Tag Archives: MLIS

Take a Course in Linguistics

J. McRee Elrod

Here’s the first response to the new survey, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School? You should recognize a familiar face!

This interview is with J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, founder and director of Special Libraries Cataloging (SLC). SLC currently employs about 20 cataloguers and indexers.  Although SLC is in a rural area in Canada, most employees work remotely. Mr. Elrod worked with Michael Gorman to prepare AACR2 Rule Interpretations that facilitate its use for creating RDA compatible records. He also contributes to the profession as an active participant on the AUTOCAT listserv. Mr. Elrod filled out our original survey and has contributed regularly to the Further Questions feature.

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)


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

√ Cataloging
√ Budgeting/Accounting
√ Grant Writing
√ Project Management
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Programming (Events)
√ Programming (Coding)
√ Digital Collections
√ Archives
√ History of Books/Libraries
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Readers’ Advisory
√ Services to Special Populations
√ Outreach
√ Marketing
√ Instruction
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)
√ Field Work/Internships

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

Ability to catalogue. There should be basic skills imparted in order for the library school to be accredited.

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

√ No preference–as long as they have the skill, I don’t care how they got it

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

Local practices.

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

√ Internship or practicum
√ Other presentation
√ Professional organization involvement
√ Other: Cataloguing practicum

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

University of British Columbia

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

Western Ontario

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

Take all cataloguing and programming courses that are offered, and attempt to have field work in those areas. Take a course in linguistics, and learn to read as many languages and scripts as possible.

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

We should work toward ALS accreditation standards which demand the imparting of practical cataloguing skills.

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

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Oh Look, A New Survey!

Hello Sweet Friends and Readers,

Do you hire librarians or other LIS workers?

We are looking for hiring managers, members of hiring/search committees, HR professionals, etc. who are willing to take 5-10 minutes to fill out a survey about what potential hires should learn in library school.

This is a new survey for Hiring Librarians.  The purpose is to gather and disseminate information about hiring, rather than to perform research. Responses will be presented on the blog, anonymously or with a short bio, depending on the preference of the responder. We are very committed to maintaining confidentiality if desired. The survey was co-written by Brianna Marshall of Hack Library School.

The direct link to the survey is:

(You can take a look at the questions and browse through the entire survey without having to answer anything.  Just don’t hit submit). 

Feel free to share with any colleagues who might be interested. I’m also happy to answer any questions or concerns you might have, please email or contact me. 

Thank you,
Emily Weak, MLIS 

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Residency Run-Down: Penn State University Libraries Diversity Residency Program

I know a lot of you readers are new librarians or current students. And we all know it’s a tough market for emerging information professionals. It’s great to be able to share this interview with John Meier, Chair of the Diversity Committee and Science Librarian at Pennsylvania State University Library. In this interview, Mr. Meier describes the brand new Diversity Residency Program at Penn State, as well as what library students can do now to stand out in the job market, and why Penn State is a great place to learn about academic librarianship and research.

Can you give us a brief introduction to the Penn State University Libraries Diversity Residency Program?

Pattee LibrarySure. The Penn State University Libraries has been working on developing this residency program for a long time. Our Diversity Committee has been around for over 20 years and since Dean Barbara Dewey came to Penn State in 2010 things really started to happen. There are two residents in each biannual cohort who each rotate through a number of departments their first year and then pursue a research project in their second year. We have had great support from the University Administration including partially funding the program. That really shows how much Penn State values not only libraries but diversity.

Why was this program started? What makes it important to your organization?

We are looking to the future and feel that if we want our library staff to reflect the multicultural nature of our society we need to be part of building the next generation of professional librarians. While Penn State does not have a library school, we are one of the largest employers of librarians in the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). We also have a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion in our services to the Penn State community and want to bolster our current successes. The University Libraries also wants to prepare the future leaders of the library profession and promote diversity in the next generation of library leaders.

What are the main job duties of residents – do they differ from those of “regular” librarians?

The main job duties of these residents will actually be very similar to all their librarian colleagues. During the first year of assignment, the residents will rotate through different departments as full members of those units. They will be librarians, not interns or graduate assistants, and perform similar duties and have similar responsibilities. The only real difference will be the additional support from the residency coordinator and library administration.

