ILSS Book Club: The Librarian’s Career Guidebook

I’ll admit it: I hardly ever buy books. Fortunately, as a library school student, I feel like I’m supporting libraries, instead of just feeling cheap. At any rate, if you do end up buying one book about librarianship, this should be the one. This is not to say that the quality truly puts the other library career books I’ve read to shame – it’s just that this is a book you could pick up even before you start library school and still find useful years later when you’re in the middle of a career.

The Librarian’s Career Guidebook, edited by Priscilla K. Shontz (also check out this review by another MLIS student) is the longest of the books I’ve come across at 550 pages, but each chapter is written by a different author, and each one is quite brief. I love this format because it means that each topic is covered by someone who is an expert in that field; it also provides variety, and hearing the different voices helps to keep the reader’s interest.

As I already mentioned, this one really covers a lot of ground, from choosing a library program, to experience as an entry-level librarian, to experience as an experienced librarian. Of course, this means that not every article will interest you right now, but if you want to know what life will be like, you can always skip ahead and take a peek. And speaking of peeks, you can find a preview at Google Books.

The section on potential types of jobs covers some careers not covered in other books (unfortunately, the focus is very much on library-related work, so folks in other areas of information studies may be disappointed). Besides the usual suspects of public, academic, school, and special libraries, each of the following gets its own chapter: library consortia, library associations, LIS education (i. e., becoming a prof), vendors, publishing, and freelancing (bonus points for having an article by Jessamyn).

I was excited to see a whole section called “enjoying your career,” because I thought it would be especially appropriate to this blog, but it turns out to be about how to deal with the stress of being a librarian – oops! Maybe students trying to become excited about library school should skip that section.

I think everyone will find something useful in this book. Personally, I’m paying special attention to the chapter on which classes to take to prepare for a career, since it’s time to start thinking about September already.


Email etiquette

Does it drive you nuts when you receive an email riddled with spelling and punctuation errors to the point that it is rendered nearly illegible? Do you find that friends, acquaintances, and strangers email things to you that they would not say to your face? The E-mail Etiquette Revolution is here for you. Sign their pledge:

  • I will do my best and make an effort to learn about and follow proper E-mail Etiquette so I can communicate with courtesy and clarity so as to avoid misunderstandings.
  • I will do my best to ensure I don’t hide behind this screen to say and do things I would otherwise not do if face-to-face with those I e-mail.
  • I will do my best to make an effort to understand technology enough to be able to use it properly so that my lack of knowledge doesn’t have a negative impact on those I communicate with.

[Join The Email Etiquette Revolution]
Join the E-mail Etiquette Revolution

Note: The E-mail Etiquette Revolution spells email with a hyphen. I do not. According to Wikipedia, there is some debate about which spelling is preferable, but neither is considered incorrect.


In library school, we learn about LC subject headings and other structured, formalized ways of categorizing information. This is important, and no one is arguing that we should give up on subject headings altogether, but I think librarians need to at least understand the way users are organizing their own information. Tagging, exemplified by social bookmarking sites such as, allows users to create their own labels and then compare them to the labels that others have used.

Library school student Kirsten of Into the Stacks has some interesting thoughts about tagging:

When I browse through the bookmarks in my network, I use the tags to help decide whether it’s something in which I’m interested. Since site titles can be misleading or uninformative, and most people do not regularly add user notes for their bookmarks, tags are often the only way I have of judging the usefulness of a site without clicking through.

Unofficial guide to library school

I’ve been reading Jason Hammond’s excellent blog for a while now, but because I view it straight from my RSS reader, it took me until now to discover his Unofficial Guide to UWO FIMS Library School. Although some of it focuses on the University of Western Ontario’s library program, there’s a lot of insight that current and prospective students of any school will find useful (not to mention entertaining). One of my favourite articles is The Twelve Types of Library School Students:

    Summary: Angry at everything, this person has a cause that they will gladly share with you (whether you ask or not.)
    Dress: Tie-dye.  A bandanna is a distinct possibility as well.
    Typical Quote: “I’m boycotting <fill in the blank> because <fill in the other blank>.”
Favourite Book:
No Logo – Naomi Klein
    Ideal Library Role: Community Outreach

    Summary: Men are a minority at library school, filling anywhere from 1/4 to 1/3 of the spots.  Yet, they are a majority in terms of library                 upper-level management positions (this stat is based on my sample size of the four upper level managers I know.  But I suspect it’s pretty             accurate.)  Male library students, being more sensitive than typical men (we cry during the national anthem before Hockey Night in Canada),     tend to feel sincerely guilty about this imbalance.
    Dress: Jean, t-shirts, backwards ball cap. 
    Typical Quote: (about men in library school) “If you’re a man in library school, it’s likely that you’re either gay, married or weird.  Possibly all t       three.”
    Favourite Book: Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
    Ideal Library Role: Reference (since so many men think they know everything anyhow)

ILSS Book Club: Rethinking Information Work

Today’s offering is Rethinking Information Work: A Career Guide for Librarians and Other Information Professionals by G. Kim Dority.

The middle chapters are divided into three sections: the traditional path, the nontraditional path, and the independent path. These sections are included to remind readers of the diversity of opportunities in the field, but the main focus of the book is on the issues that apply to all information professionals. Much of this involves self exploration, including exercises such as charts to fill in with your career goals – I find this a bit hokey, but I’m sure some readers find it useful.

This one includes salary information – it doesn’t go into too much detail, but I feel it’s still worth noting. You’ll find figures (from 2005, so fairly fresh) for school, academic, public, and special librarians, and I’m awarding it major bonus points for including Canadian salaries.

The biggest strength of this book is its resources. Each chapter ends with a list of books, articles, and online resources, and these are generally useful and current. In fact, the sheer volume of resources is almost a hindrance – you really have to wade through the lists.

It includes basic information about the variety of careers available, but it doesn’t go into detail about any of them. Blurbs such as “why you might love being an academic librarian” are helpful but brief, so in terms of exploring possible jobs, consider this a starting point. It encourages readers to “think outside the box” when it comes to traditional career paths, so it may be most useful for readers interested in special libraries and independent work.

Overall, this is not the most exciting book – it focuses on things like marketing yourself, which is important when starting the job hunt but probably not interesting for students who have a while to wait before graduation. On the other hand, the resources are so appropriate and plentiful that I would recommend checking this one out, even if you only skim through it.