Category Archives: Author’s Corner

Author’s Corner: Professional Development for Librarians

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 Mary H. Moen and Sarah A. Buchanan, the editors of a book about keeping our skills sharp and our knowledge up to date. In addition to the stated benefit of a continuing education course, Moen and Buchanan point out some of the additional benefits for our career development. 

If you’re interested in reading beyond this post, the citation for the book is:

Moen, M. H. & Buchanan, S. A. (Eds.). (2020). Leading Professional Development: Growing Librarians for the Digital Age. Libraries Unlimited. 

Continuing education for library professionals is a shared endeavor of professional organizations, graduate schools, and employer libraries. Continuing education programs today have diverse characteristics and are ever-evolving as online learning networks, in-person workshops, study abroad immersions, service-learning coursework, digital badges, and combinations thereof. 

Skills Development: Where to Turn

Library professionals seeking to enhance their skills can choose from many source providers who specialize in teaching information literacy and/or serving one’s community through public programming. A set of papers engaging with recent initiatives was grouped for presentation in Denver, Colorado at the February 2018 ALISE Annual Conference – a key national venue for library education research (that was till then co-located with the ALA Midwinter Meeting). There, one of our audience members was Dr. Blanche Woolls who expressed her appreciation for the “necessary” research having been done about the initiatives’ educational contributions, and also her interest in seeing a “good, practical book on providing professional development.” Dr. Woolls provided steadfast guidance – and expert indexing – to our resulting editorial collaboration on Leading Professional Development (2020). Together we recruited authors and reviewers, ensured reviewer comments were addressed by authors, witnessed the emergence of new ideas, and contributed a preface reflecting thematically on the chapters in the current learning environment. When we returned page proofs on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 to our Editorial Project Manager, the global pandemic was just encroaching and soon it would redefine libraries the world over. Yet rereading the book in 2022-23 at the gracious invitation of Emily Weak now offers us many useful reminders of what specific learning activities might best serve one’s changing needs in our changing times – e.g., we have each recently graduated students whose entire MLIS education was completed online, and have taught others in both in-person and hybrid modalities. Each program or course offers everyone – student and teacher alike – a chance to incorporate the new “tips, ideas, and proven solutions” (Catherine Hakala-Ausperk in Public Libraries magazine 60.5, 2021) that are generously presented by the chapter authors.

Lifelong Learning Resources

In addition to choices in modality, new professionals can choose from providers for their learning experiences that may be based in universities like ours, in state and municipal workforce departments, and/or in professional societies. The introductory chapter establishes how the library profession sustains itself through the twin avenues of career development and outward-facing engagement. Its overview of the book demonstrates how each program, detailed further in an individual chapter, successfully engages the learner by “networking” them into community resources – including fellow professionals at all career levels – and encouraging learners’ continued engagement with pressing social and cultural issues. Four trends – digital technologies, practical tips, building community, and experiential learning – that are examined across the subsequent chapters facilitate productive transformations between the theory and practices of lifelong learning that we see as so central to modern librarianship. Today we appreciate the insights still to be gained from wider participation in such programs: both as presented and in the evolutions that have occurred since their writing and which are sure to continue. Given the ALA’s cumulative estimate that over 350,000 people work in paid library positions (per 2018 statistics), there is sufficient demand along each of the dimensions of modality, provider, and topic preference for many programs, including those discussed in the book, to be sustained and continue meeting future needs. We see a role for every kind of learner and provider in bettering both the world of libraries and the worlds they serve.

Dr. Moen is faculty in the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies, University of Rhode Island. She has been a school librarian and program director of the Media Smart Libraries program at URI:

Dr. Buchanan is faculty in the iSchool, University of Missouri. She has been a librarian and archivist and advises the Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellowship at MU: .


Leave a comment

Filed under Author's Corner

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Author's Corner

Author’s Corner: How to Thrive as a Library Professional

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 Susanne Markgren and Linda Miles, who have provided a post with detailed information about the content of their book on thriving as a library professional.

Susanne and Linda represent some pretty serious chops in LIS career development. You can see from this post that they’ve got a concrete understanding of both the issues at hand and are able to translate that into practical steps and exercises. They have also generously provided a coupon for a 20% discount, if you are interested in purchasing the book. 

The citation for their book is: 

Markgren, S. & Miles, L. (2019). How to thrive as a library professional: Achieving success and satisfaction. Libraries Unlimited. 

And for more of their insight, they have co-authored two recent chapters in edited books: 

Miles, L. & Markgren, S. (2022). Combating burnout: Positive/transformational leadership and organizational culture. In C. Holm, A. Guimaraes & N. Marcano (Eds.),  Academic librarian burnout: Causes and responses. ACRL Publications.

