Have you hired an intern?  Why did or didn’t you pay her?

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.com. 

1 Comment

Filed under Academic, Cataloging/Technical Services, Further Questions, MLIS Students, Public, Youth Services

Library School Career Center: University of Pittsburgh

Hey look!  A new installment of the Library School Career Center feature! This is presented in partnership with the folks from the blog Hack Library School.  If you’re interested in library education, or in new ideas and the future of the profession, you should check it out.  

This interview is with Wes Lipschultz, Manager of Student Services in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh.

Career Center Information

Who staffs the career center?  Please talk a little about how it is managed and run.

Our career support comes from three sources:

1) A centralized career development and placement assistance office at the University of Pittsburgh which hosts two liaisons to our School – one focused on career development (resume, cover letter, interview etiquette, mock interviews, monitoring your social media presence, etc.), and one focused on job placement (developing relationships with employers, connecting our students with those employers, etc.).

2) Student Services staff who host monthly professional development sessions (building a portfolio, looking at “outside the box” careers, how to network, etc.), and

3) A cadre of willing alumni/ae who have agreed to review resumes/cover letters/conduct mock phone interviews on an ongoing basis with our current students.

Are there “career experts” on staff?  What are their credentials?

The two liaisons to our school are career experts; their positions, experience, and professional associations are focused entirely on career development and employer relations.

Does the career center provide any of the following:

√ Job Listings                      √ Resume/CV Review                   √ Help writing cover letters

√ Interview Practice                        √ Networking events

Do you provide in-person services?

√ Appointments                                          √ Speakers, or programs that present experts

√ Mixers or other networking events          √ Job Fairs

√  Drop-in career center: Our liaisons are available M-F 10 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Do you provide online services?

√ Website with resources   √ Newsletter

√ Twitter: @ischool_pitt

√ LinkedIn:  http://www.linkedin.com/groups/School-Information-Sciences-Pitt-41203/about

√ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ischoolpitt

What do you think is the best way for students to use the career center?

Students should attend our monthly professional development sessions and avail themselves of the assistance of our career development liaison from the start. They may also wish to consider beginning to develop a professional portfolio during their first semester. As they gain more experience (through field experiences, volunteer work, and/or other formal or informal practical experience opportunities), they may wish to attend our professional development day and practice mock interviews with current alumni/ae. They then should begin to have our alumni/ae review their resumes, cover letters, etc. They should monitor our Facebook, LinkedIn, and listserv postings for job opportunities, and they can use the University’s central job database, FutureLinks, to access more general job postings as well.

May alumni use career center resources?

Alumni can attend our professional development sessions for free and can access FutureLinks for a nominal fee.

Are there any charges for services?

Yes – a nominal fee.

Can you share any stories about job hunters that found positions after using the career center?

One “outside the box” case was particularly interesting.  I was contacted by a local finance firm that was looking for someone to assist them in sorting through their documents, policies, records, etc. with the goal of coming up with an introduction and training manual for their employees. I posted this need to our listserv and was contacted by an MLIS student who had prior experience managing items in a museum. The fit seemed perfect to me, and the employer agreed. She was hired!

Anything else you’d like to share with readers about your services in particular, or about library hiring/job hunting in general?

We wish to continue to sustain relationships between our MLIS students and traditional employment settings, but we are also noticing (and excited about) the fact that less traditional employers in Pittsburgh seem to face a growing need for the skills our MLIS graduates possess.  We are working on making connections with these employers and we are also trying to help our students realize that there are relevant and interesting opportunities in such settings as well.

Students’ Career Paths

Can you share any statistics about employment rates after graduation?

All information pertaining to employment and employment statistics for our school can be found here: http://www.ischool.pitt.edu/about/career-resources.php

Can you talk a little bit about the school’s approach to internships, practicums and/or volunteering?

Pittsburgh has a rich cultural infrastructure worthy of a city many times its size.  As such, we have many opportunities for relevant experience for our students. We call our credit-bearing internships/practica “field experiences” and our students are encouraged to choose this option as part of their degree (all specializations allow for this as part of the degree requirements). We also have, on a very competitive and space-limited basis, the Partners Program.  This program is akin to a co-op for graduate students.  When a student is chosen for this program, they are placed in a local employment setting relevant to their degree for an entire year.  The student works between 10-20 hours a week in this setting and in turn typically receives a partial tuition scholarship.

