May 04 2009

Info Career Trends on indefinite hiatus

Published by rachel under meta

Important announcement: After the May 2009 issue, Info Career Trends will be going on hiatus indefinitely.

But why, Rachel?

After putting out bimonthly issues for nearly 9 years, it’s time for a break. I’m finding it harder to balance labors of love like ICT with family and with paid projects, and need to refocus some of my energies. Read Greg Schwartz’ post on priorities about putting his Uncontrolled Vocabulary podcast on a similar hiatus; he pretty much says it for me as well.

But will it ever come back?

Possibly — never say never, eh? Stay subscribed, and you’ll be the first to know if and when it does.

But what about the columns?

If you have been reading Kim Dority’s “Rethinking Information Careers” column or The Library Career People career Q&A column through ICT, you’ll want to subscribe to their columns individually. You can do so via RSS or email by visiting each:

Older Info Career Trends content will remain up and available at the Info Career Trends site.

A shout out to you all

Thanks for reading and for your support and contributions over the last 9 years. I hope that ICT has been useful as you’ve moved forward in your own careers. You can always find more career development info and links over at — which isn’t going away, never fear :).

So long, and thanks for all the years!

- Rachel

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May 04 2009

Editor’s Note — May 4, 2009

Published by rachel under Editor's Notes

May 4, 2009 - vol. 10, no. 3 - ISSN 1532-0839

Welcome back to Info Career Trends!

ICT to go on indefinite hiatus

Info Career Trends will be going on indefinite hiatus after the May issue. Please see details here.

Today’s issue

Today’s theme, “Being Proactive,” reflects that reality that in a down economy it’s more important than ever that we take steps to move ourselves and our careers forward — because nobody else is going to do it for us. This issue’s contributors talk about a number of ways they have been proactive in their careers, and how you can do the same.

What’s new on the forums?

The online forum is a community of librarians, info pros, and library workers world-wide who offer advice, support, and discussion on career-related issues. Free for everyone, all you need is a valid email address.

Recent hot topics of discussion include:

Come add your voice to the conversation!

- Rachel

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May 04 2009

Career Q&A with the Library Career People, March/April 2009

Published by rachel under careerqa

by The Library Career People

Read recent posts on their Career Q&A blog:

Email your library career-related questions to, or comment over on the blog. You could see your question answered in an upcoming installment!

About the Authors

Tiffany Allen is currently serving as the Assistant Personnel Librarian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Prior to her work in academic librarianship, Tiffany worked in a variety of libraries, including a small non-profit library and a large corporate research library.

Susanne Markgren is the Systems/Electronic Resources Librarian at Purchase College, SUNY. Her career experience encompasses a variety of positions in different types of libraries, including public, special, and academic.

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May 04 2009

Rethinking Information Careers, April/May 2009

Published by rachel under careers, rethinking

by Kim Dority

Rethinking Information Careers covers career alternatives and strategies for information professionals. Find ideas for your own career path and learn to think more broadly about what information work entails. Recent columns address:

About the Author
Founder and president of G. K. Dority & Associates, Inc., Kim Dority is an information specialist with expertise in information strategy, information process design, research, writing, editing, and publishing. Kim has worked with all types of organizations to design, build, and execute effective information strategies. Her work has encompassed the entire spectrum of information strategy, solutions, and implementation for both nonprofit and for-profit organizations.

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May 04 2009

Go the extra mile — it’s never crowded

Published by rachel under education, profdev

by Heidi Blackburn

My daytime alias is Reference and Instruction Librarian, but my real title is Master of Library Science. I am a newly minted MLS graduate (May 2008) and have worked full-time at Kansas State University at Salina for almost a year. As a type A personality, I had my midlife crisis early: the summer before I was to graduate with a BA in business administration. After I’d stubbornly pursued the business world since high school, I decided that corporate America held no interest for  me. My family asked what I planned to do after graduation and I announced I would attend library school. I’d worked in Pickler Memorial Library at Truman State University for 3 years, and decided I never wanted to leave the library. A prescient supervisor encouraged me to pursue my passion with a professional degree.

Not perfect, but better

I began working on my MLS at Emporia State University’s School of Library and Information Management in fall 2006. I’ll admit I harbored no fantasies about  the library science program. Just as I wasn’t prepared to run a Fortune 500 company with my freshly minted business degree, I was positive library school would not hold all the answers for how to be the perfect librarian. Most of my peers came to the program after a few years in “the real world,” and were looking for a change. Some people wanted to work in a library for the first time after trying other careers, while some had worked in a library for years before the timing was right to head back to school in order to move up the ranks. However, we all had the drive to become better librarians — library school was our golden ticket to the card-cataloged promised land.

You want to do what?

Library school is not an easy path and is not for everyone. Beyond the basics of applying, asking for time off from your current employer, sacrificing time, money, and energy, and convincing your significant other (and yourself) that you really, really want to do this,  you’ll hear the unavoidable question: “You need to go to school for that?” People will constantly question, not only your desire to spend money to “learn how to shelve books,” but also the very existence of accredited programs that produce well-educated professionals. Someone will always respond with surprise and/or skepticism to the idea that yes, you need a professional degree to “shush people.” Instead of becoming irritated, use the opportunity to enlighten others on why librarians are some of the most diverse, educated, and helpful people on the planet. We don’t just roll out of bed that way, it takes time and effort to learn how to find that elusive genealogy source for your great-aunt’s family tree or to give a fantastic book talk for the Mommy & Me group.

