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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.

Understand and communicate your value proposition

Once you have a good sense of what types of jobs you find interesting and the skills required for those jobs, your next step is to clearly understand how to position your strengths for a potential employer in a way that aligns with the organization’s needs as identified in the job postings you’ve read.

Overall, you want to target all of your “messages,” that is, your resume, cover letter, and interview responses, toward one key value statement: “I am the solution to your problem.” When you’re ready to apply for a job, your goal is to learn, from the job posting and doing as much research on the organization as possible, what problem, challenge, or opportunity it’s trying to address through the posted position, and then focus entirely on the value you bring that will help it successfully do so.

Basically, your communications should showcase four things:


Freelancing and LIS career independence

One of the questions that comes up frequently when talking about LIS career options is freelancing. Does it make sense to pick up freelance work if you already have a job? The answer very much depends on your individual life circumstances, but for me, freelancing has been integral to my career growth (and opportunities) from the beginning.

Benefits of freelancing
Freelancing – also known these days as side-gigs, side-hustles, and project work – can be a great career “add-on.” It can give you a modest source of income in addition to your full-time job salary, it can help you build out your professional portfolio to include demonstrations of additional skills, and it can help you expand the network of people who have first-hand knowledge of those terrific skills.


6 ways to max out your “next step” job

Wondering if there’s a perfect LIS job out there for you that you’ve somehow missed? Considering a potential new position but aren’t sure if it’s the perfect fit for you? If so, welcome to one of the most popular groups in the world – the ‘I’m still looking for the perfect job’ club.

In fact, it’s such a hot topic that a quick cruise through any online bookstore will also make clear what a financial bonanza it is for the publishing industry: there are thousands of books related to finding your path, landing the job that’s perfect for you (I especially like the title that also promises a $250,000+ salary), creating your best work, and identifying working environments that will unleash your inner peak performer, among other topics.

In their own way, each of these books is likely to have a nugget (or several) of wisdom to help you get closer to your perfect job. But it might be a lot more effective to shoot for a great career rather than a perfect job. Why? Because, as Emerson noted, life’s a journey, not a destination. So, too, are careers.

Moving into your next step

The great thing about careers as a process is that almost every job can in some manner be a “next step” job – one that enables you to accomplish things that get you closer to a job that’s ideal for you. How? By taking control of your goals and outcomes. Specifically:

Consider your professional equity (PE).  Think about your professional equity as a Venn diagram of overlapping circles: what you know (your information skills), who you know (your network), and who knows about you (your brand or professional visibility). Your goal is to continue to build out each of these areas – this is the career asset that will continue to open up great opportunities for you the more you invest in it.

Create an annual agenda.  Keeping that professional equity in mind, in what ways can you use your current job or the job you’re about to take to expand in one, two, or all three areas? What can you learn? With whom can you establish new relationships, especially in new professional communities? Is there an opportunity to raise your career visibility by writing, presenting, blogging, or in some other way sharing a new or expanding area of expertise?

Once you’ve thought this through, create an annual job agenda that reflects your professional equity goals and what actions you’ll take to accomplish them. Give yourself some accountability – how many people will you reach out to over what amount of time, by when will you have gotten that photo up on your social media accounts, what online tech course will you take, where and when? Then put your agenda in play – that way you’re making forward progress toward your career goals, building your professional equity, and moving closer to your ideal job no matter what else is going on in your current one.

Take charge of performance reviews.  One of the great things about millennials in the workplace is they seem to be having a wonderful effect on the highly-detested annual performance review…as in, they’re going away. In their place, managers are more often now giving feedback in the context of the moment, which of course makes much better sense. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t create your own (perhaps quarterly or semi-annual) performance review. The difference is, when you’re initiating your own performance review, it can focus on helping you reach those agenda goals you developed earlier.

So, for instance, if one of your goals is to learn more about project management, let your manager know that you’d like to take on more responsibility in this area and make it clear that you’re willing to do any necessary learning to do so, including taking courses, reading books, reaching out to experts, etc. (if necessary, on your own time). You want to make sure that the skills you’re trying to build/expand will benefit your employer as well, but try to “double down” as often as possible. 

Create DIY learning opportunities.  Do-it-yourself learning opportunities can often be found via volunteering for new project initiatives within the organization and learning as you work. Other ways to learn new skills on the job include working with a mentor (younger or older, but someone who’s got the skills you seek), organizing “lunch and learn” presentations, taking free online courses and then sharing your knowledge with colleagues, signing up for vendor training (often free), and participating in LinkedIn group discussions relevant to your job/organization’s focus.

If you’re working for a great employer, they’ll fully support your efforts by giving you time during the day to build your skills. If, however, you’re working for a normal employer, you may end up doing your learning on your own time. But really, that’s okay – you’re investing in your career future, and you’re the one who’s going to reap the long-term benefit of those efforts.

Focus on the key player: you.  By now almost everyone knows the drill: no matter who we happen to be working for today, we’re all self-employed. That’s not because employers are terrible, it’s because we’ve moved into a workplace reality where budget constraints and “operating efficiencies” outweigh all other considerations. That boss who loves you and understands what a terrific job you do may still have to lay you off at some point. It may tear her up, but it won’t be her decision to make, no matter how much she values you as an employee and a person.

The takeaway for all of us? All working relationships – including those in libraries – are business relationships. That means that you must be your own best advocate and protector. No one else can do this for you. So in every job situation, your responsibility is to make sure that you’re using the job to enhance your future career opportunities while you’re also doing a great job for your employer. The two can actually dovetail quite nicely if you do some strategic thinking and planning.

Pay attention to the bridge.  Every next-step job (which actually means almost every job you’ll ever have) is a platform from which you’ll build the bridge to your next one. Essentially, the professional-equity-building work you do in your current job should ideally be positioning you for the next opportunity you’d like to grow into. What skills would you need? Who would be helpful to know? What could you do to start building visibility (and credibility) with this new-opportunity community?

Not sure what next-step job might interest you? Now’s the time to start exploring. Join LinkedIn groups, read trade journals, scan conference programs, do information interviews – come up with as many different ways as you can to expand your career horizons.

Moving toward your perfect work

As you move through your LIS career, each stop along the way can provide you with valuable information and positioning opportunities, but only if you take responsibility for that outcome. Is it worth the effort? As someone who’s done this throughout her entire career, I’d say absolutely yes – if you want to continue to move toward your perfect work.

The interview disconnect: why should we hire you?

Your ultimate goal for every interview meeting is to
make it easy for them to decide to hire you.
– Anne Langley


Working toward a dynamic, rewarding, opportunity-driven LIS career? If so, you’re likely to change jobs and possibly career directions at least several times (if not ten to twenty). Each one of those changes will probably involve a job interview. I know – arghhhh!

The good news? Learning a few must-have moves will help you, as librarian/author Robin O’Hanlon would say, ace the interview. (I cannot recommend her book, the source of Anne Langley’s quote, highly enough: Ace the Interview, Land a Librarian Job, Libraries Unlimited, 2016.)

There is one specific area, however, that you may want to really focus on. (more…)