Tag Archives: MLIS

Further Questions: Would You Hire Someone with an MLIS for a Paraprofessional Position?

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

Would You Hire Someone with an MLIS for a Paraprofessional Position? (E.g. assistant, clerk, page)? If so, under what circumstances? If not, why not? Bonus: if you have *opinions* about the term paraprofessional, please feel free to air them here.


Amy Tureen (she/her/hers), Head, Library Liaison Program, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas: 

Of course I would hire someone with an MLIS for a paraprofessional position! People apply for jobs for all sorts of reasons, it’s not my role as a supervisor to gate keep or second guess why someone with an MLIS would want a paraprofessional role.

As for the term itself, I have no particular feelings about it one way or another. In the context of “professional” versus “paraprofessional” the term “paraprofessional” means the role does not require a professional licensure, whereas “professional” means that some form of industry-specific professional accreditation, whatever it may be in a given field, is required. Some people mistakenly assume that the use of the word “professional” implies a skill level, rather than an accreditation required for a role, so I certainly wouldn’t mind changing both “paraprofessional” and “professional” to terms that are less easily misunderstood and/or weaponized.


Gregg Currie, College Librarian, Selkirk College: I have hired candidates into paraprofessional positions.  My college is relatively rural, and for reasons I’m not entirely sure of it has always been a much greater struggle to attract library technicians.  If I post for a full time permanent librarian I get 30 or 40 applicants.  For a library technician position I’m lucky to get 3 or 4 people with a library technician diploma.  So often it is just out of necessity. 

While hiring someone overqualified does have the potential for problems, my experience has been very positive.  Sometimes it is giving a librarian actual experience in an academic library that will help them move up and on in a couple of years, another time it was librarian taking a part time paraprofessional position as a way to ease into retirement. 

As long as one is clear about job duties and boundaries, it can work out well.


Alison M. Armstrong, Collection Management Librarian, Radford University: Absolutely!

In general, a lot of people are overqualified for the positions they are in. Libraries are no different. The job market has shifted recently but your location and local library options may be limited since most libraries have more staff positions than librarian positions.

Our library has had several staff members who hold an MLIS, including me, over the years. I was in a staff position while I worked toward my MLIS and, for a time had my degree until I was hired in my current position. I would have had to move if this position wasn’t open when it was.

I personally prefer the term “staff” versus “paraprofessional”. While paraprofessional indicates a level of work that is assisting professional workers, to me, it sounds like the position is in relation to someone else, which bothers me. In reality, however, my staff member’s position is a fairly true “assistant” in that her work is assisting me in my work.

I have had a couple of staff members in that position who have had their MLIS and one who was working on his Master’s in IT. I knew that they likely wouldn’t be in the position long term, which was fine. While they worked for me, they were able to do some higher level work however, that is a fine line to walk. While staff members may be capable of doing higher level work, you want to make sure they are not doing what would be considered professional level work for staff level pay. So while I try hard to not exploit workers by labeling work as “experience” for them, I do have conversations with them about work and what they are interested in and whether there is higher level work that they would want to work on. While I don’t want to exploit them, I also want to make sure they are getting some job satisfaction if they have something they want to pursue. The one working on his Master’s in IT was able to use his Access database skills to create a usage statistics database for us. (Sadly, when he left, there wasn’t time/staff for it to continue to grow.)

A great example of this is with one of my staff members who had her MLIS and I saw a need to document library liaison training and we wrote a training handbook together. She was interested in training so she took on the role of introducing the handbook at a collection development retreat to library liaisons. It was shortly after that event that she was hired an instruction librarian. After she had moved onto a librarian position, we were able to collaborate on a book based on the work we did on our handbook, which was great.

Of course, there is potential for judgement and/or resentment. For the staff person I co-authored a book with, she and I had graduated together. She could have been frustrated about not having a librarian position and take it out in various ways, trying to undercut me, out-shine me, sabotage me, etc. but, thankfully, she didn’t.

In my experience, around two years is a good amount of time if the person is actively looking for a librarian position for them to find something and move up. After two years, it can feel frustrating and they may start feeling stuck. It might be useful to be aware of that and have some honest conversations. In the end, I want my staff members to do their best and if they want to move up (or, move on), I will do whatever I can to support them. Knowing the future goals of your staff is helpful so you can try to help them achieve them.