Getting your degree is a rewarding process, and you’ll get great satisfaction from receiving your diploma for a job well done. However, during these difficult economic times, many potential LIS students are asking themselves “is it worth my time and money, when my family is already struggling?” While continuing education is an individual choice, people tend to pursue this noble profession for similar reasons. I have compiled a list of my classmates’ most frequently cited reasons for pursuing a professional degree in library science.

Top 5 reasons to go for the Golden Ticket

  1. Payscales are up, up, up and away. As the economy has slipped further into recession, librarians can hold onto the hope that their salaries will at least stay steady. According to Library Journal, starting salaries for MLS librarians have increased over the last ten years, from $30,270 in 1997 to $42,361 in 2008. The future looks especially bright for those MLS holders who are male, minorities, media specialists, or living in the Southeast/Western regions.
  2. Ain’t goin’ nowhere, somebody help me… No master’s degree often equals no job, especially for those of you trying to land specialized library positions such as Archivist, Media Specialist, or Law Librarian. Pursue the degree so you can pursue your passion for historical texts or AR readers.
  3. How many catalogers does it take to screw in a light bulb? One, but they need to see how the Library of Congress does it first! Library school will help you meet all sorts of interesting (and equally nerdy) people who will become your support group. This is faster than meeting up with people from a list once a year at a conference, and they generally appreciate a good library joke more than does the average patron.
  4. What’s up with that? Perhaps you know the how, but not the reasons why, libraries operate the way they do. Sure, you can host an amazing Teen Anime night or Friends of the Library tea, but did you ever wonder why some of your patrons seem to have different learning styles? Why do we catalog using the subject headings we do? Learn about the mysteries of patron needs and the answers to other burning library questions you have.
  5. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Librarianship is a time-honored, professional position with a stubbornly old-fashioned reputation. A professional degree doesn’t make us instantly cooler, but it helps show others that we’re more than book-shelvers and shushers. We bring information and computer literacy to the masses, provide outreach services to the public, support those who need assistance, and promote intellectual freedom. We mean business, so step away from our bookcart, thank you very much.

Librarians will find a way

I encourage anyone thinking about pursuing an MLS or similar degree to explore his or her options. Do you want a completely online program or one that has some distance classes? Do you need to ask about arranging a flexible schedule at work so you can attend night/weekend courses? Does your institution provide financial help for continuing education? Talk with recent graduates about how they went about juggling a career/family/time off while going to school. With the help of workplace programs, scholarships, and government tax incentives such as Lifetime Learning credits, there are multiple resources to assist you on your way to becoming a better librarian.


Maata, S. (2008). Placements & Salary Survey 2008: Jobs and Pay Both Up. Library Journal. Retrieved March 16, 2009 from
2008 Federal Education Tax Benefits Guide. (2009). National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. Retrieved March 16, 2009 from


Heidi Blackburn is the Reference and Instruction Librarian for Kansas State University at Salina in Salina, KS and is in her first year teaching information literacy and reference skills. She received her Master’s of Library Science degree from Emporia State University in 2008 and plans to enroll at Emporia State University in 2009 to begin her work on a Doctorate of Philosophy in Library Science. Special areas of professional interest for Heidi include implementing new technology to meet patron needs and the psychology of interpersonal and intergenerational relationships in the library environment. Her favorite fantasy books include Wicked, Harry Potter, The Looking Glass Wars and His Dark Materials. She can be reached at or at

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May 04 2009

Promoting your professional development: The value of being proactive

Published by rachel under profdev

by Penny Scott

When I began my current position at the University of San Francisco in 2003, I knew that five years down the road I would need to apply for a promotion. This involved showing my professional development and service by creating a promotion binder that traced my career development — and seemed a daunting task to my new librarian’s eyes, because I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find enough professional opportunities with which to fill my binder. I’ve found, though, that the promotion process is a model for the art of being proactive about career development, both in thought and in deed. Being proactive requires an active, open, seeking attitude, as well as reliable, high-quality action. This combination is very powerful, and can help you get beyond the constraints of time, funding, geography, or your current job description — giving you a career path of which to be proud.

Be open

I am by no means an advocate of overscheduling or taking on more than what you can reasonably do. But having an open attitude about new challenges has served me well in finding ways to grow, and has led me to opportunities that I might not otherwise have considered. For example, though I do a lot of library instruction, I don’t do as much public speaking in other professional settings. Two years ago, I was offered the opportunity to serve on a panel about professional development for business librarians at the Special Libraries Association annual conference. I immediately said yes, then got nervous. But, reviewing the professional experiences I had had up to that point, I knew that serving on a panel was a good complement to the other work I had done. Being on the panel and attending the conference allowed me to explore SLA, which was a new professional association for me, and a new potential platform for professional development. It ended up being a very good experience, and a great fit for my professional portfolio!