Does the school have a stated approach or policy on helping students to find careers?

Our approach is multi-faceted and involves school staff, career staff, and alumni/ae of the School.  We want our students to be able to clearly articulate the skills they develop and map them to both traditional and nontraditional career settings.

Does the school have any relationships with organizations that offer fellowships or other post-graduate opportunities?

Yes – our faculty, staff, and liaisons are all connected with different potential employers, but as we become aware, we share job postings with each other and these postings make their way to our listservs.

Are there any notable graduates?

We have many alumni/ae who are known and respected in their profession. Each year we highlight those whose personal and professional achievements we deem as outstanding here:



How many students in the library school?

We are an iSchool. The iSchool comprises between 700-800 students total in a given year.  About 150 of those are undergraduates, 80 are doctoral students, and the rest are Master’s or certificate students. Of those, 250-300 are MLIS students.

What degree(s) do you offer?

In Information Science we offer an undergraduate degree, a Master’s, a post-Master’s certificate, and a doctorate.

In Telecommunications we offer a Master’s, a post-Master’s certificate, and a doctorate.

In Library and Information Science we offer a Master’s, a post-Master’s certificate, and a doctorate.

Is it ALA accredited?

Our LIS program is ALA accredited.

What are the entrance requirements?

Please see this site for our most current requirements for our on-campus MLIS degree:


…and this site for our most current requirements for our online MLIS degree:


Where are you?

√ Northeastern US

Where are you?

√ Urban area

Anything else you’d like to share that’s unique about the school?

The combination of the rich cultural heritage of Pittsburgh coupled with its small size and “down home” feel makes for a setting that uniquely engages the intellect yet makes you feel like you are family.

Brianna Marshall

This interview was conducted by Brianna Marshall, who is a second year dual-degree Master of Library Science and Master of Information Science student at Indiana University’s School of Library and Information Science. She is Managing Editor for Hack Library School and a 2012-2013 HASTAC scholar. Learn more about Brianna through her blog and portfolio or by following her on Twitter @notsosternlib

Leave a comment

Filed under Library School Career Center, MLIS Students, Northeastern US, Urban area

Author’s Corner: Launching Your Career through Professional Service

After so much recently for new graduates, I’m pleased to present today’s post by Linda Crook and Dawn Lowe Wincentsen.  They are the editors of Mid-Career Library and Information Professionals: A Leadership Primer, a resource which might be of interest to those of you who have established a toehold, and want to know how to get even further up LIS mountain.  In this post, Crook and Wincentsen each share a personal anecdote, which should give you a feel for the style of their book: personal and easy-to-read.

Mid Career Library and Information Professionals

Linda Crook: My Time as NMRT President

As I prepared to write about my involvement with NMRT, my first thought was “I’m getting tired of telling this story.” Upon reflection, however, I realized that it’s the story itself that is the key. By launching my career through professional service, I have given a shape to my career. I have created a narrative that illustrates my growth and accomplishments.
Although I earned my MLIS in 2000, my career didn’t start until 2007, when I went to ALA Midwinter. I shyly attended the New Members Round Table informal “meet and greet,” and it was love at first sight. I participated in two committees my first year in NMRT, and chaired a committee the following year. I was elected NMRT Networking Director, a 2-year board position, which was one of the ways I made a connection with Dawn. As I completed that term, I was elected to a three-year NMRT Presidential term (one year each as Vice President, President, and Past President). As my past-presidential year winds down, my NMRT service demonstrates my development in the profession, and it’s a great stepping-off place for the next adventure.

Around the central narrative of my career are the hundreds or thousands of connections I’ve made with library workers and library students. Any of those relationships could become a bigger part of the story as I continue on my way. I met Dawn through NMRT service, and that connection and our conversations created the opportunity to co-edit a book together. All of the NMRT Board members for the past several years have had the opportunity to work closely with Courtney Young, who launched her career with professional service in an epic way. We all have the opportunity to shape the narrative of our career through professional service, whether we want to go straight up the ladder, specialize in one area, or explore a range of options. I am proud of the career I have shaped with NMRT, and I know that relationship will continue to nourish my soul long after my term in NMRT has ended.

