Tag Archives: Library and Information Science

Stats and Graphs: 246 Responses on What Candidates Should Wear

The last time we looked at stats and graphs for what candidates should wear was October 2012.  We’ve had a few more responses trickle in, but mostly I just want to revisit these stats.

number of responses

I also want to add my standard disclaimer that I’m using Google forms, and the charts it generates cut off some of the answer choices.  It takes me a while to do a post like this, and even longer to make it prettier in Excel, so I’ll ask you to please just excuse how sloppy it looks.  This is a labor of love, and I’m a busy lady.

Also I don’t use probability sampling, so what happens in the survey can’t be assumed to be what happens in the larger population.  And this survey mashes together the responses of academic, public, special, school and other library organizations (although you’ll see that the majority of responses are from Academic librarians).

These responses have been collected between the survey’s launch, on 9/3/2012 and 11/30/2013.  We are still collecting responses!  If you want to take the survey, go to: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibOUTFITsurvey 

The survey was co-written by Jill from Librarian Hire Fashion.  Want to talk more about interview outfits?  That’s the Tumblr to do it on!

And now the


What Candidates Should Wear

Should the candidate wear a suit to the interview?

wear a suit

Yes, absolutely! It shows respect and professionalism 48   20%
Probably, yes (but it’s ok if the candidate wears something a little less formal) 132   54%
Probably not (but it’s ok if the candidate does wear one) 36   15%
No way! It shows a lack of understanding about my library and/or the nature of librarianship 2    1%
I don’t care 12    5%
Other 16    7%


An outfit with a coordinated blazer and trousers:

blazer trousers

Counts as a suit 181   74%
Is totally different 22    9%
I do not know and/or care 30   12%
Other 13    5%

Bare arms are inappropriate in an interview, even in the summer. 

bare arms

True 99   40%
False 66   27%
I don’t care 46   19%
Other 35   14%


If a woman wears a skirt to an interview, should she also wear pantyhose? 


Never, pantyhose is for my grandmother 10    4%
No, but it’s not a dealbreaker 84   34%
Either pantyhose or tights. Bare legs are inappropriate 49   20%
Yes, true professionals always wear pantyhose 11    4%
Other 92   37%

Women should wear make-up to an interview: 

make up

Always 13    5%
I don’t care, as long as it’s not over-the-top 108   44%
I don’t care what’s on the face, it’s what’s in the brain that counts 103   42%
Never 0    0%
Other 22    9%


Do you expect different levels of formality of dress, depending on the position you’re hiring for?


Yes, the higher the position, the more formal I expect the candidate to dress 190   77%
No 38   15%
I don’t care 9    4%
Other 9    4%


Which jewelry may candidates wear:


Single, simple necklace, bracelet, and/or ring 181   75%
A few simple necklaces, bracelets, and/or rings 177   73%
All of the simple necklaces, bracelets, and rings he or she can load on 43   18%
Arty or more elaborate necklaces, bracelets, or rings 139   57%
Nose Ring (nostril) 86   36%
Eyebrow Ring, Monroe piercing, septum piercing, or other face piercing 61   25%
Earrings 188   78%
Multiple Ear Piercings 136   56%
Large gauge ear jewelry (stretched ears) 49   20%
Other 76   31%
People may select more than one checkbox, so percentages may add up to more than 100%.

Which hair colors are acceptable for candidates:

hair colors

All of them, even pink 129   52%
Natural colors (black, brown, red, blonde, gray) 89   36%
Other 28   11%


The way a candidate dresses should:

neutral or personality

Show personality 60   24%
Be fairly neutral 99   40%
I don’t really care how a candidate dresses 26   11%
Other 61   25%

What the Library Wears

On a scale of  1 to 5, where one is too dressed up for your workplace, khakis and a polo shirt are:

khakis and a polo

1 –
Too dressed up for my workplace
1    0%
2 4    2%
3 177   72%
4 37   15%
5 –
Too casual for my workplace
15    6%


What’s the dress code at your library/organization?

dress code

Business formal 8    3%
Business casual 146   59%
Casual 51   21%
I don’t even know what any of that means 2    1%
Other 39   16%

Are there any specific items of clothing, etc. that are forbidden by your dress code?

forbidden items

Jeans 65   28%
Flip flops 113   49%
Visible Tattoos 28   12%
Short skirts/shorts 94   41%
Tank tops 98   42%
Logos/band insignia/slogans 78   34%
Sneakers/trainers 36   16%
N/A: We wear what we want! 50   22%
Other 135   58%
People may select more than one checkbox, so percentages may add up to more than 100%.