Start small, then grow

Being on that panel was one opportunity that was offered to me — but I didn’t sit back and wait for others, and neither should you! Use your natural librarian sleuthing skills and stay on the lookout for all kinds of opportunities. Start with your workplace, and then branch out. At work, are there cross-training opportunities? Are you talking to colleagues about what they are doing? You can find many kinds of professional development opportunities to suit your personality and needs; the trick is to hone your current skills in a variety of settings, and be willing to try things that allow you to stretch and grow.

Don’t forget about the larger community around your work. If you’re an academic, look on campus for ways to partner with student groups, upcoming events, other academic departments, faculty, or staff needs. If you are in a public library, look to the city or town where you work for events, groups and committees with which to work. Scan newsletters, announcements, and email lists to see what is going on in town or on campus or within your company, and think of ways you can offer to assist. Are there tasks in your library or community that need to be done that no one is doing? Volunteer to do them!

For me, one example of this idea has been reviving my library’s new staff mentoring program. At one time this program had been active, but had fallen by the wayside. When I realized this I decided to resurrect the program, and now my library has a strong mentoring program. Another good experience has been doing outreach for my university’s school of business as their library liaison. I decided I wanted to go beyond emails and phone calls, so brought my laptop to the school during the weekly coffee break and offered research help. This has been a great success, and not just in the ways I had imagined. In addition to allowing me to provide on-the-spot research help every Tuesday morning, my presence has led to other kinds of interactions with students and faculty. My outreach has turned into an informal networking opportunity, which has both reminded people of ways that I can work with them, and helped me stay informed about programs at the school of business I can assist with.

Move into the profession at large

Your workplace and your community are great places to start, but don’t stop there. Professional organizations are great ways to get involved, stay informed, and supplement your work duties. For me, joining the New Members Round Table of the American Library Association was crucial in getting me involved in the profession, and allowed me to develop and hone a variety of skills, from public speaking, to leadership, to writing. NMRT was also an excellent introduction to the people and the opportunities of ALA.

Another excellent experience was getting involved with my library school’s alumni association. Here I was able to start out as co-creator of a job seekers’ web site, move to a position as a director at large, and ultimately become president of the association. During the years I’ve been involved, I’ve served on job panels, helped organize career and social events, written brief articles for our newsletter, and connected with alumni all over the U.S. This has really been fun — and another excellent opportunity for me to meet people, develop skills, and learn more about myself as a professional.

A few great places to look for opportunities or to hear about what others are working on include:

Beyond the Job: A fantastic place to view varied professional development opportunities.

LISCareer: An excellent collection of articles on all aspects of career development

Your library’s blog or newsletter,  professional association websites, email lists, and publications, and meetings or informal chats with your colleagues!

The value of mentoring

It’s vital to keep your eyes and ears open, but having others keep their eyes and ears open on your behalf is even better! Mentors can assist you both in focusing your career path and in identifying opportunities. You can find mentors in your workplace, community, or in professional associations. Some organizations have formal mentoring programs that will  match you up with a mentor.

If you have identified a potential mentor yourself, contact them to ask about opportunities they may think are a good fit for you. And be a good mentee! Know that your mentor is busy, and make it easy for him or her to help you. Always thank your mentor for their help. And as you go along, look for ways that you can share what you’ve learned as a mentor yourself.

Keep track, and keep it going

All of these actions helped me to fill my promotion binder with a variety of professional activities, and I’m happy to say that I was promoted! But engaging in professional development gave me other things as well; good friends, many new skills, and an extremely satisfying work life. Creating my promotion binder allowed me to keep track of what I had done, and helped me make decisions about what professional opportunities to pursue.

As I go forward in my career, my needs change, and so will yours. But being open and proactive will serve us throughout our time as library professionals. I, for one, am counting on that, because I am already preparing for my next promotion in 2012!

Good luck!


Penny Scott is a reference librarian and business liaison at the Gleeson Library/Geschke Center at the University of San Francisco. She obtained her MLIS from San Jose State University, where she is currently the president of the alumni association. She enjoys being professionally active, and is always looking for new opportunities to serve and grow.

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May 04 2009

Recognizing opportunities to advance your career

Published by rachel under careers, profdev

by Virginia L. Cairns

Navigating a career path is an inexact science. All of us face constraints as we seek to develop our professional skills, enhance our resumes, and climb the career ladder to positions of increasing responsibility. While I have been fortunate in the opportunities I’ve had over the course of my 20 year career in librarianship, I’ve also developed a few strategies that I believe have maximized my ability to grow professional options for myself – even in the face of typical obstacles such as geographical limitations, competing spousal careers, and parenthood.

Tackle new things willingly

I cannot stress enough how important it is to actively seek out new projects and challenges no matter what type of job you hold. Right out of graduate school, I started in a typical entry-level reference position at a mid-sized academic library. I worked the desk, did “bibliographic instruction,” did some collection development, and worked in interlibrary loan a few hours each week. After about a year on the job, I became restless and began searching for new opportunities to widen my range of experience. I let both my dean and my department head know that I was ready and willing to take on whatever new projects they wished to throw at me.

