Magazine article Information Today

Back to the Basics

Magazine article Information Today

Back to the Basics

Article excerpt

Back to the Basics Expectations of Librarians in the 21st Century edited by Karl Bridges Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2003 ISBN: 0313322945 231 pages $67.95

Lately, I've been reviewing business-oriented books about knowledge management, strategizing, and similar topics. I'd like to switch gears and talk about a book that focuses on the basics of librarianship. If you were a young person contemplating your future career, what would you want to know about librarians? What do they actually do? What qualities and skills do they need? What can a new librarian look forward to? If you're already a librarian, what should you consider when hiring new staff members for your institution? In his book Expectations of Librarians in the 21st Century, Karl Bridges has collected the opinions and ideas of several information professionals.

Bridges is associate professor of information and instruction services at the University of Vermont's Bailey/Howe Library. In this book, he has compiled 53 short essays that cover varying aspects of librarianship, what we do, and what we may do in the future. The contributors are from a wide variety of institutions, such as Danbury (Conn.) Public Library, Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute, American University of Sharjah, and Yale University. The majority of them work in many types of academic libraries, including those in community colleges and research universities.

I admit up front that I'm one of the contributors. My piece appears dead last in the volume, which I thought was great. Then I read in the introduction that after lengthy consideration, Bridges decided to position the essays in the order he received them. Apparently, mine was the last sent in. Oh well.

A few of the essays struck me as particularly valuable. Molly Flaspohler writes about the "FAKTs of life" for a small college librarian. FAKT is an acronym for four essential traits: Flexible, Articulate, Kind, and Tenacious. With humor and wisdom, she describes how each of these traits is necessary in a librarian's daily work. Flaspohler obviously has lots of experience dealing with college students and faculty, yet has not become jaded.

Maria Bagshaw's "Why a Good Sh-h-h Doesn't Cut It Anymore" is a fun discussion of the lingering stereotypes about librarians. She says: "In the 1980s, the popular game show Family Feud surveyed 100 people for the top typical characteristics of librarians. The top three responses were 1) Quiet, 2) Mean/Stern, 3) Single/Unmarried." Bagshaw goes on to give her own 10 characteristics for "success in the 21st-century library," which are the opposite of the Family Feud items. …

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