The Librarian’s Skillbook: a short review @debhunt6

When I wrote about picking up a copy of the Librarian’s Skillbook: 51 Essential Career Skills for Information Professionals by Deborah Hunt and David Grossman, I promised I’d give it a fuller treatment after I finished reading it. I finished it a while ago, but I am just getting around to writing this review.

The Librarian’s Skillbook is a very practical work for beginning librarians, unemployed/underemployed librarians, or mid-career librarians who feel the need to brush up their skills, either to look for other jobs or to improve their status at their current workplaces.

The skills are a mix of technical skills (such as digital archiving and enterprise content management), traditional library skills made more relevant for the 21st century (such as strategic knowledge and providing “value add” solutions), business skills (such as project management and not giving away the store), and interpersonal skills (such as networking and being proactive). (They acknowledge that librarians tend to be quiet, unassuming types, but encourage readers to learn new skills and let people know that they have those skills.)

For each of the 51 skills in the book, Hunt and Grossman describe the skill, give some tips to acquire the skill, and list a few web and print references to read. The tips often encourage the reader to practice the skill at their current workplace or, if that’s not possible, to do some kind of internship or volunteer work to learn the skill. They won’t take no for an answer; they believe you can do this!

Most of the skills include a section called “this skill in action,” in which Hunt and Grossman give an anecdote from their own careers or those of other librarians they know. Hunt and Grossman have both had varied careers. She has worked at the Exploratorium (a science museum in San Francisco), as a consultant, and now at the Mechanics’ Institute. He has worked as a journalist, a builder of online databases, and now in the local history room of Mill Valley Public Library (Calif.). So, the stories from their careers add some real-world details to their advice.

At the end of the book, Hunt and Grossman encourage readers to sit down and plan how and when they will acquire some of the 51 skills. Again, they urge you to just do it!

Note: Nothing in this review, pro or con, has been influenced by the fact that my picture shows up on the web site for the book.

Hunt, Deborah and David Grossman. The Librarian’s Skillbook: 51 Essential Career Skills for Information Professionals. 2013. LibrarianSkillbook.com

The Librarian’s Skillbook #sla2013 @debhunt6

I’m currently reading The Librarian’s Skillbook: 51 Essential Career Skills for Information Professionals by Deborah Hunt and David Grossman. I picked it up at the Special Libraries Association conference in San Diego last week. It’s got a nice mix of hard, tech skills and soft, people skills. They point out that “no one expects you to be an expert in all of the skills in this book,” but of course, the more you can acquire, the better off you will be — either in your current job or your next one.

I plan to write more when I have finished it.

Some links:

Statistical Abstract to continue in private hands

Information Today is reporting that the Statistical Abstract is being “rescued” by major database publisher ProQuest. (Full disclosure: I, like many other librarians, am a customer of ProQuest in my day job.)

The good news:

  • Someone will continue to compile the most important statistics from the federal government and other organizations in one convenient place
  • There will be a print version available from Bernan Press, but we don’t know yet how much it will cost. (The 2012 edition costs $40 in paperback from the Government Printing Office, $44 in hardback.) This is important for smaller libraries, as I will explain below.
  • The new electronic version will be more interactive than the current flat PDF and updated more frequently (monthly vs. annually). Current web site (Census Bureau)

The bad news:

  • The electronic version will not be free. Right now, anyone can get access to the web version and find statistics collected by the federal government. In other words, we (as U.S. taxpayers) paid for this data to be collected. Why should we have to pay again to get access to it? After the changeover, ProQuest says, it will sell Statistical Abstract as a stand-alone subscription and as part of a larger statistical database. Maybe Stat Abs will be cheap enough that every public library in the country can subscribe. But maybe it won’t. Maybe you will only have electronic access to it if you are affiliated with one of the academic or public libraries that are able to afford it. Otherwise, you will have to go to your library and use the print edition (assuming that’s still reasonably priced). Or you can buy your own copy of the print edition. These were our choices in the pre-Internet days.

It’s better than seeing Stat Abs go away, but there are some real potential down sides here.

Update, April 16: I’ve been thinking about this some more since yesterday. Yes, the federal government collected these statistics with our tax dollars. (And you could probably find them for free on several hundred different dot-gov web sites.) But that’s not what’s so valuable about Statistical Abstract. The valuable thing is that it compiles these statistics in one place and tells you where to get more information. To the extent that ProQuest and Bernan are taking over that function, they deserve to be paid for their work. However, I still worry that we could be getting a pricey database, available in relatively few libraries, in place of the free web site we have now.

National Academies make reports available in PDF

The National Academies (of Sciences, of Engineering) are the government’s science advisors. Whenever there’s a tough issue of science or technology, it gets thrown to them to figure out.

More than 4,000 National Academies Press PDFs now available to download for free:

The National Academies—National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council—are committed to distributing their reports to as wide an audience as possible. Since 1994 we have offered “Read for Free” options for almost all our titles. [But you had to read them one page at a time. -- WL] In addition, we have been offering free downloads of most of our titles to everyone and of all titles to readers in the developing world. We are now going one step further. Effective June 2nd, PDFs of reports that are currently for sale on the National Academies Press (NAP) Website and PDFs associated with future reports* will be offered free of charge to all Web visitors.