At first, they started small, asking me to work on improving a few library pathfinders or tweaking the ILL procedure manual. After I successfully delivered on those early assignments, my supervisors got comfortable with my performance and began offering me more substantial projects to research and implement. Over the next few years, I went on to administer a CD-ROM LAN, develop a series of training sessions on the internet and our databases, and teach myself enough HTML to establish our first web presence and become the library’s very first webmaster. By actively seeking out new projects that fit with the overall goals of the library, I was able to transform a static reference position into an interesting blended position that remained fresh and exciting from year to year — while adding new skills to my resume.

Go where you can make a difference (or, look for something broken that you can fix)

I was quite happy at that first academic library. I sometimes joke that I would be there still were it not for family circumstances that forced a move to Chattanooga in the mid 1990s.  Suddenly jobless in a city where I knew no one, I applied for a paraprofessional library clerk position at a local hospital in desperation – because it was the only thing I saw advertised that might fit with my skill set.  The hospital library turned out to be in utterly deplorable shape, having been without appropriate staffing, technology or financial support for years. It did not, on the surface, look like the “right” career move for anyone to make. It looked like a sinking ship. But as I stood there gazing at that sad neglected little library with its 2 ancient dial-up computers, gloomy yellowed walls and scarred catalog drawers, I was gripped by this overwhelming desire to rescue it, to polish it up, show it the love and care it deserved, and bring it back to its former glory. I was heartsick over this library and I determined right then and there that I would be its savior.

Now, I recognize that these are the same emotions that drive people to adopt stray puppies from the pound, but once I was under the spell of this library, I could not be deterred. I could see dozens of ways that I could improve it; I could see several year’s worth of challenges and changes stretching out before me. I just knew this was where I belonged. After some salary negotiation with the hospital administrator, I got the job (just barely upgraded to MLS status) and I had my very own library to rehabilitate.  I was quite literally terrified because I knew nothing about medicine. I started out by reading a very basic nursing textbook from cover to cover. I clutched a medical dictionary in my hand everywhere I went for those first few months. I gradually taught myself medical literature searching by studying, practicing, and consulting with a few other helpful medical librarians around the state. Once I had mastered basic research skills, I then moved on to teach myself virtually every other aspect of library operations: cataloging, acquisitions, collection development, interlibrary loans, outreach, instruction, budgets and personnel management.

I learned more in that job than I ever have before or since. I learned to envision change, to gather the information I needed to plan the change and ultimately carry out the steps to make it happen. I would not have had any of those learning experiences had I gone to work in a library that was doing just fine. When faced with the choice between a healthy library and one that is broken, choose broken. It may not seem like the right choice, but it is. The act of fixing what is broken offers you a once-in-a-lifetime chance to build your management skills, to prove yourself as a leader and to make a difference in an organization.

It isn’t always who you know, but sometimes it is…

In each city where I have lived, I have made efforts to connect with the other librarians in the area, regardless of the type of library where they work. This is not something that comes naturally to me; I tend to be more of an introvert who prefers spending time alone. But when it comes to professional connections, I make an exception. I seek out local library meetings, I call up colleagues and invite them to lunch, I correspond with my library friends via email and Facebook, and I volunteer my time and effort to local professional activities in any way I can.  By actively creating and sustaining relationships with local professional colleagues, I’ve been able to seek advice and insight when I need it, explore what jobs look like in different types of libraries around town, and develop a series of both formal and informal mentors that have helped me immensely throughout my career.

I met my current boss about 6 weeks after she moved to town.  I called her up and asked her to have lunch, because I was curious about my newest colleague across the way at UTC. We connected right away over a shared passion for progressive change and a focus on high quality user-centered services.  When my current position came open in 2006, I had already made sure I was a known quantity, not only to her, but to most of the rest of the staff at the UTC Library as well. While I believe I earned this position fair and square based on my qualifications and experience, I also believe that my existing professional relationships with many of the librarians at UTC  made it that much easier for me to sell myself as their ideal choice for Head of Reference and Instruction Services. By making sure you know as many local librarians as possible, you greatly increase your chances of finding out about job openings early and of landing at the top of the pile of candidates due to your higher level of name recognition.

Keep your eyes on the prize

No matter how fresh and exciting a new job is, I think it’s still important to devote some thought to your next career move. Over the years, my career goals have been all over the map. As a newbie, I thought that someday I would earn a PhD and teach in a library science program. That idea has fallen in and out of favor with me over the years, and in between I’ve explored a whole host of different scenarios ranging from director of a large medical library to branch manager of a public library to law librarian to media specialist in my daughter’s school. Now that I am back in academic libraries, I’ve begun focusing my thoughts on where I’d like to go next. I was lucky to attend a very small competitive liberal arts college as an undergraduate and I still consider those years to be the most meaningful and formative of my life.  Based on my affinity for the liberal arts experience and my love of working with undergraduate students, my current dream is to be the dean or director of a liberal arts college library.

