Category Archives: Author’s Corner

Authors’ Corners: A Job Hunter’s Booklist

I’m so grateful to the authors on this list, who took the time to work with me to create a post that shared their views and knowledge (Just click the title).  If you wanted to create a library for LIS job hunters, here’s where I’d start:

de Stricker, Ulla & Jill Hurst-Wahl. (2011). The Information and Knowledge Professional’s Career Handbook: Define and Create Your Success. Chandos Publishing.

Dority, G. Kim. (2012). LIS Career Sourcebook: Managing and Maximizing Every Step of Your Career. Libraries Unlimited.

Doucett, Elisabeth. (2010). What They Don’t Teach You in Library School. ALA Editions.

Kane, Laura. (2011). Working in the Virtual Stacks: The New Library & information Science. ALA.

Kane, Laura. (2003). Straight From the Stacks: A Firsthand Guide to Careers in Library and Information Science. ALA Editions.

Lowe-Wincentsen, Dawn, & Linda Crook. (2010). Mid-Career Library and Information Professionals: A Leadership Primer. Chandos Publishing.

Luster, Celma Faria. (2013). Extra-Help Librarians . Open Vista Press.

Markgren, Susanne, & Tiffany Eatman Allen. (2013). Career Q&A: A Librarian’s Real-Life, Practical Guide to Managing a Successful Career. Information Today.

Matarazzo, James M., & Toby Pearlstein. (2013). Special Libraries: A Survival Guide. Libraries Unlimited.

Monson, Jane. (2013). Jump-Start Your Career as a Digital Librarian: A LITA Guide. ALA Techsource.

Neely, Teresa. (2011). How to Stay Afloat in the Academic Library Job Pool. ALA Editions.

Shontz, Priscilla K. & Richard A. Murray. (2012). What Do Employers Want? A Guide for Library Science Students. Libraries Unlimited.

Smallwood, Carol, Kerol Harrod & Vera Gubnitskaia. (2013). Continuing Education for Librarians: Workshops, Conferences, College, and Other Ways. McFarland.

Stickell, Lois, & Bridgette Sanders. (2013). Making the Most of Your Library Career. ALA Editions.

Woodward, Jeanette. (2011). A Librarian’s Guide to an Uncertain Job Market. American Library Association.

And now you tell me – what books have I missed?  

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Author’s Corner: Extra-Help Librarians

Today’s author’s corner is near and dear to my heart.  My first librarian job was as an extra-help librarian, and I still work one day a week in a temporary part time status.  It’s a particularly weird thing to be – you’re not quite in a place to claim that you’re affiliated with your work place, and yet you are a “real librarian.”  It also seems to be an increasingly common status, as libraries continue to try to do more with less, and extra help workers don’t usually get expensive things like paid time off or health insurance.  That being said, there are some real advantages to working in this classification, and Celma de Faria Luster has written a book that aims to help you be successful at it.  I’m so pleased to be able to present this guest post, which should give you an idea of the tone and content of her writing. 

(And to piggy-back: If you are interested in this type of work, I have a couple pet projects that you might check out.  First, there is a Facebook group, second, my research partner, Sarah Naumann, and I put together a website exploring the use of on-call library workers in the SF Bay Area, and third, if you work in the area, BayNet libraries hosts a discussion list for on-call issues.) 

 extra help librarians

Frankly, who can differentiate librarians’ categories when interacting with them in the workplace? Personnel departments have the key to this information. It is relevant to learn about the various employment categories when seeking opportunities in libraries. The Extra-Help Librarian position can be a good way to start out in a library or to stay connected to the profession. Fundamentally practical, it has its own characteristics, challenges and benefits. Some of these aspects are commented on below.

Who are they?

Librarians in this category are known as substitutes, on-call, temporary as needed, hourly, adjunct and a few other titles. The terminology varies, depending on the type of libraries as well as Human Resources preferences and the definition of classifications.  Labor Unions can also have an influence on how the category is structured. We can further divide the category into new librarians, retirees and transitioners. Each one of these groups has specific needs and goals.

What do they do?

A vast array of responsibilities is performed by these professional. Traditional library duties are commonly part of what Extra-Help Librarians do, such as covering reference desks, providing information and instructing patrons on how to use computers. It is very common for them to work on specific projects following clear guidelines, such as weeding and archives. A library’s mission and immediate needs determine the work delegated to them.

Why are they needed?

There are many reasons that Extra-Help assistance is required. Vacation, illness, sabbatical, maternity leave, the addition of new courses and yet unfilled positions generate a need for temporary workers. Depending on the nature of the need, the demand for Extra-Help Librarians can be short term- for a few hours or a few days- and also long term involving extensive projects, classes or unfilled positions.

What type of libraries do they work for?

Not every library has a support system in place to respond quickly to their staffing needs. It is common, therefore, to find public, academic and school libraries using these professionals continually. Our research focused on these three specific areas. These libraries have established systems created to respond to foreseeable and also unpredicted personnel requests.

How to get this job position?

First and foremost, word of mouth still is a very predominant way to learn about openings. Networking and enlisting with personnel agencies serving libraries are useful strategies. Bigger libraries usually create an Extra-Help Librarians pool, releasing job postings and following regular hiring procedures. Ordinarily, one can seek job postings through job sites, listservs, association job lists, libraries website or in other ways. It is important to analyze the job description. Separate the required from desired qualifications and connect them to your skills when applying for the position. Check the documentation needed. These differ by the type of libraries. Public libraries often add a supplementary questionnaire while an academic library’s diversity statement is normally a standard document. Make sure the application is submitted properly, whether electronically or by mail. Applicants can be disqualified when they overlook instructions in the job posting.

What are the steps in the hiring process?

