Book Review Contributing Editor

Book Review: The Future Academic Librarian’s Toolkit: Finding Success on the Job Hunt and in Your First Job

LibParlor Contributing Editor, Grace Haynes, reviews The Future Academic Librarian's Toolkit.

Hodge, Megan. (Ed.). (2019). The Future Academic Librarian’s Toolkit: Finding Success on the Job Hunt and in Your First Job. Chicago, IL: Association of College & Research Libraries. 

“This book holds a significant appeal for the LibParlor community, as many of us may find ourselves at the different stages documented throughout this book, from embarking on the job search to moving in the direction of establishing our professional identities and work.”

The Future Academic Librarian’s Toolkit: Finding Success on the Job Hunt and in Your First Job is a handbook for both potential and early career academic librarians. Editor Megan Hodge and her collaborating authors discuss landing a position as an academic librarian, working in academia, establishing yourself in the profession, and moving on to another position. Hodge intends to set the book apart from library school texts by offering practical strategies to employ as a new professional, instead of merely abstract ideas.This book holds a significant appeal for the LibParlor community, as many of us may find ourselves at the different stages documented throughout this book, from embarking on the job search to moving in the direction of establishing our professional identities and work. Other important skills discussed include “the abilities of advocating for yourself and your ideas, writing for publication, teaching effectively, connecting with faculty and students, and building your professional brand” (p.vii).  

Before launching into the discussion of securing a job, chapter one “An Introduction Academic Librarianship,” provides a broad overview of the profession. Chapter author Jennie E. Callas uses this chapter to address several facets of academic librarianship that will impact the experience one has on the job, including institution size, institutional reporting structure, faculty status and tenure, types of roles and positions, and trends in the field and higher ed. This chapter provides a strong foundation for the rest of the book, as it cannot be overstated how much one’s experience depends on a myriad of factors that affect the culture and dynamics of an institution.

Part Two includes three chapters focused on securing a position in academic libraries. Readers will find the “Try This” section of each chapter to be an especially helpful feature, as it includes practical steps and insight for the job search process. For example, Karen Sobel writes this tip in chapter two: “List your career goals. What kind of job would you like to have for your first position? What kind of job do you hope to have in five years? What are your ultimate career goals?” (p.30). In chapter four, “Troubleshooting the Job Search,” authors Rebecca Hodson, Madison Sullivan, and Kristina Williams discuss the job search through the lens of six different job seeker personas, including the student job seeker, career changer, library veteran/paraprofessional, geographically-bound applicants, dual degree applicants, and the lateral shifter. As much of the literature discussing the academic librarian job search process focuses on student job seekers, this creative and more inclusive approach is an especially welcome addition to the conversation. This chapter also highlights the need for self-care and healthy habits/routines within the job search process. One of the most helpful suggestions from the authors comes from a “Try This” section of their chapter: “Create a master spreadsheet to track each job you apply for. Include application deadline and your projected application submission dates” (p.90). 

In part three, several chapters are dedicated to achieving success in a new position and the various roles of academic librarians. Zara T. Wilkinson’s chapter, “You’re Hired! Now What? Positioning Yourself for Success in a New Job,” addresses the realities and potential challenges of starting a new job, as well as the importance of learning the expectations of a position, tenure and promotion processes, and seeking out a mentor. Wilkinson also discusses work-life balance, reinforcing the importance of taking care of one’s self that was stressed in earlier chapters. The next two chapters within this section specifically address the roles of liaison librarians and instruction librarians. Chapter eight is written in five parts in order to discuss distinct librarian roles beyond public services work. The jobs discussed in this chapter include Digital Scholarship Librarian, Academic Data Librarian, Scholarly Communications Librarian, Special Collections and Archives Librarian, and Preservation Librarian.

Part four moves beyond the scope of a librarian’s work within their own institution to looking at how one can contribute to the broader profession. The chapter “Networking and Conferences” looks at many different components of the experience of attending professional conferences, including the potentially intimidating vendor and exhibit halls, getting involved with an organization, and networking. While the chapter does discuss cost-saving strategies associated with professional travel, there is still a need for the profession (and academia at large) to critically examine the methods for funding such opportunities, as reimbursements are not realistic or bearable for all who must engage in conferences and professional activities. For example, the suggestion of using a separate personal savings account dedicated to paying for professional travel in order to counter the stress of waiting for reimbursement might be a good idea in theory, but many new professionals are not in a situation to exercise such financial privilege.

In Chapter 11, “A Rhetorical Approach to Writing for Publication,” Mary Snyder Broussard provides helpful insight for those who do academic writing within the context of their positions. Broussard advises new professionals to “look around your daily environment for publication topic ideas” (p.247). Pages 252-253 of the chapter outline several useful, low-stakes writing strategies to utilize when organizing thoughts and ideas, including mindmaps, notecards, outlines, and freewriting. 

Part five includes just one chapter, “Making the Most of and Moving Beyond Your First Professional Position: Strategies for Success” by Sara Hare and Ali Versluis. Hare and Versluis write with candor and transparency, providing a context for the chapter that describes their own positionality in relation to the job search process. “We note our privilege here because no didactical or “how-to” strategies (for job-seeking or otherwise) should come without such acknowledgement” (p.293). The authors dedicate a significant portion of the chapter to considering how one can make the most of their current position. Readers are also urged to build a reflective practice within their work, with the authors providing helpful prompts, such as “What are the types of projects or tasks that you tend to find fulfilling? What other roles in academic libraries do you find intriguing or challenging?” (p.297).  

Overall, this book is a good starting place for new and potential academic librarians. The helpful advice found here will surely aid those who are exploring academic librarianship as a potential career, or those who have recently joined the profession. While it may be impossible to capture all the unique facets of new librarians’ experiences, it may be helpful to see future similar volumes expand upon the discussion of being new to research and scholarship, as well as preparing for management and supervisory roles.


Featured image by Mahendra Kumar, via Unsplash


Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

The expressions of the writer do not reflect anyone’s views but their own

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