It is also important to recognize that some people have re-considered their positions in all kinds of careers. Some people willing to take a pay cut and a lower position that requires less responsibility and the opportunity to “leave work at work” and forgo some of the daily headaches that can come with upper management positions.

So, someone my look “overqualified” on paper, but they may be looking to get a foot in the door or just get in a position they will enjoy while they look for the right thing. Alternatively, they may be looking to scale back and want a better work-life balance.

If you have an MLIS and are hired in a staff position, I would encourage you to talk to your supervisor (maybe not on day one – but as you build rapport) about what you want to do in the future (assuming this information didn’t come through in the interview – if it did, build on it). After you have learned the position and are on top of everything, you might see areas in which you could contribute – maybe to a committee, or to a project that you would enjoy. Just make sure you don’t feel like you are being exploited because it is important to recognize those feelings early before it affects how you feel about your work.


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: I currently have two staff members with an MLS in PAT positions. These are salaried Professional/Administrative/ Technical positions. They are Access Services Manager and Systems Manager. Neither requires the MLS and neither is a library faculty member or has the title “librarian”. I also had an MLS-holder in my ILL coordinator position which is an hourly-benefitted non-exempt position. That person was an alum (former library worker) and stayed in the position for about two years before finding a job that compensated her for her credentials.

In two cases the hire had an MLS before starting the job. In one case the person earned their MLS while working here and continues in the same position. The degree did provide the opportunity for the person’s salary to increase. In all cases we selected the right person for the job knowing they were over-qualified. We knew the ILL staff member needed a full-time job with benefits, she was familiar with the library, and campus, and we hoped that she would eventually find something else (which she did). The other two individuals in the more skilled positions may be here longer even though they are not recognized or compensated as library faculty.

I would consider hiring someone with an MLS again for any position for a number of reasons. Jobs are not easy to find, individuals may be re-entering the workforce, needing to say in the geographical area, or more interested in a staff position than in being library faculty with all of the work that entails. My biggest concern with almost any staff hire these days is that people do ask about opportunities for advancement and my staff has been reduced to the degree that there are even fewer opportunities than in the past for changing positions at least inside the library. And, I am also unable to send any staff off for professional development (budget was eliminated about five years ago). So I would like to get those two PATs to ACRL, ALA, or other conferences and would be happy to do that but have no resources. That has implications and consequences that go beyond just helping them stay connected to the profession.

I am not a fan of the term “paraprofessional.” I’m not sure I have a reasonable substitute other than just saying staff member. The college makes clear distinctions between the PAT staff and the Operating Staff (those hourly paid full-time folks). The status gap is really between faculty and staff. I am a staff member, not a faculty member. So we refer to library faculty and to staff. There are differences between expectations for PATs and Op Staff folks including level of education, workloads, etc. People are aware of those and we don’t refer to people as either PATs or Op Staff unless it’s necessary. So I don’t use the term paraprofessional at all. I think it would add confusion and isn’t necessary.


Anonymous: We have hired multiple staff with an MLIS for paraprofessional positions. In my department, they are all library assistants. Two have been at the university for decades, two are recent hires. For the latter, both want or need to stay in the area. I can’t promise promotions, but if they are interested in moving up, I will work with them to give them the opportunity to do so. I believe that, if someone with an MLIS wants a library job and decides to apply for a paraprofessional position, that’s their decision. But I have one librarian in my department who strongly disagrees. They regularly mentor MLIS students to only apply for librarian positions. I have told them that making such a pronouncement doesn’t account for an individual’s life situation.

I have worked as a page, a paraprofessional, and a professional in librarianship. I’m not sure that any of the wording for positions that don’t require an MLIS is adequate or fair. The responsibilities of these positions have changed SO much in the last decades that the title needs to change with it. Calling them an assistant or paraprofessional feels incomplete.


Donna Pierce, Library Director, Krum Public Library: I am currently considering doing this very thing! I have had part-time people with their MLS working in “paraprofessional positions” – though in a small library we wear so many hats the lines really blur! I would look for someone who is willing to gain experience in libraries even though the position doesn’t require a degree. In the case I am considering the person actually was a director at one time, took time off due to family health issues and is wanting to get back into library work but not necessarily as a director. My biggest factor, with all new hires, is how well they will work with current staff and are they willing to do anything that is needed.

