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Which qualifications are most important?

In Part 1 of this two-part blog, we’ll examine the qualifications most often cited for school library media specialist (SLMS) candidates.

Part 2 will offer several in-depth interview questions from librarians and administrators that will help you prepare for that all-important interview.

What are the most desirable skills and experiences a school library media specialist (SLMS) can possess? Well, it might depend on whom you ask.

Several years ago, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), a subgroup of the American Library Association (ALA), surveyed school administrators, library and information science faculty, and graduate students in library science programs to identify the most important traits and background for a school library media specialist (SMLS).

The main topic areas were:

  • Education
  • Experience
  • Recommendations
  • Involvement
  • Compatibilities

The AASL’s conclusion from the survey results was that there was a “lack of common perception of the role of the SLMS.”

Most faculty, students, and administrators did agree that the most valued SLMS job candidate would have these two characteristics:

  • Ability to work well with others
  • Strong technology skills with knowledge of classroom integration

Beyond these qualities, however, there were differing opinions about what was most important. For instance, school administrators ranked these additional areas highly:

  • Evidence of strong managerial skills
  • Recommendation from previous school personnel
  • Educational philosophy in alignment with district

The school administrators ranked teaching only seventh in their list of desirable traits.

Library and information science (LIS) program faculty felt just the opposite, voting these characteristics most important, in addition to the top two:

  • Evidence of excellent teaching skills
  • An MLS degree
  • Library endorsement on teaching certificate

And LIS graduate students, not surprisingly, felt possession of an MLS degree was the most important trait beyond the top two cited by all respondents.

The AASL has since created a sample job description that takes all of these factors into consideration, strongly emphasizing educational background as well as these five broad areas of expertise:

  • Leader
  • Instructional partner
  • Information specialist
  • Teacher
  • Program administrator

Each broad area is broken down into more detailed skill areas. For example, “Instructional partner” includes seven sub-groups of skills and experience, including “cooperating and networking with other libraries,” “providing guidance in software and hardware evaluation,” and “organizing the collection for maximum and effective use.”

The Librarian Philosopher blog offers its own take on qualities to consider:

  • Student centered (allow the student to take a lot of responsibility for their own learning)
  • Have delivered successful staff development to adults and willing to continue
  • Life-long learner
  • Understanding of the organization of knowledge
  • Understanding and applying what motivates students to want to read

So whose perspective is most important when preparing for a school library interview? The obvious answer would be “whoever’s doing the hiring.” But a more well-rounded approach would be to prepare to show your expertise—or related experience—in all of these areas.

Seem like a daunting task? In part 2 of this post, we’ll share some prep questions you can use to dig deep into your experience so you’re ready to showcase your abilities, no matter who’s doing the asking.

16 Dec 2013 | Posted by Shannon Janeczek

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