Tuesday, July 24, 2012

SLA2012: What's Changed Since Library School?

On the last day of the conference, Noel Kopriva moderated a session for the  Food Agriculture & Nutrition and Social Science Divisions Social Sciences Division entitled "What's Changed Since Library School?"  Thanks to ProQuest & Dialog for sponsoring this Spotlight Session.  Each of the panelists took a different point of view on the topic and the results were quite interesting.

Hope Jansen is now in her third professional position after graduating from University of Brighton (UK) with a degree in library science.  A U.S. citizen, Hope knew that her degree from Brighton was accredited by CILIP and recognized by ALA. Hope's degree focused on theory and was technology focused.  She felt, however, that it did prepare her for working in the profession.  Her first positions were in the UK and now she works for CABI in the U.S.

After giving an overview of her program of study, Hope spoke about how the program had prepared her for the work that she has done.  She emphasized that even though her courses focused on theory that they gave her the knowledge and flexibility that she had needed in her career.

Sara Tompson is the Head of Library Instruction & Orientation Services at University of Southern California (USC).  Sara has taught as an adjunct in several library and information science programs.  She has trained to be an external review panelists for ALA's Office of Accreditation.  Sara talked about how the profession has changed since she received her degree in 1987.  She learned about technology after receiving her MLS and acknowledged that library and information professionals must be willing to continue to learn in order to stay current. 

Sara also talked briefly about the ALA Accreditation process.  Most professional library positions are filled by people with an ALA Accredited Library and Information Science degree.  While this holds all of the programs to a set of standards, it does not mean that all of the programs are alike.  The accreditation does help to ensure that students learn the theory behind the practice.

I spoke last.  After a brief overview of my career and what I currently do, I talked about skills that hiring managers are looking for in LIS graduates.  This is a list I have compiled from a number of conversations and  methodical interviews.

First...it is important to recognize that hiring managers assume that someone with a MLIS degree has learned the requisite library skills.  What then differentiates job candidates are the other skills that managers want. Some of these are soft or business skills, while others are more focused or specialized library skills.

So here is the list that I presented of skills that hiring managers want and LIS students need to learn in class OR through out-of-class activities OR work experiences:
  • Leadership
  • Project management & project planning
  • Technical (technology) skills [Every library is using technology, so understanding technology and being able to adopt to new technologies are essential.]
  • Continuous learning
  • Assessment and outcome-based evaluation
  • Dealing with the community
  • Teaching – one-on-one and group/class [Every librarian is a teaching librarian.]
  • Finance…Budgeting, project costing, grant writing
  • Flexibility
  • Ability to see and understand the big picture
  • Communication and presentation skills
  • Marketing and advocacy
  • Data collection and analysis
  • Ability to be outward facing
  • Understand how to transfer skills
  • Understand organizational politics [This cannot be taught, so a person must learn it through his/her work environments.]
  • See a problem and propose a solution
  • Conversant with databases
  • See concerns/problems from multiple points of view
  • Ability to see how non-library competitors (e.g., Amazon) are solving library problems
  • Metadata
  • How to collaborate and create partnerships
  • Time management
  • Foreign language [Every LIS professional is serving a multicultural, multilingual community. Therefore, being conversant in a modern foreign language - or even American Sign Language - can be quite helpful.  In addition, libraries are creating metadata for materials that are in a wide variety of languages, so being able to understand a foreign language can be quite helpful.]
This list above generated a number of questions and comments! One person noted (and I think it was Sara) that these skills above help a hiring manager differentiate candidates.  In addition, the more of these skills that a new employee brings with him/her, the less effort is needed to bring that person up to speed.

One question was about how these skills are being taught in an LIS program.  Honestly, everything that hiring managers want in a perfect MLIS graduate cannot be taught in a graduate program. There just isn't enough time.  Yes, some of these can be taught as part of a class or a student may be given an opportunity to practice a skill as part of class.  However, students need to be willing to learn some of these skills on their own outside of class, either through workshops, independent study, or other work/volunteer experience.  Someone who has taken time to perfect skills outside of the classroom is also presenting him/herself as someone who understands the need to engage in continuous learning, which is desired by hiring managers.

If you attended this session or just find the topic of interest, I would be interested in your comments (especially if you disagree with something!).  This is an important topic for those of us who are educators and for those who are in an LIS program.


Noel Kopriva said...

Thanks for posting this, Jill! I've posted it on FaceBook. ~Noel Kopriva

SaraT said...

Thanks Jill for an accurate summary! I really enjoyed being part of the panel. Sara T.