Miles, L. & Markgren, S. (2023, forthcoming). Taking advantage of opportunities for informal leadership. In B. West & E. Galoozis (Eds.), Thriving as a mid-career librarian: Identity, advocacy, and pathways. ACRL Publications. 

In our book, How to Thrive as a Library Professional: Achieving Success and Satisfaction, we focus on what professional practice means for working librarians—the tasks we do routinely to support our patrons, the realm of influence in which we operate, and “where the rubber hits the road” as theory and action come together in the workplace. Topics include: figuring out where you want to go in your career and how to get there; cultivating multilateral relationships; understanding and successfully navigating organizational culture; developing proactive habits; using narrative and storytelling to define yourself as a professional, to advance your priorities, and to get the work done; employing mindfulness and self-compassion to support well-being and satisfaction; and practicing reflectively with an eye toward continual growth. Each chapter offers discussion, concrete examples, practical advice, exercises, and research, and reflects influence from a variety of fields of study.

Chapter 1: Forging a Path: Career Vision

Excerpt: Developing a vision and taking meaningful steps on the path toward that vision are exercises rooted in commitment and action. Whether you’re a student just beginning to think about your future as a working professional or you’re looking for a new path and wondering if there’s a different position in your future, developing a sense of where you want to go and visualizing a path forward may help you do the best, most energized, and rewarding work of your professional life. This chapter will help you build self-awareness: What do you know about yourself as a professional or professional-to-be? What work is most meaningful for you? As you contemplate these questions, it is important to visualize a destination: Whom will you work with? As a librarian, what constituency will you serve or support? What will you help them accomplish? How will you use your time and energy to reach that destination? What are the first steps on the path that will allow you to cultivate the future you envision?

Topic Discussed: vision, action, and momentum; getting started; “boots on the ground,” or what the work in various library settings looks like; and moving forward with a plan

Selected Exercises:

  • Current Contexts
  • Informational Interviews
  • Future Contexts
  • Future Task/Responsibility Journaling
  • First Steps

Chapter 2: Gathering and Lending Support: Relationships

Excerpt: Relationships can play important and varied roles in librarians’ professional lives. They exist in many forms and at many levels. There are people we work closely with and those we may never meet in person. There are relationships we seek out and those that find us. They all have purpose and meaning. What roles can professional relationships play across a career? How do overlapping and networked relationships help an individual develop professionally, succeed, get ahead, and provide satisfaction and meaning? And what can a librarian do to foster these connections in their own practice?

Topics Discussed: how strong relationships contribute to “flourishing”; the structural view–social networks and social capital; types of supportive working relationships; and positive networking behavior.

Selected Exercises:

  • Relationship Journaling
  • Network Mapping
  • Roles and Types of Support
  • Networking Behaviors Worksheet 

Chapter 3: Getting Your Bearings: Understanding Organizational Culture

Excerpt: When a librarian is newly hired and is entering the workplace for the first time, it is important that they spend some amount of time observing and listening, in order to “decode” the workplace culture. This is an equally valuable exercise for longtime members of the workplace community wishing to “take stock” of an environment to which they may have grown accustomed. What are the collective values in play? How do people behave and talk in the workplace? Where are the tensions and points of convergence? How do individuals, collaborative partners, and teams get work done? How are decisions really made? How is change introduced and implemented? How do you know when to go with the flow and when and how to resist or stand your ground? Every workplace is different, but awareness of some common challenges, a set of questions to help librarians interpret what they observe around them, and profiles of organizational dynamics in action will support those working to cultivate a professional practice in often complex library environments.

Topics Discussed: organizational cultures as complex systems; resistance to change; decoding organizational cultures; the roles of empowerment and engagement

Selected Exercises:

  • Basic Organizational Culture
  • Focusing on What Matters
  • Organizational Empowerment Assessment
  • How Engaged Are You?

Chapter 4: The Choices We Make: Creating Habits for Professional Growth

Excerpt: Habits have the potential to help us focus and stay productive even as the pressures of our jobs seem to increase continually and our responsibilities shift and diversify. In part because automatism can dull awareness, it’s a good idea to periodically review and revise habitual practices and perhaps identify opportunities for developing new positive routines. Remember that habits can help determine the course of our work and careers, so making sure that those we choose to develop are right for us, in our work context and with our priorities and goals, is very important. Consider which habits will support improved focus, productivity, and thinking based on the specifics of your own personality and situation.

