Saturday, November 24, 2007

Rethinking Information Work

The deprofessionalization of librarianship - part 3

In part 2 I shared my outlook of the library profession which is admittedly grim but, I believe, realistic. Since it will do no good to leave you regretting your MLS and the money spent on it, I need to tell you that all is not lost. With some thought and planning you can create a more sustainable career and I know just the book to help you: Rethinking Information Work: A Career Guide for Librarians and Other Information Professionals by G. Kim Dority.

Similar to “What color is your parachute,” this career guide is specific to librarians, complete with exercises to help you determine career preferences. Dority acknowledges the changes in libraries and the bleak outlook for traditional library work, and her book is a guide to identifying your true value as a professional and finding the right fit for your skills in this changing landscape.

It begins with chapters about different types of library work. "The Traditional Path" covers public, school, and academic libraries, including user services, tech services, and administrative services. In "The Nontraditional Path" we learn about nontraditional jobs in traditional libraries, and traditional roles in nontraditional environments. Contracting and freelancing are discussed in "The Independent Path."

Once the different types of work are covered, Dority moves on to help you create a portfolio by focusing on accomplishments, projects, and skills rather than positions you have held. You can examine your transferable skills and reframe your work life to help you pursue a new career. She describes creating a “career map” to lay out goals and strategies to reach them, and an “education map” to plan needed training.

She encourages the reader to take advantage of change to create new opportunities, and to take responsibility to overcome obstacles to improving your work situation. Simple suggestions include writing down your obstacles and reframing them in a way that is internal rather than external, to pinpoint something you can do to improve the situation.

Each chapter has a bibliography of books, articles, and online sources to further explore the themes in each chapter. Appendices of special interest groups, employment resources, and current awareness resources are also included.

I found this book inspiring, helpful, and a refreshing change from most library career discussions. The author is realistic about the future of our work without being dismal, instead showing us how to innovate new and satisfying careers. I read a library copy, but will probably buy my own – I think it’s worth it just for the extensive bibliographies. The accompanying website is also filled with helpful information. So go ahead and get started!


Filambulle said...

Thank you. I am going to borrow it.

Anonymous said...

Imagine that... treating your library career in much the same way you would if it were in "business" or whatever you want to call the non-library world! Only put it in a library context, and suddenly things like setting career goals, promoting yourself, and focusing on transferable skills are a revelation!

I'm not saying that this doesn't sound like a helpful book for librarians... I plan on taking a look at it myself. But I think that there is a lot of the same wisdom available for us in non-library career related books.

Thanks for the review!

3goodrats said...

Emily, I realize it does sound a bit silly, but you have to admit this is a different take on career advice than you usually hear in the library world. Also, when you consider such large changes it really does make sense to have a guide that is career-specific. Granted, there are other careers that also must be "rethought" but not all of them. I think librarianship is changing in more fundamental ways than many professions.