Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Librarian: 'I don't hire based on school'

As you already know, I'm in library school. It's accredited by the American Library Association (ALA), but it's not the most expensive library school in the region. That's good for my wallet, but my classmates and I wonder if that's good for our future job prospects. After all, for many people, most expensive equals best quality. This goes for cars, clothes, and even schools. Fortunately, where you went to library school won't be a big factor when librarians consider you for a job.
Library work experience matters more than where you went to library school.
Image of Lego library via manliuscoralreef.blogspot.com

At least one librarian has gone on record saying where you went to library school won't matter. In an interview posted on the Hiring Librarians website, an academic librarian who has been a hiring manager and member of a search committee was asked, "Which library schools give candidates an edge (you prefer candidates from these schools)?" In response, the librarian said, "I don't hire based on school." When further probed with the question "Are there any library schools whose alumni you would be reluctant to hire?," the librarian said, "No."
What skills and experience do you need to get a job at a library?
Image of Lego library via mrlibrarydude.wordpress.com

So if the librarian doesn't hire based on school, what DOES matter when you are up for a job? For the academic librarian, who works with 10 to 50 staff members at a library in the Midwestern United States, it matters that you have:
  • Library work experience
  • Conference presentation
  • Other presentation
  • Student organization involvement
  • Teaching assistant/other instructional experience

Talking about library work experience, the librarian admitted, "I think most skills are learned on the job." But that's not to discredit the skills and knowledge acquired in the classroom. What's learned in the course of a library school education can be quite relevant. Some coursework is even considered as crucial by many hiring managers. When asked "What coursework do you think all (or most) MLS/MLIS holders should take, regardless of focus?," the librarian replied:
  • Cataloging
  • Budget/accounting
  • Grant writing
  • Project management
  • Collection management
  • Reference
  • Outreach
  • Instruction
  • Field work/internships

This is very good to know. Past courses have given me an introduction to cataloging and reference, and the entirety of library school thus far has been a lesson in project management. Next semester, I'm taking a class in collection management. And although I don't have the daytime hours for fieldwork or an internship, I have volunteered (and will continue to volunteer) at archival institutions in my free time in order to gain current work experience.

To read the full interview with the academic librarian, which includes advice for students who want to make the most of their time in library school, see the Hiring Librarians post at THIS LINK.

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