I like the term “paraprofessional” as it lets people know that the person has experience but not necessarily the education. (And education does not mean they can do the job better than someone with experience!)


Jennie Garner, Library Director, North Liberty Library: We’ve hired candidates with MLS degrees to fill part-time support staff positions multiple times. As long as they are able/willing to work the required hours and interview well, we are happy to welcome them to our team. There is no guarantee, just because a candidate possesses an MLS, that they have practical knowledge of day-to-day library work or the skills that sometimes requires. Having new staff at various levels of education and experience can further bring new eyes to our operations. I ask new staff to bring forward questions about why we work the way we do and offer new approaches that may help further operational goals. Some of our best services have come from new staff with innovative ideas at all levels.

It is often a win-win situation when we hire an employee with formal library training and are able to offer someone the chance to hone their library experience. The reality is that working in a library and developing those soft skills often differs from the training we receive in grad school coursework. As part of onboarding, all new staff spend time with each full-time staff person to help them gain insight into the work we do and the services we provide. Additionally, I ask new staff members if they have particular areas of interest and encourage them to share that with us if they’d like cross train. If someone is interested in youth services, collection development, or other areas of librarianship, we try to offer them opportunities to perform tasks related to those positions. My goal as an administrator is to create a learning environment and give staff prospects for growth. Helping someone achieve new skills adds to a positive work culture.

We don’t use the term paraprofessional. All of our staff members are expected to deliver professional customer service and are able assist our patrons with their needs. Patrons care about receiving good service and I’d hazard a guess that they consider all of our staff to be librarians. In 25+ years of library work, I’ve never had a patron ask to speak only to someone with an MLS. We regularly receive compliments from patrons about our staff – part-time and full-time with various backgrounds and education levels.


Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: Well, we have both hourly positions and administrative (professional staff) positions that are not librarians (or library faculty). We have applicants with an MLIS for both. They often think that it’s a stepping stone to becoming library faculty. I can say that sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. We will consider someone with an MLIS for either type of staff position, but more likely for a professional staff position. In fact, we’ll soon have a position open for which we fully expect to receive applications from people with an MLIS. For hourly staff, it’s less likely that there is mobility within the organization and I think we’re pretty aware that someone with an MLIS wouldn’t stay long in one of these positions. If someone with an MLIS has no academic library experience, it’s possible, but I think we’d be more wary. For professional staff positions, it needs to be clear why the position is not library faculty. I don’t want someone to be angry or resentful about their status when they have the degree. 


Heather Backman, Assistant Director of Library Services, Weymouth (MA) Public Libraries: I would consider hiring someone with an MLIS for a paraprofessional position, but they would need to make a good case for their planned longevity in the role as part of their initial application (this is what cover letters are for!) and during the interview. I don’t feel great about that on one level, knowing that the job market for degreed people is often tight. But the unfortunate reality is that as a manager, I need to do my best to avoid frequent turnover, and I would expect that most MLIS holders would greatly prefer a higher-paid, degree-required position and would probably keep job searching. If my new hire leaves before or just as they are starting to hit their stride in the job, that’s a lot of time and energy we’ve invested in hiring and training someone – not to mention the burden on other team members who may have had to carry a heavier workload while the position was not filled or the person was still learning the job – that has now gone to waste. Unless it becomes clear that someone I hire is just not the right fit, I hope that new employees will stay with us for at least a couple of years, so an MLIS holder applying for a non-degree-required position would have to convince me that they would want to stay for that amount of time.

And yes, I *do* have opinions about the term “paraprofessional”! I do not like the divides that can exist in our profession between degreed and non-degreed workers, and I think the term is often used to emphasize the difference between people’s education in a negative way. The ability to pursue higher education is often a function of privilege and resources rather than talent, intelligence, or hard work. The people I’ve worked with, by and large, have done solid work, contributed meaningfully to their libraries, and demonstrated commitment to customer service and giving patrons a great experience regardless of whether they wanted or had been able to earn an MLIS. I prefer to refer to people who work at my libraries as “[department] staff” or “the team” rather than “librarians” and “paraprofessionals”, to emphasize that all have equal value as workers. If there’s a real, meaningful need to talk about people according to their educational level I’ll say something like “(non-)degreed positions/staff.”


