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MLIS Career Connections

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Career Connections

This page contains recommendations from the "What Employers/Administrators Need from Librarians" session at the 2021 Virtual Summer Institute. Following these recommendations are some useful links to job advertisement sources.

What Employers/Administrators Need

A panel of administrators from a variety of types of libraries were asked the following questions. Their answers are in the bulleted lists. Hopefully these honest answers from library employers will help you prepare for your career.

What skill sets do you need? Do you see one as more important, and why?

  • Soft skills are the main thing we are looking for. Collaborate, communicate, play well with others. We can teach technical skills in entry level positions. Biggest thing is you really have to be careful to take into consideration the different abilities of the people you hire (aspergers, etc.).
  • Looking for balance between technical skills and soft skills. Able to collaborate is important. Be innovative, take a leadership role, be assertive in that role.
  • Expects MLIS grads will have technical skills. But need soft skills. Hire professional librarians who are going to be administrators from day one. Be able to communicate with and motivate staff. Must be approachable.
  • 69% of budget is spent on personnel. Must have the right people to connect patrons with resources. Needs to be a balance, but librarians must love people. Technical skills come with applicants or library can teach. But not a lot of success in teaching people to like people.
  • Are there specific technical or soft skills you need?
  • Handling conflict. Self reflection. Microsoft products. HTML. SQL. Then it depends on the position.
  • Need somebody to come in with leadership skills. Be able to excite teachers and students to come to the school library. Be assertive about the important role you do serve in the school. Motivate, inspire, people. See themselves as leaders. Lead the charge, take the forefront. Professional development skills and be willing to assert themselves.


As you consider hiring professionals, what is the most important thing, what do you need for your organization?

  • Need someone who is willing to learn, and also willing to teach. Work well with others. Someone who can handle multiple projects. Can prioritize. Someone who is willing to say no sometimes. Someone who can learn from their mistakes and accomplishments.
  • Someone who is a good fit for library and library is a fit for them. Buy in with the corporate culture, mission statement, and values. Want to move that forward in their community enthusiastically. Interact with director if have questions. Finding that person that is a good fit and they are in alignment, but they are really feeling that. It is not pretend. To be self motivated and to be able to step into the leadership role among their peers.
  • Need to come in day one as a professional and operate independently. Give you a lot of latitude to get to where going. Understand finance and budget. Hiring department heads. Fit is huge, for our service area.
  • Come in with a growth mindset. Interesting in growing, willing to grow. Also personal growth. Innovative. Chase down grants. Take risks. Come out of the box ready to go. Choose to be happy and make the best of every single day. On your worst day you are still some kid’s best hope.


From audience question:

  • Technical services department needs more hard skills up front. Can outsource most all of the hard skills but cannot outsource the soft skills. WPLS has fully outsourced all technical services. Needs speed in books hitting the shelf. Must hit shelf in 2 or 3 days from publication or people will just order from amazon.


What type of support does your organization provide for existing employees to maintain or develop new skill sets?

  • School librarians have the same professional development opportunities as the teachers so everybody is on the same page. And also offer personalized professional development. Purposeful and intentional investment. District level services person coordinates that and keeps people engaged (not opt out of continuing professional development).
  • Have a lot of opportunities at the university. Librarians are faculty status on campus, not tenure track. They have leeway for deciding their own professional development paths. Their job is to ask for opportunities and director will find money to fund it if possible.
  • Expects librarians to go to ALA, PLA, registration and travel fully paid and expects them to bring the information back to the system, plus expects them to present at the state level. Will work with each individual in the way they need. Don’t be afraid to ask for unique job arrangements and continuing education that you need.
  • Continuing education is valuable. National level opportunities. Expect to be involved locally and state level. Have internal PLS training program. For 10 years. Most graduates of this program stay at PLS and move up. Impact in PLS is to lead from wherever you are. Of the participants, they see them moving up and laterally. (Impact PLS). Two full time staff members dedicated to professional development. New hires spend the first two weeks learning about the system, then move to their home location. PLS invests in their employees and gives them the opportunities they need. Going to invest in our people so they can invest in customers.


What is current employer perspectives on tattoos that can be seen. Policies on personal expressions on one’s body?

  • Probably not going to see these policies in academic libraries. Personal choice.
  • May have personal thoughts about it, but it is a different time now. Is it disruptive to the learning process? More look at the content of a person’s ability and who they are, and what they can bring to a team. Try to stay open minded.
  • As professionals we all see things we don’t agree with or appreciate. But PLS does not have rules about body art. If you have noticeable piercings, wear them to the job interview. You are not building trust if you take them out for the interview (bait and switch).
  • Don’t care how you express yourself, but care how you do your job. However, customer base may come from older mindset and it may come up in broader community speaking to patrons. Be aware of the area you are going into.


How do you insure, what policies and supports do you have to insure and equitable, diverse workplace for your employees?

