Book Review: What They Don’t Teach You In Library School

by Katy DiVittorio

Earning a MLIS is a major achievement that prepares graduates for successful careers as information professionals.  However, going from theory to reality challenges new graduates to navigate situations that their education may not have covered.  Elizabeth Doucett’s book “What They Don’t Teach You in Library School” hopes to fill some of these gaps.  Doucett is a long-time library administrator and uses her years of experience in the field to offer practical advice that will help new information professionals succeed.

This book is divided into three sections: (1) Advice for graduates looking for their first job (2) Advice for graduates who are new on the job and (3) Advice for graduates that have a little more experience, but still would like some guidance.  This book is an easy to follow guide with clear chapter headings.  Each chapter is brief and can be read independently of one another, making it a valuable resource for the busy graduate or librarian.  Each chapter includes “What this chapter is about”, “Why you should care” and step-by-step instructions under the section “The heart of the matter”.  Additional resources, such as books, articles, or websites that may be of value are included in each chapter.

In the first section of the book Doucett provides advice to new graduates on getting the “right” job; planning their career; networking; and branding.  Many new graduates’ goal is to find a job, not necessarily the “right” job.  Doucett’s advice is valuable to make sure the job graduates end up is a good fit.  She writes about her own experience ignoring her gut instinct and ending up in the “wrong” job.  Her advice is not all about gut instinct, but also takes into account that new graduates have bills and loans to pay.  She discusses how to factor these considerations into the job search.

Networking is vital in the field of librarianship because it provides a way to share knowledge.  Doucett acknowledges that the term “networking” can put some people off, so instead she describes it as partnering, whereby people develop relationships.  She suggests volunteering or joining a committee/board as ways to partner and get involved.  Doucett advocates for new graduates to actively seek out and pursue opportunities for training and to find a mentor to help guide them in their career.  In addition she offers the suggestion of partnering with another library in a type of shadowing experience.  By going to another library and shadowing their staff graduates can see how others do certain activities more efficiently.  This can be a good opportunity to gather new ideas and find solutions to problems.

In section two Doucett provides advice for graduates who have a new job.  She provides guidance on understanding the new work environment and community; how to manage problem patrons; managing confrontation; public speaking; and teamwork.

Many new graduates will not stay and work in the same library or community that they did before they graduated.  The library field is flooded, which means that many graduates will have to widen their job search to find their first job.  This may land many in a community that they are very unfamiliar with.   Doucett suggests that some of the ways to get to know your new community is to subscribe to the town’s newspaper, get a tour from someone on the staff that lives in the community, or attend community meetings.

One piece of Doucett’s advice that hit home with me was, when starting a new job, to make sure you listen, stay neutral, and take notes.  After reading this I realized that within the first few weeks of my new job I was often comparing it to my previous position. As new graduates with new ideas and concepts it can be challenging to sit back and just watch and listen in a new job.  Some may consider this stifling innovation and preventing needed changes and improvements, while others may look at this as allowing new graduates time to learn about their new library and determine if the new ideas are a good fit.

The final section is for those who have a little more experience.  It discusses promotional marketing; thinking like a retailer; strategic planning; trend tracking; facilities management; and figures and finances.  Robert E. Dugan is a contributing author and writes a chapter on the importance of facilities management.  One of the downsides for this chapter is that it does not provide additional resources like the other chapters do.

If you are looking to fill some gaps in your education then check out “What They Don’t Teach You in Library School”.  While it does not cover everything that library school may have missed, it does provide insight and advice for anyone looking to grow professionally.



What They Don’t Teach You in Library School.  By Elisabeth Doucett.  Chicago, Illinois: American Library Association, 2011. 149p. ISBN: 9780838935927.



Katy DiVittorio is a May 2012 SJSU SLIS graduate and currently works as the Serials Acquisitions Specialist at the Auraria Library in Denver, Colorado.