ILSS Book Club: Library 2.0 and Beyond

I spent the weekend at my parents’ house in Toronto to see my brother, who’s visiting from Vancouver. The train ride from Ottawa takes about four and a half hours, which was plenty of time to make my way through the short but sweet Library 2.0 and Beyond: Innovative Technologies and Tomorrow’s User, edited by Nancy Courtney.

This collection of articles revolves around the ideas of (surprise, surprise) Library 2.0. For those who don’t know and can’t wait to open the book for a more detailed explanation, Library 2.0 is essentially the application of Web 2.0 tools (and more importantly, Web 2.0 concepts) in libraries as a way to become more responsive to the needs of the user community. For those unfamiliar with Web 2.0, I’ll direct you to Wikipedia, but here’s a hint: leave a comment on this blog post, and you’re participating in it!

One major strength of the book is that each article tackles a certain tool by first explaining how it is typically used on the web and then providing specific details of how it could be used in a library setting. As such, it will satisfy readers with a general interest in the future directions of libraries as well as librarians looking for advice they can put to use immediately.

Highlights for me include Looking Toward Catalog 2.0 by Michael Casey, which discusses improving library catalogue interfaces by taking advice from Google and Amazon.com; The Wonderful World of Wikis: Applications for Libraries by Chad F. Boeninger, which covers the use of wikis for internal communication, institutional collaboration, and research guides, as well as suggesting best practices for library wikis; and Folksonomies and User-Based Tagging by Ellyssa Kroski, which weighs the pros and cons of user-based categorization and offers examples of libraries that have already made use of tagging.

So if you’re interested in where libraries are headed (or at least where they will hopefully be headed soon), I recommend Library 2.0 and Beyond – even if you’re not trying to pass the time on a boring train ride.

ILSS Book Club: The NextGen Librarian’s Survival Guide

Today’s selection covers many of the usual issues covered by library career books, but it tackles the issue of how today’s young recent grads relate to the library world. The NextGen Librarian’s Survival Guide by Rachel Singer Gordon is a recent (2006) book that draws advice from interviews with librarians as well as responses to a pair of surveys: the Under-40 Survey and the Over-40 Survey. The results of these surveys are used to compare how younger and older librarians feel about the role of young librarians in the field today.

For the purposes of the book, Gordon declares “NextGen librarians” to be those who are part of Generation X and Generation Y – that is, anyone born between 1965 and 2000 (though these dates are up for debate). Now, even assuming that we’re not really talking about 8-year-old librarians, this seems like an awfully wide age range to me. I’m not convinced that information professionals in their early forties have more in common with those in their early twenties than with those in their early fifties, but naturally it’s difficult to accurately capture a generational trend.

A brief chapter on “Surviving Library School” directs the reader to some appropriate online resources and gives helpful advice on how to make the most of your time as a student. Gordon emphasizes the importance of becoming involved with professional associations and gaining work experience before graduation.

Subsequent chapters include “Surviving the Job Hunt” and “Surviving Entry-Level Positions.” Each starts with a list of bullet points outlining the issues unique to NextGen librarians, but the vast majority of the content would be useful to students and recent graduates of any age. Maybe my generation is so self-absorbed that we can’t imagine anyone having different patterns of thinking, but in general I feel that this book is more about students graduating in the 21st century than it is about professionals who were born in a certain era. At any rate, I found it to be helpful, and I would recommend it to all current students and recent graduates.

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.

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.

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!