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: 

Would You Hire Someone with an MLIS for a Paraprofessional Position? (E.g. assistant, clerk, page) If so, under what circumstances? If not, why not? Our goal is to find the best match for the job AND given the fact that there is no such thing as “overqualified” in HR terminology – we do not exclude applicants – given level of education. Interestingly, many people do not understand that a master’s in librarianship or information science, etc. does NOT prepare you for every job in the organization. For example – having worked on a circulation desk prepares you for circulation desk work NOT the master’s. And this applies to professional positions as well – that is, your systems personnel positions might require (given the software or hardware expertise needed or the level of knowledge needed) additional education or experience in technology rather than library and information science education or training.

(And I am adding the heading/question)…..Are there any examples of problems when someone with an expanded or additional or different degree has been hired in a position other than the one that is the best match for their credentials?

Sadly yes, I have seen examples where additional or different education can cause problems and – I should say it doesn’t always happen…but….besides the usual accreditation issues for academic libraries….

  • We are in a profession where many consider themselves for most of our positions – and understandably so – in a “helping” profession. It is difficult; therefore, when someone who has been educated or trained to be in that helpful mindset is then not allowed or supported for providing a specific service.
  • In the absence of well-defined public services desks, users not reading or understanding signage, single service or one-stop desks, no name tags OR “name only” name tags or a lack of distinguishing other clothing or designation, clients or patrons are upset when it isn’t clear what some can and can’t do at near or similar desks.
  • Understandable resentment builds up when someone ends up doing some or many parts of other people’s roles and responsibilities when they may well be being paid significantly less.
  • Administrators do not “see” vacancies or “need” as readily when multiple levels of people populate desks.
  • Users often identify everyone in a library they see behind a public service desk – a “librarian” and this might communicate people are NOT doing what they are supposed to be doing if people are having to wait for someone to come out to assist when it appears that someone is already there….
  • If managers let others – no matter the credentials – perform tasks that are not in their position description – issues of “keeping current,” “staff development,” “training,” etc. are problematic as not everyone can or should be trained on everything.
  • Tech issued to librarians (iPads, laptops, etc.) – for example – might not be available to all employees, therefore, staff – with credentials different from their position requirements – will not get issued technology to assist users.

And finally our HR department follows strict guidelines for placement on scales. If we hired someone – with a master’s – for a librarian position who had been in a classified position before at another location or even internally – because is they were not hired to work as a librarian before, their placement on the scales is not counted as “professional experience after the master’s degree.” So – for us – it doesn’t help the candidate get placed higher, thus get a salary bump.

Bonus: if you have opinions about the term paraprofessional, please feel free to air them here.

From the list above it’s clear why I don’t offer these experiences – but here are general thoughts as well. Although I have no specific control over my institution’s official titles, we do not use that term in my institution either formally or informally. But it isn’t enough to say “I don’t like it” or “my experiences have shown…” so the “why” of that isn’t as clearly explained…but here is a list with additional information focusing on terminology.

  • There are several definitions for “paraprofessional” so users, clients or patrons may very well see them in a wide variety of ways and – given people’s experiences – previous work with those considered paraprofessionals cause confusion.
  • Many people view “para” as a “lesser” term for a designation.
  • A number of definitions or phrases in definitions are not particularly complimentary. For example some include:
  • an unlicensed person
  • a person who can work in the field but is not a “fully qualified” professional
  • Many definitions as well as postings say assists a professional in “daily tasks” which most may see as boring, repetitive roles and responsibilities.
  • Basic templates for designing postings are lengthy and confusing with much ambiguity as to professional vs. paraprofessional.
  • Our profession has much ambiguity among professional roles and responsibilities, and having another category of uncertainty may cause confusion in compensation, etc.

So – I am not a fan of “too-generic” titles or two specific ones…functional titles should correspond to what HR “counts” as rational for making compensation decisions.


We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, over at Mastodon @hiringlibrarians@glammr.uson Twitter @HiringLib, or left in the attic of your childhood home. If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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I would rather hire somebody who has a ton of IT experience or has a PhD in education or who actually understands about research than a person who only has an MLIS

Paramaribo market scene. Women and men. 1922.This 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:

just librarians, plain and simple

This librarian works at a library with 10-50 staff members in a suburban area in the Northeastern US.

