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Best LIS Career Books – 2019

Ah… yep, it’s gonna be one of those “better late than never” kind of years, at least getting started! But wanted to make sure you were aware of the really terrific LIS career books that landed this past year.

The following books represent the core works describing LIS careers, including career paths, career development, and career strategies and tactics. They’ve been separated into those published this past year versus those published previously in order to “call out” any recent titles you may have missed. The selection criteria were:

  • A strong focus on LIS careers or an aspect of LIS careers
  • Actionable information
  • Published within the past ten years

I attempted to be comprehensive in my coverage, but please let me know if I’ve missed a title that you feel should be included; I’ll be happy to add appropriate recommendations to the list.

Also, I purposely didn’t include the ubiquitous Amazon links because I’m hoping you’d rather support your local public library or independent bookseller should you seek these titles out! Be sure to let me know if I’ve left any books out….

New in 2019

Foxworth, Deloris Jackson. Landing a Library Job. Rowman & Littlefield, 2019. 212p. ISBN 9781538116999.
Exploration of the information-skills job universe, with practical guidance on landing jobs therein. Consider this book the resource you want by your side if you’re just starting your LIS job hunt, considering a career transition, or simply mindful of keeping your career options open.

Clarke, Rachel Ivy. Design Thinking. ALA-Neal Schuman, 2019 (© 2020). 59p. ISBN978-0838917923.
Per Clarke’s excellent, brief overview, design thinking encompasses “two different but overlapping concepts: 1) a unique way of looking at the world, and 2) a process of activities and methods that reflect and support that worldview.”

Both are focused on problem-solving through iterative steps that emphasize learning, reflection, and improvement. (Translation: design thinking is a fascinating and broadly applicable approach to all sorts of situations, including libraries, as Clarke has done here.) I’ve chosen to add it to this list, however, because I’ve found design thinking concepts are also effective for LIS career development strategizing.

The Future Academic Librarian’s Toolkit: Finding Success on the Job Hunt and in Your First Job. Megan Hodge, ed. ALA-Neal Schuman, 2019. 328. ISBN 978-0838989579.
Among my students, those planning to pursue academic library jobs after graduating are the ones most flummoxed by the job hunt/job application process; this “toolkit” is exactly what they need to navigate this complex challenge. Per the publisher,” thorough handbook designed to guide you from library school through your first several years as an academic librarian. It can help you apply for your first position, find your bearings in your new job, establish yourself in the profession through scholarship and service, and transition to your next position.

In addition, you will add important skills to your professional toolkit: advocating for yourself and your ideas, writing for publication, teaching effectively, connecting with faculty and students, and building your professional brand.” What I especially appreciated is that the toolkit also helps you consider whether academic librarianship is actually the right career for you.

Ivins, Tammy and Anne Pemberton. How to Write and Get Published: A Practical Guide for Librarians. Rowman & Littlefield, 2019. 160p. ISBN 9781538116852.
I’ve included Ivins and Pemberton’s guide here because getting your ideas published is one of the most effective ways to build your LIS professional reputation and visibility. Happily, there are numerous ways to achieve this goal, from local and/or student publications to association newsletters to peer-reviewed publications to books. This step-by-step guide will help demystify the process for you while also offering tips to get you motivated and started. The profession awaits your insights!

Mlinar, Courtney. Embedded and Empowered: A Practical Guide for Librarians. Rowman & Littlefield, 2019. 168p. ISBN 9781442263604.
Embedded librarianship is a term and activity that’s increasingly common in today’s LIS work, and it takes on a slightly different interpretation based on the environment in which it’s practiced. Helpfully, Mlinar has covered embedded librarianship in a variety of circumstances, but in almost all cases where a librarian is making an important contribution outside of his or her normal role (e.g., “School librarian embedded in an open educational resources grant,” “embedded librarians and medical informatics,” “public librarian embedded in a local Red Cross Office.” Given the trend toward embedded LIS information expertise in non-LIS teams, this is an important career development to consider, and depending on your interests and opportunities, explore.