Are residents paid? Do they get any other special benefits?

These are paid, two year contract librarian positions with benefits. Each year they will also get a professional travel stipend to attend conferences and workshops.

What would you tell a potential applicants in order to convince them to apply for the program?

Knowledge CommonsOne of the highlights of the Penn State University Libraries is the high research productivity of our faculty librarians. The residents will benefit from a great amount of peer mentoring and the ability to build a supportive network of professional librarian colleagues. Penn State is also a very large library system, so the residents can pursue almost any aspect of academic librarianship here.

What are the eligibility requirements?

Candidates for our residency need to be recent graduates of an ALA accredited Masters program or an equivalent program. They also need to have the ability to advance our goals of diversity and inclusion. We are looking for the best overall candidates who will go on to be successful librarians and leaders in the profession.

What does the selection process entail? How does it differ from the regular job application process?

Our selection process follows our regular job application process.

Any tips for students? Is there anything they could do to improve their chances of winning a spot in your program?

Be active in the profession while you are a student in a library school program. Join student chapters of professional societies and take a leadership role. Identify an issue you care about and pursue it passionately. Think of every class and class project as a way to make your dreams of the future a reality.

When will the next residents be picked?

We should be announcing our new residents in July 2013.

Anything else you want to tell us about the program, or about job hunting in general?

Have a number of friends, current librarians, and professors read your cover letter and resume and incorporate as much of the feedback as you can. It can be tough to stand out in the current job market, so you need to make the effort to learn about each job.

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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.”

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Researcher’s Corner: Art Librarians’ Professional Paths

I’m excited to be able to give you another guest post by Eamon Tewell, who shared the results of his research on entry level positions for Academic librarians with us back in late November.  This post presents research which is reported more formally in:

Tewell, E. (2012). Art librarians’ professional paths: A careers survey with implications for prospective librarians. Art Libraries Journal, 37(1), 41-45.

Although this work deals specifically with art librarianship, his methods should be of interest to anyone beginning a library career – it strikes me as a good way of exploring potential trajectories, and the advice given by the subjects has broader applications.  I also find it an interesting look into librarians’ additional qualifications: what do we need in addition to the MLIS in order to find work?


I have always been intrigued by stories of how people chose librarianship as their career. A couple of years ago as a recent MLIS graduate with an interest in art libraries, I decided to ask professionals in this field about their career paths and any recommendations they had for those new to the profession. Additionally, I was curious to see what characteristics distinguished art librarianship from other specializations. I conducted a survey to attempt to answer these questions about how and why people selected art libraries as their workplace, as well as to solicit job search advice for prospective librarians.


I developed and sent an online survey to six email discussion lists related to art librarianship that represented several different areas of the world. For readers interested in art librarianship, I highly recommend subscribing to the listservs of the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS-L) and the Association of College & Research Libraries’ Arts Section (ARTS-LIB). The survey had 33 questions that addressed professional art librarians’ education, current and previous positions, career goals, and advice for future art librarians. In particular, I sought insight into the following questions:

● Was art librarianship a career goal for most professionals currently in the field?
● Why do individuals choose a career in art librarianship?
● What factors contributed to current professionals successfully obtaining a position as an art librarian?


Summary: I received a total of 280 completed responses to the survey. The results show that art librarians most commonly work in academic settings (followed by museums), chose art librarianship while already employed in a library, have an educational background in the arts at the undergraduate or graduate level, and selected librarianship primarily because they were attracted to the duties of the job. Unexpectedly, in a field that’s highly concerned about the graying of the profession, there was a relatively even distribution among age groups between 27 and 62.

Job Duties: One-third of the survey respondents felt their job duties most closely resembled a combination of Public Services, Technical Services, and/or Digital Services, while one-quarter selected Public Services as their primary responsibility. This indicates that employment opportunities in art librarianship are more likely to require a rounded background combining multiple skillsets, and that Public Services is a particularly common job responsibility.

