Although we anticipated that questions two and three might be too similar in the responses they produced, the results were far different. MLISers focused responses on management training and leadership, while techs were more interested in budgeting and software knowledge – though these responses were not mutually exclusive.
We saw a strong desire across the profession for courses on what we often broadly refer to as “practical” skills, like budgeting, project management, advocacy and marketing, and personal career growth and development. There’s also a desire for “soft” skills, like customer service, to be integrated into academia.
When networking was referred to in the responses to question one, was that because students were actually taught to network in the classroom, or because the environment provided a natural way to develop those skills ourselves? A question we cannot help but wonder when considering these responses: When is something the obligation of an academic program, and when is it the obligation to student to develop on their own? Do we need to do a better job of communicating and managing expectations about what can be taught in the classroom versus what can be learned while in school?
Responses from Library Technicians:
> “American history, African apartheid history, post Modern European history, modern religious studies, ethics, modern civil practices regarding information. The library tech and science field is under a lot of pressure to adjust and change. There are certain courses everyone needs to study library science and tech but ethics personal, global, and municipal as well as personal development in aim.”
> “Wages, and wage negotiation in the Library Environment.”
> “Budgeting and finance. I had absolutely no training or experience in this area and suddenly found myself in charge of a $400,000 budget. it was a major oversight in my Library Technician program.”
> “Book repair: knowing about book construction and repair allows me to make decisions regarding how to handle damaged books (set aside for repair; send to bindery; send to librarian for evaluation; etc). It is also a very useful skill to have for circulation staff. E-resources: management, common systems (such as EZProxy), troubleshooting, and promotion.”
> “Customer service skills, because many (public) libraries are changing their paraprofessional roles to be “customer service associates” or “public service associates”. Less focus on cataloguing and more focus on basic web design, social media content development, database creation and management to evolve with the digital facet of libraries. Perhaps also include digitization skills, as many organizations now seek to digitize print materials.”
Responses from Librarians:
> “I was in library school in the late 1990’s, not long after the Internet had become mainstream so I would have liked to learn more about distributed computer networks. It would have been useful to have a more advanced database design course that introduced the concept of writing queries (e.g. SQL) I would have liked to go beyond basic webpage design and touch on metadata markup (e.g. XML). In my cataloguing classes, I wished I had learned more about the Program for Cooperative Cataloguing. It is kind of a crowdsourcing initiative long before “crowdsourcing” become a phenomenon and promotes a mindset where libraries produce and contribute knowledge as opposed to only being a consumer of metadata. Overall, I would like more exposure to technical knowledge and skills.”
> “More in the way of research skills so that I can design and carry out assessment of programs and so that I can do actual contributing research, and specific skills with data (including using excel or other spreadsheeting). These are things I’ve had to continue learning on the job and I don’t feel I have a good handle on what I can do with them (and there’s been a major erosion of paraprofessional staffing to assist with these kinds of duties).”
> “Marketing. If our clients don’t know about the services we offer, then our organization is nowhere near as valuable as it could be. I am responsible for outreach, marketing, promotions, communication; this is a huge part of my job (and one I received no training for).”
> “I wish I had taken Database Design. I was intimidated by the workload of the course, but now I work with databases all the time and I wish I knew more about how they work. This should be a required course. I wish there had been more opportunity to study reading and adult literacy. Project management and other managerial skills. Even simple things like how to run an effective meeting. Library work is much more of a project-oriented office job than I expected, and I’ve never been formally trained in how to do that kind of job well. Going through grad school is sort of an exercise in these skills, but it would have helped to talk about best-practices in what we were trying to do, instead of just having to figure it out on our own.”