I am not at a point in my life where I can make a move to a new position any time soon. I have a husband with his own career ambitions and 2 daughters who are firmly rooted here in Chattanooga, at least for the time being. Most of us operate with similar constraints due to family and geography. But down the road, I am certain that we will arrive at a place where the potential to realize my dream will become much more feasible for us.

In the meantime, I am doing all I can to prepare myself. I read the Chronicle job ads and the lists every day, studying the position descriptions that interest me so I will know what skills and qualifications are in demand.  I work hard to develop my administrative skills and to involve myself in professional activities that will make me competitive in a dean or director search down the road. It will take patience, hard work, and probably some luck, but when the opportunity finally does come around, I will be ready.


Virginia L. Cairns has been a librarian for 20 years. She began her career as an academic reference librarian at Mercer University in Macon, GA but transitioned to medical librarianship when her family moved to Chattanooga, TN in the mid 1990s. After nearly a decade spent in the trenches of medical librarianship, she made the move back to academic librarianship when she accepted her current position as Head of Reference and Instruction Services at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga in early 2006. A frequent presenter at conferences, her research interests include library instruction, the use of technology in libraries, and project management.

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May 04 2009

Just say yes!

Published by rachel under careers, profdev

by Jill McConnell

As a new mother in a new city, I was desperate to get back into the workforce. (Not only for the money, but for my peace of mind!) I applied and interviewed for nearly every library job I could find. The one I wanted the most was a full-time Head of Reference and Adult Services position at a medium-sized public library about ten miles from my house.

After the interview, I felt confident that I had made a good impression and expected to get a call within a few days. A week or so went by, and when I still hadn’t received a call or a letter, I took the initiative to call the director. She informed me that they had hired someone else for the full-time position, but wanted to know if I would be willing to work as a part-time reference librarian. My heart sank a little as I graciously accepted the part-time position. I figured twelve hours per week doing what I loved to do was better than none at all.

By the end of my first year, I parlayed that meager twelve hours into twenty-one hours per week  by accepting just about any task the director threw at me. My director was in dire need of an assistant, and she tapped me for the job — I found myself doing things not normally included in a reference librarian’s job description. I began helping her write annual reports, gather information for grants, organize her files, design letterhead and business cards for the library and staff, and brainstorm new programs and services. Although I often dreaded some of this additional work (like going through months’ worth of mail and trying to decide what was worth keeping), I realized that these extra tasks were helping solidify my place on the library staff.

My time spent sifting through all of those piles of paper turned out to be beneficial for everyone. When the director was replaced two years later, I found myself the go-to person for the new director and other staff members when they needed to know where to find important documents or files. I liked being the “insider” who knew where to locate licenses, grant proposals, and other time-sensitive information.

The new director also sought me out to help with additional work. She asked me to accept responsibility for the library’s memorial and gift book donations program. The person who had been doing the job was cutting back on her hours, and we were in the midst of receiving a bevy of donations in memory of a much-loved person in the community. I gladly took over the reins and got us through the changeover as seamlessly as possible.

Today, I do everything pertaining to the memorial and gift book donations. I design the donation request cards, write the thank you and acknowledgment letters, maintain donation records, and ensure that the requests are fulfilled in a timely manner. None of these tasks has anything to do with being a reference librarian, but I enjoy doing them because they have everything to do with helping the library and the people in our community.

Another extra job that was dropped in my lap a couple of years ago was the library’s annual appeal for donations. Traditionally, this letter was written by the director and mailed out to about 10,000 constituents. The new director decided that my strong writing and organizational skills would be put to good use if I took over all aspects of the annual appeal. This meant writing the letter, compiling mailing lists, finding a local printing business, maintaining donation records, and writing thank you letters to donors. I dreaded this job at first, but then I came to embrace it as another way to make myself indispensable to the director and other staff members. And seeing the amount of money that came in as a direct response to something I had written, made me feel pretty good.

Once I was comfortable managing all of the different types of donations that came into the library, my director decided I needed to exercise my accounting abilities. She came to me last month and asked me to take over the Processing Librarian’s duties. This job involves gathering all of the invoices from the different departments in the library, organizing them, coding them and passing them on to our municipality for payment. Once again, I was not thrilled to take on this job, but I soon found it to be less daunting than I had thought originally. After just two weeks, I developed a system of organizing the invoices and got them over to the mayor’s office in time for payment. And I’m proud to say that I have yet to receive a call from the finance department saying that I did something wrong in the process. I can now add accounting duties to my long list of job responsibilities.

Not all of the extra jobs I do are outside a traditional librarian’s job description. I have initiated changes in our collections and adult programming as well. In an effort to increase circulation of some of our lesser-known items, I created a Staff Picks Collection. Staff members give me titles of books, movies, or music CDs that they enjoy and I display them in a special location near the front door of the library. To assist book clubs in our area, I added Book Club to Go Kits to our collection. These kits include ten copies of a trade paperback book and a discussion guide containing author information, reviews of the book, discussion questions and read alikes that I research and put together. These kits are popular with all of the public libraries throughout our county. Our local history books were scattered throughout our non-fiction and fiction collections. I created our Western Pennsylvania Collection by shelving them all together in a prominent area in our Reading Room. Now that it’s a proper browsing collection, our local history books fly off the shelves. We have had a well-attended afternoon book discussion group for years, but I felt we needed an evening group for those who have other commitments during the day. My first evening book discussion group meeting had ten participants and has remained a popular program for over a year.

