- The NextGen Librarian’s Survival Guide
One of the critical issues facing our profession is the recruitment, retention, and professional growth and development of new librarians. The much discussed "graying" of the profession and the subsequent difficulty in filling vacancies for key organizational positions, especially management positions, means that librarians have become increasingly interested in succession planning. The NextGen Librarian's Survival Guide is written for new librarians, library school students, and those considering the profession of librarianship, and particularly those who are in their twenties and thirties or the "NextGen." It aims to provide practical information for the younger generation; and for the older generation and library managers, it offers some insight into the expectations of those new to the field.
Much of the content for the book is drawn from two surveys of people in the field who were either under 40 or over 40. There were 206 respondents to the under-40 survey and 134 respondents to the over-40 survey, for a total of 340 survey respondents. The survey information and questions are available in appendix A of the book. The book does not include a literature review, which would have been a useful addition, but there is a list of Web sites and recommended readings provided in appendix B. The book's chapters cover surviving library school, the job hunt, entry-level positions, career development, images and stereotypes, networking, work/life balance, and how NextGens can make a difference. There is also a chapter for library administrators.
Rachel Singer Gordon is consulting editor for the Book Publishing Division at Information Today, Inc., and she writes and speaks on next generation librarianship, library careers, writing for publication, and succession planning. She is the co-creator of Beyond the Job, http://librarycareers.blogspot.com/, a professional development Weblog for librarians, and the Web master of Lisjobs.com. She is also the author of The Accidental Library Manager (Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc., 2005).
In the first chapter, Gordon describes why today's next generation librarians are in a unique situation. As workplace hierarchies flatten, NextGens may participate on a more equal footing with their older colleagues. NextGens grew up with technology, so they have a unique perspective on its use. They face increasing outside pressures to challenge current perceptions of libraries and librarianship and to demonstrate our continued relevance. [End Page 474] They have more options for employment and may be more likely to change jobs and careers if unsatisfied. The graying of the profession means that libraries must make a significant investment in the recruitment, retention, and professional growth of newer librarians. Of course, these issues also affect their older colleagues and could lead to conflict in the workplace over differing generational expectations and stereotypes. By addressing these generational concerns, Gordon hopes to help librarians from different generations understand each other and work better together.
Many readers will probably skip or skim the chapter on surviving library school; but for prospective librarians and current students, it gives advice on researching schools and how to make the most of your library education. The next chapter deals with the job search and tells NextGen librarians how to stand out from the crowd. From the quoted comments of the under-40 survey respondents, some newly minted librarians find the job search frustrating and discouraging, so Gordon provides encouragement as well as practical tips.
The chapter on entry-level positions raises the question of how NextGen librarians cannot only survive but also thrive in a workplace "dominated by professionals much older than yourself." (p. 63) It emphasizes that new librarians need to take responsibility for settling in and moving forward rather than expecting their institutions and supervisors to meet all of their needs in this regard. The section on "Dealing with Dinosaurs" encourages NextGen librarians to cultivate the ability to balance their need for change with respect for institutional history and the skills and knowledge of all of their colleagues. The chapter entitled "Moving Forward" discusses career issues such as when to leave...