February 17, 2018

ALA Conference 2009: Looking at the Core Competences

By Katharine Johnson

ALA 2009: Survey shows that graduates, professionals see new grads differently

  • Are new school librarians better prepared?
  • Five Core Competences assessed
  • Internships key

Are recent library school graduates worth hiring when more seasoned librarians are available? After the American Library Association recently approved and adopted Core Competences of Librarianship, research is emerging on whether those competences are being fulfilled during students’ graduate education, and the answer is—somewhat, though previously professional experience surely helps.

St. John’s University Library and Information Science faculty members Stacey Creel and Elizabeth Pollicino presented the initial findings of their study during a Grassroots Program during the American Library Association Annual Conference in Chicago earlier this month.

In the survey, 348 veteran librarians were asked to rank their sense of new graduates’ skills in five of the eight core competences: foundations of the profession, information resources, technological knowledge and skills, reference and user services, and research. Fifty-four graduating students also were surveyed to measuring their sense of preparedness for their careers. The focus was on school library media specialists and public librarians

Details and contrasts
Recently graduated and hired school media specialists, when compared to their public library peers, were ranked by professionals as having stronger reference skills, a greater preparedness to deal with the realities of the work place, and a better understanding of reference resources. Creel suggested this may be because many school librarians come to the profession as former teachers.

Students’ opinions of themselves differed in some ways from those of their professional counterparts. Students believed they had a good grasp on intellectual freedom, while library professionals ranked the students much lower. On the other hand, students saw themselves as less capable with technology than did the professionals.

Internships helpful
Internships, a highly stressed component of the St. John’s LIS curriculum, were also seen by professionals as an important aspect of programs. Creel and Pollicino, supported by their research, described these experiences as aspects of “experimental learning, service learning, and scholarship of engagement.” All students surveyed said internships were valuable, though they were somewhat less enthusiastic than the professionals.

Six St. John’s students were present to discuss their internship experiences. They spoke with enthusiasm about the opportunity to put into practice what they learned in the classroom, such as helping with storytime and programming with the Brooklyn Public Library and Queens Library.

Going for the interview
The session concluded with table discussions regarding how to address the Core Competences during job interviews for new graduate. Pollicino suggested asking situational questions based upon the job or competences.

The presenters also reminded attendees of the value of a demonstration portion in the interview. By asking a candidate to prepare a short instructional session that addresses tools used during the job (e.g., the catalog, storytelling, explaining blogs), interviewers can get a better sense of the individual’s capabilities.

Katharine Johnson, an LJ guest contributor, is a recent MLIS graduate of Dominican University, River Forest, IL, and works as a Temporary Reference and Instruction Librarian at Dominican’s Crown Library 

Library Journal ALA Annual Conference News

Click here for more ALA 2009 Conference News coverage from Library Journal and School Library Journal.

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