Dawn Lowe Wincentsen:What I Have Learned by Saying Yes

It was a sunny day in Louisiana (as many days are,) and I said yes. No, it was not a proposal, it was a volunteer opportunity.  That first time was to be part of the Graduate Information Science Student Association (GLISSA) in the School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) at Louisiana State University (LSU). The next time was a to a colleague who suggested I volunteer for an NMRT committee.  It all began to snowball after that. I would see an opportunity on a listserve and I would say yes. A colleague would mention a committee in need and I would say yes. I have gotten better, and more selective since then, but along the way I have learned quite a lot.

It was a warm summer day in Chicago a few years later. I was at the American Library Association Annual conference. Linda and I were having a conversation that led to a twitter discussion on a book idea. In that case we both said yes, and co-edited, “Mid-Career Library and Information Professionals: A Leadership Primer.” The connections made through saying yes are just as important as the skills developed, if not more so.

Earlier this year I put together my promotion portfolio, basically a review of everything I have done over the last five years. In this review included all of my committees, from those on campus to national organizations, each one doing something a bit different. This review reminded me that I have worked on many different projects from developing policy to allocating funds to event planning. Each of these builds a bit different of a skill set. Each of these skill sets is then something I can come to when needed, either in my professional life, or my volunteer life.

I no longer wait for opportunity to come knocking. I go out to find it. I look on listserves and web pages of associations. I send letters to people putting together committees, I show up to meetings and events – even if only virtually when travel is a barrier. I put myself out there. This is something that employers look for, people who are willing to come to them, and put themselves out there, to develop new skills, and adapt to new situations. All of this makes me more marketable as a librarian.

So, don’t wait for sunny days, and opportunity to come to you, go find it, and say yes.  Build new skills, and make new connections.

Linda CrookLinda Crook is Reference Team Leader & Science Librarian at Washington State University in Pullman, WA. She earned her MLIS at the University of Washington in 2000, and earned a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Health Sciences Librarianship at the University of Pittsburgh in 2011. She is current Past President of the ALA New Members Round Table, and co-editor of, “Mid-career library and information professionals: a leadership primer.” She has recently started job hunting in Eugene, OR

Dawn Lowe WincentsenDawn Lowe Wincentsen is the Wilsonville Campus Librarian at Oregon Institute of Technology. She graduated with her MLIS from Louisiana State university in 2003, has previously worked at Florida State University, and Louisiana State University, and is the co-author of “A Leadership Primer for New Librarians“ (2008) and co-editor of, “Mid-career library and information professionals: a leadership primer.”

1 Comment

Filed under Author's Corner, Management

Researcher’s Corner: What are the Qualifications for an Entry-Level Music Librarian?

I’m pleased to introduce another guest post by Joe Clark, who described his research into nine years of job postings on the Music Library Association Job List and identified job trends for us here.

This post delves more deeply into the specific qualifications desired in entry-level positions.  While his research is specific to music librarians, I think there are wider implications for entry-level expectations across disciplines.

Please do click through and read his more formal account of this research, which was published last March in the journal of the Music Library Association. Notes is open access, so the entire article is available online here for free.

So you graduate with your M.L.I.S. degree ready to land your first professional job, but realize that institutions are asking for skills and experiences you didn’t learn in graduate school. Now what?

A firm understanding of the skills, knowledge, and experiences that employers want will give you a leg up in a tight job market. Not only does music librarianship require subject-specific knowledge, but sub-fields within music librarianship differ in required and desired abilities and experiences.

The Study

I examined all of the position announcements on the Music Library Association’s Placement Service Job List from 2008 through 2011 and identified those open to entry-level librarians. I then classed each position into one of five types: 1) public service, 2) cataloging, 3) administrative, 4) hybrid, or 5) archival. Hybrid positions involve work in both public and technical services, while administrative librarians might run a small library as well as catalog, provide reference, and supervise staff and budgets.

I recorded the required and desired traits, abilities, knowledge, and experience for each position by job type, and then compiled the data. I also totaled the numbers for all of the music library positions, which provided a broad picture of what employers wanted in music librarianship entry-level hires. I broke traits sought into the following categories: education, personal attributes, social attributes, experience, general knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs), and technological KSAs.


Most of the entry-level music librarianship positions were in academic librarianship (95%). Twenty-eight percent of the vacancies were in public services, while the remaining four job types comprised between 17 and 19 percent of the advertisements.