Williams, Caitlin. Be Opportunity-Minded: Start Growing Your Career Now. ALA-Neal Schuman, 2018. 192p. ISBN 9780838917720.
Okay, yep, this is actually a 2018 book but since I missed it last year I’m sneaking it into this year’s list – it’s that good. Williams brings a bit of an “outsider” viewpoint to her career guide – her professional background includes counseling rather than an MLIS, but she’s worked with libraries and knows our universe (and challenges). Her main premise, woven throughout each chapter, is that you create your own career opportunities. To that end, the guide addresses how to, why to, and when to create the career opportunities that will enrich your career over its entire lifecycle. Practical, actionable, and motivating.

Whitlatch, Jo Bell and Beth S. Woodard. Competency-Based Career Planning for Reference and User Services Professionals. ALA-Neal Schuman, 2019. 240p. ISBN9780838917801.
Whitlatch and Woodard have structured their advice around the seven RUSA Professional Competencies list, which provides a useful context within which readers can assess their own strengths and/or identify gaps in important skill areas. Includes information on designing and implementing personal development plans, establishing goals and monitoring progress, identifying learning opportunities and self-assessment, and more. An especially valuable resource for its intended audience.

Additional Recommendation

Bates, Mary Ellen. Building & Running a Successful Research Business: A Guide for the Independent Information Professional, 2d ed. Cyberage Books/Information Today, 2010. 500p. ISBN 0910965859.
Those who’ve heard Bates speak at LIS conferences will recognize her voice here: smart, funny, realistic, and supportive. Bates walks readers through the entire range of issues related to starting, running, and growing the business, plus takes you through a “day in the life” scenario that provides a realistic view of what this career choice really looks like. She makes it clear that if you’re thinking about this line of work, you’ll need to master both your core marketable skills and the competencies necessary to be an entrepreneur and then provides the insights necessary to do so. A key resource for both students and practitioners who are considering an independent LIS career path.

Becoming an Independent Information Professional: How to Freelance, Consult, and Contract for Fun and Profit. Melissa M. Powell, ed. ABC-CLIO, 2017. 158p. ISBN 978-1-4408-5540-5.
A contributed work representing the expert advice and experiences of ten well-known library consultants plus an introduction from long-time independent information professional Melissa Powell. Although there are many types of information entrepreneurship, this book’s focus on library consulting work makes it uniquely valuable for experienced library practitioners considering taking their career in this direction.

Career Transitions for Librarians: Proven Strategies for Moving to Another Type of Library. Davis Erin Anderson and Raymond Pun, eds. Rowman & Littlefield, 2016. ISBN 978-1442265578.
One of the LIS career questions I’m asked most often is whether it’s possible to move from one type of LIS position (e.g., special librarian in a corporation) to a different one (perhaps an academic or public library). This is the book I always recommend, because it not only covers dozens of such career transitions, but also profiles those who’ve done it and – equally important – how they’ve done it.

Cutshaw, Oliver. Recovery, Reframing and Renewal: Surviving an Information Science Career Crisis in a Time of Change. Chandos Publishing, 2011. 200p. ISBN 184334632X.How do you restart your LIS career after a major disruption? Cutshaw experienced this challenge first-hand, and his book reflects very pragmatic “been there, done that” advice about how to recover your emotional equilibrium, reframe your thinking about your skills and what you can do with them, and then create a new or renewed LIS career path. An encouraging and helpful book for those questioning their career options.

de Stricker, Ulla and Jill Hurst-Wahl. The Information and Knowledge Professional’s Handbook: Define and Create Your Success. Chandos, 2011. 294p. ISBN 1843346087.
These highly-respected, experienced authors provide detailed, practical career advice that comes across as a cross between coaching, mentoring, and okay, (in the nicest possible way), a bit of nagging. But it’s clear their goal is to help readers avoid career potholes if possible. To that end, the tone and format is strongly prescriptive, letting readers know in no uncertain terms how certain situations should be handled in order to help ensure career success.