These depend on the type of libraries, their size and structure. Identify these factors and how they interelate to determine how hiring is done or call the library directly to find out. Public and School libraries links with the city or county can result in the use of their own employment department or the city/county Human Resources Department. Academic libraries occasionally refresh their adjunct librarians pool with the support of Academic Affairs/Human Resources Departments. Overall, the Extra-Help Librarians hiring process does not differentiate much from other librarian categories. Initial screening involve documentation review, then telephone interview followed by in-person interview – combined with presentations. The length of the process is commonly longer in academic settings. Wages are usually pre-set and non-negotiable, even though experience and field specialization should be emphasized and compensated.

What are the advantages and disadvantages?

As any other category, Extra-Help librarians offer advantages and disadvantages. It clearly offers a lot of challenges. To those candidates that handle unpredictability well it is a great position. Variety, flexibility, independence and broad learning opportunities are some of the positive aspects that it provides. On the other hand, it usually does not offer basic benefits such as medical and dental. It can be stressful to keep up with a job’s schedule and locations, especially when covering various branches. Income is not predictable since there is no guarantee of work.

Why consider this position?

It all goes back to personal goals. In a public library, there are opportunities to cover adult and children’s information desks. This can offer new graduates the chance to test these areas, acquire experience and sharpen their skills. Flexibility and additional income can be attractive to retired librarians and for those caring for family members. Those looking for permanent jobs can check out libraries from the inside and be able to apply for other internal positions. Extra-Help Librarians motivation, experience and work ethics make them desirable employees.

The Extra-Help Librarian category offers immense potential to librarians that have an interest in broader perspectives. It is a rewarding investment, trust me.


Celma de Faria Luster has worked in Northern California for over seven years as an Extra-Help Librarian and for almost two years as a part-time librarian. She is Brazilian and has lived in the United States for over two decades. In 2006 she got her MLIS from San JoseStateUniversity. Her book “Extra-Help Librarians: A Guide For Success At Public, Academic and School Libraries” was published last September. She just participated in the CLA 2013 Annual Conference in Long Beach, CA.

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Author’s Corner: Special Libraries: A Survival Guide

How does one become a special librarian, anyway?  What does it take to get there?  Once there, what are the issues to face? If you’ve ever asked these questions, you might be interested in this new book by James M. Matarazzo and Toby Pearlstein, Special Libraries: A Survival Guide.  They’ve very kindly provided the excerpt below, so you can get a feel for the content.

Special Libraries a Survival Guide 

Through a series of case studies of corporate library reductions and closures Matarazzo and Pearlstein …. suggest key strategies, tactics and survival tools that all types of special library managers can use to minimize their chances of becoming a victim and maximize their chances of succeeding by contributing to the success of their employer.  They underscore the collection of data as a survival tool.  Additionally, they identify what needs to be taught to students currently enrolled in Library and Information Science programs to give them a leg up in their careers.

Excerpt from Chapter 8:  Educating Special Librarians:  “The Past is Prologue”
by James M. Matarazzo, and Toby Pearlstein.

A “special library” is not an entity; it exists as an integral part of a highly specialized kind of organization whether it be an industrial corporation, research, or service institution, a trade association, a government agency or a museum. Since it exists to serve the members of that organization, it is necessary to provide in the training program an orientation to the structure, functions and activities of the varying types of organizations.  (Ruth S. Leonard, 1950)

Addressing survival lessons for special libraries brings up more questions than answers.  What we have learned is that there is no one “right way” to be successful as an information professional in a corporate or other type of special library.  Frankly, though, it was pretty straightforward to come up with several wrong ways to make being successful even more of a challenge.  Arriving at the right ways to succeed and thereby ensure survival is more difficult.  Nonetheless, we do firmly believe there is one generic formula that makes success more likely, strategic alignment with your parent organization or potential employer.  How you go about “doing the math” depends totally on figuring out how to achieve that alignment.  It might be useful to … look at the roots of how someone who wants to be an information professional in a special library would achieve that goal.  This led us to review some of our initial questions about the likelihood of special library or librarian survival in the context of library education, basically going back to the source of how information professionals learn about the profession and how to pursue it specifically when working in a specialized environment (corporate, medical, government, legal, etc.).  Here is where we might find the root cause of many of the obstacles to success with which special libraries and the information professionals who work in them struggle.

Plainly stated, the hypothesis of the authors is that if you want to be an information professional in a specialized environment…rather than in a public, school, or undergraduate academic library, or a scholar of library and information science, most…MLS programs provide little or at best inadequate preparation.  Graduates, therefore, especially in times of economic downturn, are left with a significant gap in relevant marketable skills that prospective employers in specialized organizations will find compelling.

[A] situation of fewer jobs and limited preparation is exacerbated when the client population being served has an increasingly sophisticated information literacy level so that an information professional must be prepared to add value beyond the basics almost immediately upon being employed.  This is nearly impossible, even with a subject specialty bachelor’s or master’s degree, unless relevant specialized courses have been taken during the MLS program.

…[T]he core concern still remains true: whether or not there will be enough [MLS] graduates who “understand the value system unique to special librarianship” (and correspondingly who know that working in a special library is quite different from public or academic service) who will be qualified to fill those jobs that do remain….

Some of the most helpful guidance a prospective special librarian can receive to define what skills they will need to succeed in a specialized library environment comes in the form of “competencies documents” developed by various information professional groups.  Associations such as the SLA [Special Libraries Association], AALL (American Association of Law Libraries), MLA (Medical Library Association), SCIP (Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals), and specialized sections of ALA have published such documents in order to provide guidance for individuals as well as library school curriculum committees.

