Something you don’t learn in library school

I’ve been talking to a lot of new people lately – students and librarians alike – and in those talks, something has become very clear to me – no one is teaching people the simple techniques to keep up with our profession. I’m not talking about the power user style of keeping up (subscribing to hundreds of feeds), I’m talking about the basics of library journals. In my program I have only had one professor encourage us to read American Libraries (she even emailed us the online version every time it came out). I had one professor point us to digital library journals (in my digital libraries class) and others have pointed us to the databases where we can find library specific articles. What about the journals most libraries subscribe to?

At my last library there was an internal routing list that anyone could sign up for. There were over 100 journals routing around the library and only 3 or 4 people were subscribed to Library Journal – only 5 or 6 to Computers in Libraries and similarly small numbers on the other journals that crossed my desk. Here at my new library I’m not sure who’s reading what. Most journals are stored in our staff lounge for us to read as we please (and I don’t know people well enough yet to share their reading habits with you all).

People are always in awe at how some bloggers keep up with everything – and yet they don’t practice the simplest of tricks – read the journals that your library subscribes to. Take them to lunch with you if you don’t have time during the work day – or if you have down time on the circ or reference desk, read them there.

But back to my original point – why aren’t our professors telling us about these small pockets of information? Why isn’t it required in some of my classes to keep up with library news – why is it that there are students who haven’t even heard of Library Journal (or other similar titles)? The best place to learn about these tools is in library school – where (almost certainly) you’ll have access to many (if not all) of the library journals that are available.

Seems silly to me that we spend our days learning about theory that will only relate to our jobs in the remotest way – but not about the tools that will help us keep up with our profession once we graduate.

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  1. Thanks for bringing this up! I’m just finishing my first year of library school–er, sorry, information school–and have only had one class in which a professor suggested that we try to keep up with library journals. And, surprise, the class isn’t taught by a professor, it’s taught by a librarian. Before I started school, the manager of the public library I worked in told me “the most important thing you can do is keep up with the literature so you know what’s going on.”

    It boggles my mind that this isn’t something emphasized in library education. But I see it as just one example of a huge gulf between library/information school and the realities of the profession. I think it may have something to do–in my program, anyway–of an increasing marginalization of libraries and librarians in “library and information science” education. In my first week of this program, a faculty member told me that I should really try to look at other careers besides librarianship, which was, he said, a 19th-century profession.

  2. Oh no he didn’t!!! I can’t believe he works in a library school! There are so many things wrong with the way we’re trained and the profession that I guess I’m not so surprised – but this is why something has got to be changed.

    I always ask why other professionals have to continue their education in order to maintain their professional status (lawyers, teachers, doctors, insurance salespeople, etc) but we don’t – we get our degree and ta da! we’re librarians. Add to that the fact that librarians aren’t keeping up with the changes in the field and your professor was right – if librarianship doesn’t change then it is a dying profession.

  3. This is my favorite interview question: “What do you do to keep up with new developments and changing practices in the profession?” It works for both library professionals and technology professionals (the two types of positions I tend to be involved with). The answers speak volumes about not only the applicant’s commitment to the particular profession but also the likelihood that the individual will be a creative problem solver.

    (So if I’m involved with your interview, be prepared to answer that question!)

  4. You’ll be pleased to know that in my digitization class at SU, we do talk about how to keep up, people to keep an eye on, etc. Like Bo’s faculty members, I’m a practicing librarian/instructor (not a professor). I would hope, though, that it’s not just the instructors who think of this.

  5. Jill that’s great!! You touch on another thing I rant about a lot 🙂 Why is it that we have professors who haven’t been in libraries in years – or at all? This is of course a problem with many professors – but right now I’m just focused on our profession.

  6. Library students and faculty may be interested in this: “Library Journal is offering a free one-year subscription to library science majors and faculty.” The post was last November but the application form is still on the LJ website. Worth a try.

    It is supposed to be for US students only, but I sent in my Canadian address, and I am happily receiving LJ. A good way to get started.

  7. John – I sent in that app in December and never got a copy 🙁 I wonder if I try again if it will work.

  8. In many ways, blogs and other online tools have replaced the printed journal. Don’t get me wrong, I still read School Library Journal and Booklist, but I pile them up and make a date with myself to go thru them.
    Online resources such as blogs, web pages, and even journal articles online are easier for me to read a little at a time…I use Google Reader to keep me current so I don’t even have to check all my sources for new info…it is done for me and put all in one place. I keep up much better with trends and current concerns thru the online world…and I am not a digital native, just a well-practiced immigrant!

