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The Silverfish 2008 Alumni Survey

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The iSchool Experience

When asked questions about how well the MLIS program prepared them for their jobs, most study participants responded very favorably.  Figure 6 provides a breakdown of responses by career environment.  Overall more than 90% or respondents stated that the MLIS had “Absolutely” or “Somewhat” prepared them for their careers.  Academic Libraries showed just under half of respondents saying that they were “Absolutely” prepared, and a whopping 80% of those working in School Libraries said they were “Absolutely” prepared.  Public Libraries and Non-Library Settings had almost identical preparedness rates, with nearly half saying they were “Absolutely” prepared, 40% saying they were “Somewhat prepared,” and about 10% saying they were barely prepared.  Preparedness rates in Special Libraries were somewhat lower, with more than 55% saying they were only “Somewhat” prepared.

Figure 6

Figure 6: Do you feel that the iSchool prepared you for your professional career?

Skills learned at the iSchool:

We also asked the alums if there were any skills they wish they had learned while at the iSchool.  The overwhelming response was that there are certain things that cannot be taught in a classroom.  Hands-on experience is the best possible teacher, so they recommend that students do as many DFW's, internships and volunteer experiences as they possibly can.  However, there were three areas of the curriculum that were repeatedly singled out as being of particular importance:  management, cataloging and technology.  For management skills, it is critical to be able to facilitate a variety of situations with colleagues, patrons, and supervisors.  The participants also mentioned budgeting skills, data analysis, and developing vendor relationships as important skills to master.  Cataloging speaks for itself - students should learn how to do it well because it is a requisite part of just about any library job.  A large number of respondents also mentioned how important it is to stay up to date with technological advances.  It is difficult to define this more clearly without knowing exactly when they graduated from the program.  Surely the changes in the curriculum regarding LIS 540 will help to meet this particular area of need.  The predominant theme was to get as much practical experience as possible while still in the program, whether it is learning people skills, computer skills, or taxonomy development skills.

Employability of iSchool Graduates:
One of the questions asked whether respondents would hire an iSchool grad, knowing what they know about the program.  The majority of respondents indicated that they would definitely consider hiring a graduate of the MLIS program, while others indicated that it would depend on a number of factors pertaining to the individual.  Most view the MLIS program as a well-rounded, forward thinking program that produces well-prepared graduates with fresh ideas and a strong commitment to the profession.  A few responses indicate this view as specific to recent programming changes of the last ten or so years.  For those who indicated that hiring would depend on the individual, factors such as work ethic, character, skills, attitudes, interpersonal skills, overall fit for the job, and areas of specialization were provided as categories for evaluation.  Overwhelmingly, the role of practical experience was stressed as a major factor when viewing a candidate for a position.  This seemed to include professional experiences as well as DFW and volunteer experiences pursued during the program.  There was also some expressed concern for the level of detail and coursework available for subjects such as digital libraries, archiving, and special collections. 

Here are some more specific quotes that were provided through the survey:

  • UW does a great job of preparing librarians!  My education was obviously so much better than the education received by some of my colleagues.  It was well-rounded, forward-looking, and thorough. 
  • Shortcomings of iSchool program seem universal in other programs around the country.
  • The iSchool curriculum is strong in the theoretical foundation we need to assist us in professional judgment during our careers. It's up to the individual to apply that to practice.
  • The iSchool is really what you make it. You have access to a unique set of resources and courses. I wouldn't hire anyone coming out of the iSchool, or anywhere else, who had the attitude that their education was somehow a waste of their time, or that their degree was "just a piece of paper."
  • I'm not sure that this reflects on the iSchool as anything other than a screener: most of the people I went to school with were very, very bright and were willing to work hard.  These are the two most vital characteristics in employability.  I think the classes offered there provide good conceptual underpinnings for the work you might do after graduating, but, and this is probably true in nearly every profession, you'll learn a lot more about how to get things done on the job than you will in a classroom.
  • In my current field, I would preferentially hire an ischool MLIS grad who had work experience (any work experience) over one who did not.  I would have hesitations hiring someone who hadn't had a job before, because a lot of people in my cohort had remarkably incorrect views of the working world.
  • The UW program is one of the best. I know this because I have skills that newer graduates of other programs don't and seem not to have even explored (like how to do effective reference/information service!)
  •  I think graduates come out with a well-rounded understanding of library science and an awareness of new developments in the field. The graduates I have known have a strong committment to the profession and to continued professional growth.
  • The iSchool prepares its graduates for a wide variety of job settings and experiences.  iSchool folks are acculturated with connecting people with information, so sensitive to the human side of systems.


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April 7, 2008
Vol. XII Issue 3

link to the iSchool blogroll

Find more at the Silverfish Blog

Ridiculous Library of Congress Subject Headings
139 Responses Received!

Where do they work?
- 37% academic library
- 28% public library
- 21% in non-library settings
- 11% in special libraries
- 3% school library

What do they have to say??

See the results..

Words NOT to use in your MLIS portfolioirregardless, succulent, manipulate, lackluster, Bacardi, synergy, poseur, bloodshot, technological muscle, litter box, existential, beleaguer, The Wiggles, importune, lascivious, America’s Next Top Model, baby penguin

Courtesy of Jamie Hancock and Katie Maynard