A much more dynamic integration of the various competency documents into library school curricula and with a continually reinforced understanding of the value of aligning with an employer’s vision and mission incorporated into coursework, our profession can reinforce the value special librarians can contribute across all sectors, especially in for-profit organizations, and can create a more pragmatic path to employment for MLS graduates.  These ideas may well be too blue sky for the realities of today’s library school budgets and employer appetites for hiring special librarians.  Regardless of the prognostications of some, however, the authors do not believe that special librarians, particularly in profit-based organizations, are headed for terminal irrelevance.  With that baseline in mind, more discussion resulting in concrete actions around these topics could finally lead to making some progress….

James Matarazzo



James M. Matarazzo, PhD, is dean and professor emeritus at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College, Boston, MA.  His previous books include Closing the Corporate Library: Case Studies on the Decision-making Process; Corporate Library Excellence; and Knowledge and Special Libraries.  He holds a doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh School of Information.  Matarazzo is a Fellow of the Special Libraries Association.


Toby Pearlstein


Toby Pearlstein, PhD, is retired director of global information services for Bain & Company, Inc., a strategic management consulting firm.  She recently coauthored a series of articles in Searcher magazine on survival skills for information professionals.  Pearlstein holds a doctorate from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College. She is a Fellow of the Special Libraries Association and a member of the SLA Hall of Fame.

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Author’s Corner: Career Q&A

Do you read Career Q & A with the Library Career People? (It was featured on our Job Hunter’s Web Guide here). Susanne Markgren and Tiffany Eatman Allen have been answering readers’ questions for ten years.  Imagine if Dear Abby and Ann Landers joined forces, and then specialized in LIS career worries.  We’re lucky to have this resource – and we just got even luckier because they’ve released a book!  They’ve put together several excerpts in the post below, so you should be able to get a good feel for the quality of the content.


Susanne Markgren and Tiffany Eatman Allen are thrilled to announce the release of their new book, Career Q&A: A Librarian’s Real-Life, Practical Guide to Managing a Successful Career.In the book, the authors examine the transitions, struggles, and advances that encompass and define a librarian’s career, answering a range of important questions library professionals face as they move through the various stages of their working lives. For more than 10 years the authors have collaborated on the popular online advice column, “Career Q&A with the Library Career People.” The book blends their own best advice with tips and ideas from a number of their savvy peers, and includes responses from a nationwide survey.

These are a few excerpts from different chapters of the book:

On Setting Goals…

“It’s easy to tell people to set goals and work hard toward achieving them, but doing so isn’t a simple process. Achieving your goals involves planning, reflection, and introspection—as well as setbacks and frustration. When you plan your career path and think about what you want to achieve and where you want to end up, you need to consider other life goals as well, such as your family, location, personality, and abilities. It’s kind of like writing a book: You need to figure out what you want to include, attempt to organize and make sense of the various parts, gather external data and information, and start writing. And don’t forget to give yourself a deadline. Panic may set it: Who are you to plan out your life and have such lofty aspirations, to think you can achieve your dreams? Our advice is to own it, live it, learn from your failures or setbacks, and keep going.”

On Cover Letters…

“In the hundreds of cover letters we’ve read during the years, the No. 1 thing that job candidates fail to do is convince us that they really want the job. It seems so basic, right? Of course you want the job—you’re applying for it! Why else go to the trouble of sending in your application materials? This may be true, but try to think, or read, from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know you: the hiring committee. They read through dozens, sometimes hundreds, of resumes, looking for a good match to a specific job or role. When a candidate does not show interest in a specific job and relate his or her experience and skills to that specific job, the committee most likely will come to the conclusion that this candidate just needs a job, any job, not necessarily the job at hand.”

On Resumes…

“Don’t undersell yourself. Be sure to highlight any experience you’ve had in library school, as well as transferable skills from previous work experience during or after college. Make sure you include student memberships, activities, and committees on your resume. List responsibilities and accomplishments from your work experience and professional activities. Look for job opportunities that match your skills and experience. Be selective about which positions to apply for, and put your energy into positions that best suit your experience and interests. Seize any and all opportunities to gain experience (paid or unpaid) and to build your expertise and professional networks. Rely on your professional networks to learn about positions and opportunities and to cultivate excellent employment references.”

On Online Identities…

“We now live in a world in which people we’ve never met seek out information about us using search engines and social media sites. These people—potential employers, colleagues, review committees, supervisors, patrons or clients, curious admirers, even strangers—not only expect to find us online; they might reward us or penalize us because of what they discover. What used to be considered private or personal is now transparent and social, which means that we need to be aware of how we conduct ourselves online and be proactive in how we market ourselves online. In other words, we need to be online, and we need to be smart about it.”
On Interviewing…“Just remember that the purpose behind every interview is to give the hiring committee a chance to meet you (the candidate) in person, to see whether your skills and experience really match what was described on your application materials, and to see if you are a good fit with the existing personnel and organization. There are several types of interviews and different ways to prepare. However, knowing the fundamental purpose of the interview will help you keep the process in perspective. And just know that, no matter what type of institution or position you are applying for, the interview fundamentals are essentially the same. Be prepared to present yourself and your qualifications for the position in the best way possible. Knowing more about the different types of interviews and ways to prepare will position you well for success.”

On Writing and Presenting…

“Not everyone wants to put themselves out there. Not everyone wants to present, write, speak in public, or do anything that might mean opening themselves up to possible scrutiny and judgment. Some would rather avoid these projects at all costs, some are content working by themselves in their back offices, and some are extremely intimidated by any form of public communication. Who can blame them? Putting yourself out there can cause anxiety and make your heart race and your palms sweat. We get it. We’ve been there. We’re not saying that everyone needs to put themselves out there in this manner; we are merely suggesting that it doesn’t have to be as frightening or as formal as you may think and that it might be (and most likely will be) good for your career, your self-confidence, and your future job prospects.”