Librarians at your organization wear:

Name tags 102   61%
Badges 46   27%
Uniforms 1    1%
Shirt, waistcoat/vest, or other single piece of clothing issued by the library 6    4%
Other 57   34%
People may select more than one checkbox, so percentages may add up to more than 100%.


What type of institution do you hire for?


Academic Library 134   54%
Public Library 80   33%
School Library 2    1%
Special Library 12    5%
Archives 9    4%
Other 9    4%

Where are you?



Northeastern US 61   25%
Midwestern US 65   26%
Southern US 60   24%
Western US 37   15%
Canada 9    4%
UK 5    2%
Australia/New Zealand 1    0%
Other 8    3%

Where are you?



Urban area 80   33%
Suburban area 56   23%
City/town 74   30%
Rural area 31   13%
Other 5    2%

How many staff members are at your library?

numbers of staff


0-10 61   25%
10-50 115   47%
50-100 31   13%
100-200 22    9%
200+ 15    6%

Are you a librarian?

r u lib


Yes 222   90%
No 6    2%
It’s complicated 18    7%

Are you now or have you ever been:

r u now

a hiring manager (you are hiring people that you will directly or indirectly supervise) 179   74%
a member of a hiring or search committee 207   85%
human resources 8    3%
Other 6    2%
People may select more than one checkbox, so percentages may add up to more than 100%.

What do you think?  What should we have asked?  I realize we don’t talk about religious garb, or neckties… what else did we miss? Please comment below or email hiringlibrariansATgmail.


Filed under Stats and Graphs, What Should Candidates Wear?

Further Questions: Would Your Library Consider Hiring Ex-Felons?

This week’s question is one I saw asked by Lassana Magassa on the NMRT listserv.  The answers he gathered from this and some other listservs, as well as some thoughtful commentary, are posted on his blog.  Lassana’s question is:

I have received a question from a prison librarian in Ohio regarding the hiring of ex-felons by a public library. These individuals have been working as inmate library clerks. They have the skill-set for circulation desk and book shelving duties. Also they have entered new book titles into the library’s catalog database and managed circulation records. They have been dependable staff members. Would your library consider hiring ex-felons?

I don’t have any special problem hiring an ex-felon.  I would probably want to know more about their offense (e.g. were they convicted of stealing rare books from a university library?  Not good).  I would have to check and see what regulations the university and the state may have about this.  I do believe there is some mention of it on the application, but I don’t know what they do with that information.  We don’t require any background checks. Because we are a university, we consider our students to be adults and are not particularly concerned about work with children, as a school or public library might be.


Sherle Abramson-BluhmOur University policy does not preclude the hiring of ex-felons.
“An individual with a criminal conviction is not automatically excluded from employment. Appointing units, in consultation with the applicable Human Resources Office, will assess any criminal conviction history which is returned as a result of the criminal records check. The Office of the General Counsel will be consulted as needed. This individualized assessment will consider the nature and gravity of the offense, the time elapsed since the offense or completion of the sentence, and its relevance to the particular position sought. “
Obviously if a candidate neglected to include this information and it was discovered during a back-ground check, they would no longer be considered.
As a manager, I would not rule a candidate out for this reason.  With the help of Counsel I would want to know how much I can ask in an interview, and I would want to do that in a one-on-one conversation not in a group setting.  If hired, I would leave it up to the new hire to reveal any information.  I am fortunate in that I mostly hire entry level positions, so introductions do not generally include much background information and it need never be an issue.
– Sherle Abramson-Bluhm, Head, Print Acquisitions, University of Michigan

Thank you as always to the above for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.com.

And thank you for reading!  I was so touched, I was moved to kick the crutches from my comment.

1 Comment

Filed under Academic, Further Questions

Reader Response Requested: How Do You Stay in Touch after a Conference?

This week, you are the experts.  I’m asking people who read Hiring Librarians:

Do you have any tips for staying in touch with new contacts, for example potential future employers you might have met at a very large library conference?  What should you do, and how frequently?