As I examined all of the entry-level positions, it became quite clear what employers wanted in terms of education (other than the M.L.I.S. degree, which was a prerequisite for all of the jobs): 72% of positions required or preferred an undergraduate degree in music or the equivalent, and 40% desired a second graduate degree in music. Some public service and archival posts sought completion of music/arts library classes, while 27% of cataloging vacancies required cataloging coursework. A course in archival/preservation techniques was listed in 10% of all vacancies, and this figure was over half for jobs in archival environments.

The most commonly listed personal attributes included organizational skills/ability to prioritize, self-motivation, and flexibility/ability to handle multiple demands. Aptitude for scholarly production and professional development and analytical/problem solving skills appeared less frequently.

Excellent written and oral skills was the most commonly listed trait and the top social attribute. Other required or preferred social attributes included collaborative skills and a strong commitment to public services.

Previous library experience was desired in 42% of the listings, and appeared most commonly in administrative positions and least frequently in public service jobs. Experience with specific skills were also sought; cataloging was required or preferred in 36% of the announcements, and 30% wanted experience in reference and instruction.

The most common general KSA was reading knowledge of foreign languages, required for 25% and preferred for 19% of the jobs. Many of the other general KSAs were specific to the job responsibilities; for example, knowledge of AACR2, LCSH, and MARC21 was needed for positions that involved cataloging (including archive and hybrid posts).


In conclusion, institutions are looking for more than just an M.L.I.S.; they seek well-rounded individuals who can effectively communicate, collaborates, prioritizes, values excellent services, and self-motivates. These skills are in addition to subject expertise, which is highly valued in music librarianship. One should keep in mind that search committee members may want to see other qualifications not mentioned in advertisements.

The entire article, “What Employers Want: Entry-Level Qualifications for Music Librarians,” was published in the March 2013 issue of Notes (69:3), pages 472-493. All preferred and required qualifications for each job type that appeared in more than 8% of the announcements are detailed in the original article.  Feel free to contact me with questions or comments.

Joe Clark

Joe Clark is the Head of the Performing Arts Library at Kent State University. He has published articles in Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association, Fontes Artis Musicae, Serials Review, Journal of Library Innovation and The Journal of Academic Librarianship. His research interests include employment trends in music librarianship, collection management, library administration, and American music. He is currently the Placement Officer for the Music Library Association.

Leave a comment

Filed under Academic, Guest Posts, Law Library, library research, Public, Researcher's Corner, Special

Researcher’s Corner: Reference Competencies from the Academic Employers’ Perspective

In order to be competitive in our tight job market, I think that’s it’s not enough just to be able to describe one’s skills well.  Job hunters, both in and out of library school, need to be able to manage their own professional development in a way that the skills they gain align with the competencies required by their desired jobs.

This is why I’m really excited to present Laura Saunders’ guest post today. She describes research she conducted on people who hire academic reference librarians, in order to determine what the most important competencies are.  If you’d like to read a longer, more formal account of her research, please see:

Identifying Core Reference Competencies from an Employers’ Perspective: Implications for Instruction (2012). College and Research Libraries, 73(4)

Reference librarian was one of the top five job titles reported in Library Journal’s annual Placement & Salary Survey for 2012 , suggesting that, as with Mark Twain, reports of the death of reference have been largely exaggerated. Still, the fact that there are reference jobs to be had does not necessarily mean they are easy to get, and the same Library Journal’s article reports stiff competition for those jobs (Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science was number one in job placement!). One of the best ways for aspiring reference librarians to succeed in the job market is to have a clear understanding of job expectations, to develop the necessary skills and proficiencies, and be able to demonstrate and discuss those abilities on their resume and in job interviews. In this column, I share the results of a survey of academic reference librarians indicating what skills and knowledge they believe is important in the field right now.

The Study

In 2011, my colleague, Mary Wilkins Jordan and I developed and implemented a nationwide survey of practicing reference librarians to gather input on what competencies are most important for reference librarians in the field right now. While we used essentially the same survey, I concentrated on academic libraries, while Mary surveyed public librarians. In each case, we took a random sample of libraries from across the country, in order to get a broad and representative overview. We gave the librarians a list of 33 competencies that we had compiled using Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) guidelines as well as reviews of the literature, and asked the librarians to choose the ones they thought were important to reference librarians, and then to indicate the three most important. The survey closed with an open-ended question asking the respondents to describe any skills or qualifications that they found to be lacking in recent graduates or new hires.


The respondents chose competencies grouped into three categories: general skills, technical skills, and interpersonal skills, which are summarized in the following table.