Career Q&A: A Librarian’s Real-Life, Practical Guide to Managing a Successful Career (240 pp/softbound/$39.50/ISBN 978-1-57387-479-3) is published by Information Today, Inc. (ITI) and is available wherever professional books and ebooks are sold.


Susanne Markgren is the Digital Services Librarian at Purchase College, State University of New York. Previously, she worked in public libraries, a theater library, a government library, a seminary library, a university library system, and a medical school library. 

Tiffany Allen

Tiffany Eatman Allen is the Director of Library Human Resources at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. She has worked in libraries for more years than she’s willing to admit, including in the catalog department of an academic library, the library of a pharmaceutical company, and a private biomedical research foundation library.

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Author’s Corner: Making the Most of Your Library Career

This excerpt is courtesy of Lois Stickell and Bridgette Sanders, the editors of Making the Most of Your Library Career (available Fall 2013 from ALA Editions).  If you’re looking to expand your focus from getting a job to building a career, you might want to check it out:

MAking the Most of Your Library Career Cover 

This book explores how things work in the real library world in chapters written by practicing librarians in stages of their library career from new hire to manager to director.  The chapters cover first impressions on a job, ways to distinguish yourself from the herd, assessing the job, the lifecycle of a librarian’s year and, finally, what to do if the job just doesn’t work out. In this excerpt, two library directors talk frankly about what they look for on a resume and during the interview.

Excerpt from Chapter 2: The View from the Top

By Theodosia Shields of North Carolina Central University and Annie Payton of Alabama A&M University.

Good library directors pay close attention to the résumés of the final candidates. Unfortunately, most MLS (master of library science) résumés read very much the same. While it can be hard to distinguish yourself in a résumé, try to include some significant aspect about yourself or your work experience. We look for candidates who stand out with unique skills that could be beneficial to the library. For instance, a candidate for reference who also has public relations experience has assets that make us take a second look. The candidate does not need extensive experience, but something as simple as an internship or course work in a desired area could precipitate an interview.

On the subject of résumés, long ones are never advisable. These do not impress the committee and are not likely to get passed on to the library director. Rather, they send a signal that the applicant is not able to be concise and cannot highlight his or her most significant achievements succinctly. We have read résumés where a candidate lists achievements from 15 and 20 years ago or lists far too many accomplishments. Including too much information may cause a reader to miss something important in your résumé that would give you an advantage over other candidates. Be judicial in what you choose to include. It is also helpful to group experience and skills under subject headings rather than placing them together. Remember, you want to present yourself as positively and simply as possible. When there are many applicants for a position, even the smallest misstep can lead to your being eliminated from consideration.

In today’s world, every library director is looking for an individual who can be flexible. The job that you are hired for today will probably change, sometimes drastically, over the next three years. Libraries are changing very rapidly and every part of the library is changing with them. While we are not going to make new IT (information technology) person work on the reference desk, we will expect that they are able to rethink their position as the needs of the library change. It is therefore important to show that you possess flexibility in your résumé, so be sure to include past examples of this on your résumé.

Up until this point, the only knowledge a library director receives about a candidate is information presented on the résumé. Be neat, concise, and informative. Easy, huh?

If the resume works and you are contacted for an in-person or phone interview, start preparing early. There are certain time-honored questions most candidates are asked at every interview. Although it can be tempting to regard these as “boilerplate” questions, most library directors take them seriously and listen closely to the responses. Library directors have heard these questions answered a number of times and look for certain key elements. As a candidate, try to avoid a canned response to these standard questions. Instead, make the answers your own while still addressing the question. Short, targeted examples are always helpful. A certain amount of library jargon is expected but don’t go overboard with it.

Almost every interviewer asks a candidate if he or she is a team player. We want to hear the interviewees articulate philosophies about how they work with others. “Yes, I am a team player” is not a sufficient answer. How? Give examples. The responses help a library director determine if candidates have personal agendas they are seeking to advance. We generally pursue the “I am a team player” answer with additional questions to ascertain whose team you are on; that is, whose agenda will receive focus—yours or ours? Since each library entity is dependent on the others, it is important that everyone works together to fulfill library goals. In a well-run library, employees share interdependent goals. This helps ensure that the employees and library directors navigate on the same agenda. If we determine a candidate has a different focus and will not be able to fully engage in the library’s goals, it is a clear signal that this is not the right person.

You will be asked several times throughout the day if you have questions. Often you will be asked the same question more than once. This is not designed to trip you up to see if you answer the same each time. The questions are probably from two different people. It’s fine to say, “As I told Sally earlier . . .” and then include something more: “I’d also add that . . .”

If you have questions, by all means ask them. This is not just about people making decisions about you. You are the primary decider here and should be determining if this is the right job for you. If you don’t have questions, say politely, “Not at the moment.” However, anyone who goes through the entire day without asking questions is sending a signal that he or she is not very interested in the position. If you believe you are interested, or even if you are not sure, ask some questions. Maintain a calm, friendly demeanor even if the interview does become tiring. Everyone there has been through the process and they empathize, but they also want to see how you perform under a certain amount of stress.

In the end, making a determination about a candidate comes down to a gut reaction for most library directors. We ask ourselves, “Do I believe that this person has the skills and traits I am looking for in a particular position? Do I believe this person will work well with others?” Working well with others really supersedes all other characteristics. The most brilliant subject specialist who is difficult and who will bring a lot of high drama to the library is simply not going to work. This doesn’t mean we demand an extrovert. Introverts are fine as long as they can fulfill the requirements of the job. We are looking for the individual who will bring the least amount of drama into the workplace. We are here to accomplish a job and have our antennae up for those who will make accomplishing that job more challenging.

bridgette SaundersBridgette Sanders is the Social Sciences Librarian at Atkins Library, University of North Carolina Charlotte in Charlotte, North Carolina. She received her MLS from Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia. Her areas of interest are Africana Studies and Diversity. Bridgette recently added managing the Information Desk to her duties. She and Lois Stickell have presented at several conferences, including the Southern Historical Association’s annual conference and ASALH (Association for the Study of African American Life and History).

lois stickellLois Stickell received her MLS from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. She has written about a slave revolt in South Carolina and contributed a chapter about grants to The Frugal Librarian: Thriving in Tough Economic Times. She has worked at Indiana University, Winthrop University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.


