Andrew Eynon’s Library Blog

A blog about librarianship in Further Education

Things you wish they had taught you in library school

Posted by andrewey on October 9, 2008

There was an interesting survey conducted by Meredith Farkas on the core competencies that librarians felt should be taught in American library schools.

Given that I’m currently working on developing a Foundation Degree in Library & Information Management I’d be interested to hear what other librarians felt were the most useful skills they’d learnt in library school and what skills they think are most important for the next generation of library & information professionals.

I’m sure that the experience of librarians in the UK in this respect will be similar to that of our counterparts in the US but it would be interesting to test this hypothesis.

For me the most valuable part of the one year postgraduate course I undertook was the 4 week placement I did at Stockport College of Further & Higher Education library as it demonstrated how the skills taught in library school could be applied.

In terms of future skills, I think the primary one is advocacy skills in terms of the ability to articulate the role of the library & information professional and to highlight the skills and benefits that can be brought to an organisation.

Of course this is a composite skill and assumes that all the underlining skills identified in Meredith’s survey are met eg management, customer care, web 2.0, teaching etc.

So what did you think was the most important skill you learnt at library school and what should library schools be concentrating on teaching in the future?

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3 Responses to “Things you wish they had taught you in library school”

  1. Liz Wyman said

    I’m not really sure that any of the INFORMATION I learnt at library school was useful but the one thing that has really stuck with me was learning how to give presentations and generally speak in public with more confidence. I can hardly believe I got through my first degree without it. Almost everything I do now, from speaking to students, to governors, to SMT, involves it.

    When I’m interviewing the one thing I look for now is common sense. It goes such a long way but is so difficult to teach….

  2. I really like your idea of advocacy. I’m terrible at it, even if I live, breathe, and dream library stuff and think it’s a critical service to offer. I think if there were more people who could do this, libraries would be in a much better position.

    I would have liked to learn more about doing original research. I know not everyone needs to do it, but I wish I knew more.

    I think all schools should require assessment and government documents, though the first is so vague and it’s so hard to retain the second long-term if you don’t practice.

    I also think there should be a heavy technology component. Librarians should know the BASICS of HTML (which only takes about 2 hours to learn, no exaggeration), and should be prepared for keeping up with the culture changes that go along with technology. We don’t have to all become technophiles, but I really want to strangle so many librarians who act like they don’t have to keep up with the changes (even the young ones!). Maybe this could be done with a History & Future of Libraries course?

    The theory of library ethics also only seems periferally taught in library schools, and not at all in some of the un-ranked library schools. This theory and set of ethics that is unique to our profession is what bind us together, yet half of us don’t seem to know the first thing about them.

    There are other parts of the absolute core of a library school education, but these are ones that I’ve been thinking about a lot.

  3. Jacqui Roberts said

    I must have done my post grad library course more recently than the second response listed. We spent quite a lot of time on computer skills which I found really useful. After completing a degree and masters in Art History before doing the library post grad I was in total shock with the difference in teaching and assignments and spent much of my time trying to adapt.

    The computing side was excellent as it brought me from a complete tecno phobe to a capable IT user and ultimately where my main librarian focus is today. On the course we learnt the basics of computer software packages, library systems, basic html and basics of network systems.

    I found the cataloguing interesting but ultimately useless for the role I now do.

    I would have liked to have been taught more about fund raising and practical excercises in project management (there were hypothetical ones which I just thought would be better at a drama school).

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