  • Equal opportunity employer. Take that very seriously. Want to be an inclusive environment. Equal opportunity to be employed with us.
  •  Core components being equal opportunity employer. Power and respect as a lens for everything they do. Cognizant of the work they are trying to do. Especially over the course of the last year. Try to make sure that EDI is not looked at as the latest movement, but align actions with what they say. Employee training and a variety of conversations around EDI. Hardest thing to do is look at census results, which say 40% of community is diverse, and employee structure should reflect that 40%, but that is hard. So many checks and balances in place. But very difficult to hire for diversity because there are so many roadblocks. How do we find a way to manage the EOC rules but also say that workforce doesn’t meet diversity profile of community. Real challenge in Oklahoma.
  • However you define diversity, look into the area you want to work and see what diversity is like there. Employer can only hire the applicants for the job. Not a lot of diversity in the applicant pools. Settled on definition of diversity of thought and viewpoint.
  • Part of the university and library strategic plan to improve EDI. Have included student employees and involve in community. Bring in EDI to library more robustly. Front line people at help desks. Provide a lot of self care, inclusivity is not bringing in a bunch of diverse people, and make them part of a pie, but to make everybody part of the whole pie.
  • All libraries seek to recruit and employ diverse people, but you cannot ask things about diversity up front. All seek to be inclusive, equitable, diverse place and want to embrace the talented people they hire. How do we recruit more diversity? Nationwide issue. Are workplaces embracing folks when they are hired?


What are your expectations around prior experience when you look for new employees?

  • About 10 years ago had trouble keeping people. So adopted a model of come here for three years of experience. Invest a lot of time and extensive training. Give them all the opportunities they can possibly get so when leave can get that dream job they want. Ask a lot of behavioral based questions in interview process. Five years ago came to SLIS and held mock interviews. (East Central OK Univ). Have not had the constant overturn since instituted this 3 year program.
  • Have to remind ourselves that millennial generation sees changing jobs every couple years as diversifying themselves. Will take a super star for 2 years over an average person for longer. Wants to know how people will problem solve and be innovative. Employees must do best they can every day on the job and get good references. Experience is not necessary, but how did you handle the experience when you were in it?
  • Rather have a great person for 6 months than an average person for the rest of their life. When it seems like a change in destination, how is previous experience relevant to libraries? What are the transferable skills? But some things are a real deal breaker. If applying for a children’s position, you need to state somewhere that you love children. Would rather you love children than have 3 doctorate degrees. Number of people apply for children’s positions, but never talk about children. Why person making career lane change? Help employer connect and show them what your relevant experience is. Provide a road map for the employer to connect to job you are employing for.
  •  If you are applying for a professional library position but you have never worked or volunteered in a library, that is a red flag. If you have never shown or demonstrated that you have the ability to work in the field, you need to be able to articulate why about that and how your experience can be helpful in the library
  • Own how your experience is different and help connect the dots for the employer on the interview. Speak directly to it. Be authentic about it.


In your work with professionals, what separates the good from the great?

  • Leadership. The ability to take someone else where you are going. Many professionals are 100% committed and bring themselves along. But the excellence is the leadership piece and ability to bring others with you.
  • Take initiative. Have growth mindset. Self-starter. Lead within the sphere of influence that you have. Those people that have vision, can take initiative, can own whatever they need do, can push and propel organization forward.
  • Somebody who is good lives within a box and checks off everything in their job description then goes home. Someone who is great comes out of the box and are going places and doing things. Leadership doesn’t mean you want to run the show, but are great leaders in their area. Lot of good people who have no aspiration to go beyond where they are at, but maybe they are in the right seat now.
  • Employee who has confidence in their self, maybe bring new ideas to the boss. The director may not know everything so need the ideas coming up from the staff . Don’t be afraid to take a risk and propose something. Step up and say I want to do that. But remember where your boundaries are and don’t step on other people’s jobs.
  • Directors should be paying attention to what seat each person should be in, and be willing to move them. Make sure great people are in the right spot.


What is your best piece of advice for a future library professional in your work setting?

  • Do not be afraid of failure and be willing to learn from it.
  • Be open to career advancement and management position. I want to hire people mainly at the department head level. I want everybody who comes to work here to stay at least 3 years and then be willing to move on into leadership. Don’t be scared of management/administration. It can be very fulfilling.
  •  In our environment every kid needs a champion. Be a champion for the students. If you focus on that you’ll be phenomenal. 
  • When the door of opportunity opens, it is up to you to walk through.


Finding LIS Employment


OU students have access to the full set of services offered by the University Career Services Center, including assistance with resumes, cover letters, and interview skills. Career Services also maintains internship and jobs posting boards and placement services. These services are available in person, or through email and videoconferencing.


Many library-focused position announcements from local and regional organizations are sent directly to the School. We post these announcements on the SLIS-jobs listserv. Current students are automatically subscribed to this email list.


Most OU MLIS graduates choose to work in Oklahoma. Following are some sources of job advertisements. While many of the large LIS employers in the state are listed below, there are many other library systems and stand-alone libraries that may have openings. Organizations quite commonly post job openings on their social media pages, so be sure to check Facebook pages of libraries and archives.