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Author’s Corner: Looking Beyond the LIS Universe

Kim Dority is a fount of knowledge about non-traditional (and traditional) LIS careers.  You may remember her as the brain behind Infonista, featured on this blog back in February. Reading her bio just now, I was also reminded of the wonderful group she manages on LinkedIn, LIS Career Options.  If you’ve been looking for a place to discuss the twists and turns in your career path, look no further. She very kindly wrote this post about what looking for outside-the-box information can do for your career.  In addition to this wonderful strategy for resilience, I hope you will enjoy getting a taste of what you can find in her most recent book:


How do you navigate all of the challenges, changes, and opportunities – both anticipated and unforeseen – that comprise a typically dynamic LIS career? Given how unpredictable the profession has become, trying to gain firm footing on our shifting career sands can be both an adventure (good day) and crazy-making (not-so-good day)!

One of the things I’ve found most useful in attempting to create a resilient career is to learn not only from thought leaders and experts within the profession, but also from those outside it.

At an early point in my career I worked as an executive information advisor for a corporate CEO and developed the habit of doing a monthly “magazine cruise” to expose myself to emerging ideas in multiple areas of research and endeavor. I’d hit my local bookstore, start with art, and happily make my way through magazines devoted to art, foreign affairs, history, military strategy, science, sports, technology, travel, and all the topics in between. My goal was to look for developments and insights outside the usual information we’d automatically be exposed to within the industry, and then reframe those developments and insights into a meaningful context for our work.

Adding online resources, I’ve continued this environmental scanning habit ever since. Yep, I monitor all the key LIS information sources, but I also scan tons of other non-LIS information sources at least once a month so that my thinking – and career framework – is broadened beyond the traditional LIS field.

Although I sort of fell into this process and then realized later how powerful a broader information universe could be to my career opportunities (read: I can’t take any credit for this being a brilliant career strategy on my part!), it has, in fact, been incredibly helpful in building a resilient career. Here’s why I’d recommend this type of information monitoring for your LIS career as well:

  • You’ll usually know at least a top-level something about nearly every topic a patron or client might bring up
  • In an LIS environment, you’ll be able to bridge concepts and solutions between libraries and, say, the corporate world (or military strategy!)
  • You may often help patrons or clients spot new opportunities outside their usual information universe
  • It’s a great way to stay intellectually engaged with the world outside the library, which will make you a better librarian or information professional for your entire career
  • It’s a great way to take charge of your career by developing the habit of looking for and often finding emerging opportunities for information skills

In 2012, I wrote LIS Career Sourcebook (Libraries Unlimited), which addresses each of the career stages LIS professionals are likely to encounter and the recommended resources for navigating those stages effectively and successfully. For example, there are chapters on the LIS career universe, education options, job hunting, professional development, building a professional network, establishing a professional brand, managing, leading, going independent, and dealing with career transition points. As I began putting the materials together, I tried to take a similarly inclusive approach to help readers expand their frame of reference beyond the library discipline.

So, for example, the chapter on management recommends not only Curzon’s Managing Change: A How-to-Do-It Manual for Libraries, but also key management books from Peter Drucker (Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices), Marcus Buckingham (First, Break All the Rules), Robert B. Cialdini (Influence: Science and Practice), and Daniel Goleman (Working with Emotional Intelligence). Although none of these thought leaders had libraries or information organizations in mind when they wrote these landmark books, their lessons and insights are nevertheless highly applicable.

When it comes to creating a resilient career, I’d strongly suggest that one of your goals be to create a broad knowledge base, both inside and outside of the LIS world. My recommendation: go for a magazine cruise once a month and look at all the different topics (scanning the tables of contents usually suffices), set up an online environmental scan using the reader that works best for you, and follow thought leaders in non-LIS disciplines using your favorite social media tools. Because in my experience, the broader your information universe, the broader your career opportunity universe.

Kim DorityKim Dority is the founder and president of Dority & Associates, an information strategy and content development company. During her career, she has worked in academia, publishing, telecommunications, and the library fields, in for-profit and nonprofit settings, for both established companies and start-ups. Kim created and teaches a course on alternative LIS career paths in the University of Denver’s LIS graduate program, and is the author of two books on LIS careers, Rethinking Information Work (2006) and LIS Career Sourcebook (2012), both published by Libraries Unlimited. In addition, Kim created and manages the LinkedIn “LIS Career Options” group, which now includes more than 6,000 members from 60 different countries commenting on roughly 575 discussions. She received her MLS from the University of Denver.



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Author’s Corner: Launching Your Career through Professional Service

After so much recently for new graduates, I’m pleased to present today’s post by Linda Crook and Dawn Lowe Wincentsen.  They are the editors of Mid-Career Library and Information Professionals: A Leadership Primer, a resource which might be of interest to those of you who have established a toehold, and want to know how to get even further up LIS mountain.  In this post, Crook and Wincentsen each share a personal anecdote, which should give you a feel for the style of their book: personal and easy-to-read.