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

√ more than 100, but less than 200

Approximately what percentage of those would you say were hirable?

√ 25% or less

And how would you define “hirable”?

someone who met our characteristics of what we specified in the job description. We even had people apply who didn’t yet have their degrees. That job was specifically for someone with supervisory experience, and hardly anybody had that.

How are applications evaluated, and by whom?

HR doesn’t weed out any. They are evaluated by a committee using the position announcement.

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

They don’t have any professional library experience at all.

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

√ Other: sometimes

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

In your resume, don’t give me the generic “sat at reference desk, delivered instruction” when describing your reference & instruction experience. I already know exactly what a reference & instruction librarian does. Tell me HOW YOU MADE A DIFFERENCE.

Oh yeah, and get a crapload of IT knowledge too.

I want to hire someone who is

ambitious

How many staff members are at your library/organization?

√ 10-50

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

√ Other: 0

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

√ 1

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

√ There are more positions

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

√ No

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

√ No

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

Even for entry-level professional positions, we look for experience, like an internship or a grad student job in a library. We have in the past specifically advertised for “new graduates” with 5 years or less since their MLIS. But even those, we were looking for someone with a little experience.

Is librarianship a dying profession?

√ Yes

Why or why not?

In the sense that you need a “library degree.” That was just a hoop to jump through 25 years ago, and it’s a hoop to jump through now. I would rather hire somebody who has a ton of IT experience or has a PhD in education or who actually understands about research than a person who only has an MLIS. The MLIS is just for enculturation. There is NOTHING, and I mean nothing, unique about library knowledge. Give me a good, knowledgeable person, and I can indoctrinate them into librarianship on the job.

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.

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Filed under 10-50 staff members, Academic, Northeastern US, State of the Job Market 2015, Suburban area

Learn about instruction – this is absolutely required for any public services academic job

New York Public Library Central Information, n.d.This 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:

Public Services (reference & instruction)

This librarian works at a library with 100-200 staff members in an urban area in the Western US.

Do library schools teach candidates the job skills you are looking for in potential hires?

√ Other: You can’t teach the job skills I need in library school

Should library students focus on learning theory or gaining practical skills? (Where 1 means Theory, 5 means practice, and 3 means both equally)

2

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

√ Project Management
√ Collection Management
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Information Behavior
√ Services to Special Populations
√ Outreach
√ Marketing
√ Instruction
√ Field Work/Internships

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

Instructional design, assessment, ability to conduct research

When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently?

√ Yes–I value skills gained through a student job more highly

Which skills (or types of skills) do you expect a new hire to learn on the job (as opposed to at library school)?

local practices/policies and subject specific resources

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

√ Library work experience
√ Internship or practicum
√ Conference 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)?

no preference as long as the coursework lines up with what we’re hiring

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

online only schools with no coursework in desired areas

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

Learn about instruction – this is absolutely required for any public services academic job

For some context, take a look at the most recently published summary of responses to this survey, or specific analysis of the responses discussing online school, the amount of coursework students should take, and preferences/reluctances for candidates from certain schools.

Do you hire librarians?  Tell us your answer to, “What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School?”: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibschoolsurvey

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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Filed under 100-200 staff members, Academic, Urban area, Western US, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

Stats and Graphs: What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School? 324 Responses

It’s Staturday!

When we last visited the What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School? survey, we had 263 responses.  As of 12/20/2014, we now have 324 responses.  The survey is and will remain open at
http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibschoolsurvey,

And now, here are the

Results!

(A disclaimer: Please be advised this is not Science, and you shouldn’t try to extrapolate these trends to the world at large. Be a dear and also forgive the cut off labels on the charts – this is how Google forms deals with verbosity.)

 

Do library schools teach candidates the job skills you are looking for in potential hires?

