Book Reviews

The Future Academic Librarian’s Toolkit: Finding Success on the Job Hunt and in Your First Job. Megan Hodge, ed. Chicago, IL: Association of College and Research Libraries, 2019. 318p. Paper, $62.00 (ISBN 978-0-8389-8957-9). LC 2019-022297.

Book cover for The Future Academic Librarian’s Toolkit: Finding Success on the Job Hunt and in Your First Job

This book is divided into five sections, beginning with an orientation to academic librarianship and ending with the search for one’s second professional position. The descriptive section titles tell the reader exactly what to expect from each part, and they deliver on their promises. Librarians or MLIS students short on time will benefit from the many “Try This” sections scattered throughout every chapter. These include short lists of action steps the reader can take.

Chapter 1, “An Introduction to Academic Librarianship” by J.E. Callas, is everything an aspiring librarian unfamiliar with academia would want or need to know. What is the mission of an academic library? Does institution size matter? How does a librarian earn tenure? Readers are urged not to skip this thoroughly informative chapter. No further chapters were needed for part I; this one does an excellent job of explaining academic librarianship.

Chapter 2, “Making Yourself Marketable for Academic Librarian Positions” by K. Sobel, begins the second section. The primary foci are planning your job search, gaining applied experience in an academic library, taking courses that will serve you well, and formatting a CV. Although the chapter wandered a bit far from its stated marketability goal when it delved into social media, the writing is informative and practical. Its tone is accessible and encouraging while not palliating the subject for the reader.

Chapter 3, “The Academic Job Search” by P.A. Mosley, gives excellent advice on how to prepare for an academic interview. Mosley describes pitfalls to avoid in the application process, such as using a generic cover letter, failing to provide references up front, or sticking to a one-page limit for a CV. A rich description of what to expect in an on-campus interview follows. This section is particularly important reading for potential interviewees, as it will guide them through a variety of common experiences from dinner to the presentation. Some of the most helpful guidance in this chapter is that which helps applicants navigate interpersonal landmines: for example, “avoid coming across as someone who will immediately change things or expressing disapproval for things that are not done in the way you were taught in library school” (61).

Expanding on the general job search information in the previous chapter, “Troubleshooting the Job Search” by R. Hodson, M. Sullivan, and K. Williams provides advice on how to approach some of the major roadblocks one might expect in the search process. The reader is asked to center themselves within one of six different job-seeker personas to determine how to approach their candidacy and the interview. For example, a “library veteran” who has substantial work experience in a paraprofessional position ought to be prepared to answer how they will handle transitioning into a professional role. The authors also suggest approaches for describing transferrable skills in such a way to make it easy to connect to a library-related context. Another noteworthy section outlines a sample schedule for keeping a job search manageable and well-organized. Checking job boards daily, scheduling time to write applications weekly, reflecting on progress, and rewarding yourself monthly are sound advice.

In part III, “Working within the Academy,” the authors aim to acclimate new academic librarians to their jobs. Chapter 5, “You’re Hired! Now What? Positioning Yourself for Success in a New Job” by Z.T. Wilkinson, covers many things that those new to the profession would need to have an awareness of when they launch their careers. Enumerating these is helpful, as many supervisors may miss some of this key information during onboarding. Practicalities such as procedures for requesting vacation time and how and when you will be evaluated are all essential in a new position.

Chapter 6, “Liaison Librarianship” by J. Glover, thoroughly covers the duties that may be expected of a librarian in this role. The author’s attention to connecting with faculty in liaison areas will be particularly valuable to first-time liaison librarians. A bit of advice is offered that resonates far beyond the role of a liaison as well: “developing and maintaining soft skills can dramatically improve our ability to connect our patrons with the resources that will enable them to excel” (121). The value of building informal relationships with liaison faculty in a social setting is also presented. Although several assessment methods for determining the effectiveness of liaison work are presented, none is quite robust enough to satisfy. In the end, this will be in the hands of the liaison librarian’s primary evaluator. One of the most urgent messages presented in this chapter is the advice that new librarians adopt early on a documentation mindset. Having appropriate documentation of activities and interaction with faculty is essential for successful promotion, tenure, and annual evaluation documents.