Education: 35 percent of the respondents received a degree in Art History and 12 percent in Art/Studio Art. A wide variety of subjects were represented, which suggests that an undergraduate-level education in the arts would enhance one’s success in becoming an art librarian, but is not necessarily required. Slightly more than half had obtained a second Master’s degree or its equivalent, with the most frequent areas of study being Art History (52 percent), Fine Arts (16 percent), or Architecture (11 percent).

Advice for Prospective Librarians

The survey respondents said that “Background in the arts” and “Experience” were the most significant factors towards obtaining their first position in an art library. Interestingly, 20 professionals mentioned “Luck” as a factor in finding a job. On the topic of how graduate students should best prepare themselves for today’s job market, the following key themes surfaced:

● Gain as much experience as possible. Many respondents mentioned internships as a good way to get practical experience while in school.
● Be willing to relocate if possible. This theme was summed up in one librarian’s advice to “be prepared to move for your first professional post – once you’ve got that experience you stand a much better chance of getting jobs you really want.”
● Networking is essential. One respondent recommended networking both in person and online, while another pointed out that “Networking might not secure you a job directly, but [it] will increase your confidence in the field.”

Most significantly, respondents urged those new to the profession to manage their career expectations, which may include settling for a less than perfect position initially and working towards opportunities better suited to long-term goals. While a small number of art librarians advised current graduate students not to pursue a specialty in art librarianship or a career in librarianship in general, a more widely-held view acknowledges that competition is fierce, and one must put in major effort to make their achievements stand out to potential employers.


Hearing about other professionals’ career paths, whether in art libraries or another specialization, can be very informative in terms of learning how others successfully found a position that suits their interests and needs. Much of the advice for prospective art librarians is applicable to prospective librarians as a whole. Gaining experience while in school, being open to relocation, and networking are all familiar but significant recommendations for recent graduates. Remaining flexible regarding initial job expectations may be the most important piece of advice to keep in mind. As one respondent encouraged, “Keep an open mind. Show willingness and enthusiasm. Don’t give up!”

Eamon Tewell is Reference Librarian at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY, where he provides research, instruction, and outreach services. He earned his MLIS from Drexel University in 2008 and his BA from the University of Colorado at Denver. Eamon has published and presented on the topics of emerging technologies and popular media. He tweets at @eamontewell and can also be reached via eamontewell.comAcademia.edu, orLinkedIn.

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

I was never convinced that where one attends library school was all that important, and by important I mean, had any measurable effect on whether or not one found employment after graduation.  So I was very interested to see that Ashley Ahlbrand and Michael Johnson had actually done some research into the matter:

Ahlbrand, A. & Johnson, M. (2012). Degree pedigree: Assessing the effect of degree-granting institutions’ ranks on prospective employment at academic law libraries. Law Library Journal, 104(4), 553-68. http://www.aallnet.org/main-menu/Publications/llj/vol-104/no-4/2012-37.pdf

They’ve been kind enough to share some of their findings with us here today and, not to spoil it for you, but they do see some correlation between choice of library school, and the rank of an employing university.  They’ve also been kind enough to include some charts!  I love charts.  As always, comments are open for your responses.  Thanks for reading!

How the Project Started

This research began as a project for S505: Evaluation of Resources and Services, a course in the curriculum of Indiana University Bloomington’s School of Library and Information Science.  I was taking the course at the time, and Michael Johnson, my co-author, had just recently graduated from the program.  We had often heard that where you go to school doesn’t matter – it’s the degree that counts.  And we decided to put that to the test.


We focused our study on academic law librarians, in part because that was my desired profession, but also because Michael found that law school libraries were most consistent about publishing the educational backgrounds of their librarians.  Increasingly, academic law libraries seek librarians with both law and library science degrees; thus our research considered education in both degrees.  In addition there are standard rankings for law schools and MLS programs, while for other subject masters determining rankings can be difficult because of granularities of specialty.

We sought a non-invasive means of conducting our study, so we collected our data solely through publicly-available profiles.  The majority of our data came from institutional websites.  Where data was absent from institutional websites, we also obtained educational background information from individuals’ public profiles on Google+ and LinkedIn; this only occurred for a few librarians in our study.