Topics Discussed: clearing the decks; habits for focus, time management, and productivity; mindsets and habits of mind; making it stick

Selected Exercises:

  • Habits Checklist
  • Five Steps to Getting Things Done
  • The Eisenhower Matrix
  • Mind Mapping
  • What’s Your Mindset?
  • Six Step Habituation

Chapter 5: Telling our Stories: Using Narrative for Self-Promotion, Professional Development, and Influence

Excerpt: Working in libraries, we are surrounded by stories on the shelves, stories of our patrons and clients, stories of our colleagues, stories of our stakeholders and our leaders, and our own stories—narratives that can help us understand who we are, what we want, and where we are going. Through narrative we create stronger networks while bridging divides and flattening silos. We enhance reality and help contextualize and humanize information and data. We are able to better understand and share our organization’s structure and vision. By taking control of our own storyline, and strategically sharing bits and pieces of it in a variety of situations and for a variety of audiences, we can better control our present, and steer our work and careers toward the future we envision.

Topics Discussed: Structure and elements; storytelling for self-knowledge and self-promotion; storytelling to get the work done

Selected Exercises:

  • Five-Part Narrative
  •  One-Sentence ABT (And-But-Therefore)
  • Let me tell you a story….
  • Professional Biography Outline
  • “You Story” Elevator Speech
  •  STAR Worksheet
  • Write an Opinion Piece

Chapter 6: Finding Your Place: Mindfulness & Self-Compassion

Excerpt: No work environment is perfect, and that dream job may never come to fruition—at least not in the way you imagine it. So what do you do when the frustration creeps in and the position that was supposed to bring energy and fulfillment brings misgivings instead? How do we slow down, assess our state of well-being, and become more aware of what’s going on around us? More aware of how we are responding? How can we cultivate more positivity and better self-esteem? And how can we find energy and satisfaction in our current roles, while minimizing stress. In this chapter, we will explore these questions, and offer ways to enhance confidence, mindfulness, and self-compassion in our professional lives.

Topics Discussed: confidence, mindfulness, self-compassion

Selected exercises:

  • Peaks and Valleys
  • Mindful Meditation – Breathing
  • Self-appreciation
  • Objective and Compassionate Advice to Yourself
  • Gratitude Journal

Chapter 7: Discovering Your True Purpose: Reflective Practice

Excerpt: Reflection involves close scrutiny of one’s own work. Not surprisingly, questioning your own words and actions can be uncomfortable at times. However, through the development of a disciplined, thoughtful, and habitual practice, reflection helps you become more accountable and proactive in decision-making, and can provide agency for shaping your own future. In this final chapter, we will explore the meaning of, and purposes for, reflection in a professional context and offer concrete strategies for using this approach to address day-to-day practices and long-term development. We’ll also consider the role reflection may play in helping you direct and navigate the future course of your career.

Topics Discussed: why take up reflection?, getting started, building reflective habits, reflecting in groups

Selected Exercises:

  • Three-Phase Reflective Process
  • Exploring Reflective Approaches
  • Capture the Context
  • Exploring Practices to Build a Reflective Habit
  • Career Reflection
  • Approaches to Group Reflection

Susanne Markgren

is the director of technical services at Manhattan College in the Bronx, where she oversees acquisitions, electronic resources, cataloging, interlibrary loan, and systems, and serves as the subject librarian for the English department. Prior to this position, she spent eleven years as the digital services librarian at Purchase College, SUNY. She has served on national committees of ACRL, on the executive board of an ACRL chapter, and as the board president of a library consortium. She holds an MLIS from the University of Texas at Austin and an MFA in creative writing from Manhattanville College.

Linda Miles (she/her)

is Assistant Professor, Head of Library Reference, and a liaison librarian for the faculty of early childhood education and the visual and performing arts at Hostos Community College – City University of New York. Before coming to Hostos, Linda served for four years as Public Services and User Experience Librarian at Yeshiva University and she began her career in the library of the Lincoln Center Institute, an arts education organization. Linda is currently Co-Chair of the Community & Junior College Section of ACRL, Immediate Past President of ACRL/NY, and co-convener of a public services special interest group of a regional consortium. She holds an MLS from St. John’s University and a PhD in theatre history and criticism from the University of Texas at Austin.

Leave a comment

Filed under Author's Corner

Author’s Corner: Residencies Revisited: Reflections on Library Residency Programs from the Past and Present.

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 Preethi Gorecki and Arielle Petrovich, who edited Residencies Revisited: Reflections on Library Residency Programs from the Past and Present.

