Author’s Corner: Guidance for Librarians Transitioning to a New Environment

Welcome back to Author’s Corner! This series features excerpts or guest posts from authors of books about LIS careers. In this installment, we hear from Tina Herman Buck and Sara Duff, who have written a book aimed especially at librarians who are looking for a change (but don’t want to leave libraries all together). Very pertinent to our times!

In this post, Tina and Sara talk about their reasons for writing and then provide an overview of content. I think you will find it interesting! If it inspires you to read more, the citation for their book is:

Buck, T. & Duff, S. (2021). Guidance for librarians transitioning to a new environment. Routledge.


We set out to write this book because both of us had heard over the years that it was difficult for a librarian to switch library types in their career. We both knew this was a myth, that of course librarians can move between very different libraries, because we had both done it successfully. But we both had experiences that showed us that this belief was widespread. Once we had this idea for the book, we surveyed librarians across the world and discovered that most felt the same way we did, that this myth persisted. We then conducted in-depth interviews with almost two dozen librarians across library types, countries, and positions, and quoted them in our book so you can learn from their insights and experiences too. 

Our goal for this book is to encourage librarians who are thinking about making a change in their careers. It is possible, and your experience is an asset. While our focus is on the librarian thinking about changing library type or making a big change in library size, we think the career tips will help any librarian considering a change.

Chapter 1. A new size or type of library

What does it look like to change to a drastically different library? And why would someone want to? We tackle these questions in our first chapter, sketching out Tina’s career path as an example. She worked in many different library environments and found that each place gave her a different perspective that she took on to her next job.  In this chapter, we outline the differences someone might encounter in types and sizes of libraries, and things, like academic rank, that might be confusing for someone moving into that type of library.

This chapter also discusses our survey results, and how participating librarians felt about moving between types and sizes of libraries, how well skills transfer between positions, and whether librarians should be open to changing library types or sizes.

Chapter 2. Exploring new opportunities

Just the idea of reinventing your career can be a little frightening. But there are nonintimidating ways to get started and see if this is what you want.  You can begin by researching trends in the area you want to move into and reading job advertisements. That will give you a picture of the kind of experience you need, or the best fit for your current experience and background.

Once you have an idea of what you need to learn, or an idea of what area you want to move into, you can begin looking for opportunities in your current position that will steer you toward this new role. This includes things like cross-training in other departments, getting involved in new initiatives at your library, and focusing on various aspects of professional development. 

Chapter 3. Preparing for interviews and promotion

There’s so much going through your head when applying for a job, it can be hard to determine what to include in your application materials, and what to leave behind. When applying to a different type of job, it’s particularly difficult to know what they’re looking for and how they will interpret what you submit. In this chapter, we do a deep dive on the differences between a CV and a Resume (as related to libraries, specifically), and what to expect on your interview day. We include real-life examples from cover letters we’ve written, and a real CV example. 

Chapter 4. Mentorship

Having mentors can be beneficial, particularly when considering or going through a big career change.  We discuss why you might want a mentor and different types of mentoring relationships.  Our interviewees share how mentors impacted their lives and careers. The chapter offers lots of ideas for finding mentors and tips for approaching a potential mentor. 

How about becoming a mentor yourself?  You may be a mentor and a mentee at the same time, for various parts of your career and life. The chapter lists qualities of a good mentor. Finally, the mentorship bubble chart shows a visual representation of your support system. Each reader can evaluate their gaps and consider if mentors could help fill in. 

Chapter 5. Being the New Person

Once you’ve gotten the new job, you have the challenge of being the new person and figuring out your new environment.  We start by looking at your assumptions and expectations – the way things were at your previous institution may not hold true at the new one, even foundational information. Take advantage of being new to ask questions.  

We discuss finding resources to help get oriented. The different job processes and scopes can be especially jarring if you’ve moved to an institution of a significantly different size. We and our interviewees offer ideas for adapting.  We also talk about getting oriented to your new geographic environment if you’ve moved. 

Adapting to a new job can be very tiring, both mentally and physically. We discuss the unsettling phenomenon of “new job brain fog” and how to cope and care for yourself. 

Chapter 6. Looking Inward: Managing Your Emotions

Unexpected emotions can emerge when starting a new job.  Librarians can lose confidence, feel stressed, overwhelmed, or defensive in reaction to suddenly not knowing how to do parts of their job.

We offer tools to help cope, such as the Social Readjustment Rating Scale, emotional differentiation, and culture shock. We discuss the phases of that and what to expect.

You may find that colleagues don’t understand where you’re coming from, literally, if you have transitioned from a different type of library. We’ll talk about contextualizing your past and dealing with assumptions.  

Some librarians experience Impostor Syndrome, where an objectively qualified person has a belief that they aren’t qualified and can’t do the job.  We provide some resources to help.

The insights and shared experiences of our interviewees provide reassurance that many people experience these emotions and come out the other side successfully.

Chapter 7. Publishing, Presenting, and Conferencing

Part of figuring out a new job is learning the expectations and support (both financial and timewise) for activities related to professional research, publishing, and conference-attendance.  We suggest ways to find suitable conferences if you’ve moved to a new part of the profession and/or a new geographic area. 

Doing presentations, like any kind of public speaking, can be intimidating. We discuss ways to deal with stage fright as well as other options if you’re not quite ready to do a full presentation on your own.  

This chapter also covers options for writing and publishing and some ideas for finding a topic for your writing or presentations. 

Finally, why consider doing all this if you don’t have to? Future you may be very grateful. 


In closing, we hope that our book will help people see past their self-imposed limits. There is a wide world of librarianship, and with a little preparation you can make a huge jump. Good luck!

Tina Herman Buck 

is the Department Head for Acquisitions & Collection Services at the University of Central Florida, having formerly been the Electronic Resources Librarian at UCF. She has worked, mostly in technical services, in public libraries of widely varying sizes, a multi-type library cooperative, a very small university and a very large one, in multiple places across the United States.

Sara Duff 

is the Acquisitions & Collection Assessment Librarian at the University of Central Florida. Before coming to UCF, one of the largest universities in the country, she worked as a librarian in a small community college library.


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