Dority, G. Kim. LIS Career Sourcebook: Managing and Maximizing Every Step of Your Career. Libraries Unlimited, 2012. 246p. ISBN 9781598849318.
Overview of the key phases, stages, and transition points in LIS careers, including such topics as LIS Job Hunting, Starting Your Career Off Right, Managing, Leading, an Transition Points (for example, taking a career time-out or relocating your career). Each chapter is split equally between information and recommended resources.

Dority, G. Kim. Rethinking Information Work: A Career Guide for Librarians and Other Information Professionals, 2d ed. Libraries Unlimited, 2016. 264p. ISBN 9781610699594.
Identifies what the options are, which ones might be of greatest interest to you given your personal attributes and values, and strategies and tactics for achieving your career goals. Focusing on strategies and tactics, the book’s goal is to help you build a sustainable, resilient career despite the unpredictable state of the profession.

Fourie, Denise K. and David R. Dowell. Libraries in the Information Age: An Introduction and Career Exploration, 3d ed. Libraries Unlimited, 2016. 349p. ISBN 9781610698641.
Intended as an LIS course textbook, Libraries in the Information Age presents perhaps the most mainstream take on library work. It presents a thorough overview of types of libraries and librarians, plus their activities (collections, preparing materials for use, circulation, reference service, and evolving library services). Especially useful for those considering more tradition LIS paths.

Hakala-Ausperk, Catherine. Renew Yourself: A Six-Step Plan for More Meaningful Work. ALA, 2017. 152p. ISBN 9780838914991.
Hakala-Ausperk, familiar to many for her numerous LIS career development books and her Public Libraries magazine book review column, has written yet another practical, encouraging and actionable book on rethinking and renewing your career engagement. Especially valuable for practitioners who are feeling burned out or bummed out about their current work situations and could use insightful guidance to create better options.

Hibner, Holly and Mary Kelly. Taking Your Library Career to the Next Level: Participating, Publishing, and Presenting. Chandos, 2017. 120p. ISBN 9780081022702.
The authors focus on a specific type of career-building, which is establishing and expanding the visibility of your profession brand or reputation. The actions they explore for accomplishing these goals including maxing out social media platforms, publishing, presenting, and engaging in professional associations, among other strategies. The book reflects the authors’ own experiences (for example, media training) as well as insights and resources from outside the profession. Solid coverage of an increasingly important topic for LIS career advancement.

How to Stay Afloat in the Academic Library Job Pool. Teresa Y. Neely, ed. ALA Publishing, 2011. 152p. ISBN 9780838910801.
Those who have negotiated (or attempted to negotiate) the academic library job process know that it can often be complex, confusing, and opaque – why is that search committee waiting for six months before making a hiring decision??? Neeley and her contributors, academic librarians at the University of New Mexico and experienced search-committee members, explain how the academic library search process works, what to expect, and how to best position yourself to succeed in your quest for a library job in academe.

Hunt, Deborah and Grossman, David. The Librarian’s Skillbook: 51 Essential Career Skills for Information Professionals. Information Edge, 2013. 202p. ISBN 0989513319.
Deb Hunt (former SLA president) and David Grossman have collaborated on a guide that essentially lays out what LIS professionals should know in order to expand their career skill sets and adapt to new job opportunities. The book leads off with chapters on the importance of the skills identified, transferability of skills, and an introduction and overview of the 51 “hottest skills.” Those skills are then grouped into chapters devoted to computer and technical skills;”beyond reference skills,” and “business and management skills,: among others. A key resource for the profession.