In my own work with Hiring Librarians I have been interested – and hopeful – about the possibility of Residencies to improve two issues: the difficulty inexperienced librarians have getting their foot in the door and the lack of diversity in the profession. I am grateful to Gorecki and Petrovich for editing this volume, because this work provides nuance and tempering to these hopes. They illuminate the shortcomings, in both vision and practice, as well as the successes inherent in the residency system. In the post below, they provide excerpts from several sections, which should serve to illustrate the breadth of viewpoints included. It seems to me that this book would be a useful guide for folks who are considering becoming a resident, as well as for those who run or administer their own programs.

Gorecki, P. & Petrovich, A. (Eds.). (2022). Residencies Revisited: Reflections on Library Residency Programs from the Past and Present. Library Juice Press. 

When making the decision to apply for a library diversity residency program, it’s important to understand the benefits and the risks of accepting such a unique role within an academic library. Although library residency programs have been around for over three decades, many MLIS graduates lack knowledge about them–it can even be hard for the residents themselves to define these programs to others. Host institutions use different names for them (fellows, diversity residents, interns), structure them differently (rotational, assigned role, open structure), and have different motivations for establishing a residency program at their institution. With so little consistency, it’s difficult to know what the residency you apply for will actually look like until after you start. You may decide to take a leap of faith and hope for the best. 

Residencies Revisited: Reflections on Library Residency Programs from the Past and Presents is comprised of essays from former and current residents, resident scholars, and residency administrators that describe all the ways residency programs can be done right and how they can go wrong. We hope the insight these essays offer will enable you to make a fully-informed decision to participate in a residency program and to make the best choice for your professional growth.

In the section, Dear Program Administrators, we highlight the critiques and advice diversity residency participants have for the folks who run these programs. When we hear program administrators talk about their institutions’ respective diversity residency programs, we often hear that these programs are successful and that residents are thriving at these institutions. However, once you hear the perspectives of the residents, it becomes clear that many program administrators are not asking residents about their experiences, are not providing spaces where residents feel safe enough to provide honest feedback, or are ignoring the critical feedback that they do receive from residents.

Overall, I think that some conversations could have been more in-depth. I had one coworker who shared with me that they were happy that I was there and that it was important to have residencies, but they also alluded that they had taken a pay cut so that this position was possible. I assume they shared this so that I would feel grateful, but it only caused me to feel uncomfortable. In their effort to share how much they bought in, they stated something that was inappropriate. This demonstrates that even with great effort from the top down, there can be issues with the messaging and the types of conversations that are appropriate or perhaps inappropriate. Buy-in from your faculty/staff/students is invaluable in making sure that a resident has a smooth transition into their role. 

Excerpt from Chapter 5: “Ready or Not, Here We Come!: The Onboarding Experience of Library Residents in Diversity Residency Programs” by Alexandrea Glenn, Amanda M. Leftwich, and Jamia Williams

In the section, Reclaiming Our Time, we explore how residents can salvage their experiences when their residencies fall short. Although the onus to create a positive residency experience should be on everyone involved in the program, sometimes the responsibility falls more heavily on the resident.

All my experience up until then allowed me to be a competitive applicant when it came time to apply to more permanent positions. I fully believe that my in-depth experience with the first-year writing program and having some liaison librarian experience, allowed me to get the position I currently have. Obviously, this is due not only to my hard work but also to the support and encouragement of colleagues who wanted to see me succeed and who trusted I could take on more responsibilities. Having a plan written down and put in place allowed for my residency to not only take shape but also have productive and important tasks and goals. Having honest and open conversations with my residency coordinator/mentor was vital and my success was due to people who were organized and genuinely cared about my goals and interests. 

Excerpt from Chapter 7: “It’s Never Really Goodbye in Library Land: Self-reflection of My Residency Experience” by Quetzalli Barrientos

In the section, Life After Residency, we examine the long-term impact residency programs have on a librarian’s career and explore their efficacy. Their longevity may imply that residency programs are successful initiatives, but very little data has been gathered to support that. When we look past the appearance of success and ask former residents how residency programs prepare and position them for a career, we found some significant pitfalls.

On paper, my residency experience could be made to seem like a success story: I entered an ARL library as a diversity resident, served as an interim department head during my residency, moved to a full-time, tenure-track department head position, and eventually earned tenure and was promoted. However, the complex and painful reality is that I spent 14 years, 7 months, and 30 days existing as a second-class citizen at an institution where I experienced disturbing levels of verbal abuse, mobbing, bullying, pay inequity, and a host of other dehumanizing behaviors.  I experienced things no one should encounter in a workplace …I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge all the ways working at an ARL Library afforded me opportunities to make sustaining connections that preserved me… Without these external relationships, I doubt I could have earned tenure while working in an openly hostile environment and I seriously doubt I would still be a librarian.

