Friday, September 02, 2005

5 things librarians should be reading. . .just five?

I am not sure where I got this prompt from, likely one of the many blogs I read. I just made a note of the question, what are five things librarians should be reading, and I marked it as a draft for later. That is one of my writing tricks, I am always saving little prompts and notes for later. Seeing drafts on the cue does add a little incentive to have something to write later. Anyhow, enough with the musings.
My initial reaction to this question was to ask "just five things?" I read so many things, yet I feel there are so many things I should be reading or could be reading. Saying that is taking the long philosophical approach, and I can do that in a later post. Since the prompt is asking for five things that librarians should be reading, here is my list, however imperfect it may be:

  • The professional literature of librarianship. This is not rocket science for librarians (though, if you are a rocket scientist or a librarian for rockets scientists, you should be reading the literature of rocket science). Librarianship is a field that is constantly changing; it is a field that faces many challenges as well. So, how to keep up with what is happening? Read the journals and other periodicals. While I may have my differences with the American Library Association (ALA), they do put out some very good journals in various fields. If you are a member of ALA, you should fine tune your membership to get the journals in your field. I am an Instruction Librarian at an academic institution, so my choices reflect that. If you are a school media specialist (or librarian. Yes, I know, another contested term), then get the journals that address the issues and needs of your profession. However, ALA is not the "end all, be all" of librarianship, so seek out other journals and periodicals relevant to you. This can be a lot of reading, and often you will be scanning things. One way to do so is with alerting services. Project Muse and other providers often have alerting services to let you know when new content is added to the database. This includes new issues of publications they cover. I read articles from journals like Libraries and Culture through such services. I get a nice e-mail when there is new content, and since we subscribe to it through the database, I can then read online the articles I find interesting and relevant. I think this is something that is underutilized, and I cannot recommend it enough. A final note on this topic: you should also be reading some of the books in your area of librarianship. For instance, in my case, I would be looking for books in information literacy, bibliographic instruction, and similar topics, among other things.
  • News: A good librarian needs to be well informed about his/her world. This includes local, state, national, and world news. The nice thing today is that you have very broad choices when it comes to getting your news. For instance, I read The Wall Street Journal in print since we get it at work. I will admit I don't read it every single day, but pretty regularly over the week. A lot of my other news I get online. One way to do this is with a My Yahoo! page where you set up a customized page and choose what news sources to read, along with any other stuff you want on that page. If you have Yahoo for your e-mail, you already have a page, just set it up. Other online portals do similar customization, such as MSN. I just use Yahoo! since I have had it a long time (heck, pretty much way before blogs were on the radar, old habits die hard, and it works). I have on it things like Reuters, Associated Press, some national newspapers, the Houston television station news, and some global items. For more local news, since I am not too thrilled with the local major newspaper, I get the headlines on an aggregator. I know in many places, the local newspaper leaves a lot to be desired. Very often other media like television stations will have news sections online, many now with rss. It's another option. I use Newsgator for that, but I suppose I could have put the rss on Bloglines. I was just trying out Newsgator and figured I might as well put something on it I have to look at fairly often. I am still seeing how Newsgator works for me; I do love Bloglines (more on that below). In terms of news, I also try to read some of the local Spanish language newspapers. For public librarians, I think reading the local news is crucial. For my line of work, I don't do as much local stuff, but it helps to at least have a sense of things. In terms of world news, you should try to read more than the usual U.S. sources that cover the world. Try out and seek new sources. If you read in another language, try some news from other parts of the world. I read Spanish, which means I can look at things from Latin America and Spain. The internet is a wonderful way to locate news sources from all over the world. Many often do have an English edition, and it is interesting to see other points of view. It can also be interesting to see them cover an event in the United States. Overall, this does require some balance. You can't read everything. I still tweak my reading in this area. If I find something new, I may add it. If I find something I have not been reading in a while, I remove it. My bet is many librarians already do this. This area also includes things like newsmagazines. And, as an afterthought, if you are in academia, you have to read the campus newspaper.
  • Books: I bet some reader out there read the word "books" and said "duh." Allow me to clarify. This includes books in your areas of interest (the profession as well as other areas. This probably goes more to academics who often research other things). It also includes your leisure reading (pleasure and hobbies). I know librarians read a lot of books for work as well as outside of work. An example of this are the many Readers' Advisors who read so much in order to serve their patrons. I think what I am really saying here is to read for yourself, read for pleasure, take care of yourself, read to escape. Whatever the reason, it is your reason. Go read some books.
  • Blogs: Now another reader out there may say, "blogs? is that serious reading?" Again, allow me to clarify. For blogs, I make some distinctions based on my needs and desires. I am sure some out there will likely disagree, some vocally, but this is an area very open to tweaking. As a note, Bloglines is my main tool for reading them, but I am trying other things, and I may post on those attempts at some point. Finally, if someone asks me to recommend specifics, I will admit to a little self-consciousness in saying I like A or B given I have a large list. Readers really want to know, they can drop me a line; it is not a secret of state. Then again, they can also see the five blogs I recommended for Blog Day. Not the only ones I would recommend, just five that caught my eye at the moment.
    • Librarianship blogs: Many librarians out in the blogosphere make and compose blogs that amount to a great public service for the rest of us. Some librarians, and other information professionals, have blogs dedicated to highlighting articles and current events and readings. Others write thoughtful pieces on the profession. Others do some research, and others provide humor. Recently, Mr. Walt Crawford conducted a study of librarian blogs. His spreadsheet, which he provides for others to look over, includes a list of over 200 blogs with their URLs that can be used as a resource to add items to your reading list or aggregator. My suggestion is for readers to try a few blogs, look at who they blogroll, try some from the roll, and so on. Actually, a lot of my blogroll was built from what others placed on theirs. For readers starting out, the blogroll is a list of blogs that a blogger will feature on his/her blog that they consider important enough to make prominent. As a metaphor, think of it as that blogger's "honor roll" of blogs. However, not all bloggers make their blogroll public. I have my list on Bloglines, and I have not made it public. There is some debate on whether making a blogroll public is a social act or not with ramifications, and I will leave that to others. Overall, follow the trails and create a list that appeals to your needs and interests as a librarian.
    • Blogs about books and reading: I am a reader, and I do some readers' advisory for some of the reading classes on campus. Overall, I look for blogs reviewing books as well as reading reflections.
    • Miscellaneous blogs: This is my "everything else" place. I would include blogs dealing with other academic interests as well as some news, politics, and other things. On this, find what works for you.
  • The literature of your specialty areas. If you are a school librarian, for example, I would expect you to be reading on school issues, pedagogy, technology, and children's and YA literature and literacy. What do I read to cover myself on this? Readers can look at my previous posts on my reading lists for work, noting that those are works in progress. As for my academic areas of interest, they include Ethnic Studies, with attention to Latino Studies, Science Fiction, Popular Culture, and Latin American Literature. These are outside of pedagogy, instruction, education (in general), and librarianship. They are the things I would be researching extensively if I had an actual faculty position. However, I do some writing on them still.
These are some of my ideas. There are probably more than five items, but if nothing else, it at least gave me a snap in time to what I am reading, may I may do without, and what I may want to add. Happy reading.


T Scott said...

An excellent list. And let me put in a plug for the Journal of the Medical Library Association which is freely available on PubMed Central. While the core audience of the JMLA is health sciences librarians, every single issue has articles that should be of interest to librarians in many different settings.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Mr. Scott: Please, plug away. That is definitely a publication that librarians in health sciences should read. I can attest that I have found articles of interest now and then as well. Thanks for stopping by.