Amelia Kassel is well known to hundreds of San Jose State University and Simmons LIS students as a great teacher and career mentor. She’s also known among countless researchers and independent information professionals (not to mention clients) as an expert researcher on myriad business topics.
Amelia has had an amazing impact on the profession. She shares insights about her career here…
There are some LIS professionals that, given the opportunity, I always read: Mary Ellen Bates, Stephen Abram, Rachel Singer Gordon, Pat Wagner, and a handful of others.
I also keep an eye out for anything written by Jamie Larue, because, besides the fact that he’s an interesting thinker, I especially like his approach to public librarianship, which I will loosely paraphrase as “get the hell out of the building and into the community.” (Actually, in his defense, I don’t think I’ve ever heard Jamie swear…)
Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
– Samuel Beckett
How can you not love an article that touts the benefits of failure with a cover photo of actor Alec Baldwin? In its January 2010 issue, Wired magazine had a series of articles entitled “How to Fail” that focuses on the opportunities inherent in failure if we’re wise enough (and paying enough attention) to reframe them as learning opportunities.
That’s the premise of lead article “The Neuroscience of Screwing Up” by Jonah Lehrer, which examines scientific research as the poster child of accidental discoveries based on dashed expectations and failed experiments. Missteps, wrong paths taken, world-class screw-ups – pretty much the hallmarks of a life lived to its fullest, and a career engaged to the max.
I’ve had the good fortune to be friends with Pat Wagner for many years, and during that time have marveled at her ability to “get to the heart of the matter” clearly and quickly, whatever that matter happened to be. Recently she shared this information about her career helping library organizations do what they do, only better.
What is your current position or professional role?
I am a management consultant for the library community. I speak at conferences, conduct workshops at libraries, facilitate meetings, and provide advice for groups and individuals. My topics are mostly what people don’t learn in grad school: personnel, management, leadership, strategic planning, project management, customer service, marketing, conflict management and career issues. I also help write, produce and market online classes in various formats. My main partner is the University of North Texas LE@D program, which provides online continuing education classes for libraries.
Mary Ellen Bates is arguably one of the best-known information professionals working today. Her workshops are standing-room-only, and her books, blog, and columns have helped countless independent info pros and those considering this option find their way.
Following are the answers Mary Ellen gave to questions about her career path:
What is your current position or professional role?
It’s a personal point of pride that I don’t have a job title, but I will admit to being the founder and principal of Bates Information Services Inc. I help my clients make better-informed strategic decisions through research and analysis, and I offer business coaching for both new and long-time independent info pros.
How long have you been doing this work?
I started my business in 1991, after having worked in special libraries for more than a decade.
What career path led you to this work?
I worked in special libraries for 12 years, primarily managing corporate information centers. I loved the research, but didn’t enjoy managing people or working within large organizations. While attending a Special Libraries Association conference back in the late 1980s, I saw an exhibit booth for the Association of Independent Information Professionals, and I knew I’d found my future.
The problem is this: Often the heart and mind disagree. Fervently.
– Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard
You know the feeling: you know you need to make a change of some sort, but don’t seem to be able to get it in gear.
Perhaps you’ve decided to broaden your skill set, which may mean pursuing an online certificate or degree, something you’ve never done before. Or you’ve decided that you’re going to start actively building your professional brand online, necessitating learning and using unfamiliar tools. Or you’ve determined that your organization could support professional development among the staff much more effectively if it changed its approach to annual performance evaluations – but how do you help bring about that change in approach?
Heather Hedden, author of the excellent and very practical The Accidental Taxonomist(Information Today, 2010), has developed her career as a respected taxonomist by being willing to take on new challenges, move fluidly between employment and self-employment, and constantly learn more about the issues and technologies that drive this discipline. In Heather’s words:
One of the really cool things about how flexible an LIS career can be is that it allows you to create your own path, and pretty much endlessly take that career onto new paths as your life circumstances dictate. And if you enjoy multi-tasking, one of those new paths might actually be to take it several directions at the same time.
For example, as you think about the future of your career, you might consider combining multiple types of income streams. For example:
That’s one of the questions we’ll be exploring in a new subgroup I’ve just created on LinkedIn – and we need your participation!
The goal of the group is to provide a forum for asking your career questions, sharing your career and professional expertise, finding out more about career paths that may be of interest to you, and finding ways to connect with people who may be able to help with your career goals.
How To Join the Group
If you’re already a LinkedIn member, just go to the LIS Career Options group page (it’s a subgroup of the ALA groups page; you don’t have to be an ALA member to join, but you will have to join the ALA LinkedIn Group) and sign up – no approval process necessary. Then jump in and start asking or answering questions, start a new discussion thread, recommend a great resource, or contribute in any way you’d like. (And yep, lurkers are welcome, too!)
Pop quiz: what’s the one resource every aspiring information broker and independent researcher should read, re-read, and keep handy on his or her desk? The recently released second edition of Mary Ellen Bates’ Building & Running a Successful Research Business (CyberAge Books/Information Today, Inc.).
Subtitled “A Guide for the Independent Information Professional,” the second edition of this popular and practical guide is even more useful than the first edition (2003), because so much has changed in the ensuing seven years. Bates captures this perfectly in her introduction:
When I wrote the first edition of this book, blogs were a novelty; Google’s ad server was cranking out ads so fast that it ran out of “inventory” (not enough advertisers for the space available); and “knowledge management” was the hot new job title. What I find most exciting about what has happened since the early 2000s is that what was then only available to the big players is probably now just an app you can download to your phone.