 

Yes 24    7%
No 42 13%
Depends on the school/Depends on the candidate 230    71%
You can’t teach the job skills I need in library school 8 2%
Other 17    5%

Should library students focus on learning theory or gaining practical skills? (Where 5 is practice, 1 is theory and 3 means “both equally”)

 

1 (Theory) 2      1%
2 29      9%
3 (Both Equally) 147     45%
4 111      34%
5 (Practice) 32       10%

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

Reference 249   77%
Collection Management 233   72%
Project Management 211  65%
Library Management 195  60%
Research Methods 193  60%
Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations) 191 59%
Cataloging 184 57%
Web Design/Usability 184 57%
Instruction 176 54%
Field Work/Internships 173 53%
Marketing 165 51%
Outreach 159 49%
Budgeting/Accounting 158 49%
Digital Collections 137 42%
Information Behavior 137 42%
Grant Writing 125 39%
Readers’ Advisory 122 38%
Programming (Events) 114 35%
Metadata 100 31%
Services to Special Populations 87 27%
History of Books/Libraries 79 24%
Other 48 15%
Programming (Coding) 42 13%
Archives 30 9%
Vocabulary Design 29 9%
Portfolio/ePortfolio 16 5%

 

When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently? (Example: a candidate who took an instructional design class vs. a candidate who taught library instruction sessions.)

 

Yes–I value skills gainedthrough a student job more highly 155      48%
Yes–I value skills gainedthrough coursework more highly 5 2%
No preference–as long as they have theskill, I don’t care how they got it 135 42%
Other 29 9%

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

Internship or practicum 250 77%
Library work experience 237 73%
Professional organization involvement 133 41%
Other presentation 73 23%
Teaching assistant/Other instructional experience 64 20%
Student organization involvement 61 19%
Other 42 13%
Conference presentation 31 10%
Other publication 17 5%
Scholarly publication 13 4%

Where are you?

Northeastern US 58 18%
Midwestern US 80 25%
Southern US 73 23%
Western US 75 23%
Canada 13 4%
UK 6 2%
Australia/New Zealand 7 2%
Other 7 2%

Where are you?

Urban area 124 38%
Suburban area 61 19%
City/town 99 31%
Rural area 30 9%
Other 8 2%

What type of institution do you hire for?

 

Academic Library 138 43%
Public Library 138 43%
School Library 6 2%
Special Library 26 8%
Archives 1 0%
Other 11 3%

How many staff members are at your library/organization?

 

0-10 58 18%
10-50 121 37%
50-100 60 19%
100-200 35 11%
200+ 46 14%

Are you a librarian?

Yes 305 94%
No 4 1%
It’s complicated 14 4%

 

Are you now or have you ever been:

A hiring manager (you are hiring people thatyou will directly or indirectly supervise) 250 77%
A member of a hiring or search committee 269 83%
Human resources 14 4%
Other 15 5%

Would you like to have information about you or your organization shared ?

No, I prefer to remain anonymous

286

88%

Yes, and I’ll give you my email address on the next page

35

11%

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

Any that are not accredited

School Reading RoomThis anonymous interview is with a special 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:

research librarians; technical services

This librarian works at a library with 0-10 staff members in an urban area in the Northeastern 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?

√ Budgeting/Accounting
√ Project Management
√ Library Management
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Digital Collections
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Information Behavior

When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently?

√ Yes–I value skills gained through a student job more highly

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

√ Library work experience

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

any that are not accredited.

This survey was coauthored by Brianna Marshallfrom Hack Library School. Interested in progressive blogging, by, for, and about library students? Check it out!

Special Note: From December 6, 2013 to October 24, 2014, the ALA will accept comments on the Draft revised Standards for Accreditation of Master’s Programs in Library and Information Studies. More information about the process of changing these standards is here. If you have opinions about what people should be learning in library school, here’s a way that you can influence change.

Do you hire librarians? Tell us, “What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School?”: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibschoolsurvey

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, Northeastern US, Urban area, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

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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Having the Necessary Skills and Being Able to Sell Them

CO 1069-279-6This anonymous interview is with a job hunter who is currently not employed (even if part-time or in an unrelated field), has not been hired within the last two months, and has been looking for a new position for six months to a year. This person is looking in Academic libraries, Archives, Public libraries, and Special libraries, at the entry levels. This new grad/entry level applicant has the following internship/volunteering experience:

I worked at a library part time while in graduate school and have interned at two archives. Prior to entering school I volunteered for a year at a local historical society.

This job hunter is in an urban area in the Northeastern US and is willing to move anywhere.

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

Professional development opportunities
good salary and benefits
Challenging work environment

Where do you look for open positions?

Archives Gig, Indeed.com, ALA Joblist, METRO NY Roundtable

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?