My “Just Say Yes” mentality and willingness to try anything have benefited me in several ways. Within a few short years, I went from working a measly twelve hours per week to averaging twenty-five hours per week. I now have a wide range of knowledge about many different types of administrative duties that take place in public libraries. My director and co-workers know I am not afraid to try something new. They can depend on me to do a job and do it right.

In today’s precarious economy, it is imperative that you make yourself valuable to your  employer. By utilizing a “Just Say Yes” work ethic, accepting tasks that are not necessarily in your job description, and taking the initiative to try something new, you just might find yourself with a lot more job security than you thought possible.


Jill McConnell works as a Reference Librarian in a public library near Pittsburgh, PA. She has learned to say “No” to her kids, but is still saying “Yes” to her director.

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May 04 2009

Moving ahead without moving up: Seven ways to succeed in academic librarianship without formal advancement

Published by rachel under careers, getting started, profdev

by Brenna Helmstutler (

Librarians just starting out often think ahead to where they want to be in 3-5 years, whether this is self-imposed or part of a formal goal-setting process with a supervisor. This may involve setting a goal to advance to a mid-level management position or achieving a certain level of success without official advancement. If you don’t have a short-term goal of advancement, though, it can be easy to become stagnant once fully trained and comfortable in the job. This article will discuss how you can be proactive in your job – whether you want to be ready for advancement when the opportunity arises, or whether advancement is not of interest, but you want to succeed in your job and contribute to the profession.

Seven ways to get ahead

  1. Committee work. Getting involved in library committees is a great way to share skills and ideas with your colleagues and strengthen your CV at the same time. Nominate yourself (or have someone nominate you) for 1-2 committees each year. If you are not elected to a committee, keep trying and be open to other opportunities to get involved; mid-year resignations might give you another chance to get onto a committee. Volunteer for other groups focused on short-term projects, such as working groups and task forces. Once you are a member of any of these groups, participate actively, suggest programming ideas, and volunteer for tasks. For committees with terms of more than one year, position yourself to serve as chair. This will strengthen your leadership skills.
  2. Research/presentations. Researching topics of interest and contributing to the profession is an excellent way to move ahead even if you do not have faculty status. Thanks to technology, you can find a wide variety of calls for manuscripts from journals, other publications, and conference presentations through association and librarian blogs, conference websites, and email lists. Subscribe to their feeds to organize options into one place for easy access. Talk to colleagues who have published and/or presented, as they can offer valuable first-hand suggestions. Take advantage of workshops available in the library or on campus on conducting research or presenting.
  3. Training. Training others on a subject of expertise can show potential for a supervisory role, much like serving as a committee chair. Talk to your supervisor or training librarian about offering a workshop to your colleagues. If your unit or library already has a training program, you may already be required to train new librarians about the aspects of your job to give them a feel for how your position impacts theirs, and how it fits into the unit as well as the library. If there is no structured training program and you have an interest, talk with your supervisor to discuss the feasibility of creating one. This will be an effective self-starting mechanism and show that you have an interest in ensuring that librarians in your unit are well-trained and knowledgeable.
  4. Outreach to academic departments/the campus community. This is typically done by subject-specialist librarians (liaisons) whose charge is to be the main library contact for an academic department. If the liaison model is not in place at your institution or you are in a different position, you will still want to connect with your lirbary’s main constituents. There are many ways to “reach out” to departments and the campus community, but start by connecting with a department chair or head of an organization. That person can then promote your services to the staff and generate interest. Attending meetings can also be very useful, not only in getting a feel for issues in that area, but also to promote your services. Ask the head if you can attend, and if the agenda allows 5-10 minutes for you to promote your services. Hand out fliers and business cards, and follow up via email or blog. This can be an effective way to reach many people at once, with the chair or head’s support.
  5. Association involvement. There is no shortage of library associations, so be selective. Consider the activities and conferences they provide, what fits best with your interests and job, and of course, cost and benefits. Membership fees typically include such perks as journal subscriptions, special access to website content, and conference discounts. Attending conferences provides networking and presenting opportunities as well as committee work, sowatch for calls to serve on committees via lists, blogs, or the association website. colleagues on association committees can also help get you on board.
  6. Collaborating with colleagues. This can take place in many different ways. For example, research projects can evolve into publication and/or presenting together at a conference. You can collaborate on the job, such as when a user is conducting interdisciplinary research, or collaborate on a committee or unit. In any case, collaboration allows you to share knowledge and highlight your work as a team player - which is vital for any job.