Chapter 7, “A Primer for New Teachers” by C. Benjes-Small, is a comprehensive orientation to basic library pedagogy. Most of the advice presented is sound and will be very helpful to new library instructors (for example, the idea of focusing conversations with faculty on student learning rather than the librarian’s preferences). If a faculty member cannot attend a library instruction session, the suggestion that they send “a colleague ... who is familiar with the course and would be willing to attend in her place” is unusual (136). If your library has a faculty attendance policy, it is likely that explaining it would suffice. The section on lesson planning includes the essential information needed for success in this area, especially to manage cognitive load and start from the end—what you want students to be able to do after the lesson. Although brief, the passage on assessment will serve as a useful foundation for new librarians. A key takeaway here is that “the point of assessment is not to gather data to fill up your files; it should be used to improve your teaching and student learning experiences” (143).

Chapter 8, “Academic Librarian Roles beyond Public Services” is introduced by M. Hodge, the book’s editor. It contains profiles of academic librarian specialties that may not be as well-known to new librarians. These include Digital Scholarship Librarian (by A. Koziura), Academic Data Librarian (M. Henderson), Scholarly Communications Librarian (J.E. Martin), Special Collections and Archives Librarian: Unicorns of the Library (A. Pellerin and M.D. Johnson), and Preservation Librarian (F. Durant and B. Smith). The profiles share basic requirements, what each does on a regular basis, the opportunities for advancement they do or do not offer, and resources for learning more about the position. They are short but well-curated and would benefit both new academic librarians and those considering a move away from reference and/or instruction.

Part IV, “Establishing Yourself within the Profession,” shifts to practical advice for those on-the-job at any level. This information needs to find its way to more seasoned academic librarian readers; it is truly beneficial for managers and anyone interested in generating more professional “wins.” Of all the sections in the book, this is the most essential reading for inspiring long-term career success. Chapter 9, “Networking and Conferences” by A. Hartsell-Gundy, offers a variety of ways in which one can network—up to and including conference attendance. Hartsell-Gundy offers straightforward advice on how to balance your conference schedule, ways to make travel more affordable, and tips on starting authentic conversations.

Chapter 10, “Negotiating, Persuading, and Influencing: Putting Your Ideas to Work” by R.M. Waltz, encourages the reader to spend time getting to know their organizational context through Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal’s four frames. Change management is also covered in some depth, and Waltz does a brilliant job of simplifying these complex processes. Although heavy in theory, this chapter helps the reader lay a foundation for more effective future actions. The appendices included will help readers implement theory and should not be skipped over.

If one chapter could be required reading for all with publishing requirements, it should be chapter 11, “A Rhetorical Approach to Writing for Publication” by M.S. Broussard. Without condescension or judgment, Broussard validates the reader’s struggle to produce academic manuscripts and offers ways to mitigate the challenges inherent in the topic formation and writing processes. Expect to come away from this chapter ready to hone ideas, overcome writer’s block, prewrite, and prepare a manuscript for publication.

Chapter 12, “Plan Your Impact: Stacking Your Skills to Make Yourself Irreplaceable” by K.D. Deards and L.S. Lo, will help librarians gain influence and recognition. They advocate that putting substantive thought and effort into crafting a professional presence will appear effortless to your peers. The section on saying no in a positive way to authority figures will be helpful to many progressing through the academic librarianship ranks. Heed the authors’ advice on getting your message across in a way that conveys dedication to your work. There are tables full of examples ready for implementation.

The book concludes with part V, “Preparing for Your Next Position.” Chapter 13, “Making the Most of and Moving beyond Your First Professional Position: Strategies for Success” by S. Hare and A. Versluis, is the sole chapter in the section. The authors recommend developing a peer network and making sure your work is visible in the field. An emphasis on incorporating a reflective practice into your daily work is unique to this chapter. The authors insist that there is no right or wrong length of time that librarians should stay in a position. “Generally speaking,” they say, “running toward a new position and the opportunities that it offers is a more effective strategy than running away from your current position.”

The authors of this volume are experienced academic librarians from colleges and universities throughout the United States. Many are in leadership positions within their organizations. Their chapters are thoroughly referenced, and many also provide recommended reading lists. Overall, this succinct volume offers the aspiring academic librarian precisely the overview of the field and the practical, actionable advice they need. This information is meant to be implemented. Those new to the profession will benefit from a cover-to-cover reading, while some may only need to read a chapter here and there to fill in gaps in their knowledge. It is laudable that Hodge has edited these many authors’ works into a handbook that flows well for the reader. Inevitably there is minor overlap between chapters, limited mostly to the subjects of informal networking and online presence. This is essential reading for aspiring academic librarians, MLIS students with an undecided specialty, and those who mentor these individuals.—Ginger H. Williams, Wichita State University

Copyright Ginger H. Williams

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