Here’s a response to get you started:

I think LinkedIn could be a really convenient way to keep your name on their radar—post relevant, sincere comments or links at least weekly. I also have been able to stay in contact with a few professional contacts through the exchange of materials. Take advantage of what opportunities present themselves through our regular work. (These aren’t librarians that I’m looking at to hire me, but it keeps us working together.) Take the opportunity to request ILLs from a library more frequently, if applicable. I met one librarian who works at a tribal library and archive; I would send her materials that our patrons donated to us that weren’t of much local interest but would be of greater use to her patrons. I’ve developed relationships with other librarians elsewhere in my region and in my state by working at district-level and state-level committees, and by writing multi-library grants.

I think it’s important, for new or looking-to-move librarians, to be in touch with lots of library staff, no matter where those staff are in the hiring hierarchy. You might not be acquainted with the library director, but knowing the children’s librarian, or the head of AV, would give you a leg-up over other candidates.

– Sarah Morrison, Adult Services Librarian, Neill Public Library, Pullman, Washington

Please tell us your tips and strategies in the comments!



Filed under Further Answers, Further Questions

Job Hunter’s Web Guide: ACRL Residency Interest Group

It seems that each year, the number of LIS graduates increases, and the number of entry-level jobs decreases.  And the bar for those jobs is set higher and higher.  It is difficult for new grads to get their feet on the path to becoming future library leaders.  I’m interested in what we, as a profession, are doing about this problem.  

So I’m glad to present a resource which may really help new grads: the ACRL Residency Interest group.  Residencies provide a structured entrance into the profession, and the ACRL group, along with it’s associated website, provides some good insight into how you can obtain such an entrance.  Hannah K. Lee, who is the Outgoing Convener of the ACRL Residency Interest Group as well as Assistant Librarian, University of Delaware Library, Student Multimedia Design Center, was kind enough to answer my questions about the site and the group.

ACRL Residency Interest Group

What is it? Please give us your elevator speech!

The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Residency Interest Group (RIG) is a group of library residents (both current and former), residency program coordinators, library administrators, diversity officers, and human resources professionals from across the country. A residency is post-degree work experience, often from one to three years, designed as an entry level program for recent graduates of library and information science programs. The aim of this group is to encourage interested parties to more broadly share their expertise regarding residency programs and to make it both available and accessible for future residents and coordinators. It was also founded as a resource for newer members, particularly library school students, who may be considering a residency program upon graduation.

When was it started? Why was it started?

In 2008, ACRL amended their bylaws allowing for communities to be created within ACRL that had a specific area of focus but that weren’t represented by Discussion Groups or Sections. They called these Interest Groups. An interest group is a network of individuals who have come together to share their knowledge and expertise with one another, and to help solve problems across organizational boundaries with those who may face similar challenges. The Residency Interest Group was the very first Interest Group to be formed by ACRL.

We have several goals:

  • To centralize information regarding residency program availability
  • To maintain a directory of past and present program participants
  • To garner interest and support for the group’s activities through the production of research projects related to residency programs
  • To serve as an information clearinghouse and resource for institutions planning, managing, or researching residency programs
  • To support potential residents, new graduates, and early career librarians in their professional development through a variety of resources including guest writers, podcasts, and downloadable documentation

Who runs it?

RIG is completely volunteer-based and is part of ACRL’s committee structure. ACRL, in turn, is a division within the American Library Association (ALA). RIG’s leadership includes the incoming convener, convener, outgoing convener, and web editors.

Are you a “career expert”? What are your qualifications?

I wouldn’t consider myself a career “expert,” and librarianship isn’t my first career. But I’ve learned a lot along the way, and I’m always happy to give advice to new graduates and job seekers. As a college student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I dabbled in every possible field you can image– psychology, French, architecture, chemistry, history, photography– before eventually graduating with a B.A. in English Literature and a minor in Education. I started my professional career as a high school English teacher in Chicago, where I taught British Literature and Film Studies. I then set my sights abroad, and ended up teaching in the Paris, France region for a couple of years at the junior high level. I returned to the States—and to my alma mater– to continue my studies at the graduate level. While at the U of I, I taught various rhetoric and composition courses, including ART 250: Writing with Video. I received my M.A in English with a specialization in Writing Studies in 2008 and my M.S. in Library and Information Science in 2009. I have worked as a Substitute Adult Services Reference Librarian at the Urbana Free Library, as a Librarian Intern at Harper College Library in Palatine, IL, and as an Affiliate Assistant Librarian and Pauline A. Young Resident at the Student Multimedia Design Center at the University of Delaware Library. I’m currently an Assistant Librarian in the Student Multimedia Design Center. The Center is a one of the largest multimedia facilities in an academic library in the nation. During my residency, my responsibilities included assisting students in creating multimedia content, collaborating on interdepartmental library projects such as videos and interactive tutorials, digital literacy instruction, and staff and student training, among others. In my permanent position, I began a program for multimedia literacy instruction that was launched in Fall 2012. I work collaboratively with faculty across departments, consulting with them on assignment design and teaching class sessions on digital storytelling, production basics, video editing, etc.