General Technology Personal/Interpersonal
Second Master’s degree Online searching Verbal Communication
Budgeting Programming Written Communication
Foreign language Web design Listening
Marketing Web maintenance Working in teams
Supervisory experience Social media Approachability
Ability to conduct research/publish Hardware troubleshooting Comfort with instruction/teaching
Knowledge of cataloging Software troubleshooting Self-motivated
Assessment/evaluation Chat/IM Stress management
Customer service Building relationships with co-workers
Familiarity with Paper Sources Building relationships with other professional colleagues
Familiarity with Online Sources Conflict management
Search Skills Adaptability/Flexibility
Negotiating Sense of humor
Current Events Awareness Organizational awareness
Traditional Reference Interview

Throughout the survey, respondents emphasized skills and qualities that relate to the question-answering and customer service aspects of reference. For instance, general and online search skills, as well as familiarity with both online and print reference sources were among the top rated general and technical skills. Interestingly, valuing knowledge of print resources was not correlated with either the responding librarians’ age or number of years in the field. In other words, it is not just older librarians or those who have been out of school for a long time, but a wide range of practicing reference librarians who seem to believe print resources are still important. These findings emphasize that it is still important for reference librarians to be familiar with a wide range of resources, and to be able to search and use those sources efficiently and effectively in order to help their patrons find information.

While librarians certainly need the skills to search and use resources to find information, the survey also confirms that the patron is the heart of reference services. Customer service and interpersonal skills to be able to interact with a diverse patron base are among the most important for any reference librarian. Five of the interpersonal skills—verbal communication skills, listening, approachability, comfort with instruction, and adaptability/flexibility—stood out as especially important, having been selected by more than 90% of respondents. These five are closely followed by written communication skills and sense of humor. However, it is worth noting that every competency listed under interpersonal skills was chosen as important by more than 60% of respondents. Clearly, the ability to interact and communicate with a wide range of patrons is essential for successful reference librarians.

Similarly, under technical skills, respondents indicated that ability to communicate with patrons using chat and instant messaging is important. Among the general skills customer service was the second highest rated, selected as important by 94% of respondents. Similarly, although it was not one of the top three, the ability to conduct a reference interview was deemed important by more than three-quarters of respondents. Taken together, these results suggest that being able to interact effectively with patrons and to provide a high level of customer service are among the most important attributes of a reference librarian. This is not to suggest that other technical skills are unimportant. Software troubleshooting, web design and web maintenance are all highly valuable skills, according to the survey.

The following figures give a breakdown of the rating of skills in each category:

Saunders Fig 1

Figure 1
Percentage of Respondents Choosing General Skills as Important

Saunders Fig 2

Figure 2
Percentage of Respondents Selecting Technical Skills Important

Saunders Fig 3

Figure 3
Percentage of Respondents Choosing Interpersonal Skills as Important

In the final section of the survey, we asked respondents if they saw any skills or qualities lacking in their new hires. It’s important to note that many respondents indicated that their new hires were doing very well, and praised their knowledge and enthusiasm. That said, some respondents said that their new librarians seemed to rely on the same freely available web sources (such as Google and Wikipedia) that their patrons used, and if they were not able to help the patrons using those sources, they did not seem to know where else to go. These participants worried that their new librarians were not adding any value to the research process. Similarly, some respondents suggested that new librarians they worked with did not always have strong interpersonal skills, or were not adept at working with diverse or difficult patrons.


There may be plenty of competition for reference jobs in academic libraries, but applicants with strong interpersonal skills and solid knowledge of searching and sources will have an edge. There are several things a current student can do to strengthen her resume and gain more of that edge.

Many LIS programs offer, or even require, an introductory reference course, and while this will likely give you a good base of knowledge, it is important to remember it is just an introduction. Anyone interested in pursuing a career in reference would do well to take ‘advanced’ reference courses that delve more deeply into the resources and services in particular disciplines, such as the sciences, humanities, or social sciences, or in particular settings such as medical or law libraries.

One question students always ask me is whether they will need a second Master’s degree to work in an academic library. The respondents to this survey did not count a second Master’s as highly important, with only 28.2% of participants selecting that competency. It would appear that experience and background with sources and searching generally is considered most important, although it’s also worth noting that librarians at doctoral-granting institutions seemed to value a second Master’s degree more highly than librarians in other academic institutions.