After reading the job announcement and deciding if I am qualified I write a cover letter. This usually takes about an hour. Then I wait a bit and come back to re-read the cover letter. After checking my resume I then submit the required application materials including filling out an online profile if needed.

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

Yes

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
To follow-up after an interview
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 should employers do to make the hiring process less painful?

The best area that can be improved is the online application that must be filled out in order to apply to many jobs. Often this includes information on work experience and education. Since it is duplicated in the resume that information is redundant. The application process would be much less painful if it did not have to be filled out.

What do you think is the secret to getting hired?

Having the necessary skills and being able to sell them.

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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Would Rather Have Someone Who is Collaborative

OP_82 US Cavalry Hunting for Illicit Stills in SC 1870This anonymous interview is with a job hunter who is currently employed (even if part-time or in an unrelated field), has not been hired within the last two months, and has been looking for a new position for Less than six months. This person is looking in Academic libraries and Public libraries at the following levels: Entry level. This new grad/entry level applicant has the following internship/volunteering experience: I’ve had three internships (one currently ongoing), and volunteered at the Bitch Magazine library for a year. This job hunter is in an urban area in Midwestern US and isn’t willing to move.

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

1) Support for professional development
2) A commute under 60 minutes one-way
3) A collaborative staff

Where do you look for open positions?

Greater Chicago Midwest HERC
INALJ
RAILS Job Board
Indeed

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 tend to spend a couple of days. I try to have at least two people look over my cover letter and resume (one being a former library employer). If there’s an online form, I keep all of that information in an Excel doc so that I can just copy and paste.

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

Yes

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
√ To follow-up after an interview
√ 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?

List the salary!

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

Communicate more–I get that it’s difficult to tell someone that they haven’t moved on to the next interview step in a multi-interview process (esp. if their first choices back out and they decide to interview you in a pinch), but it is extremely painful to be told that you were going to hear two weeks ago about the next step and then hear nothing.

What do you think is the secret to getting hired?

Your personality being the right fit for the workplace. With the recession, I think there’s a lot of focus on the idea that libraries can hire the best people–with “best” meaning most degrees, most technical skills, etc. However, my experience has been that the recession has allowed libraries to be more choosy in terms of picking the right personality for their workplace. Yeah, it’s great to get someone in with reference experience who also loves messing with Drupal in their free time, but I think they would rather have someone who is collaborative and willing to learn than a person with a lot of skills and nothing interpersonal to offer. Not that the two are mutually exclusive! I just think that the hiring process has become far more based on person-to-person interactions and whether or not the hiring committee feels like you’d be a good fit long-term at their library.

Do you have any comments, or are there any other questions you think we should add to this survey?

Thanks for putting this together! And in case Emily or Naomi are reading this thank you both SO MUCH for what you do! INALJ is an amazingly comprehensive resource, and I always consult Hiring Librarians to get a feel of the hiring market out there.

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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They Know What the Salary Is, so Why Keep it a Secret?

Picnic lunch on a hunting party, Queensland, ca. 1912This anonymous interview is with a job hunter who is currently employed (even if part-time or in an unrelated field), has not been hired within the last two months, and has been looking for a new position for A year to 18 months. This person is looking in Academic libraries, Archives, Public libraries, and Special libraries, at the following levels: Entry level, Requiring at least two years of experience. This job hunter is in a city/town in the Midwestern US and is willing to move anywhere.

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

A chance to develop what I learned from library school and from previous experience working in libraries.
An environment of respect and mutual encouragement, not stuffy and formal.
A decent wage, appropriate to the cost of living in that geographic area.

Where do you look for open positions?

ALA Joblist, USAJobs, indeed.com, university listserv

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

Other:They could at least say what the minimum salary is. Of course they know what it is, so why keep it a secret? If I have to relocate for a job, it needs to be worth it. Why waste everyone’s time by not giving out this information?

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

I have a CV and a resume that I tweak for specific job postings. I have a saved document with references and their contact info. I have a cover letter template that helps me develop a letter that specifically addresses the duties listed in the job posting. I spend about 30-45 minutes, just to make sure I’ve covered everything and corrected any errors (punctuation, spelling, etc.) I also research the organization’s website.