Excerpt from Chapter 13: “Everyone Else Contributes and You Contribute Nothing” by Pambanisha Whaley

In the section, Looking Towards the Future, we look at what can be done to improve resident experiences. The precarious nature of library residency programs is something to deeply consider. Some programs make it clear from the beginning that there is no promise of a permanent librarian position at the end of the program and a growing number of programs are only for one year. What are residents sacrificing to pursue a residency opportunity? How can we make those sacrifices worthwhile?

Rather than diversifying the workforce in a permanent, meaningful way, residencies place early-career librarians in a precarious position. Turn the residency down and perhaps you do not get another chance, especially with large, esteemed institutions that will help bolster your CV. Accept the residency and you gain valuable experience, but you are contingent labor and may find yourself spending much of your residency worried about what happens if you have to relocate to a new city, sometimes many states away from family, and find yourself unemployed in two or three years. This is the tightrope I walk today. I enjoyed my residency and it was rewarding both personally and professionally… Knowing what I know now, I believe I would do it again, but I would be more strategic about how I did it. 

Excerpt from Chapter 21: “Privileged Position: My Journey into Second-Career Librarianship” by Theresa Arias

Preethi Gorecki 

is the Communications Librarian at MacEwan University. In 2018, she started her career in librarianship as a Library Faculty Diversity Fellow at Grand Valley State University. Preethi holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Concordia University in Montréal, Québec, Canada and a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree from the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada. Her research focuses primarily on diversifying librarianship and academia.

Arielle Petrovich

earned her MS in Library and Information Science from Simmons College in 2017. She began her career as a Librarian-in-Residence at the University of Notre Dame. Arielle is currently the College Archivist at Beloit College.

Leave a comment

Filed under Author's Corner

Author’s Corner: Six things you should not do when applying for a library job

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 Deloris Jackson Foxworth, who wrote Landing a Library Job.  

In this post, written just for Hiring Librarians, Deloris discusses application materials. She identifies six key things to avoid and offers alternative practices to pursue when applying for a library or information science job.   

I think you will find her perspective interesting. For more of Deloris’ insights, the citation for her book is:

Foxworth, D. (2019). Landing a Library Job. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers 

Application materials can reveal a lot about an applicant. While there are many important things to include, there are also some things you should not include (or do) with your application materials. 

Tip 1: Do not include references unless they are requested. You can provide those at a later time. Instead use the space you would devote to references on your resume to highlight your skills or experiences and use your cover letter to mention any significant connections to the company or the industry. You could include a name of a current or former employee of the organization. See two variations of this below. “I learned of the children’s librarian position at ABC Library from assistant director John Doe. We agree that my knowledge of children’s literature and experience in a daycare make me a great candidate for the children’s librarian position.” “When John Doe told me of the position, I knew I would be a good fit because my experience managing the circulation system at XYZ University Library has prepared me to succeed as the next circulation manager at ABC Library.” 

Tip 2: Do not include personal social media links. Instead create a professional profile on LinkedIn and provide a link on your resume, cover letter, or both. Be sure to complete your LinkedIn profile and add your recent employment history. Consider adding key tasks or accomplishments with each position. You can even indicate you are currently “open to finding a new job” under your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn can also be used to demonstrate those connections mentioned in tip 1. You can request recommendations from other LinkedIn users and those will be highlighted on your LinkedIn profile. 

Tip 3: Do not make your cover letter more than one page. Instead use your resume or CV to give a more complete picture of your experience. The primary purpose of a cover letter is to show your interest in the position and peak the interest of the hiring professional by briefly introducing your qualifications. Simply highlight some of your key skills or experience that relate directly to requirements in the job description. 

Tip 4: Do not include hobbies on your resume. Instead focus on key skills from previous (and current) employment, awards and honors, education, professional memberships, volunteer opportunities, and other recognitions. The one exception to this rule may be if your hobby shows experience you don’t have in your professional work. For example, if you are applying for a programming position but have never worked in that type of role as an employee your hobby may be a great way to demonstrate your potential. If your hobby is cake decorating and you organize a community cake show each year then you may want to include your work in organizing the show. Those skills can be very valuable in demonstrating your program planning experience. 