More water literature

California water resources and Internet Archive

I have a lot of bulletins from the California Dept. of Water Resources (DWR) in my library. And like any forward thinking librarian, I want to provide my users with links in the catalog to electronic versions of the reports whenever possible. But why scan something when somebody else has done it first?

I knew that UC Davis’ library was adding e-copies of DWR reports to the Internet Archive, so I checked to see if they had done the ones I had. When I got to the California Water Resources collection there, I discovered a nice surprise: they have an RSS feed. So now I don’t have to keep checking back all the time; I can just follow the RSS feed. (It looks as if they do more scanning in the summer, naturally.)

OK, you’re thinking, that’s great if I’m interested in California water. Get this: the Internet Archive has almost three million texts. There’s a good chance there’s a collection that will interest you and that you’ll want to follow what they post.

Southern Africa

The British Geological Survey has posted an archive of grey literature on Southern African groundwater. Grey literature (or gray literature) is documents other than books or journal articles. It includes conference papers, pamphlets, unpublished reports, theses and dissertations, etc. It doesn’t always end up in libraries (or on the Internet), and even if it does, it doesn’t always get cataloged properly. In other words, it’s lost for all intents and purposes. I think this archive will be a real service to the people and nations of Southern Africa, who might not otherwise find this information about their own region.

(H/T Aquadoc at WaterWired)

The U.S. Government Manual truly ready for the web

After the bad news about how some great information sources may not be published by the U.S. government any more, here’s some good news.

First a little history: when I was in library school in the pre-web days learning reference sources from the late, great Terry Crowley, he taught us about the U.S. Government Manual — the standard source for basic information about every branch, department, and bureau of the federal government. It was updated annually, but a good reference librarian, Crowley said, would pencil in any major changes that occurred in between editions. (He also said that a really good reference librarian should know and be able to name all the current members of the president’s cabinet.)

Then the web came along, and the federal government put lots of its standard works online. The U.S. Government Manual was no exception. It was free and available from any device with an internet connection. However, it was still updated just once a year. You can still see the 2009-2010 edition and older editions as they were.

Finally, the good folks at the Government Printing Office and the National Archives have released USGovernmentManual.gov. The new site, backed by a database and XML, will be updated as changes happen. Terry Crowley would be pleased.

(Hat tip to Infodocket.)

Valuable sources of government data slated to go away, part II

U.S. Census Bureau to Eliminate Strategic Publications Including Statistical Abstracts by Barbie Keiser, Info Today, March 28:

It was felt that the popular Statistical Abstract of the United States—the “go to” reference for those who don’t know whether a statistic is available, let alone which agency/department is responsible for it—could be sacrificed. Staff will be moving to “Communications,” digitizing the data set. It is hoped that the private sector—commercial publishers—will see the benefit of publishing some version of the title in the future.

Statistical Abstract is a convenient and user-friendly resource to consult. In addition, this may be the original mashup. As an example, Table 663, Labor Union Membership by Sector, 1985-2009, indicates that while based on Current Population Survey, the source of some data in the table is a Bureau of National Affairs (BNA), the BNA publication, and research authored by two academics (their names, affiliation, and website URLs included). Published since 1878, the print and online version of this publication will cease with the 130th edition. Other publications getting the axe include:

  • Current Industrial Reports (CIR), “providing monthly, quarterly, and annual measures of industrial activity” for highly specific products. Among the CIRs most recently posted to the website include Fats and Oils, Flour Milling Products, and Inorganic Chemicals. Perhaps most useful is the fact that the individual responsible for each publication is named and a telephone number (direct line) provided. From the Budget, we learn that the Bureau “will expand the NAICS industry product detail for some manufacturing industries in the 2012 Economic Census to minimize the loss incurred through the cancellation of the CIR program.”
  • The County and City Data Book and State and Metropolitan Area Data Book will no longer be printed, but the data will remain available online. (Thankfully, the Census Bureau has a good help desk to assist those who find the online data tools confusing. For those who don’t believe that difficulties are encountered, try the 2010 Factfinder at http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml). Commercial publishers make a good deal of money compiling tables and ranking states/cities, so that the public may be able to purchase convenient presentations of this data should it find the books easier to use than pulling the data from the Census website.
  • Other terminations mentioned in the Executive Summary (page CEN-6) include Federal Financial Statistics, Foreign Research and Analysis, Demographic Call Center, Population Distributions.

Barbie goes on to point out some the illogic behind the decisions about what to keep and what to drop.

See also:

American Library Association action alert: Contact appropriators and tell them to oppose the defunding of the Statistical Compendia Branch!

Pegasus Librarian’s Statistical Abstract of the United States on the Chopping Block (includes a sample letter to Congress members)

Statistical Abstract to bite the dust, University of Michigan library