Tag Archives: Master of Library and Information Science

Further Questions: Does Where You Go to School Matter?

This question is from a reader who considering a second Master’s. For more information on this topic, please take a look at these two posts:

Further Questions: When Should Library Students Start Applying

Researcher’s Corner: Does Choice of School Matter? Becoming an Academic Law Librarian

This week I asked people who hire librarians:

Does where you go to school matter?  Would attending a for-profit school count against a candidate? Do you hire for any positions that require a second Masters? If so, do you give more weight to candidates from prestigious schools?

Laurie Phillips

On if where you go to school matters: – yes and no. We have found that certain library schools tend to produce more marketable candidates. Their curriculum is more up-to-date and their students are more polished and ready for a library faculty position. So, in a way, yes. No, in that if you are an excellent candidate and have all of the skills we’re looking for (hard and soft) and can express yourself well about those skills, then the name of the school on the diploma has no bearing. In our case, the MLS must be from an ALA-accredited program and there are no exceptions to that rule.

On if a for-profit school would count against a candidate: – I don’t know. Would this be for a second master’s degree? I don’t think we’ve ever had someone apply who fit this category so we’ve never had the conversation. It might, but since we don’t require a second master’s degree for any library faculty position, it may have no bearing at all.

On if she hires for any positions that require a second Masters: No, we do not. Several of us have a second master’s degree, but for three of us, it’s in the same field (music), so obviously we can’t all be working with the School of Music. People end up with liaison responsibilities that sometimes have little or no relationship to their educational background.

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

Times may have changed since my days hiring cataloguers for an academic library (professional staff of ten).  Western Ontario was the first one year MLS program in Canada.  We found their graduates less versed in practicalities than library tech graduates.   We tended to favour two year programs.
We valued second degrees, e.g., nursing for the medical cataloguer, music for the music cataloguer, and second languages for all.  We were not that concerned with institutions attended for the subject degree.
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging

Marleah AugustineI think as long as you stick with an accredited program, you are good to go. I think it also may be a good idea to choose a school that folks who are going to possibly hire you in the future are familiar with. For example, for a while my husband and I planned to move out to the Bay Area, so I chose San Jose State’s online MLIS program. I could complete that while still working my current job, and in the event that we moved there, folks in the library world would likely be familiar with the faculty and the program itself. I ended up not following that path, so I don’t know if it would’ve given me the edge or not.

I do not hire for any positions that require a second Master’s degree.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Christine Hage - Dark backgroundIt depends on the type of job I’ve posted.  All of our librarians are required to have a degree from an ALA accredited program.  Here in Michigan we are fortunate two have two ALA accredited programs, but one offers more practical public library type classes, while the other is a bit more theoretical.  I tend to hire from the closer school that is a bit more practical even though the other school is more prestigious and my alma mater.  The accreditation is important to me.

I recently got burned when I hired an IT Manager from a for profit school.  Three months after he was on the job I actually called to verify he graduated, because he truly didn’t have the knowledge or skill I expected from a person with a BA in IT Management.  Many of the courses were online and frankly I’d never consider a candidate from that school again.  I figured if he successfully graduated from the school they must be selling the degrees.  I’m less impressed with online degrees.  I feel that the face-to-face interaction with other students and faculty is important.

A second master’s is not important to me, but I have hired people who got their library degree after another masters and that is important.  It seems to me that an attorney, teacher, accountant, public administrator that went back to get a library degree really wants to be a librarian.  The first masters may be helpful, but the library degree is more important to me.  I’ve had two attorneys work as children’s librarians and they were good, but not because they formerly were attorneys.  They were just good librarians.

What really impacts my decision more than anything is the candidates attitude and personally.  Library science isn’t brain surgery and we can teach someone one the job what they need to know about our library.  I can’t change a person’s personality or attitude.  If they don’t sparkle at the interview, when I assume they are presenting themselves at their very best, they aren’t going to sparkle on the job.  The public library is an institution of people serving people and people skills rule.

– Christine Hage, Director, Rochester Hills Public Library
Petra MauerhoffIt doesn’t matter to me at all where you went to school. I have heard colleagues say that they prefer hiring candidates from certain schools, but this is not at all the case in our situation. I have never encountered the situation of having an applicant from a for-profit school, but I don’t THINK it would matter, either.
We currently do not have any positions that require a second Masters degree. I would probably have an unconscious bias towards someone from a more prestigious school…
– Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library System

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 contact me.