Tip 5: Do not submit word or google docs unless the application specifically asks for that format. Instead submit your cover letter and resume as a PDF. PDFs are device-agnostic meaning they will display correctly regardless of the device being used to open the document. This is important since many computers and apps use different fonts that may not be available on all devices. This will ensure the screener sees your application materials as you intended. 

Tip 6: Do not be generic in your cover letter. Instead be sure to tailor your cover letter to the specific job and hiring library. At a bare minimum this means identifying the position you are applying for and the hiring organization in the introductory paragraph and the closing paragraph. This shows your intention of applying for that specific position. To further customize your cover letter, identify some of the key skills or requirements from the actual job description you can highlight. Then provide specific examples from your own experience and/or education that demonstrates how you meet or exceed those skills or requirements. If the job description asks for experience working a reference desk but you have not worked in a library yet, consider other customer service or information seeking skills you have gained and highlight how those skills are transferable and have prepared you to succeed as a reference librarian. Consider doing the same thing for your resume. For example, if the job description indicates a library science degree and an additional degree make sure your resume lists all your degrees under education. If the job description asks for experience working a reference desk but you have no direct experience be sure to identify and phrase your duties as a customer service representative as they relate to the reference job. 

Avoiding these six things and focusing on the alternate recommendations may move your application from the submitted pile to the interview pile. Add to these tips the wealth of information found in the book Landing a Library Job and gain control of your job search process. Landing a Library job has chapters devoted to search engines and criteria, alternate careers, interviewing, professional development, and much more.

headshot of Deloris Foxworth. She has a broad smile and wears glasses.

Deloris Jackson Foxworth is currently an instructional designer in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment at the University of Kentucky (UK). She began her career at UK in 2014 teaching information literacy and critical thinking to undergraduate students in the Information Communication Technology program. Before UK, she spent two years as the technology manager for a public library. Deloris holds masters degrees in library science and communication, a graduate certificate in career services, and a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Leave a comment

Filed under Author's Corner

Author’s Corner: Interviewing in an era of Zoom

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 Meggan Press, who wrote Get the Job: Academic Library Hiring for the New Librarian.  

In this piece, freshly written for Hiring Librarians, Meggan provides some excellent tips and encouragement for Zoom interviews. 

I appreciate both her goal of broadening access to insider information about academic hiring and the quality of her advice. I think you will appreciate it too. 

For more of Meggan’s insights, her book is:

Press, M. (2020). Get the Job: Academic Library Hiring for the New Librarian. Association of College and Research Libraries. 

In July 2020, I published a book called Get the Job: Academic Library Hiring for the New Librarian with ACRL Press. The timing was not ideal given that the final edits had been completed in April 2020. Given the way that the world shifted due the pandemic, I welcome the opportunity to offer a brief follow-up with tips on interviewing in an era of Zoom.

Get the Job: Academic Library Hiring for the New Librarian is the quintessential primer on the job search for librarians interested in a career in academic libraries. New librarians often seek information from more experienced professionals on the subject of the academic job search. As a form, the academic job search is a very specific process that has only superficial resemblance to a job search in other fields. Much of the practical information about the academic library job search exists and is communicated in mentoring relationships and informal communication. The informal and serendipitous nature of this informal communication reveals problematic constructs in the academic hiring process. Those who are lucky and privileged enough to find a supportive and enthusiastic mentor have access to information and resources that are not available to all, and the fact that much of the information communicated in these mentoring relationships is not formally communicated furthers the privilege gap. This book attempts to broaden access to this information by formalizing much of the practical and emotional assistance conveyed in a mentoring experience so that aspiring professionals will find the comprehensive support they need to launch a successful job hunt, thrive in the interview process, and transition to a new job. Although it is targeted to people looking to enter the academic library job market, much of the content can be useful to general job-seekers, regardless of library type. This book is primarily intended for people who are hoping to become academic librarians, either as new graduates of library schools or for those who may not be finding the success they hoped for in the academic job search. Though it is predominantly intended for relatively inexperienced job seekers, the advice contained within can be useful for anyone interested in the academic job market, regardless of experience level.

Two big things have changed in academic interviewing since the pandemic. Firstly, whereas before the pandemic job seekers could anticipate needing to travel for a final interview, now interviews may be in-person, remote, or even hybrid. An in-person interview may offer a Zoom option for attendees, or some parts of the interview may be exclusively in person and others exclusively via Zoom. This presents significant challenges for candidates in keeping track of and being present for all these modalities equally or even simultaneously. 

