aka YA Literature

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What They Don't Teach in Library School

I got my American Libraries e-mail today, and it included a link to this story by Jennifer Kiffmeyer called "Things They Don't Teach You in Library School." Now, her story was obviously geared towards being an elementary school librarian, and most of the things on her list were not even necessarily specific to being a librarian but generally being an elementary school educator. So I was thinking: What are some of the things "they don't teach you in library school" that you learned and need to know?

I will tell you one thing that I never knew. Database and e-book prices are totally negotiable. I remember a reading maybe on how it's important to carefully review the contracts for database subscriptions, but I don't remember anyone ever saying how negotiable the prices are. Example: A database company (I won't say who) was trying to promote their new product to us for $1,000. They called with a special promotion for $800. We were like, "No thanks. We really don't have that kind of money." They were like, "What would you pay for it?" Us: "I don't know, maybe $200?" Them: "What about $250?" Us: "Give us a free trial and we'll see." And that's just one of many, many examples.

Another thing they didn't teach in library school but is extremely important is doing good displays! Seriously, just putting a book on the circulation desk equals a guaranteed checkout. We should have had a unit on thinking up display ideas and putting one together (ones that actually look interesting and eye-catching). But maybe other library schools do this and I just didn't.

Now these are serious things that they could have taught and that I suspect some people do get in library school. What are some things that you just have to get on the job?


Stephanie said...

You have some great points, and what an interesting topic! I had minimal exposure to database negotiation in library school. In a couple classes we reviewed how to view and assess database contracts. I remember thinking "I'll never need this!" but it's cool to see you putting such material to use.

On the subject of displays. Your other readers need to be informed that you, Sheryl, have a reputation as Display Maven. I think it is a natural skill/talent for you, and any class on this would probably only inspire you on how the teacher could have presented the material better. But for the rest of us, yes, it would be useful. More broadly, I think it should be a chapter or two in a library marketing class, which I wish I had taken! Such a class could encompass not only displays, but library promotion, hand-selling, and even customer service. This sounds so elementary, but I think you're right about its importance.

austinitelibrarian said...

stephanie, i totally agree with both of you that having a more marketing-related emphasis in some of my library school courses could certainly have helped me. i don't really remember talking much about crowd control - or - developing and implementing successful programs. Yes...I had practice writing grants and perhaps wrote up five or six young adult program, but did that help me cope through my first summer reading program?...no...