Mid Career Library and Information Professionals

Linda Crook: My Time as NMRT President

As I prepared to write about my involvement with NMRT, my first thought was “I’m getting tired of telling this story.” Upon reflection, however, I realized that it’s the story itself that is the key. By launching my career through professional service, I have given a shape to my career. I have created a narrative that illustrates my growth and accomplishments.
Although I earned my MLIS in 2000, my career didn’t start until 2007, when I went to ALA Midwinter. I shyly attended the New Members Round Table informal “meet and greet,” and it was love at first sight. I participated in two committees my first year in NMRT, and chaired a committee the following year. I was elected NMRT Networking Director, a 2-year board position, which was one of the ways I made a connection with Dawn. As I completed that term, I was elected to a three-year NMRT Presidential term (one year each as Vice President, President, and Past President). As my past-presidential year winds down, my NMRT service demonstrates my development in the profession, and it’s a great stepping-off place for the next adventure.

Around the central narrative of my career are the hundreds or thousands of connections I’ve made with library workers and library students. Any of those relationships could become a bigger part of the story as I continue on my way. I met Dawn through NMRT service, and that connection and our conversations created the opportunity to co-edit a book together. All of the NMRT Board members for the past several years have had the opportunity to work closely with Courtney Young, who launched her career with professional service in an epic way. We all have the opportunity to shape the narrative of our career through professional service, whether we want to go straight up the ladder, specialize in one area, or explore a range of options. I am proud of the career I have shaped with NMRT, and I know that relationship will continue to nourish my soul long after my term in NMRT has ended.

Dawn Lowe Wincentsen:What I Have Learned by Saying Yes

It was a sunny day in Louisiana (as many days are,) and I said yes. No, it was not a proposal, it was a volunteer opportunity.  That first time was to be part of the Graduate Information Science Student Association (GLISSA) in the School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) at Louisiana State University (LSU). The next time was a to a colleague who suggested I volunteer for an NMRT committee.  It all began to snowball after that. I would see an opportunity on a listserve and I would say yes. A colleague would mention a committee in need and I would say yes. I have gotten better, and more selective since then, but along the way I have learned quite a lot.

It was a warm summer day in Chicago a few years later. I was at the American Library Association Annual conference. Linda and I were having a conversation that led to a twitter discussion on a book idea. In that case we both said yes, and co-edited, “Mid-Career Library and Information Professionals: A Leadership Primer.” The connections made through saying yes are just as important as the skills developed, if not more so.

Earlier this year I put together my promotion portfolio, basically a review of everything I have done over the last five years. In this review included all of my committees, from those on campus to national organizations, each one doing something a bit different. This review reminded me that I have worked on many different projects from developing policy to allocating funds to event planning. Each of these builds a bit different of a skill set. Each of these skill sets is then something I can come to when needed, either in my professional life, or my volunteer life.

I no longer wait for opportunity to come knocking. I go out to find it. I look on listserves and web pages of associations. I send letters to people putting together committees, I show up to meetings and events – even if only virtually when travel is a barrier. I put myself out there. This is something that employers look for, people who are willing to come to them, and put themselves out there, to develop new skills, and adapt to new situations. All of this makes me more marketable as a librarian.

So, don’t wait for sunny days, and opportunity to come to you, go find it, and say yes.  Build new skills, and make new connections.

Linda CrookLinda Crook is Reference Team Leader & Science Librarian at Washington State University in Pullman, WA. She earned her MLIS at the University of Washington in 2000, and earned a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Health Sciences Librarianship at the University of Pittsburgh in 2011. She is current Past President of the ALA New Members Round Table, and co-editor of, “Mid-career library and information professionals: a leadership primer.” She has recently started job hunting in Eugene, OR

Dawn Lowe WincentsenDawn Lowe Wincentsen is the Wilsonville Campus Librarian at Oregon Institute of Technology. She graduated with her MLIS from Louisiana State university in 2003, has previously worked at Florida State University, and Louisiana State University, and is the co-author of “A Leadership Primer for New Librarians“ (2008) and co-editor of, “Mid-career library and information professionals: a leadership primer.”

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Author’s Corner: Jump-Start Your Career as a Digital Librarian

Our friends at the Library and Information Technology Association have published a brand new guide to becoming a digital librarian. I’m very grateful to editor Jane Monson, who has written today’s guest post. Not only will you get a glimpse of some of the topics covered in the book, but she’s put together some great advice for library students and entry level librarians.

During the past decade or so, the job title of “digital librarian” has become increasingly common as more and more libraries move their content and services online. In my recently published book, Jump-Start Your Career as a Digital Librarian: A LITA Guide, the specifics skills needed to position oneself for a job in this brave new world of librarianship – among them, familiarity with metadata, digital preservation, and web development – are explained by a cadre of experienced professionals in the field. Jump start your career as a digital librarianHowever, when it comes to job searching, the would-be digital librarian faces the same challenges as any other new professional: namely, to stand out in an over-crowded field and somehow find a position that balances both desires (to land a dream job) and needs (to pay the bills).

With that in mind, I would like to share a few kernels of wisdom that both the book’s contributors and I have gathered in our own employment searches, as well as our experiences serving on hiring committees. Much of this advice is specific to entry-level librarians, as they are usually the ones with the greatest obstacles to employment.

