The Academic Library and the Net Gen Student : Making the Connections by Susan Gibbons

The Academic Library and the Net Gen Student : Making the Connections
Susan Gibbons
(American Library Association, Chicago: 2007)

READ: February 2009

Libraries like to think that they are at the cutting edge of technology, but more often than not, they really aren't. Many in librarianship (the younger ones, anyway) likely played with various technologies while in library school[1], but once out in a real library, you are suddenly faced with layer upon layer of bureaucracy anytime you want to try another or get anything done.[2]

In this book, Susan Gibbons, the director of digital initiatives for the libraries at the University of Rochester, surveys the main Web 2.0 technologies being used by students today, and suggests ways in which libraries could use these in order to better meet the needs of students. The technologies she discusses include: social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, RSS feeds, online gaming and MMORPGs like Second Life, wikis, blogs, collaborative sites like LibraryThing, social bookmarking sites like, and, of course, instant messaging.[3] She also stresses the importance of reaching students by making library services and websites available for cellphones and other mobile devices.

Some of these ideas work better than others. I see, for example, no need for my library to have a presence in something like Second Life (but maybe that's just because I don't really understand its purpose). I question the value of a Facebook page (though the idea of having "fans" is kinda neat). I've started playing around with RSS feeds (though I note the law library does not have one), though the jury is still out on whether it's saving me time or whether it's causing me to read more things than before (I lean slightly toward the latter; however, I am becoming more well-informed, at least where travel, book reviews, and alien abduction stories[4] are concerned). Library sites do need to become more accessible via cellphones, etc., and I certainly see applications like IM helping libraries gain more ground.

The book was written in 2006, so it's not (yet) too hopelessly out-of-date. While I didn't find it too helpful in terms of suggesting suggestions of things we could actually do here at my library (though that might be at least partly due to bureaucracy that stands between my ideas and actual change), it was good for giving an overview of what is out there and what some other libraries are doing with some of these tools.

[1] I know I personally loved my classes in multimedia (for which I made an electronic version of the Tolkien bestiary), electronic text design (wrote an e-paper on the (alleged) death of the book), and yes, even the dreaded systems analysis and design (my partner and I designed a database system for the law library - alas, never implemented - in which reference questions could be tracked and indexed for easy retrieval in the future).

[2] Statement not meant to imply anything about reviewer's current workplace. If anything, I have recently started finding some loopholes to work around the bureaucracy, and implement ideas that don't affect the bureaucracy. The real problem really has become finding the time to do so.

[3] I believe the book was written pre-Twitter, but that certainly has a role to play as well.

[4] That last one is (mostly) a joke.

The Next Gen Librarian's Survival Guide by Rachel Singer Gordon

The Next Gen Librarian's Survival Guide
Rachel Singer Gordon
(Information Today, Medford (NJ): 2006)

READ: January-February 2009

I believe I stumbled across this book when getting some other books on librarianship that I had recently read reviews for. The author, Rachel Singer Gordon, is a name I already knew - she is the editor of the Info Career Trends Newsletter to which I subscribe, amonst other things. She is one of those people who, in the world of librarianship at least, always seems to have something interesting to say. Plus I figured I am a NextGen librarian (I guess?) and so might learn something useful or two.

I probably had a larger need for this book a few years ago, but I still found it useful. Gordon provides advice and tips on many different issues in librarianship, from surviving library school*, to finding a first job, to perceptions of librarianship, to working with older colleagues who might perhaps be a bit more - ahem - traditional.

Another important aspect to note is that Gordon is focusing on the American library job market, which, from what I know, is significantly different from the Canadian one. It is really hard for many graduates of American library schools to snag that first job. Canadian library school graduates - and my evidence is largely anecdotal on this account, I admit - have a much easier time. Gordon gives some good general advice on job-hunting; for example, no matter how broke you might feel upon graduation, don't necessarily just snap up the first job that comes your way.

What I really found useful in this book is that Gordon also sent out surveys to both NextGen (under-40) and older librarians (over-40), in order to solicit feedback on the issues covered in her book. Some of the responses to these are very telling. Others are quick to point out that the under-40, over-40 divide is a bit of a false dichotomy, which Gordon (to her credit) acknowledges whenever possible. (You have to draw a line in the sand somewhere, right?)

The final chapter in the book tackles the subject from a completely different angle. It is written for current administrators and managers, rather than the NextGen librarians working for those administrators and managers. This gives an interesting perspective from "the other side of the fence", so to speak.

Well-written, and a quick, easy read, I would recommend this to people still in library school, or those recently graduated (within the last few years). Beyond that, you've probably figured out most of what's in the book - maybe the hard way! I would also recommend it to older librarians, administrators and managers, who might be having a hard time relating to or understanding their younger colleagues.

* Those of you who are not librarians will not necessarily know that while most librarians are very content and happy in their day-to-day jobs, library school itself is almost universally disliked.