In Our Own Voices, Redux: The Faces of Librarianship Today. Teresa Y. Neely and Jorge R. Lopez-McKnight, eds. Rowman & Littlefield, 2018.
Although not technically an “LIS career book,” In Our Own Voices, Redux provides an important mirror on the career (and daily) experience of librarians who represent, to quote the publisher, “a wide range of gender fluidities, sexualities, races, and other visible, and invisible identities.” The thirty personal essays included here should be required reading for all entering the LIS profession, as both a reality check and a call to create a more inclusive workplace – and society.

Johnson, Marilyn. This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All. Harper Perennial, 2011. 304p. ISBN 0061431613.
In the midst of the profession’s hand-wringing and anxiety attacks, Johnson has written a delightful, witty, and spot-on paean to the amazing work librarians do as educators, archivists, and community knowledge curators. For those considering the profession, this is an upbeat and positive take on the profession’s future as well as its future opportunities.

Jump-Start Your Career as a Digital Librarian. Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) and Neal Schuman, 2013. Jane D. Monson, ed.
The 12 chapters of this contributed work are organized into two sections: Planning Your Career and Practicing Your Career. (Students: be sure to check out Micah Vandegrift and Annie Pho’s “Getting the Most Out of Library School.”) Primarily focused on academic digital librarianship but with information and insights that can apply to multiple LIS settings.

Kane, Laura Townsend. Working in the Virtual Stacks: The New Library & Information Science. American Library Association, 2011. 167p. ISBN 9780838911.
Updating her previous work, Straight from the Stacks (2003), Kane provides another valuable look at career paths for today’s information professionals. The book’s 34 profiles are grouped into librarians as 1) subject specialists, 2) technology gurus and social networkers, 3) teachers and community liaisons, 4) entrepreneurs, and 5) administrators. Each chapter leads off with an overview of the type of work, environments, responsibilities, skills, and relevant professional associations.

Lawson, Judy, Joanna Kroll, and Kelly Kowatch. The New Information Professional: Your Guide to Careers in the Digital Age. Neal-Schuman, 2010. 200p. ISBN 555706983.
An exceptionally detailed (and useful) look at career options in the emerging digital information world, with extremely useful “career maps” of related career paths for specific field, such as archives and preservation, records management, human-computer interaction, social computing, and information systems management, among others.

Making the Most of Your Library Career. Lois Stickell and Bridgette Sanders, eds. ALA Editions, 2014. 110p. ISBN 0838911862.
This contributed work of ten practitioners focuses on how to launch and manage your (traditional) library career. Some of the most interesting advice is around how to try to introduce change into an organziation that might not initially prove, ah, excited about doing things differently.

Markgren, Susanne and Tiffany Eatman Allen. Career Q&A: A Librarian’s Real-Life, Practial Guide to Managing a Successful Career.CyberAge Books, 2013. 240p. ISBN 1573874793.
Many of us have been reading the authors’ excellent Library Career People advice columns ( for years, and their book is both a compilation and expansion of their previous LIS career insights. Highly recommended for MLIS students, those new to the profession, as well as those who’ve been in their careers for awhile but are encountering new career challenges.

O’Hanlon, Robin. Ace the Interview, Land a Librarian Job. Libraries Unlimited, 2016. 158p. ISBN 9781440839566.
This is the book you want by your side as you prepare for your job interviews. Although O’Hanlon does a terrific job of covering all of the basics of LIS job interviewing, it was Chapter 5, “Know Your Gig,” that had me taking copious notes. A must-read for job seekers who either are unfamiliar with current interview practices or who haven’t interviewed in a while.

Skills to Make a Librarian: Transferable Skills Inside and Outside the Library. Dawn Lowe-Wincentsen, ed. Chandos, 2014. 198p. ISBN 9780081000632.
An interesting and really smart cross-over structure wherein contributors approach transferable skills from two directions: non-LIS skills that can transfer into LIS careers, and LIS skills that can transfer into non-LIS careers. The chapter authors’ personal insights and experiences lend real-life credibility to their stories and advice, making this an especially useful resource for those moving into or out of traditional library settings.