Who is your target audience?

Our target audience is new library and information science graduates as well as people who are interested in starting library residency programs.

What’s the best way to use your site? Should users consult it daily? Or as needed? Should they already know what they need help with, or can they just noodle around?

For recent graduates who are looking for a job, the best way to use the site is to consult it on a regular basis to see if there are any new residency positions that have opened up. They can also subscribe to the Residency Interest Group listserv, because most of the jobs that are posted on the website also get sent out through the listserv. To subscribe to the listserv, go to http://lists.ala.org/sympa. We also have regular posts from current and former residents in our Residency Diaries series, and although we haven’t had a podcast recently, we also have a Newbie Dispatches podcast series on a variety of topics of interest to new librarians.

Does your site provide:

√ Job Listings √ Answers to reader questions √ Interviews
√ Articles/literature √ Links √ Research √ The opportunity for interaction

Should readers also look for you on social media? 

√ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/ACRL-Residency-Interest-Group/113621396297?fref=ts

Do you charge for anything on your site?


Can you share any stories about job hunters that found positions after using your site?

I actually found my residency through the ACRL Residency Interest Group! I hadn’t even heard of residencies when I was in library school, and I stumbled upon a job ad for a residency program when I was searching for jobs. This piqued my interest, and I started looking for other residency programs. I came across the Residency Interest Group website and subscribed to the listserv, and not too long after, there was a posting for a job opening at the University of Delaware for their Pauline A Young Residency program. I applied for the position, and one thing led to another to bring me to where I am today. My residency was for two years, but they ended up offering me a permanent position midway through my residency. I’m still at the University of Delaware, and am very thankful for my experiences as a resident.

Anything else you’d like to share with my readers about your site in particular, or about library hiring/job hunting in general?

Hannah LeeDon’t get discouraged! It might take a few tries to get your dream job, but in the meantime, don’t be afraid of taking on positions to help build up your experience. If you want to work in a university library, you might have to move to a location you’re not familiar with. If you want to develop your career as an academic librarian, it’s something that you’ll have to seriously consider. Good luck!


Filed under Academic, Entry Level, Job Hunters Web Guide, MLIS Students

Researcher’s Corner: Reference Competencies from the Academic Employers’ Perspective

In order to be competitive in our tight job market, I think that’s it’s not enough just to be able to describe one’s skills well.  Job hunters, both in and out of library school, need to be able to manage their own professional development in a way that the skills they gain align with the competencies required by their desired jobs.

This is why I’m really excited to present Laura Saunders’ guest post today. She describes research she conducted on people who hire academic reference librarians, in order to determine what the most important competencies are.  If you’d like to read a longer, more formal account of her research, please see:

Identifying Core Reference Competencies from an Employers’ Perspective: Implications for Instruction (2012). College and Research Libraries, 73(4)

Reference librarian was one of the top five job titles reported in Library Journal’s annual Placement & Salary Survey for 2012 , suggesting that, as with Mark Twain, reports of the death of reference have been largely exaggerated. Still, the fact that there are reference jobs to be had does not necessarily mean they are easy to get, and the same Library Journal’s article reports stiff competition for those jobs (Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science was number one in job placement!). One of the best ways for aspiring reference librarians to succeed in the job market is to have a clear understanding of job expectations, to develop the necessary skills and proficiencies, and be able to demonstrate and discuss those abilities on their resume and in job interviews. In this column, I share the results of a survey of academic reference librarians indicating what skills and knowledge they believe is important in the field right now.

The Study

In 2011, my colleague, Mary Wilkins Jordan and I developed and implemented a nationwide survey of practicing reference librarians to gather input on what competencies are most important for reference librarians in the field right now. While we used essentially the same survey, I concentrated on academic libraries, while Mary surveyed public librarians. In each case, we took a random sample of libraries from across the country, in order to get a broad and representative overview. We gave the librarians a list of 33 competencies that we had compiled using Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) guidelines as well as reviews of the literature, and asked the librarians to choose the ones they thought were important to reference librarians, and then to indicate the three most important. The survey closed with an open-ended question asking the respondents to describe any skills or qualifications that they found to be lacking in recent graduates or new hires.


