Hiring a new librarian? Are new graduates qualified?

Believe it or not some librarians are retiring and some libraries are hiring. I know, I heard the same story 20 yrs. ago in library school about the wave of librarians retiring and the need to hire a bunch of librarians to fill those open positions.  Instead of a giant wave of retirements, I think it has been a gentle rise over time.  Instead of filling every single open position retirement brought, I think there has been closing of libraries, not filling positions, or restructuring positions for a different type of fill.  However, not all positions will be left unfilled.  I know of a library that will probably have at least 4 people retire sometime in 5 years.  I don’t know if all 4 positions will be filled, but I know for certain that they won’t all go unfilled.

So this leads me to think about who will fill these positions and the others positions in the medical library world.  In the past when we have had open positions, the number of librarians applying without any library experience (volunteer, practicum, library assistant, etc.) has been large. The number of people applying without medical, health, biology, etc. (basically anything related to medical) library experience has also been large.

I realize the experience part is difficult to come by when there are few library jobs out there.  That is why I am always interested to see if the person had a volunteer position, practicum, internship….something that gives them an idea of what working in a library is like.

Twenty years ago (gah I can’t believe it has been that long) when I was in library school, cataloging was a required course. The same held true with reference. Database searching was elective, but dude…. I totally knew I had to take that class.  After seeing the resumes and speaking with some graduates I also am very concerned about what is taught in library school.  I know there are people who  graduated with a library degree who had never taken cataloging or reference.  IMHO those are the very basics of a library education and form the backbone of what you need to build upon as librarian…no matter what librarian you become (subject or position).

That is just the education for regular librarianship. I haven’t even gotten into the skills and knowledge necessary for medical librarianship.  Medical libraries (like many other special libraries) do things a bit differently. We don’t do ILL like everyone else (Docline).  We catalog differently (NLM Classification). Our reference is all medical and health issues… which is often not taught library school because it is still viewed as verboten in public libraries.

Those are just some of the easy, off the top of my head examples of things that unless you worked in a medical, health science type of library you would be totally unfamiliar with.

So as I look toward the future, I am wondering what other medical librarians are looking for when they are looking to hire an entry level librarian and do they feel the library schools are producing graduates that meet our needs?  Let me know what you think?  What is essential in a librarian? What kind of internships, practicums, volunteering are helpful?  If you offer internships, practicums, volunteering what are the basics they need to know before hand?

Comment your thoughts.

2 thoughts on “Hiring a new librarian? Are new graduates qualified?”

  1. When I was in library school, cataloging was required. We didn’t do NLM cataloging, but just learning the principles using Dewey and LC (both covered) were enough to transfer the knowledge into NLM. And the PRINCIPLES were the bones on which the organization of information were built for all my future work as a librarian. Same with reference – I may not have used the exact materials, but knowing how to conduct a reference interview, and how to organize my research were the basics for all future reference/research work.

  2. I agree those are the principles of librarianship. Even if you are going to never be a cataloger (me) you need to know how things are cataloged the principles behind it so that you are better at finding things and helping patrons find things.

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