Useful characteristics in moving ahead

Cultivate these characteristics to help you move ahead:

  • Self-motivation — In short, being a self-starter. Librarians not working in a micro-managing environment have a great deal of autonomy. Get organized, and build excellent time management skills. Make daily/weekly/monthly to-do lists with specific deadlines — and prioritize. Keep your calendar up to date, so there is no chance of forgetting meetings or important tasks. If you have been on the job for a while and are feeling like you are in a rut, your self-motivation may be low. Get yourself motivated by thinking of different and more challenging ways to approach your job. Think of interesting topics to research, or get involved in new activities that could change your attitude.
  • Professionalism — A strong level of maturity and controlled behavior is essential to moving ahead or moving up. Have a strong sense of ethics and integrity in your work, and realize that communicating with intelligence and a professional, friendly attitude will create a positive working environment, especially when problems arise.  Professionalism can also be measured by your overall appearance; it is possible to be professional even with a casual dress code. Look to colleagues that exhibit professionalism and “make it your own.” Your library or campus may also offer workshops dealing with ethics or communication in the workplace.
  • Confidence – Feeling positive and being proactive, completing tasks efficiently and successfull, all of these can evoke confidence.  Recognition is wonderful, but you won’t get it for every single great thing you accomplish. Never rely on others to validate you. Put the best effort possible into your work and validate yourself. Reward yourself with your favorite things when you finish a big project or get a manuscript or presentation proposal accepted. This will bring on the confidence that will allow you to succeed on the job.
  • Health and well-being — Success, especially if preparing for a supervisory position in the future, requires good emotional and physical health . Taking care of yourself with healthy eating, exercise, and sleep behaviors will help in achieving your goals and give you the energy to make things happen. Get a colleague, friend, or relative to work out with and share recipes and health tips. Confide in someone you trust; discuss issues or problems that are blocking you. Finding a good balance between work and play is important as well. Avoid working overtime or bringing work home if possible, and take vacation time regularly, even if it is just for a day. Having this balance can really make a difference in your energy level and work satisfaction.

Benefits to moving ahead without moving up

You’ll reap a number of rewards from moving ahead without moving up, among these, a sense of personal/professional accomplishment. Even if you do not have plans for a supervisory position anytime soon, making things happen will make you feel great personally and professionally and will inspire you to keep your job challenging and current. Taking these steps also prepares you for future advancement and enhances your marketability when a job opportunity presents itself. You will be more prepared to start a job quickly without an in-depth training period, which is especially valuable in a candidate for a supervisory position.

Not only that, but you’ll benefit from enhanced interactions with colleagues and the campus community. Moving ahead will make your colleagues aware of you and your potential;  if and when you apply for an advanced position posted internally, you’ll have their support. Getting to know colleagues and the campus community through outreach and other activities will strengthen your job effectiveness and success level.


Brenna Helmstutler is an Education and Journalism & Speech Liaison at Georgia State University Library. She received her MLIS from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2003. Email Brenna at and view her research guides at .

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May 04 2009

Developing your leadership potential

Published by rachel under leadership

by Zahra M. Baird and Patti McCall

Library employees are more often finding themselves in a position where they must cultivate leadership skills, regardless of their place on the organizational chart. While employers may or may not furnish leadership training opportunities, it is wise for librarians to actively seek out opportunities for leadership development. The good news is that library associations are rising to the occasion and offering programs, academies, institutes, and workshops focusing on the development of library leadership skills. You can often also find opportunities to serve on committees (such as faculty governance in an academic setting), play an active role in the community (such as in a public library setting), and participate in other roles outside of the library (such in a special library setting).

Leadership vs. management

A very important distinction that needs to be made is that between management and leadership. Florence M. Mason and Louella V. Wetherbee say it best in their article “Learning to Lead: an analysis of current training programs for library leadership:”

Management is about what things get done, while leadership is about how things get done. Management involves accomplishing tasks, while leadership involves influencing and guiding a course of action. “Leadership programs for librarians should cultivate and nurture attributes including the ability to coach and motivate teams communicate effectively, engage the community, negotiate conflict, deal with change, think strategically and creatively, take risks and trust, plan for the future, convince and influence others, feel emotional intelligence, and envision and implement proactive models of library customer service.

Professional library associations

At the national level, a successful example of cultivating and showcasing library leaders continues to grow via the American Library Association (ALA) Emerging Leaders Program. According to the Emerging Leaders Wiki, “Emerging Leaders began in 2007 as one of Immediate Past President Leslie Burger’s initiatives. The Emerging Leaders program enables newer librarians from across the country to participate in problem-solving work groups; network with peers; gain an inside look into ALA structure, and have an opportunity to serve the profession in a leadership capacity. It puts them on the fast track to ALA and professional leadership. This initiative started off being offered only to librarians but in response to the notion that library leaders are not just currently employed MLS librarians, the program will be expanded to include library employees, library school students and those librarians between jobs. Applications for the 2010 Class of Emerging Leaders should be available mid-April 2009.”

The Special Libraries Association (SLA) holds an annual leadership summit with the purpose of bringing together hundreds of leaders of the SLA, its chapters, divisions, sections, caucuses and committees to encourage their members to learn leadership skills to prepare them for the year ahead.  The purpose of this event is mutually beneficial, as their tagline states: “Shaping Your Future…and that of SLA.”