Second, increasingly interviews have become multi-day affairs. No longer confined to a one-day, 9-5, in-person interview schedule, you may find your interview taking place in 30-60 minute chunks across a week or more. This is advantageous for institutions in coordinating scheduling, but a disadvantage for candidates. Interviews are disruptive to a life no matter when or where they take place, but these days- or week-long interviews present a particular challenge, especially since as a new job seeker, you are likely interviewing at multiple places at once. Both these big changes have positives (mostly for the institutions who can make the interviews more widely available) and negatives (mostly for the candidates of whom more is expected under circumstances that already carry a lot of stress and high expectations.) Here are a few tips to help you navigate these changes:

Request a moderator and set communication expectations

You can’t moderate a chat, present, and answer live questions all at the same time. This is a recipe for disaster. Ideally, you will be assigned a moderator for a presentation or interview who will work with you to take care of these details. Clarify well beforehand if a moderator will be present so you know what to expect. If no moderator is assigned, set expectations early for the audience or committee by stating where your primary attention will be and when that will shift. For example, “Thank you so much for your time today. In order to keep my attention focused on my presentation and given the different modes of participation in this interview, I will ask you to hold your questions to the end. At that time, I will prioritize in-person questions and ask that someone in the room bring my attention to any questions that may have popped up via chat.”

Talking into the void

The very worst of Zoom is the feeling of disconnect and talking into the void. This is not a phenomenon new to Zoom; this is a very typical experience of a phone interview in the pre-pandemic days. It is easy to start talking and just not stop when you have limited feedback from others in the room. More talking is not necessarily advantageous. It rarely adds significant impact to an answer and it reduces the number of questions that can be asked, thereby limiting your ability to show the full scope of your skills. When in doubt, talk less and allow others the opportunity to follow up if your answer is incomplete or misdirected. The perennially polite conclusion, “Does that answer your question?” works for in-person, Zoom, or hybrid contexts.

Project professionalism

Put effort into arranging the surroundings within your Zoom screen to project professionalism, clarity, and approachableness. It is well worth your time to set up a temporary Zoom interview space that can be torn down when the job hunt season has passed. Consider the height of your camera and the sightlines. If you are using an internal laptop camera, as many of us are, consider propping your laptop on a stack of books so that the camera is comfortably at eye level rather than looking up at you from below, or above. Avoid using a camera on a second monitor unless it is the camera you are looking into directly. Cameras that are not centered on the face with the eyes looking directly ahead give the impression of disinterest. It is very hard from the committee’s side to feel connected to a candidate when you are talking to the side of their head via a screen. Be sure you are visible by considering your light source and background. Backlighting, such as that from a window behind you, makes it difficult to see your face and facial expressions. You don’t need to invest in special décor to make your Zoom office seem like a television set. It is often very effective to sit with your back close to a wall and a table in front of you. Add or remove art, posters, and other décor on a temporary basis for the purpose of the interview if it pleases you. While inviting your whole interview committee into your kitchen is very friendly, it’s not particularly professional or appropriate to the circumstances. If you truly have no other choice, the blurred effect Zoom filter can help to minimize environmental distractions. 

Ask for what you need

Your needs can’t be met if you don’t make them known. All polite and reasonable requests should be addressed by the committee or institution to the best of their ability. If you can’t see or hear people on the other side of a Zoom, ask them to move closer together or to repeat themselves. If an extended-day schedule isn’t going to work or is going to set you up for failure at your other responsibilities (school, work, family, likely other interviews), you have the right to respectfully request that the schedule be as compressed as possible. Carry your expectations loosely – it may not be possible to arrange every nuance to your needs – but a polite request will not be held against you.

Good luck to all you new job-seekers! I look forward to welcoming you to the profession!

Meggan Press is the Undergraduate Education Librarian at Indiana University – Bloomington. As the administrator of IUB’s information literacy grant program, she works closely with faculty and librarians to integrate information literacy throughout the curriculum in many different subject areas. She has a particular interest in developing librarians as teachers, from MLIS through professionals, and in that capacity facilitates a thriving professional community of practice as well as instructing library school students through IUB’s program. She writes and presents on topics related to developing librarians, library instruction, and instructional design. She can be reached at

Leave a comment

Filed under Author's Corner

Author’s Corner: Hiring Systems Librarians

I’m so pleased to be able to bring back the Author’s Corner series! This series features excerpts or guest posts from authors of books about some aspect of LIS careers.

Today’s post is an excerpt from Systems Librarianship, written by Brighid Gonzales. We last heard from Brighid a little over a month ago, when she shared her research into a decade’s worth of job postings for library technologists. Among other things, it provides some insight into which languages folks are actually talking about when they tell LIS workers to “Learn to code.”