Because of our desire to make this a non-invasive study, our measure to answer the question of whether school or degree matters more was institutional rank.  We compared the ranks of where librarians acquired their library science and law degrees to the rank of the school at which they were employed.  We used U.S. News and World Report rankings as our measure since they are most prevalent today; in a few instances, we encountered library science programs attended that are no longer in operation; for these we attempted to find older rankings from other sources, such as the Gourman Report, but where no ranking could be found, we qualified them as unranked for purposes of data analysis.  This only occurred in a few instances and had little bearing the results of our study.

Michael collected the data for our study.  He recorded each librarian’s employing law school and its current rank; the attended law school and its current rank; the attended library science program and its current rank; and the years each degree was attained, if available.  Michael performed the initial data analysis on both our intended sample of librarians working at top-fifty law schools and a random sample drawn from all U.S. law schools by calculating frequency statistics.  I then followed up with a few chi-square analyses to compare groups of data in different categories.


Our study showed that, to attain a position at a top-fifty ranked law school, one should strive to attend a top-ten ranked library science program.  This conclusion was drawn through chi-square analysis comparing the library science education of librarians in the top-fifty sample and those in the random sample.  The analysis revealed that those working at top-fifty ranked law schools were more likely to have attended highly ranked library science programs than those in the random sample of all law schools.

Figure 1

A similar analysis of law school education of librarians in the top-fifty and random samples yielded surprisingly different results.  Conducting the same chi-square analysis, we found no significant difference between the rank of law schools attended for librarians in the top-fifty and random samples.  However, by more closely comparing librarians working at top-twenty-five and top-ten law schools, the data did reveal a difference in law school educational patterns: librarians working at top-ten law schools were much more likely to have attended highly ranked law schools than those working at law schools ranked in the top twenty-five.

Figure 2

In a final analysis, we compared the overall education (library science and law) of law librarians to their current place of employment and found that librarians in the top-fifty sample were more likely to have obtained an overall highly ranked education than those in the random sample.



This study explored the question of institutional merit and its potential bearing on employability.  It’s safe to say that Michael and I had pre-conceived expectations for what our study would reveal, but it’s also safe to say that our findings surprised us by not reflecting our expectations!  It would have been natural to expect one degree to stand out as more significant for employability in this field than the other; however, we found that each degree held its own importance: if one’s ambition is to attain a position at a top-fifty law school, the rank of the library science program seems to be most important; however if one’s sights are set on working at a top-ten ranked law school, the rank of the law school attended becomes just as significant.  And indeed, while the rank of law school education alone did not seem to be significant between our top-fifty and random samples, it appears that this rank cannot be ignored – our analysis of overall education revealed that those working at top-fifty law schools were more likely to have attended both higher-ranked law and library science programs.

While the results of this study seem to suggest choices one should make if pursuing the education to become a law librarian, it is important to acknowledge the limitations of the study as well.  In our efforts to conduct the study in a non-invasive manner, we were limited in the data we could obtain and analyze: not all schools post their librarians’ credentials; some post more data than others; and we elected not to contact librarians in our samples in any way, thus limiting us strictly to our quantitative analysis.  Certainly, other factors such as personality and technical skills inform hiring decisions at any library.  In fact, we conducted a separate analysis during this study of law library directors alone, and were unable to draw any significant conclusions; although some certainly had very high educational credentials, this was not always the case and analysis did not reveal this to be a significant pattern.  Clearly there is some other factor that informs the qualities of a directorial candidate.  Our study is not, therefore, a predictor of hiring outcomes.  But for those interested in a career in law librarianship, our study does suggest considerations that should be made when applying to library science and law programs.

Questions about the study can be directed to the authors: Ashley Ahlbrand, aaahlbra@indiana.edu, and Michael Johnson, mjohnson2@shawnee.edu

Ashley Ahlbrand

Ashley Ahlbrand is the educational technology and reference librarian at Indiana University Bloomington’s Maurer School of Law.  Her research focuses on social media and other emerging technologies and the ways in which they can be and are used by law libraries and law faculty for teaching purposes.

Michael JohnsonMichael Johnson is the circulation librarian at Shawnee State University.  His research and professional interests are citation analysis, science librarianship, information visualization, big data, library usage and career influences.

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