The respondents chose competencies grouped into three categories: general skills, technical skills, and interpersonal skills, which are summarized in the following table.

General Technology Personal/Interpersonal
Second Master’s degree Online searching Verbal Communication
Budgeting Programming Written Communication
Foreign language Web design Listening
Marketing Web maintenance Working in teams
Supervisory experience Social media Approachability
Ability to conduct research/publish Hardware troubleshooting Comfort with instruction/teaching
Knowledge of cataloging Software troubleshooting Self-motivated
Assessment/evaluation Chat/IM Stress management
Customer service Building relationships with co-workers
Familiarity with Paper Sources Building relationships with other professional colleagues
Familiarity with Online Sources Conflict management
Search Skills Adaptability/Flexibility
Negotiating Sense of humor
Current Events Awareness Organizational awareness
Traditional Reference Interview

Throughout the survey, respondents emphasized skills and qualities that relate to the question-answering and customer service aspects of reference. For instance, general and online search skills, as well as familiarity with both online and print reference sources were among the top rated general and technical skills. Interestingly, valuing knowledge of print resources was not correlated with either the responding librarians’ age or number of years in the field. In other words, it is not just older librarians or those who have been out of school for a long time, but a wide range of practicing reference librarians who seem to believe print resources are still important. These findings emphasize that it is still important for reference librarians to be familiar with a wide range of resources, and to be able to search and use those sources efficiently and effectively in order to help their patrons find information.

While librarians certainly need the skills to search and use resources to find information, the survey also confirms that the patron is the heart of reference services. Customer service and interpersonal skills to be able to interact with a diverse patron base are among the most important for any reference librarian. Five of the interpersonal skills—verbal communication skills, listening, approachability, comfort with instruction, and adaptability/flexibility—stood out as especially important, having been selected by more than 90% of respondents. These five are closely followed by written communication skills and sense of humor. However, it is worth noting that every competency listed under interpersonal skills was chosen as important by more than 60% of respondents. Clearly, the ability to interact and communicate with a wide range of patrons is essential for successful reference librarians.

Similarly, under technical skills, respondents indicated that ability to communicate with patrons using chat and instant messaging is important. Among the general skills customer service was the second highest rated, selected as important by 94% of respondents. Similarly, although it was not one of the top three, the ability to conduct a reference interview was deemed important by more than three-quarters of respondents. Taken together, these results suggest that being able to interact effectively with patrons and to provide a high level of customer service are among the most important attributes of a reference librarian. This is not to suggest that other technical skills are unimportant. Software troubleshooting, web design and web maintenance are all highly valuable skills, according to the survey.

The following figures give a breakdown of the rating of skills in each category:

Saunders Fig 1

Figure 1
Percentage of Respondents Choosing General Skills as Important

Saunders Fig 2

Figure 2
Percentage of Respondents Selecting Technical Skills Important

Saunders Fig 3

Figure 3
Percentage of Respondents Choosing Interpersonal Skills as Important

In the final section of the survey, we asked respondents if they saw any skills or qualities lacking in their new hires. It’s important to note that many respondents indicated that their new hires were doing very well, and praised their knowledge and enthusiasm. That said, some respondents said that their new librarians seemed to rely on the same freely available web sources (such as Google and Wikipedia) that their patrons used, and if they were not able to help the patrons using those sources, they did not seem to know where else to go. These participants worried that their new librarians were not adding any value to the research process. Similarly, some respondents suggested that new librarians they worked with did not always have strong interpersonal skills, or were not adept at working with diverse or difficult patrons.


There may be plenty of competition for reference jobs in academic libraries, but applicants with strong interpersonal skills and solid knowledge of searching and sources will have an edge. There are several things a current student can do to strengthen her resume and gain more of that edge.

Many LIS programs offer, or even require, an introductory reference course, and while this will likely give you a good base of knowledge, it is important to remember it is just an introduction. Anyone interested in pursuing a career in reference would do well to take ‘advanced’ reference courses that delve more deeply into the resources and services in particular disciplines, such as the sciences, humanities, or social sciences, or in particular settings such as medical or law libraries.