In this excerpt from Systems Librarianship, Brighid is again analyzing job postings. Read further to find out the skills and knowledge that libraries hope to find when hiring for this field. Or if you’d like to check out the whole book, the citation is:

Gonzales, B.M. (2020). Systems Librarianship: A Practical Guide for Librarians. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Systems Librarianship, published in 2020 as part of Rowman & Littlefield’s Practical Guides series, takes a practical and pragmatic look at the skills, education, and experiences of systems librarianship for new and early career librarians and LIS students. It contains informative chapters about the integrated library system, current and emerging library technologies, resources for support, and over a dozen interviews with various types of professional systems librarians. The book also includes a chapter on hiring trends in systems librarianship, which contains useful information about salaries, required skills, and job searching, and which is excerpted here. Systems Librarianship is available from Rowman & Littlefield in both paperback and ebook formats.

“Looking across a variety of recent job listings certain patterns in employer expectations begin to appear which can be a useful starting point. In the examination of 55 recent systems librarian job listings from the Code4Lib jobs website, a number of specific technology skills, as well as a variety of soft skills, emerged as important to employers hiring systems librarians today. [The table below] lists each of the required or preferred skills, knowledge, and responsibilities listed throughout the job postings and the number of times each was mentioned in postings for academic libraries, public libraries, special libraries, and overall. These job listings skewed heavily toward academic libraries, with 42 of the total, 10 from special libraries, and three from public libraries. While this likely skews the results somewhat, it appears that there is not a great deal of difference in the skills needed for systems librarians across library types.

Required or Preferred Systems Skills, Knowledge, and ResponsibilitiesAcademic LibrariesPublic LibrariesSpecial LibrariesTotal (Number)Total (Percent)
ILS/LSP/Discovery systems (Alma, Primo, SirsiDynix, EDS)35374581.8%
Programming/scripting languages (APIs, HTML, Perl, Python, XML)31494480.0%
Cataloging/Metadata standards or tools (MARC, Dublin Core, MarcEdit)29263767.3%
Communication Skills28163563.6%
Collaborative/able to work in teams27073461.8%
Authentication and/or proxy systems (LDAP, Shibboleth, Ezproxy)24232952.7%
Project management/planning skills18352647.3%
Relational database systems and tools (Access, Oracle, MySQL, SQL)15262341.8%
Digital repository (Dspace, Omeka, Digital Commons, CONTENTdm)13072036.4%
Link resolvers (OpenURL, SFX)14021629.1%
Website development11131527.3%
ILL systems (ILLiad, etc.)12011323.6%
Content management systems (Drupal, WordPress)7141221.8%
Linux/Unix/Windows server administration8211120.0%
Analytical skills6041018.2%
Linux/Unix/Windows operating systems8111018.2%
Liaison to IT700712.7%
Problem solving skills502712.7%
Supervisory skills/experience601712.7%
Archives management system502712.7%
Electronic resources management system50059.1%
Traditional Library ResponsibilitiesAcademic LibrariesPublic LibrariesSpecial LibrariesTotal (Number)Total (Percent)
Collection Development800814.5%

From the job postings examined, the most important skills needed for modern systems librarians are a familiarity or experience with integrated library systems (ILS), library services platforms (LSP), and discovery systems, knowledge of or experience with some type of programming or scripting language, and a familiarity or experience with cataloging and metadata standards. In addition, soft skills such as communication skills and the ability to work collaboratively or with teams also ranked highly overall, along with project management skills and the ability to conduct technology training. Among the least mentioned skills were networking, experience with electronic resources management systems (ERMS), and experience with LibGuides.

In addition to the more traditional systems and technology knowledge, many employers also wanted systems librarians who could take part in the more traditional librarian duties of reference, instruction, and collection development, primarily for positions in academic libraries. For students still enrolled in graduate school, this data suggests that while taking as many technology-related courses as possible, including at least one programming or scripting language, is important, those interested in working in academic libraries will not want to disregard the more traditional librarian courses offered, including courses in reference, instruction, collection development, cataloging, and metadata.”

Brighid M. Gonzales, Assistant Director of Systems and MetadataOur Lady of the Lake University

Brighid M. Gonzales is currently the Assistant Director of Systems and Metadata at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas, and previously served as the Systems and Web Services Librarian for seven years. She is the author of the book Systems Librarianship: A Practical Guide for Librarians (Rowman and Littlefield, 2020), as well as other articles and book chapters on library technology.

Leave a comment

Filed under 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?  

Leave a comment

Filed under Author's Corner, News and Administration

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Author's Corner

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Author's Corner, Special