In The Librarian’s Skillbook, Deb Hunt and David Grossman have compiled a wonderful list of 51 – count them, fifty-one – skills, many of which suggest a career path that would have been difficult to imagine earlier. Each skill is briefly covered in a consistent manner – Definition, Description, This Skill in Action, Tips to Acquire This Skill, and Further Reading – so that reading is straightforward. The skills are grouped into categories ranging from technical to interpersonal; every reader may instinctively (as I did) gravitate to groupings with the strongest appeal. At the end of the book, strategies are laid out for making plans to pursue desired skills; that is a valuable touch as it shines a bright light on the responsibility we all have to invest effort in the professional life ahead of us.
Roughly half of the skills covered fall into “softer” categories (think active listening, being proactive, having a positive attitude, public speaking). Many new graduates, in my experience, tend to underestimate these softer skill areas, possibly due to the academic emphasis they have just lived and breathed in their graduate programs. Such a weighting is extremely helpful as it graphically illustrates how important it is to add value to employers’ organizations through contributions other than technical work.
The references to further reading are useful as entry doors to additional reflection. The brevity of each example should not fool anyone, however. Personal experience comes through clearly in the direct and down-to-earth writing, and it makes reading the book feel just like having an interesting conversation with the authors. I found myself thinking, more or less on every page, “oh here is exactly the kind of example that would be relevant next time I speak on such-and-such topic”.
I commend Deb and David for taking the time to put down on paper this superb collection of great advice. Another reviewer has commented it should be required reading in LIS programs; I wholeheartedly concur. I add that the book makes just the right gift for someone in (or considering going into) a LIS program as it will help him or her diagnose, at the earliest possible point, potential kinds of rewarding work.
When Jill Hurst-Wahl and I were writing our career oriented book The information and Knowledge Professional’s Career Handbook: Define and Create your Success a few years ago, we made efforts to describe in it how many opportunities information professionals have for finding rewarding careers outside traditional library roles. We pointed to the careers we had forged and encouraged readers to be open minded in shaping theirs. Little could we know that the ideal illustration of specific types of work would soon be in the making. We never exchanged one word about their book with Deb and David, but the two books are perfect companions.
Thank you, Deb and David. When does your tour bus depart?