Thank YOU for reading!  If this is that once in a lifetime, this is the thrill divine, go ahead and leave a comment.

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Author’s Corner: A Hodgepodge of Tips for Applicants

Laura Kane has two books which might be useful for you library job hunters and career builders: 

Working in the Virtual Stacks: The New Library & information Science (ALA, 2011),

and

Straight From the Stacks: A Firsthand Guide to Careers in Library and Information Science (ALA Editions, 2003).

So in today’s post, she offers general advice to applicants, what she calls ” What’s Funny, What’s Not, and a Series of No-Brainers.”  I hope from this post you will gain not only a sense of her writing style and viewpoint, but some wisdom for your application process.


I don’t like to think of myself as a Veteran Librarian, but with nearly twenty years in the field, I guess that’s exactly what I am.  Though the thought makes me feel old, I will admit that experience has made me wiser. Throughout my tenure as an academic medical librarian, I have been a member of numerous search committees charged with filling professional librarian positions.  I’ve come to the conclusion that there are certain aspects of a candidate’s application and subsequent interview that can instantly “make or break” them.  I will cover each of these topics here, and hope that this hodgepodge of tips will be helpful to those seeking employment in the workforce.

That’s Funny!

Did you happen to see the OREO cookie commercial during this year’s Super Bowl?  Set in a library, it’s all about the friction that exists between those who love the cookie part, and those who love the cream part of the OREO.  The commercial is called “Whisper Fight,” and though the fight between the cream lovers and cookie lovers turns into complete chaos, nobody speaks above a whisper.  Stacks are toppling, books are raining down, a fire starts, firemen arrive with hoses, and all the while a bespectacled, cardigan-clad librarian looks on in horror and then finally “shouts” a stage whisper, “I’m calling the cops!”  When the police arrive, they whisper through a bullhorn, “You guys have to stop fighting!  We are the cops!”

I could not stop laughing.  I was so tickled that I had to immediately find it on the Web and play it again.  And again.  My 13-year-old son looked on with concern.  “Um, Mom,” he said hesitantly.  “You’re a librarian.  Shouldn’t you be insulted?”  I sobered up immediately and cleared my through.  “Oh! Um… of course.  Yes, indeed.  I am terribly insulted!”  Then I doubled over in laughter again.

Should I have been insulted by the obvious stereotyping going on in that commercial?  No way.  It was so clearly over-the-top that you couldn’t help but laugh.  Yes, there is a pervasive stereotype in our field, but isn’t that the case for most professions?  Most of my fellow librarians have “gotten over” taking offense at the stereotypes.  In fact, many of my colleagues think it’s just plain funny.  My nine-year-old son (I have three sons!) likes to grab some fake glasses, slide them to the end of his nose, and peer down them, saying, “I’m a librarian.”  He’s trying to rile me but he just looks so silly that I end up laughing.

And that’s the point I’m trying to make here.  Librarians have a sense of humor.  I work in an academic medical library.  We handle some pretty serious stuff.  But you can always hear laughter in our meetings, in our offices, and yes – God forbid! – even out in the main library itself.  It’s wonderful to work with a group of people who can be lighthearted and fun when appropriate.

Working in the Virtual StacksSo what does this mean for someone applying for a professional librarian position?  It means that you can lighten up a little.  Don’t go overboard, of course, but let your sense of humor show.  Just two months ago I was on a search committee for a position that had around forty applicants.  I was given a stack of ten applications and had to pick the top candidates from that stack.  Only one candidate made it to the top of my list – the one who stuck a purposely amusing sentence in the end of her cover letter.  Guess what?  She’s the person we hired.  Her cover letter stood out for me because it made me laugh.  I thought, “This person is well-qualified AND she has a sense of humor.”  No matter how qualified a person is, nobody wants to work with a stick-in-the-mud.  A balance of skill, knowledge, and humor goes a long way in my book.

That Is SO Not Funny!

Check out this actual sentence from one of the cover letters in that stack I told you about:

 I saw your posting for a Research Lab Assistant and feel that I am well-qualified for the position.

Not bad, huh?  It might have been OK if that had been remotely close to the position for which we were advertising!  Clearly the applicant was copying and pasting and not checking his/her work.  This seems like a no-brainer, but I have seen this happen many times: we receive applications with cover letters that were obviously written in the past for completely different positions.  So here is a tip:  double-check your cover letter!  The cover letter, for me, is the top tool for weeding out candidates.  You can only get so much from an application form; it’s the cover letter that either allows a person to stand out, or causes that fateful toss to the bottom of the pile.

