03 November 2008


MacKellar, Pamela H., The Accidental Librarian, Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc., 2008, ISBN 978-1-57387-338-3, US$29.50, foreword by Karen Strege [Director of the American Library Association Library Support Staff Certificate Program]

What is an “accidental” librarian? MacKellar, a library consultant who has mentored many “accidental” librarians in all types of libraries, writes, “Librarians without MLS degrees are essentially accidental librarians—increasingly being hired as frontline librarians of all kinds and sizes, performing duties that were formerly carried out exclusively by professional librarians, while MLS librarians can be found working behind the scenes in management and administrative positions, including technical services, marketing, systems administration, and personnel.” (9) She adds, “Accidental librarians may be more numerous—and important—than you think:” many research libraries hire non-librarians as directors; many library school deans do not have a MLS [including number-one ranked University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign]; Librarians of Congress do not have to be degreed librarians (the first librarian was appointed in 1899 and the first degreed librarian was L. Quincy Mumford (1954-1974); the Council on Library and Information Resources doesn’t require its grant recipients to study LIS; and some states do not require the State Librarian to have a MLS.

The above doesn’t even take into account the myriad of non-librarians who staff small libraries in churches, corporations, and small public libraries. MacKellar reports that only about two-thirds of public librarians have a MLS (varying from 21 percent in Montana to nearly 100 percent in Hawaii and New Jersey). This is a deplorable situation, especially when more and more newly-graduated librarians cannot find professional positions. However, it is not a situation that is likely to change. Therefore, it is especially good that this book has been written—to give these “accidental” librarians the basics of librarianship in an easy-to-use and easy-to-implement form.

The book is divided into four parts: I. Basic Library Principles (what is a librarian? what are libraries? the people libraries serve, determining the needs of people libraries serve, letting your vision, mission, and plan be your guides); II. Basic Library Practice (developing the library’s collection, acquiring information for the library, organizing the library’s information, retrieving and disseminating information, library services, library policies, library management essentials, library marketing, removing barriers); III. Technology and the Library (public access computers, automated catalogs, online reference tools, library 2.0) and IV: Career Development (getting connected and finding support, librarian certification, continuing education, distance education, and degree programs). The text is supplemented by many sidebar interviews with successful accidental librarians and useful exercises at the end of each chapter. There are three appendices (sample library policies, LIS education resources, and library issues and legislation), a list of recommended reading, a list of websites, and an index.

While not as good as having a “real” librarian running every library, it is much better than having an uninformed amateur who is called a librarian providing poor service and giving the profession a bad name. What’s more, it can also serve as a good refresher course for anyone with a MLS who has been out of school for a while. A very worthwhile purchase.

Doucett, Elisabeth, Creating Your Library Brand: Communicating Your Relevance and Value to Your Patrons, Chicago: ALA Editions, 2008, ISBN 978-0-8389-0962-1, US$45.00.

This is a book designed not to be read front to back; it is designed so that you can read just those sections that apply to your own library’s situation. Doucett, director of the Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, Maine, has both a MSLIS and a MBA and has served as a project leader for branding programs. She even includes a sample project plan moving from what branding is through a brand audit to developing a brand and marketing plan. She begins differentiating marketing and branding and defines branding in one comprehensive sentence: “Branding is the process of defining a library’s story, distilling that into one short, appealing sentence that tells the whole story, and then visually conveying the story via the library’s logo and other branding elements.”

Next come chapters on why brand? who should be involved in branding: the ideal brand, the brand audit, the story: defining your message; the visuals: attention-grabbing support for your message; brand standards, brand advocates, and marketing; how to work with outside help; evaluating your brand: short-term and long-term; maintaining your brand; blogs and brands; and common pitfalls and false assumptions. In addition to exercises at the end of each chapter, there are two appendices consisting of three actual case studies and 113 words to describe your library and what makes it unique, a short glossary and an index. I can’t think of anything she has left out.

If you are considering creating a library brand—and every library, no matter how small, should have one—or updating your existing brand, this is the one book that you must read. (I would also recommend this classic: Ries, Al and Laura Ries, The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, New York: Collins Business, 2007, ISBN (paper) 978-006000773-7, US$18.95.)

The Accidental Librarian: http://www.accidentallibrarian.com
Creating Your Library Brand: http://www.ala.org/editions/extras/Doucett09621

1 comment:

Susan said...

These are great book reviews. Tahnk you!