ILSS Book Club: Straight from the Stacks

A few weeks ago, I was in the Z section of my school’s library (that’s the library studies section, which is invariably located as inconveniently as possible – in my case, on the sixth floor of our six storey library) and came across a stack of books about LIS careers. My interest continued to grow as I discovered, to my surprise, a promising selection of material from the present decade. Despite not yet being the ILSS, it occurred to me that my classmates would almost certainly be intrigued by this discovery, and that, just as certainly, they would probably not come across it on their own. So without further ado, I present you with the ILSS Book Club!

First up is Straight from the Stacks: A Firsthand Guide to Careers in Library and Information Science by Laura Townsend Kane. The book is divided into chapters covering different areas of librarianship:

  • Public librarianship
  • School media librarianship/child and young adult librarianship
  • Academic librarianship
  • Nontraditional librarianship: corporate and freelance
  • Medical and law librarianship
  • Library directorship

The meat of each chapter consists of “spotlights,” that is, personal stories told by information professionals, detailing exactly what they do in their jobs and offering advice for those considering steering their careers in that direction. These professionals tend to hold prestigious positions and always have interesting stories to tell. Each chapter also lists a good number of job titles within the given area and offers detailed descriptions of each position.

I would recommend this book to anyone with any interest in breaking into the information field. If you’re interested in information but don’t know where to start, start here. It’s a quick read at 155 pages (or even less if you already have some idea of which chapters interest you – the author doesn’t waste any time on information that applies to all information professionals), which means you won’t lose interest partway through, but it also won’t answer all of your questions. Additionally, it’s not the freshest information available: published in 2003, it’s more recent than the creation of Wikipedia but older than Facebook. My other minor criticism is that it doesn’t include any salary information.

So, what are you waiting for? Get thee to a library and ch-check it out!


The future of librarianship

Sometimes it’s not just library school that leaves us feeling uninspired. Take, for example, this article from Library Journal (via the.effing.librarian): Blatant Berry: The Vanishing Librarians. As a library school student (and I’m sure any readers who care enough about these issues to read this blog will agree), it’s obviously frustrating that society seems to place so little value on the skills of information professionals. But if we wring our hands and say, “oh well, there’s nothing a lowly student can do about it,” then what we’ll end up with is a generation of librarians who are apathetic and subservient to the whims of managers and that segment of the population that wants libraries to be like a version of Chapters where all the books are free. So let’s keep two things in mind: first of all, there are plenty of library users out there who value our services. And secondly, it’s a lot easier for our profession to be pushed aside if we’re apathetic and offer no resistance. So let’s focus on what we love about information and use that enthusiasm to prove to management and users that they need us.


I was inspired to start this blog by a workshop hosted by my library school on Friday. It was called Web A Workshop for Information Professionals, and, despite not yet being an information professional, I found all of the presentations both interesting and potentially applicable to my future career. Two of my classmates, Amy Buckland (of informing MUVEs) and Jan Dawson (of Jan Dawson’s part of the blogiverse), put a whole lot of work into organizing the event and also gave a tremendous presentation on librarianship in Second Life. I’d never really considered writing my own blog until I saw John Dupuis (of Confessions of a Science Librarian) present a talk called Blogging for Professional Development. He really sold me on the idea of blogging and made me want to share my ideas with the library community. My other major inspiration was Jessamyn West (of, among others), whose enthusiasm for the future of libraries through Web 2.0 gave me hope for my career.

So, what is the ILSS all about? First and foremost, it’s written by a library school student in the hopes of being read by other library school students, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be something for everyone. My message is that providing access to information is exciting, even if library school isn’t always. I don’t mean this as a criticism of library programs or educators – it’s not their fault that the cataloguing rules of the AACR2 don’t make students want to do their happy dance. I firmly believe in the importance of learning about advanced database search techniques and chi-square tests; however, I’ve learned firsthand that it’s easy to become disillusioned without spending a bit of time thinking about the innovative and fun work going on in the field. Some might see this as a distraction from flowcharts and Dialog searches, but I intend it to be a supplement – my hope is that through this blog, we’ll all learn the things not covered by our classes, the things that our classes are preparing us for.