This survey also confirmed the findings of many other studies, that instruction is becoming an ever-more central part of reference. Here again, introductory reference courses will probably address user instruction, but are unlikely to give students a firm grounding or much hands-on experience. Students should seek courses focused on user instruction, especially those that incorporate pedagogy and information literacy, and that give students plenty of practice in speaking in front of groups and actually teaching modules both in-person and online.

Interpersonal skills are a little harder to teach and assess in a classroom environment. Certainly, students could take classes that center on diverse and underserved populations. However, job applicants should also identify any co-curricular or work experience (including volunteering and internships) that involves communication, interpersonal skills, and customer service. Retail jobs and waiting tables, for instance, are both jobs that require a high-level of customer interaction, and could be highlighted for a potential employer.

As I noted earlier, the findings I report here are really only half of the story- the academic library side. My colleague, Mary Wilkins Jordan did a parallel survey of public librarians, and our comparison of the responses of the academic and public practitioners will be featured in an upcoming edition of RUSQ.

I want to finish this post by highlighting a few points. There is a tacit belief in the field that academic and public reference are very different—so much so that practitioners often have a hard time moving to one setting after having worked any length of time in the other setting. Our studies suggest that the differences between reference services in the two types of libraries is actually very subtle, and is more a matter of different emphasis than different competencies. Specifically, public librarians seem to put a little more emphasis on the ‘soft’ or interpersonal skills such as customer service and communication, while the academic librarians were somewhat more likely to choose as important ‘hard’ skills such as ability to engage in evaluation and assessment, or research and publication. However, as you can see here, academic reference librarians also value interpersonal skills very highly. So, the differences seem to be more subtle and the similarities more pronounced than is often believed. We hope that this research might spur further research and conversation about the topic.

Laura SaundersLaura Saunders received her PhD from Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science in May 2010.  She holds an M.S.L.I.S from Simmons as well as a B. A. from Boston University in English Literature and Italian.  She worked as a reference librarian and branch manager of the Career Resource Library for Simmons College from 1999 to 2003, where she provided reference and instruction services, as well as participated in collection development, Web page maintenance, and marketing of library services.  While completing her PhD, she worked as an adjunct faculty member.  Currently, she is an Assistant Professor at Simmons College, teaching in the areas of reference, evaluation of information services, information literacy, and academic libraries. Her first book, Information Literacy as a Student Learning Outcome: The Perspective of Institutional Accreditation was published in June 2011. Her research interests include information literacy, assessment, accreditation, reference services, and the place of libraries in higher education.  She has had articles published in The Journal of Academic Librarianship, Library & Information Science Research, College & Research Libraries, and portal: Libraries and the Academy.



Filed under Guest Posts, library research, Public Services/Reference, Researcher's Corner, UK

Library School Career Center: University of Washington

Here is this week’s installment of the Library School Career Center feature, which is presented in partnership with the folks from the blog Hack Library School.  If you’re interested in library education, or in new ideas and the future of the profession, you should check it out.  

This interview is with Janet Matta, who is the Career Services Advisor for the Information School at the University of Washington, serving the career development of 850 iSchool students in four academic programs. Prior to her joining the University of Washington Information School, Janet was a Career Counselor at the University of Washington – Bothell, provided career support to high school students at a small nonprofit, Bainbridge Youth Services, and did her Career Counseling Internship with the University of Washington Evans School of Public Affairs. She has a Masters of Education from Seattle University and an undergraduate degree in History from Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada. In addition to her career counseling experience, Janet spent 6 years in environmental consulting for oil spill response, and gets excited about environmental science. Her diverse background means she’s great at connecting students to ideas and resources in a wide range of professional disciplines. Janet is deeply passionate about helping students find and create unique careers that are a perfect match for their interests and strengths, and loves teaching career skills like networking, interviewing, and salary negotiation to students. Learn more about Janet at www.linkedin.com/in/janetmatta/

Career Center Information

Who staffs the career center?  Please talk a little about how it is managed and run.

Janet is the Career Services Advisor for the iSchool, which includes the Masters of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program. Her office is in the Office of Student Services for the Information School which includes academic advisors, the admissions advisor, and support staff.

Are there “career experts” on staff?  What are their credentials?

Janet has 3 years of experience in career advising and over 10 years of experience in training and education of adults and youth. She has an M.Ed. in Student Development Administration, and spends every free moment possible staying up to date on hiring trends and techniques to help students succeed in their future jobs.