  1. Lay the groundwork during library school. In their chapter, “Getting the Most Out of Library School,” authors Micah Vandegrift and Annie Pho discuss ways that the savvy student can take optimal advantage of the opportunities available in library school and emerge as a desirable job candidate. They recommend surveying the job landscape early and often (ideally, before you even begin school); being creative with your coursework and fashioning your own specialty if your program doesn’t offer exactly what you want; putting in work through part-time jobs, practicums, internships, and volunteer work; and connecting with others through online and traditional venues. Knowing what skills employers are looking for by scanning job ads is a good way to target courses and part-time jobs that will give you the best experience in your chosen area. Some schools offer specialized tracks (for example, in digital libraries), but if yours doesn’t you can often create a close approximation using the DIY approach, cobbling together courses from other departments and initiating independent studies. Be willing to spend time outside of school teaching yourself relevant technology skills and keeping up on the latest journals and trade publications. Take advantage of any opportunity to attend professional conferences and workshops, and don’t be afraid to jump into online networking to get your face and name out there.
  2. Get as much work experience as you can while in school. Of the items listed above, “putting in work” may well be the most critical. It seems unfair, but the sad truth is that employment begets employment. Many a new librarian, digital or otherwise, has complained that employers seem unwilling to train new hires with little prior experience. Therefore, one of your main jobs while in library school is to train yourself, outside of the classroom. Don’t graduate without at least one volunteer gig, graduate assistantship, or other library-related job on your resume (and ideally several). If this isn’t possible for you to do, think carefully about your decision to enter library school – unless, of course, you already have significant library work experience prior to enrolling, or you don’t plan on using the degree to work in a library. When choosing a graduate program, weigh heavily the opportunities for students to find work in libraries on campus and in the surrounding area. These experiences are often more important than the classes you take.
  3. Be willing to relocate. There may be some fields that will easily allow you to go to school, undertake a career, and retire all in the same place. Librarianship, unfortunately, is not generally one of them. One important point that Elyssa Sanner and Catherine Wagner make in the chapter “Landing Your First Job,” is that unless you are willing to wait around for a relevant position to open up in your geographic area, the surest way to find a job after graduation is to cast your net as widely as possible. This is not to say that no one ever finds jobs within a targeted location, but these jobs are more likely to require a compromise – they may be part-time, or not in the area you trained for. Limiting yourself geographically may not allow you to make the best use of your library degree, and is bound to make the job search that much more difficult and drawn-out. A reality of librarianship today is that you may have to “pay your dues” by taking that all-important first job in a less than desirable location. But once you have those first years under your belt, you will have much more leverage to go after your dream job in your dream place.

The book has many more tips for navigating library school, applying for your first job in the field, transitioning from one area of librarianship to another, and further developing your career (Roy Tennant has some great advice in this chapter). It offers a wealth of information for both digital- and non-digital librarians alike, culled from the collective wisdom of more than twenty contributing authors – many of them hiring librarians themselves. I’m sure I can speak for all of them in wishing you good luck in your job search!

Jane Monson

Jane Monson received her MLS from the University of Iowa, where she was an IMLS Digital Libraries Fellow. She is currently Digital Initiatives Librarian at the University of Northern Colorado; previous to that she was Digital Projects Librarian at Truman State University. She has been published in Computers in Libraries, is a book reviewer for the Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship, and serves on various ALA editorial committees.

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Author’s Corner: A Librarian’s Guide to an Uncertain Job Market

Today’s post is an excerpt from A Librarian’s Guide to an Uncertain Job Market, by Jeanette Woodward (2011. Chicago,IL: American Library Association). It’s got some excellent, very specific advice about the work you can do to be an engaged and smart job hunter. I’m happy to be able to share it with you.

For Applications that Make the Cut, Do Your Homework

At some point in the near future, you hope to be sitting opposite a library administrator or search committee convincing them that you are the best applicant for the job. However, that meeting will undoubtedly be preceded by many, many small steps. The secret is preparation and that preparation must begin long before the interview.

Focusing On the Job and the Employer

Actually, it all begins as soon as you discover the job announcement. Once you’ve decided that this is an opening you may want to pursue, immediately begin learning more. You’ll need to investigate not only the job itself but also the library and the people, especially senior staff, who work in that library. All of us, I suppose, tend to focus on ourselves. The people to whom you are sending your application are thinking not about you but about themselves and their library. They have a problem- in other words, there is work that’s not getting done and plans that are not being implemented. They are interested in how someone might solve their problem and how well that someone might fit into their world. Your task is not so much to tell them about yourself as to focus on their need.

What the Ad Really Says

Begin by examining the job ad carefully. Check to see if there are other versions online (the library’s own website may have a much longer and more complete announcement since some job lists charge by the word). You can do this by taking an exact phrase from the announcement, enclosing it in quotes, and pasting it into a search engine. Assemble all the versions you can find and keep your fingers crossed that they were written by a librarian and not a human resource professional. What do they really seem to be looking for? How is this announcement different from others you’ve seen for similar jobs? In one sense, your challenge is to become a mind reader.
The job that’s open in this particular library is unique. In many ways, it’s unlike other jobs with identical job titles in other libraries because this library has evolved differently. It has different goals, different needs, and a different cast of characters. Can you read between the lines to discover what these people are really looking for? Focus on them, not yourself. Don’t begin comparing your skills and experience with their requirements until you really understand what they are looking for.

Obtaining More Information

How can you find out more about this position? What do you already know about the library? Your friends and colleagues usually provide the best insights so ask around. Use your social network to get all the information you can. Is this a new position or is the opening the result of a recent resignation? It’s helpful to know whether you will be following in someone else’s footsteps or will help create a new position. Have two positions been merged and would you be expected to do both? These situations have their advantages and disadvantages but it’s a good idea to know what you’re getting into.

a librarian's guide to an uncertain job marketWhen the Library is Far From Home

At the moment, the job market is far from sunny so you may be applying to libraries far distant from home. If this is the case, you’re going to have to do some real detective work and as a librarian, you’re better equipped for the task than job applicants in other fields. Use the Internet to find out all you can about the libraries in which you’re interested, in other words the staff size, names and titles of senior librarians, budget, etc.
If the announcement asks you to reply to someone other than a human resource administrator, find out who that person is. You can probably gather enough information to make some educated guesses about the people who will make the hiring decision. Learning about the human side of libraries will help you better understand what they’re looking for. LIS professionals are so well represented online that you can often learn a lot about them as individuals including their perspectives and preferences. Some of the information will be useful in the cover letter and if you make the cut, it will be invaluable in the interview.