Smart

Here’s another tip about cover letters:  prove that you did some research about the position and show interest in some aspect of what you’ve learned.  Study the library’s website and see what kinds of programs and services they offer.  In your cover letter, mention one or two things that stood out or caught your interest.  For example, you could say, “I see that librarians at your institution are involved with developing LibGuides for library patrons.  I have a nursing background and would love to develop a Nursing LibGuide to direct students to authoritative resources.”  Prove in your cover letter that you have invested some time in determining whether you would be a good fit in the organization.  Don’t take the easy way out by using a generic cover letter for all your applications.  That’s the quickest way for your file to be dismissed.

Not So Smart

I always end an interview with the question, “Do you have any questions for me?”  I am flabbergasted and disappointed that many people simply answer, “No.”  Seriously?!  No questions at all?Straight from the Stacks

You should always be prepared to ask some intelligent questions during the actual interview.  I am impressed when a candidate has prepared a list of questions beforehand.  Here is another chance to show that you have given the position some thought and have done some background work to learn about the institution.  Questions like, “Can you explain the requirements for tenure?” or “How does your organization interact with the other campus libraries?” can open up an interesting conversation flow.  So don’t be afraid to whip out that notebook and say, “I’ve written down some questions about the position.”

Make a connection

My 3-year-old son has autism and rarely looks people in the eye.  On those occasions when he does look directly into my eyes, I feel it – ZAP! – an instant connection, no matter how brief.  I never knew the importance of eye contact until it was missing in my interactions with my son.  I’m not a psychologist, so I can’t explain why direct eye contact is so crucial during an interview.  I just know that when it’s completely missing, something is not right.  It can be tough, but be sure to make frequent eye contact with your interviewers.  I don’t mean you should stare continually into their eyes (that would be a little freaky), but just meet their eyes off and on as you answer questions.  It’s a subtle yet very important connection.

A Final No-Brainer

There have been several occasions when the search committee has had trouble deciding between two candidates.  Do you know what eventually tipped the scales in one direction?  A simple thank-you note.  Whether by email or snail mail, it’s always wise to send a letter of thanks to the members of a search committee.  Not only does it show that you appreciate their time, it gives you an extra edge over those candidates who don’t take this simple step.

Just One More

If you only remember one point from this post, remember this one:  don’t ever say, “I became a librarian because I love to read!”  Nothing shows more ignorance about the profession of librarianship than that short phrase.  Enough said.


Laura KaneLaura Townsend Kane, MLS, AHIP, is the author of “Working in the Virtual Stacks: The New Library & information Science” (ALA, 2011), “Straight From the Stacks: A Firsthand Guide to Careers in Library and Information Science,”(ALA Editions, 2003), and co- author of “Answers to the Health Questions People Ask in Libraries: A Medical Library Association Guide” (Neal-Schuman, 2008).  She is the Assistant Director for Information Services at the University of South Carolina’s School of Medicine Library in Columbia, South Carolina.  She has also written several book chapters about librarianship career opportunities and several peer-reviewed journal articles on various issues in librarianship.  She is an active member of the Medical Library Association (MLA) and its regional Southern Chapter, and is a Distinguished Member of MLA’s Academy of Health Information Professionals (AHIP). 

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Author’s Corner: What They Don’t Teach You in Library School

Here’s what I think: getting your MLIS is like earning your black belt. What it really means is not that you are an expert, but that you have mastered the basics, and now you’re ready to get down to the serious business of developing library skills. In this guest post, Elisabeth Doucett describes the book she’s written to help with that post-black belt library learning. This piece has also been cross-posted to her blog, If you’re intrigued by her perspective you should check it out!


When I started working after I graduated from college I had no idea of how much I didn’t know. I happily jumped into my first job, assuming that my good education had prepared me to deal efficiently and effectively with anything. Boy, was I wrong!

I found in that first job (I was a receptionist for six months) and the next job and the next job (and every job since then) that every workplace has all sorts of unwritten rules, expectations, and required skills that no one ever tells you about when you are interviewing. And, even when you figure out all of that for one job, the next job generally is completely different.

I didn’t realize it at the time but this is why a mentor is such a powerful tool in helping you be successful in your job. A mentor can tell you what those rules and expectations are so that you don’t have to make yourself crazy trying to figure them out. A mentor is someone who becomes your “path-finder” to an organization, helping you discover the best ways to get work done, interact appropriately with your co-workers and, in general, be successful at your profession.