Smith, Daniella. Growing Your Library Career with Social Media. Chandos, 2018. 208p. ISBN 9780081024119.
Smith, Associate Professor with the University of North Texas Dept. of Information Science, adds a useful resource to the tactical side of LIS career-building. Although the book leads off with an overview of social media in society and in libraries, the bulk of the work explores how and why to use social media platforms and tools to build professional visibility. Smith does a good job of covering both the strategic and tactical aspects of social media for career-building, supplemented with many personal examples provided by LIS professionals.

Still, Julie. Managing Your Brand: Career Management and Personal PR for Librarians. Chandos, 2015. ISBN 9781843347699.
A good introduction to the “why to” and “how to” aspects of building a highly visible professional reputation, with an emphasis on situations appropriate to academic librarianship (such as tenure requirements). However, Still also covers areas of interest to all LIS professionals such as considering what you want to be known for, developing a mission statement, balancing family life and career commitments, and similar topics of interest beyond academia.

Woodward, Jeannette. A Librarian’s Guide to an Uncertain Job Market. ALA Editions, 2011. 112p. ISBN 0838911056.Written for “at-risk” librarians (i.e., those at risk of losing their jobs) in a supportive yet still authoritative style, Uncertain Job Market walks you through the steps necessary to be prepared for the worst, even as you hope for the best. Woodward’s focus is on understanding how to recognize impending changes in the profession or your workplace that signal potential jobs in jeopardy, preparing for the economic and emotional fall-out of unemployment, and laying the groundwork to transition into alternative job opportunities and paths.

Questions to Move You Forward in 2019

Ask the right questions if you’re going to find the right answers.
– Vanessa Redgrave

I love the end of the year. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the fact that I’ve weathered yet another 12 months of life’s challenges. Some days I’ve handled things brilliantly, other days not so much. But it’s a great time to reflect on where you’ve been, and where you’d like to head next. I do that by asking myself a series of questions and noting the answers in my career journal. Here’s how I approach these questions: (more…)

Losing steam already? 7 approaches to achieve your 2018 goals

So how’s the resolution stuff coming?

According to the experts, something like 40%-45% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, with generally less-than-stellar success rates. Been there, done that.

But with each new year, I’ve come a bit closer to a goal-achieving method that works for me. The key was realizing that willpower was simply a non-starter (or non-achiever) for me; instead, I found that creating an environment, processes, and habits that supported my goals was what kept me on track. (more…)

Making the most of your starter job

Or, why you should consider that job in Smalltown, USA


Female student working in the libraryRecently I had an opportunity to work with a young woman who had just graduated from an MLIS program. She was unsure of how to proceed with her job search given the precarious job market for librarians (and everybody else).

This young woman had never worked in a library before, and, like many of us when we complete our degrees, wanted to get a job in the same town where her university was located. But the reality is that with little or no library experience and facing the stiff competition that comes in an area flooded with fellow MLIS graduates, this young woman’s job prospects would be dim at best.

In fact, probably her best opportunities lie in a direction often avoided if not dismissed by recent grads: working for a library in Smalltown, USA.


Use Google for Scholarly Research? Yep, and Here’s How

Harnessing Power of GoogleIn his excellent guide Harnessing the Power of Google: What Every Researcher Should Know (Libraries Unlimited, 2017), author Christopher C. Brown asserts that:

Librarians often hear from students that their instructor said not to use Google in their research. I believe that what is meant in most cases is that students shouldn’t only use resources that they just found with simple Google searches. Too many times students cite Wikipedia as an authority for their research. But what this book is arguing is that there is a proper place for Google in academic research.

Not only does the author argue his point successfully, he does every academic librarian and serious researcher the favor of showing them how to use Google so that it truly can become a credible component of rigorous scholarly and business research. (more…)

Reflections: what did you learn?

