Know Thyself

Tools to help you make a change

June 1, 2017

Librarian's Library: Karen Muller

There are several moments in the year when many of us feel an urge to reflect on personal goals, assess skills, and make resolutions toward personal and professional growth. The obvious times are the new years: calendar, fiscal, school, cultural. Another is an employment anniversary date. For me, the ALA Annual Conference has always been among my restarting points. Presentations are inspiring. New products shine in the exhibit hall, and conversations with colleagues spark ideas for new ways to address old challenges back at the shop. Here, then, are some recent titles to encourage professional reassessment.

This first book grew out of a 2014 ALA Annual Conference presentation. Taking Your MLIS Abroad: Getting and Succeeding in an International Library Job, by Lara Seven Phillips and Katherine G. Holvoet, both of whom have worked overseas, explains the process of landing and taking on an appointment in an international library. The result is something of an instruction manual for Americans working outside the US. The authors begin with tips on finding available jobs and how to complete the application process. They cover the basics of the job offer, visa requirements, and moving preparations. Chapters on living abroad provide pointers on how to negotiate mail, money, schools, social life, health care, and culture shock, using anecdotes and tips from a lengthy roster of other expat library workers. Finally, they address ending the international engagement and returning home, which again can result in culture shock. Libraries Unlimited, 2016. 250 P. $50. PBK. 978-1-4408-5021-9. (Also available as an ebook.)

“Mindfulness” is a hot word right now. In Becoming a Reflective Librarian and Teacher: Strategies for Mindful Academic Practice, Michelle Reale maintains that mindfulness goes with intention to produce reflection. (See our feature on mindfulness, p. 44.) She defines reflection as a deliberate and intentional thought process that leads to an assessment of how one works. Once there is honest reflection, it is possible to forge new ways forward. The chapters move through the process of becoming reflective and incorporating the practice into one’s daily work, beginning with ways to get started, exhortations to be consistent, and the usefulness of jour­naling. Reale explores what seems to be an inherent conflict between reflection and the pressure to be results-oriented, but she maintains that reflection is an important part of the evaluation cycle. New actions will emerge because of reflection, resulting in positive changes that benefit the work team or classroom. ALA Editions, 2017. 144 P. $57. PBK. 978-0-8389-1529-5.

Have you perhaps reached a “leadership crisis point”? Alan Willett, author of Leading the Unleadable: How to Manage Mavericks, Cynics, Divas, and Other Difficult People, defines it as the point at which being in charge is a trudge, not an opportunity for continued personal growth. Leadership involves bringing people along a path, whether they are individuals, teams, shareholders, or funders. The initial chapters detail how to change one’s mind-set from discouragement to one that projects exceptional leadership. They are followed by tips on identifying what issues might be impeding your leadership abilities and how to work through them to find opportunities for improvement, set expectations, balance competing forces, and remove those persons impeding your team’s mission. American Management Association, 2016. 240 P. $17.95. PBK. 978-0-8144-3760-5 (Also available as an ebook.)

Intrapreneurship Handbook for Librarians: How to Be a Change Agent in Your Library, by Arne J. Almquist and Sharon G. Almquist, begins with a history of librarians as both entrepreneurs (who work on a project outside established institutions) and intrapreneurs (change agents working within an organization). We work with the results of the librarian entrepreneurs every day, often in their evolved form: MARC, Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature, and Dewey Decimal Classification, to name a few. Librarian intrapreneurs seek to expand services in innovative ways, such as a scalable local history digitization project at McCracken County (Ky.) Public Library. The authors review intrapreneurial qualities from several perspectives, from characteristics defined in general management literature (the five Ps: passion, perseverance, promotion, planning, and professionalization) to lists of successful change-agent characteristics (enthusiasm; an ability to collaborate well; and being a troubleshooter, proactive, and a communicator). From this foundation, the authors discuss ways to create an intrapreneurial culture and make it successful through salesmanship, teambuilding, and solid implementation. Libraries Unlimited, 2017. 153 P. $55. PBK. 978-1-6106-9528-2. (Also available as an ebook.)

In this collection of essays, The Heart of Librarianship: Attentive, Positive, and Purposeful Change, blogger and columnist Michael Stephens addresses learning. He says that learning is “a cyclical process of support, engagement, and discovery with deep roots in the concepts of service, access, and freedom to pursue interests of all kinds.” In short chapters grouped around themes of skills, environmental scanning, curriculum, communities of practice, and library learning, Stephens touches on some of the same issues as our other writers. He explores reflective practice, encourages keeping up with change, supports taking the initiative to lead change, and aggressively promotes continuous learning—the process of gleaning information from all sources, whether formal or grassroots. ALA Editions, 2016. 176 P. $48. PBK. 978-0-8389-1454-0. (Also available as an ebook.)

Sometimes, the strength to forge ahead professionally will be found in other ways. SereKNITy: Peaceful Projects to Soothe and Inspire, by Nikki Van De Car, is a delightful collection of knitting and crocheting projects with inspiring names, such as “reclaim,” “simplicity,” and “leisure.” The last is an important bit of work–life balance. Visit your local public library for other books to inspire your leisure! Running Press, 2017. 120 P. $20.99. PBK. 978-0-7624-6191-2. (Also available as an ebook.)


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