One question students always ask me is whether they will need a second Master’s degree to work in an academic library. The respondents to this survey did not count a second Master’s as highly important, with only 28.2% of participants selecting that competency. It would appear that experience and background with sources and searching generally is considered most important, although it’s also worth noting that librarians at doctoral-granting institutions seemed to value a second Master’s degree more highly than librarians in other academic institutions.

This survey also confirmed the findings of many other studies, that instruction is becoming an ever-more central part of reference. Here again, introductory reference courses will probably address user instruction, but are unlikely to give students a firm grounding or much hands-on experience. Students should seek courses focused on user instruction, especially those that incorporate pedagogy and information literacy, and that give students plenty of practice in speaking in front of groups and actually teaching modules both in-person and online.

Interpersonal skills are a little harder to teach and assess in a classroom environment. Certainly, students could take classes that center on diverse and underserved populations. However, job applicants should also identify any co-curricular or work experience (including volunteering and internships) that involves communication, interpersonal skills, and customer service. Retail jobs and waiting tables, for instance, are both jobs that require a high-level of customer interaction, and could be highlighted for a potential employer.

As I noted earlier, the findings I report here are really only half of the story- the academic library side. My colleague, Mary Wilkins Jordan did a parallel survey of public librarians, and our comparison of the responses of the academic and public practitioners will be featured in an upcoming edition of RUSQ.

I want to finish this post by highlighting a few points. There is a tacit belief in the field that academic and public reference are very different—so much so that practitioners often have a hard time moving to one setting after having worked any length of time in the other setting. Our studies suggest that the differences between reference services in the two types of libraries is actually very subtle, and is more a matter of different emphasis than different competencies. Specifically, public librarians seem to put a little more emphasis on the ‘soft’ or interpersonal skills such as customer service and communication, while the academic librarians were somewhat more likely to choose as important ‘hard’ skills such as ability to engage in evaluation and assessment, or research and publication. However, as you can see here, academic reference librarians also value interpersonal skills very highly. So, the differences seem to be more subtle and the similarities more pronounced than is often believed. We hope that this research might spur further research and conversation about the topic.

Laura SaundersLaura Saunders received her PhD from Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science in May 2010.  She holds an M.S.L.I.S from Simmons as well as a B. A. from Boston University in English Literature and Italian.  She worked as a reference librarian and branch manager of the Career Resource Library for Simmons College from 1999 to 2003, where she provided reference and instruction services, as well as participated in collection development, Web page maintenance, and marketing of library services.  While completing her PhD, she worked as an adjunct faculty member.  Currently, she is an Assistant Professor at Simmons College, teaching in the areas of reference, evaluation of information services, information literacy, and academic libraries. Her first book, Information Literacy as a Student Learning Outcome: The Perspective of Institutional Accreditation was published in June 2011. Her research interests include information literacy, assessment, accreditation, reference services, and the place of libraries in higher education.  She has had articles published in The Journal of Academic Librarianship, Library & Information Science Research, College & Research Libraries, and portal: Libraries and the Academy.



Filed under Guest Posts, library research, Public Services/Reference, Researcher's Corner, UK

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.  www.mcfarlandpub.com

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Introducing Sara

Hi Everyone,

Just wanted to take a minute to introduce our new Master Indexer/Transcriber, Sara Beckman.  Sara’s going to streamline our categories and create an index, in order to make the site better organized and therefore more accessible for you, our dear readers.  She’s also already transcribed nearly 20 surveys in her few weeks on board! We’ve got over 400, maybe close to 500 surveys that need to be transcribed, so she’s pretty vital in that capacity as well.  I’ve enjoyed working with her so far, and I hope you will make her feel welcome.  Her bio is below, if you want to get to know her a little better.

Your Pal,


Sara Beckman

Sara Beckman is earning her MLIS from the University of Washington with plans to graduate in June 2014. Sara’s interests lie in combining her love of history with the digital world. She hopes to find a job after graduation working in an archive or special collection helping to both digitize historical documents to help to provide wider access and preserving born-digital documents. She is currently working as a digital asset management intern at Sub Pop Records in Seattle, WA, but has also has worked as a cataloging, research, and archival intern as well as a bookseller at her undergraduate’s university bookstore.

In her free time she is also a librarian that loves to read. Most recently she has discovered comics and hasn’t looked back. You can check out Sara’s professional side on her LinkedIn profile. If you want to get to learn more about her journey through library school you’ll want to visit her blog, Local History Girl.

Photo: Sara Beckman by Flickr user Beckmanse via Creative Commons License

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