By now you’ve probably seen all sorts of “best-of” lists. Best books, best movies, best posts, and on a personal level, perhaps you’ve even created your own list of personal bests.

A few years ago, I realized I was more interested in what I had learned that what I’d accomplished, because my ability to learn drove not only what I could accomplish, but also what I could stretch into, what directions I could grow, how resilient I could be in the face of change.

If you want to think about what you learned this past year, here are some areas to consider:

About others.  Did you have interactions with a boss, coworkers, fellow students, or patrons that changed how you understood their circumstances or viewpoint? If ever there were a year where we all learned that understanding each others’ worldviews were critical, 2016 was the one.

About yourself.  In any given year, you’re likely to learn all sorts of things about yourself – what you handle well, what could use a bit of work. I usually separate this into “the good stuff” and the “I-could-improve-on-this-stuff” lists. Did you discover an ability to diffuse tense team moments with gentle humor? Did you rise to the challenge of a daunting project, and realize you had more courage than you expected?

Or perhaps you froze during a difficult conversation, or discovered during a salary negotiation that you weren’t a very strong advocate for yourself. The important thing to remember about the “I-could-improve-on-this stuff” list is that these are simply things that you can learn to get better at, not things you failed at.

About your work.  You undoubtedly did a lot of work this past year. Thinking back about your activities, what did you learn about how you work best, what circumstances help you bring your “A game,” how you can be most productive? Did you learn things that opened up new opportunities, either in the immediate future or long-term for your career?

Alternatively, you may have discovered that work you thought you’d love turned out to be less than a great fit. No worries – you’ll have a lot of options for making a change when the time is right. But it is important to pay attention to what you’ve learned, so that you can eventually move into a better situation.

About your passions.  One of the coolest things about working, and all the different types of work you may do over the course of a year, is that it’s always possible to stumble across an undiscovered passion – perhaps for competitive intelligence, or community outreach, or instructional design, or connecting under-served populations with life-changing information, or even data management.

When you start your career, it’s easy to feel like you should be able to choose a career path that’s “the one.” But the reality is that you get closer to your best-fit career with every new step you take, and what you learn from each of those steps.

About your values.  One of the benefits of living in crazy times is that if you stay engaged in what’s going on around you, you find yourself clarifying your values on a pretty regular basis. Let’s just say this past year provided a target-rich environment for deeply examining what you hold dear, why you value what you value, and how you will express and live those values on a daily basis. What did you learn about your values? Is there anything you’d like to change, or explore further?

About your impact.  Depending on who’s using them and how they’re being used, Information skills can be incredible agents for positive change. In your work this past year, what did you learn about your ability to use your expertise to create positive impact? If you were able to have a positive impact, how did that feel? Is having a positive impact on others’ lives and/or goals an important priority for you? If so, how might you do even more of this type of work in the coming year?

About what you still want to learn. I usually end up with about five additional things I want to learn for every one thing I’ve learned in a given year. Yep, I learned how to create (sort of) a WordPress site, but now I want to learn how to use Camtasia, Adobe Photoshop, podcast software, and conferencing software.

I learned how to use Twitter, but now I need to learn how to use Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube, and probably five other social media platforms that don’t even have names yet. I learned about storyboarding, but need to learn all the basics of online instructional design. And the list goes on….

What did you learn this year, and what new interests or opportunities might it open up for you? What else do you want to learn to keep expanding your expertise and value and impact?

From accomplishment to acceleration

Just to clarify, accomplishments are great – they’re clear evidence that you’re doing important and effective work with your LIS skills, and they certainly deserve celebration. (Way to go!!!!)

But if you want to take a longer-term view of your career, and what you’re investing in your career, it’s really important to focus on the ongoing pursuit of learning as well. To quote career expert Penelope Trunk, “Find a foot in the door and then start learning everything you can to open that door wider.” Few things open career doors more effectively than ongoing learning. Go for it!