The only problem with mentors is that good ones can be hard to find (not everyone is willing to dedicate personal time to helping someone else be successful in their job) and when you do find them, they don’t always know how to be a good mentor. Over time I have had several mentors who were all very successful in their own jobs but weren’t sure how to help me with mine. Since I wasn’t sure how they could help me either, things went nowhere pretty quickly!

What They Don't Teach You in Library SchoolLearning from my own experiences with and without mentors is what led me to write What They Don’t Teach You in Library School. I wanted to write a book that would essentially be a mentor for new librarians, sharing with them some of the “secrets” to being successful in their new profession that they might otherwise only discover through painful trial and error.

I wrote the book with three goals:

1) the advice provided had to be very practical and down-to-earth. I wanted to identify work practices that were easy to understand and simple to try-out;

2) the book had to be supportive, just like a real mentor. I wanted readers to walk away feeling like they had been talking to a supportive friend and now had some good ideas that they could try out;

3) the book needed to be informal because I thought that would make the information more accessible.

To support these goals I start each chapter with a statement that describes what you will find in that chapter. This preview statement makes it easy to determine if you want to keep reading or move on to a different topic that might be more relevant to you personally.

The preview statement is followed by an articulation of why you should care about the topic. Again, this is meant to help each individual figure out if the information will be useful. I don’t want readers to waste their time going over information that they already know or don’t think will have value to them professionally.

The book is short, on purpose. I know librarians are generally loaded up with work the minute they walk in the door of a library and personal development time is hard to come by. So, my goal is to share information that the reader can go through quickly and is easy to read. There are lists and summaries and a few other resources that I’ve found helpful. None of this is meant to be exhaustive in nature. It is meant to be more like a conversation between two individuals in which one is sharing information with the goal of helping the other.

Several of the chapters in What They Don’t Teach You in Library School focus on very standard librarian development opportunities: how to manage problem patrons, promotional marketing strategic planning, and facilities management (written by a library director who has been a great mentor to me in this profession, Bob Dugan). In those chapters I’m providing information that you would probably learn over time on the job. However, I included them because sometimes as new librarians we get dumped into situations right off the bat that require more experience than we have, fresh from library school. These are meant to prepare you in case that happens to you.

The remaining chapters present information that I garnered from my business career. I’ve included them because they are not always thought of as skills that are necessary to be a successful librarian but I have seen first-hand how much mastering them can add to a librarian’s professional capabilities. So, you’ll find chapters that tackle topics like networking, managing confrontation productively, public speaking and thinking like a retailer. None of these chapters will make you an expert on the topic but they will give you some common-sense ideas about how to approach the matter at hand in a positive, constructive way. That attitude, in turn, will help your manager to see you as a professional who is doing a great job.

My hope is that over time librarians will start to see the high value of these (and other) business skills and embrace them as being just as important as knowing how to catalog a book, or do a story-time, or conduct a reference interview. I very strongly believe that the more skills we can provide to our communities, the more our profession will stay valuable and relevant as we move into the future.


Liz DoucettElisabeth Doucett is Director of Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, ME. Previously, she was the Assistant Director of the Lucius Beebe Memorial Library in Wakefield, MA. Liz holds a MLS from Simmons College; an MBA in marketing from the J.L. Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University; and an undergraduate degree from Smith College in art history and classical Greek.

Professional Career
Prior to her library career, Liz specialized in consumer marketing, working at Kraft Foods, Dunkin’ Donuts and Quaker Oats. She then consulted in the same field to multiple Fortune 500 companies. Before getting her MBA, Liz worked as a fundraiser in the development departments at Harvard and Boston University.

Liz is the author of Creating Your Library Brand published by the American Library Association (ALA) in 2008 and What They Don’t Teach You at Library School, published in 2010. She has done presentations on marketing and branding to many different library groups including the Massachusetts Library Association, the Ohionet library consortium and the Maine Public Library Directors’ Institute.

Liz is sure that she has the best job in the world and loves going to work. Every day brings a new challenge and ensures that boredom is never a problem! She believes that libraries have a vital role in today’s communities as focal points of community life, creativity, and learning.

Liz and her husband have three dogs (they rescue older dogs). To relax she loves to read (of course!), enjoying mysteries, thrillers, science fiction and history. She also recently started rug hooking and loves the process of designing a rug and picking the colors to make it come alive.

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Filed under Author's Corner, MLIS Students