A  sampling of state leadership secrets

Formidable collaborations are happening on the state level.  Working under the premise that in order to ensure a strong and exciting future for all libraries of all types, library workers must embrace effective leadership as a core component of professional practice, the California State Library, in partnership with Infopeople has developed and is implementing a dynamic leadership program called “Leadership Training:  Eureka! Leadership Program: Discover the Leader Within.” Designed for professional librarians with three to ten years of professional library experience, the program is also open to those in library management positions who do not have an MLS. The program’s target participant base is California library staff who exhibit leadership potential and are willing to share with others their enthusiasm, optimism, and vision for future library services.

The current state of the economy has translated into major library budget cuts. With slim to non-existent travel budgets, libraries are not sending as many or any employees to national and/or state conferences. In response to this development, The New York Library Association (NYLA) has identified its highly successful annual conference programs, turned them into reasonably priced half-day or full-day workshops, and taken them on the road to various parts of the state. In addition to offering regional institutes across the state, NYLA is looking into offering on-line education seminars and courses and also providing onsite training in the state of the art training center at the brand new NYLA office site. NYLA is providing national and state caliber programming at the local level, leaving no stone unturned in the quest to meet the leadership and educational needs of their membership.

Leaders have an extremely important role in ensuring the success of the library profession and our professional library organizations. Therefore, it follows that significant educational support is essential to foster this success. To provide leaders with the support they need, another trend with state library associations is the creation of Leadership Institutes and Academies.  One of the more comprehensive web sources for library leadership institutes and programs can be accessed through the PALINET website, which was designed to help future and current library leaders network, exchange information, collaborate and get organized. A great resource, this site includes leadership training, mentoring, bibliographies, and articles on variety of related subject areas.

NYLA’s Leadership and Management Academy is an illustration of an educational program for emerging leaders in the library profession on a statewide level. The program was created with the intention that participants gain skills and knowledge needed to advance up the career ladder in library management. Intimate by design, the enrollment is limited initially to 40 students each year. Enrollees are required to complete ten courses over a three-year period to receive a Leadership and Management Academy Certificate. The Academy ’s target population is mid-career library professionals interested in obtaining the practical knowledge and basic skills critical to becoming a library leader or manager. Applicants must either have five years of library experience and a Bachelors Degree or two years of library experience and an MLS.

Simply learning about various leadership skills in the academy or workshop setting does not a leader make. Discussion of your experiences with leaders who have used these skills can give valuable insight into transferring skills into real life situations. This is where library association mentoring programs both informal and formal can come into play.

In this vein, The Minnesota Library Association has fashioned an Institute for Leadership Excellence called “MILE 2009: Discover Your Inner Leader” that will launch in April of 2009 and is open to all library workers with all levels of experience who aspire to leadership roles. An attractive parameter of this institute is that participants will reflect on the variety of leadership opportunities available at the local, regional, and state levels and participants will then be matched with and work with a mentor for several months following the Institute.

Library associations supporting personal leadership plans

When developing your leadership potential, assessing your leadership strengths is a first step in becoming a better library leader. Next comes identifying the leadership skills that are important to you and start looking at how you can use them within your sphere of influence.  You can create an action plan as to how you can better develop your skills and continue to learn and develop your leadership skills.

Once you have identified leadership skills you wish to cultivate, scout out the opportunities provided by your local and state library associations and take advantage of what they are offering. Don’t see what you are looking for?  Speak up and contact the executive director or chair of the continuing education committee. Once you’ve taken courses, read books and articles. The next step is see your leadership knowledge in action. One of the best ways of mastering this skill is learning by doing. At the local, state, national and international library levels you can find many opportunities to try out and hone skills by serving as Committee Chair, Officer of a Roundtable, or on the board of directors of a Sections or Division. Library associations offer the opportunity in a non-threatening environment to build on existing skills, stretch abilities, and learn skills that will translate to the job and most organizations need and welcome volunteers. Librarians are encouraged to seek such opportunities within their own organizations to develop skills and connect with colleagues. Such opportunities are not only critical to the development of leadership skills but also in promoting the value of the library.

Library associations are growing members who are able to lead from any position, regardless of job title.  Association initiatives and opportunities are focusing on enhancing the natural leadership skills of their members. Being mentored and mentoring is a key to strong leadership. It has inspired us to develop a few of these skills and grow a little bit more professionally and personally. We hope you will too.

Selected Resources

American Library Association Leadership Training. The list contains leadership programs functioning in late 2008, holding institutes and workshops in 2008 or planning to hold institutes in 2009.

Learning to lead: an analysis of current training programs for library leadership, by Florence M. Mason and Louella V. Wetherbee. Library Trends. Summer 2004 (53:1) pp187-217.

Learning to Lead: A Workbook on Becoming a Leader, by Warren Bennis and Joan Goldsmith. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books. 1997


Zahra M. Baird is currently Head of Young Adult Services at the Chappaqua Library, a member library of the Westchester Library System. Patti McCall is the Corporate Librarian at AMRI in Albany, NY. Both Zahra and Patti demonstrate leadership skills including critical thinking, risk taking, and creativity, regardless of their positions within their management structures, actively participate in local, state and national professional library associations and enthusiastically pursue personal and professional growth through continuing education.

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