  9. I totally agree!! But – unfortunately – there are still a lot of librarians who don’t see a benefit in reading blogs. I think of the paper journals as a gateway drug 🙂 You get hooked and want to learn more so you start to explore blogs & online resources.

  10. I just finnished library school and although these magazines where mentionned and in the student lounge, I only once heard a professor encourage us to read them.

  11. This looks promising – I’d love to be kept up to date!

  12. At either my interview or first day of the job, six years ago, my boss told me that everyone was expected to keep up with the literature. There are many (*many*) journals routed through the library and departments. It’s not just talk, at least in my department. Once in a while, if the departmental journal basket looks a little too full, one of my bosses grabs a stack of magazines with unchecked names and puts two or three journals on each person’s desk.

  13. I don’t find that library lit. (peer-reviewed publications) tell me anything useful as a professional.

    I work in reference and I’m a supervisor too and with the exception of some stuff in Library Journal the rest of it does nothing for me. That’s why I skip it.

  14. It’s not all peer-reviewed – what about the less formal ones like the ones from Information Today?

    If you don’t read library lit, how are you keeping up with other libraries are doing? Where the field is going? etc?

    My point was more that people need to keep up – and since blogs are not accepted by all – then library related publications should be introduced to students.

  15. I read blogs. Reports and analysis from the trenches do more for me than an article in RUSA Quarterly about an ANOVA-ized study of the effects of information literacy and instant messenger on see I already made myself bored writing this.

    I find material from other disciplines more helpful than stuff that comes from the library ghetto. Management, organizational behavior and psych., computer science, linguistics, econ., IP, and so forth.

  16. I teach in a LIS program and I do assign much current reading from journals. However, I notice on papers I receive that there is a growing tendency for people in my classes to cite items they can get online w/o going through the library’s databases. If I assign an item not online I get serious complaints. I try a balance. I do visit a real library weekly. Of course, I began teaching in pre-online days so had habits formed before so much was available online.

  17. Interesting! I always use the library databases – but maybe that’s cause I was a librarian before library school! So, what’s the answer then? How do we get students to learn about the many ways there are to keep up with the profession?

  18. Not sure why LIS faculty can’t do more in this area, especially after much of what they teach will be obsolete a few hours after students graduate. I teach the academic library services course at Drexel. The first night I discuss the importance of keeping up – and go over key journals for academic librarians – as well as blogs – and the importance of keeping up in peripheral fields like higher education and educational technology – not just library stuff! I will stress this again in the last class session and take the students to my Keeping Up Web site ( so they’ll have resources and ideas to use. I also stress taking professional development courses from various consortia and getting on mail lists for various providers of webcasts and video – recorded presentations (Blended Librarians Community, Google Talks, TED talks, etc.). It doesn’t take long for faculty to communicate this to students. To my way of thinking – this is a key difference between full time LIS faculty who are not practitioners, and adjuncts who are familiar with the front line. I guess, for LIS students, it comes down to who your instructor is. But don’t let that stop you. If you limit yourself to who you meet in your classroom – that’s a barrier you set for yourself. You have all the opportunity in the world to get out to libraries and talk to librarians – and ask them how they keep up. That’s where you really start to learn.

  19. Oh – and another thing I do to get students in the habit of keeping up – I push the RSS feed for Kept Up Academic Librarian ( into our blackboard course site. That way, every time the students log in to the course – they see daily news items about higher education of relevance to academic librarians. I also have them read and write essays on articles from the Chronicle of Higher Ed. I hope these experiences will inspire them to keep on keeping up even after the class ends. This stuff isn’t hard to do. I guess some LIS faculty just don’t care.

  20. I don’t know about Temple – or Drexel for that matter – but I get the impression that no one is training the staff in how to use Blackboard – they’re just using it the best they can figure out. This is a whole other problem, because it makes it hard for the students to figure out where professors are putting info, how to submit assignments, and where to look for grades.

  21. Library journals and blogs are not the only ways to keep up with the profession. Library association workshops and sessions are vital for me. It’s not just reading that is valuable, but asking questions and discussing issues are as, if not more, valuable to me. (I gues sI didn’t pay attention to keeping up with “the literature” in library school since I had worked in libraries and already figured that out.

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