LIS Career Books Roundup

Career Blog

Published: August 26, 2019 by Kim Dority, SJSU iSchool Career Consultant

Looking for a good career book to help you explore your options in the library and information professions? You’re in luck! The following nearly two dozen titles all address aspects of being an LIS professional, and should help you expand your thinking when it comes to what career paths might fit you, how to build an information career (or careers) that will be rewarding both financially and personally, and how to move from student to happily-employed LIS professional.

Note: 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!

Recommendations from a pro

Building & Running a Successful Research Business: A Guide for the Independent Information Professional, 2nd ed. Mary Ellen Bates. 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 students, new grads 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 or new grads considering a freelance sideline.

Career Transitions for Librarians: Proven Strategies for Moving to Another Type of Library. Davis Erin Anderson and Raymond Pun, eds. Rowman & Littlefield, 2016. SBN 978-1442265578.

One of the LIS career questions students ask 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.

LIS Career Sourcebook: Managing and Maximizing Every Step of Your Career. Kim G. Dority. 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, and Transition Points (for example, taking a career time-out or relocating your career). Each chapter is split equally between information and recommended resources.

Rethinking Information Work: A Career Guide for Librarians and Other Information Professionals, 2d ed. Kim G. Dority. 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.

Libraries in the Information Age: An Introduction and Career Exploration, 3d ed. Denise K. Fourie and David R. Dowell. Libraries Unlimited, 2016. 349p. ISBN 9781610698641.

Intended as an LIS course textbook, Libraries in the Information Age provides 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 students considering more traditional LIS paths.

Landing a Library Job. Deloris Jackson Foxworth. Rowman & Littlefield, 2019. 212p. ISBN 9781538116999.

Although the author does a good job of identifying types of LIS jobs you may want to consider, where the book really shines is on how to actually land one of those jobs. Separate chapters focus on finding jobs, applying for the jobs you find, successfully navigating the interview process, and interview follow-up. A solid starting point for launching your job hunt.

What’s the Alternative? Career Options for Librarians and Info Pros. Rachel Singer Gordon. Information Today, 2008. 288p. ISBN 1573873330.

Gordon focuses on a multitude of nontraditional (read: not public, school, or academic) LIS roles, with an emphasis on identifying transferable skills and applying them to a variety of alternative jobs such as knowledge management, competitive intelligence, working for a vendor, or independent work. Although now somewhat out of date, this is still a solid resource to help you start brainstorming potential career paths.

Taking Your Library Career to the Next Level: Participating, Publishing, and Presenting. Holly Hibner and Mary Kelly. Chandos, 2017. 120p. ISBN 9780081022702.

The authors focus on a specific type of career-building, which is establishing and expanding the visibility of your professional 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 and something students can get started on well before they graduate.

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.

The Librarian’s Skillbook: 51 Essential Career Skills for Information Professionals. Deborah Hunt and David Grossman. 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 students.

In Our Own Voices, Redux: The Faces of Librarianship Today. Teresa Y. Neely and Jorge R. Lopez-McKnight. Rowman & Littlefield, 2018. ISBN 9781538115367.

Although not technically an LIS career book, this book 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 30 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.

This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All. Marilyn Johnson. Harper Perennial, 2011. 304p. ISBN 0061431613.

In the midst of the profession’s handwringing 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. An upbeat and positive take on the profession’s future as well as its future opportunities, and a great read for students.

Jump-Start Your Career as a Digital Librarian. Jane D. Monson, ed. Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) and Neal Schuman, 2013. ISBN 9781555708771.

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.

Working in the Virtual Stacks: The New Library & Information Science. Laura Townsend Kane. 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 students and 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.

The New Information Professional: Your Guide to Careers in the Digital Age. Judy Lawson, Joanna Kroll, and Kelly Kowatch, 2010. 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 organization that might not initially prove, ahem, excited about doing things differently.

Career Q&A: A Librarian’s Real-Life, Practial Guide to Managing a Successful Career. Susanne Markgren and Tiffany Eatman Allen. 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 a while but are encountering new career challenges.

Resume Writing and Interviewing Techniques That Work! A How-to-do-it Manual for Librarians. Robert R. Newlen. Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2006. 206p. ISBN 1555705383.

One of the publisher’s familiar “How-to-do-it-Manuals for Librarians” titles, this work is useful for both jobs in traditional library fields and those outside them. Updating Newlen’s earlier Writing Resumes That Work (1998), this guide provides an excellent framework for shaping and then presenting your achievements.

Ace the Interview, Land a Librarian Job. Robin O’Hanlon. 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 new to the interviewing process 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.

Growing Your Library Career with Social Media. Daniella Smith. Chandos, 2018. 208p. ISBN 9780081024119.

Associate Professor with the University of North Texas Dept. of Information Science, Smith 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. Terrific, actionable information that you can put into play while still in grad school.

Managing Your Brand: Career Management and Personal PR for Librarians. Julie Still. 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

Be Opportunity-Minded: Start Growing Your Career Now. Caitlin Williams. ALA Editions, 2018. 192p. ISBN 978-0838917725.

Williams is a career coach who’s worked with library workers (among others) for more than two decades, and in Be Opportunity-Minded she’s created a toolbox of insights and strategies to help you start and then build your LIS career, regardless of what directions interest you. Especially valuable for students to help you start practicing how to spot (or create) opportunities, even in grad school.


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