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 tell me if I have or have not been selected to move on to the interview stage
√ To follow-up after an interview
√ Once the position has been filled, even if it’s not me

How do you prefer to communicate with potential employers?

Phone for good news, email for bad news

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
√ Meeting with HR to talk about benefits/salary

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

Include the salary in the job posting!!!!!!!!!!

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

Please don’t make applicants wait 4-5 months before they receive any type of communication regarding their applications.

What do you think is the secret to getting hired?

Networking, or just plain luck.

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, Job hunter's survey, Midwestern US, Public, Special

Stats and Graphs: What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School?

It’s Staturday!

responses over time
Although the survey is and will remain open at
http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibschoolsurvey,
responses do seem to be petering out, and as it is such an auspicious day for this sort of thing, we are happy to present to you:

Results!

There have been 263 responses, as of the morning of 8/16/2013. Here are some graph-based representations of them. Please be advised this is not science, and you shouldn’t try to extrapolate these trends to the world at large. Be a dear and also forgive the cut off labels on the charts – this is how Google forms deals with verbosity.

 

Do library schools teach candidates the job skills you are looking for in potential hires?

chart

Yes 21    8%
No 32    12%
Depends on the school/Depends on the candidate 187    72%
You can’t teach the job skills I need in library school  5    2%
Other 16    6%

 

Should library students focus on learning theory or gaining practical skills? (Where 5 is practice, 1 is theory and 3 means “both equally”)

theory v. practice

1 (theory)    2    1%
2   24    9%
3 (both equally)   125    48%
4   83    32%
5 (practice)   26    10%

 

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

coursework

Reference

206

78%

Collection Management

190

72%

Project Management

168

64%

Library Management

161

61%

Soft Skills

155

59%

Research Methods

154

59%

Web Design/Usability

152

58%

Cataloging

148

56%

Instruction

143

54%

Field Work/Internships

143

54%

Outreach

130

49%

Marketing

129

49%

Budgeting/Accounting

123

47%

Digital Collections

118

45%

Information Behavior

109

41%

Readers’ Advisory

98

37%

Grant Writing

94

36%

Programming (Events)

89

34%

Metadata

84

32%

Services to Special Populations

67

25%

History of Books/Libraries

60

23%

Other

38

14%

Programming (Coding)

33

13%

Archives

23

9%

Vocabulary Design

22

8%

Portfolio/ePortfolio

15

6%

 

When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently? (Example: a candidate who took an instructional design class vs. a candidate who taught library instruction sessions.)

courework v. work

Yes–I value skills gained through

a student job more highly

125    48%
Yes–I value skills gained through

coursework more highly

4    2%
No preference–as long as they have

the skill, I don’t care how they got it

107    41%
Other 27    10%

 

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

work experiences

Internship or practicum

202

77%

Library work experience

195

74%

Professional organization  involvement

102

39%

Other presentation

58

22%

Teaching assistant/Other Instructional Experience

57

22%

Student organization involvement

48

18%

Other

36

14%

Conference presentation

28

11%

Other publication

11

4%

Scholarly publication

10

4%

 

Where are you?

Region

Northeastern US

45

17%

Midwestern US

68

26%

Southern US

61

23%

Western US

59

23%

Canada

10

4%

UK

6

2%

Australia/New Zealand

5

2%

Other

6

2%

 

Where are you?

urbanity

Urban area

94

36%

Suburban area

51

19%

City/town

87

33%

Rural area

26

10%

Other

4

2%

 

What type of institution do you hire for?

type

Academic Library

121

47%

Public Library

112

43%

School Library

5

2%

Special Library

14

5%

Archives

0

0%

Other

8

3%

 

How many staff members are at your library/organization?

no of staff

0-10

42

16%

10-50

107

41%

50-100

50

19%

100-200

26

10%

200+

35

13%

 

Are you a librarian?

r u lib

Yes

248

95%

No

3

1%

It’s complicated

11

4%

 

Are you now or have you ever been:

r u now

A hiring manager (you are hiring people that you will directly or indirectly supervise)

203

45%

A member of a hiring or search committee

220

49%

Human resources

12

3%

Other

14

3%

 

Would you like to have information about you or your organization shared ?

non anon

No, I prefer to remain anonymous

232

89%

Yes, and I’ll give you my email address on the next page

30

11%

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