Does the career center provide any of the following:

√  Job Listings                   √ Resume/CV Review                    √ Help writing cover letters
√ Literature/articles          √ Interview Practice                       √ General career coaching
√ Networking events

Do you provide in-person services?

√ Appointments        √  Speakers, or programs that present experts
√ Mixers or other networking events          √ Job Fairs
√ Drop-in career center:  Set drop-in hours each quarter, and students routinely pop in when my office door is open.

Do you provide online services?

√ Website with resources   √ Blog: updated 1x per week
√ Facebook: updates to student group pages and the Office of Student Services Facebook page                              √ Newsletter: published online at http://ischooloss.wordpress.com/
√ Other: online and phone advising appointments to distance students, a jobs and internships database just for iSchool students and alumni.

What do you think is the best way for students to use the career center?

I augment the resources available through the main UW Career Center, so I recommend that students visit and bookmark the content on the UW Career Center website, or visit with Career Center professionals for resume/cover letter reviews, and then to schedule an appointment with me if they want more specialized support! Attend workshops and employer information sessions to learn about common topics and to network with professionals. The more you attend that will help you network with professionals across a variety of industries and sectors the better, and not just with traditional libraries!

May alumni use career center resources?

Alumni can use our job and internships database, called iCareers, and can utilize web resources and the resources available through the UW Career Center.

Are there any charges for services?


Can you share any stories about job hunters that found positions after using the career center?

I have received a few thank you notes from students who credit their appointment with career services to increasing their confidence and helping them generate ideas and contacts that have led to internships or full time jobs. It makes me so happy to know that our services are helpful to students!

Anything else you’d like to share with readers about your services in particular, or about library hiring/job hunting in general?

I advocate creativity in the job search and career development process! I ask students to think about their values and what they want to be doing every day, and then to think creatively about all the different environments and organizations that might benefit from their skill set that an MLIS and their other professional backgrounds provide. In a market that’s tough for libraries, our students are active and successful in a variety of corporate, nonprofit, or government settings in addition to traditional library environments.

Students’ Career Paths

Can you share any statistics about employment rates after graduation?

We unfortunately have never had a response rate of over 51%  to surveys of our graduates, so we don’t currently have very accurate data on employment rates after graduation.

Can you talk a little bit about the school’s approach to internships, practicums and/or volunteering?

Internships for our MLIS students are highly encouraged! The more experience a student has the better, and internships can lead to great contacts and skills that will help you land a job later. I advocate that students take on as much internship or independent experience as they can to bolster their experience, their network of contacts, and their resume. Students work with me to find great internship options, and with their academic advisor to figure out how to get credit.

Does the school have a stated approach or policy on helping students to find careers?

The mission of iSchool Career Services is:

Mission Statement

We make information work for your career. The iSchool Career Adviser offers information on job search skills, advising on career development, and connections to resources and employers tailored to the information field. We help you to stand out and be noticed no matter where you are in your professional career.

Commitment to Students

Our first responsibility is to connect the student experience at the iSchool to the professional goals of our students.  We focus on the information profession and refer students to the UW Career Center for other general career counseling and workshops.

Commitment to Employers

Our students are highly qualified to fill roles as information professionals in a variety of organizations. We facilitate job recruitment through a fair and equitable process that is driven by the needs of our students. The iSchool supports and abides by theNational Association of Colleges and Employers Principles for Professional Practice.

Are there any notable graduates?

Too many to count!


How many students in the library school?

Approximately 400

What degree(s) do you offer?


Is it ALA accredited?


What are the entrance requirements?

  • Bachelors degree* or higher in any discipline (must be equivalent to a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution)

  • Grade point average of 3.0 or higher (exceptions considered on a case by case basis)

  • Law MLIS program applicants must have:

○     JD from a law school within the US

When was the library school founded?


Where are you?

√ Western US

Where are you?

√ Urban area

Anything else you’d like to share that’s unique about the school?

We’re so lucky to be in Seattle, it’s beautiful here!

Brianna Marshall

This interview was conducted by Brianna Marshall, who is a second year dual-degree Master of Library Science and Master of Information Science student at Indiana University’s School of Library and Information Science. She is Managing Editor for Hack Library School and a 2012-2013 HASTAC scholar. Learn more about Brianna through her blog and portfolio or by following her on Twitter @notsosternlib

Leave a comment

Filed under Library School Career Center, MLIS Students, Urban area, Western US