Investigate the Community

Also gather enough information to decide whether this is a place where you’d like to live. Find out about the cost of living, especially the cost of housing, the unemployment rate, the schools if you have children, and other quality of life indicators. As we all know, statistics can be boring and seemingly meaningless. Don’t just look up numbers. What do the numbers really say? Compare them with your home community. Consider whether unemployment numbers are improving or budget cuts have been so draconian that basic services like education and police protection are inadequate. Be sure to bookmark local newspapers to get a feeling for how residents view their area. Though you may be feeling somewhat desperate, you don’t want to have to go through this again. Job hunting takes a lot out of you both financially and psychologically. You’re looking for a stable, supportive environment where you can recharge your batteries and grow professionally. There really and truly are jobs that you should avoid.

Jeannette Woodward is a principal of Wind River Library and Nonprofit Consulting. After a career in academic library administration, most recently as Assistant Director of the David Adamany Library at Wayne State University, she began a second career in public libraries as the Director of the Fremont County Library System in the foothills of the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming.

Woodward is the author of several books including “The Transformed Library: Ebooks, Expeertise, and Evolution,” “Countdown to a New Library, 2nd Edition” (ALA 2010), “The Customer-Driven Academic Library” (ALA, 2008), “What Every Librarian Should Know about Electronic Privacy” (Libraries Unlimited, 2007), “Creating the Customer Driven Library: Building on the Bookstore Model” (ALA, 2005). She is also the author of “Writing Research Papers: Investigating Resources in Cyberspace”(McGraw Hill, 1999) and “Finding a Job after 50: Reinvent Yourself for the 21st Century” (Career Press, 2007). She holds a masters degree in library and information science from Rutgers University with doctoral study at the University of Texas at Austin.


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Author’s Corner: Continuing Education for Librarians

Today I’m happy to give you an excerpt from a new book on professional development.  The excerpt is from the preface by Dr. Robert P. Holley, Professor, School of Library & Information Science Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, and provides an overview of the scope and organization of the book, which incorporates the thoughts of a number of different authors, gathered together under the editing eyes of Carol Smallwood, Kerol Harrod and Vera Gubnitskaia.

The title of this book, Continuing Education for Librarians: Workshops, Conferences, College, and Other Ways, only hints at the cornucopia of practical advice that the reader will discover in its twenty-eight chapters. I discovered new information and, more importantly, fresh perspectives though I have been an academic librarian and library science professor for almost forty years and teach courses that include continuing education.

Most authors in the collection combine a general discussion of the topic with practical examples of their experiences. They avoid a Pollyannaish view that continuing education is easy in today’s age of reduced staffing, higher work expectations, and complicated lives; but they accurately point out that these factors require librarians to stay on top of developments in librarianship. The library science degree is only the beginning. Employers expect librarians to acquire new skills and sometimes secure additional formal and informal credentials. Some of the case studies don’t turn out exactly as planned, but the authors agree that surprises were part of the learning process.

The book is divided into eight parts of from two to eight chapters, but the parts are not mutually exclusive. For example, Part II, “Online Education,” deals with the delivery of the continuing education activities and gives advice on how to succeed in an online course (Francis). Similarly, the chapter from “Personal Life” by Ward, “Balancing Act,” gives her account of acquiring an additional degree but with the focus on how she managed to integrate the demands of her formal education into her personal life. While the content of some chapters overlaps, the authors emphasize different aspects and share differing experiences.

continuing education for librariansThe book covers all stages of a librarian’s professional career. The chapters on formal education include finding the right online library program for the MLIS (Jackson) and pursuing a certificate (McGlynn), a second masters (Rupp), or the ultimate achievement, a doctorate (Kimmel/Garrison). The reader also gets tips on how to make the most of workshops and conferences. Two authors (Mason and Butler) focus on learning more about special collections from workshops. The more adventuresome will profit from the experiences of Wise and Blackburn on attending an international conference where they discovered that different rules apply when varying library cultures come together. The two chapters on professional associations (Braccia and Farmer) straddle the line between formal and informal because these authors stress that as much continuing education occurs in the corridors as in the meeting rooms. Technology and Web 2.0 have a role to play in learning through Massive Open Online Courses (Bond) and in making contacts through social networks (Cooke and Goben).

For me, learning by doing is the most revolutionary aspect of the book. Effective continuing education is not passive but arises from actively teaching others. Three traditional ways are emphasizing the teaching function of librarians (Ross and Sweeney), becoming an adjunct professor for a library and information science program (Wright), or teaching an information literacy course (Storm). For an unorthodox challenge, Benson suggests volunteering to give a presentation on a subject that the librarian doesn’t know much about as a surefire way quickly to become an expert on the topic. Other examples of active learning include organizing a fellowship program (Mediavilla) or hosting a conference (Root).

The two chapters on mentoring (Creel and Zanin-Yost) take great care to talk about the continuing education value for the mentors as well as for the mentee. Money is the topic for two authors. Sheehan suggests casting a wide net to find scholarship funds to support getting the MLIS. From a different perspective, Soules looks at all the continuing education activities, many discussed in more detail in other chapters, that are free. Two chapters look beyond library skills. Marcus recommends acting training to improve personal interactions and to learn how to deal with unexpected situations. Similarly, Matthew Cook narrates how he profited professionally by integrating his interest in jazz into his work life.

These brief summaries cannot do justice to the richness of this book, but they will have met my goal if they tempt you to delve more deeply into this volume. Choose first the topics that interest you the most. Don’t forget, however, that many chapters weave together the multiple strands of continuing education and professional development and that you might find valuable insights in the most unexpected places.

Continuing Education for Librarians: Essays on Career Improvement Through Classes, Workshops, Conferences and More 2013. Edited by Carol Smallwood, Kerol Harrod and Vera Gubnitskaia by permission of McFarland & Company, Inc., Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640.

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