Book Review: What's the Alternative?
What's the Alternative?: Career Options for Librarians and Info Pros. By Rachel Singer Gordon, Information Today, 2008, ISBN 978-1573873338, 288 pages.
If you have been wondering whether there are any alternative career options you could pursue whilst using your skills to full potential, do not miss this book. It will boost your confidence, focus your mind and take you on dozens of brief career journeys with fellow professionals.
The author also builds on her personal experience of "taking the leap". After ten years in public libraries she is now self-employed, "stitching together multiple threads to create a personal career path, outside of, yet related to libraries". It is not only new technology, changes in society's perception of information and new curricula at library school which drive this shift towards career experimentation, it is driven by the changing nature of work itself. Today's professionals average five different occupations in the course of their working lives. And if you are alarmed by this, don't be; all you need is Rachel Singer's guidance and you will find your confidence and build on your transferable skills to follow where your imagination leads.
The book is well structured and offers an array of options open to information professionals. It starts with useful suggestions on how to approach the process of change, how to adjust your attitudes, assess your values, analyse your strengths, make plans and weigh your options. Examining your personal change drivers will help you decide whether the leap is worth taking.
Once you have decided you need to make a move, the choices are many and varied: stay close to libraries, by working for a vendor; stay close to books by working in the book trade; experiment with free-lance work; write, to review other's writing or get on the lecture circuit. This book will help you look at all the skills which fit any particular choice you are ready to make. And because a lot of the content is based on an online survey on alternative careers conducted by the author, you benefit from the comments of those who have taken the leap before you.
Many of the options discussed are choices you might have thought of at one time or another but the author also focuses on some unusual options – like creative writing, interpreting and translating or even being a private investigator. For those who are interested and have specific skills in IT there are many options too – from user interface engineer to director of Web services. And if the thought of never being a librarian again scares you, and has so far prevented you from taking the leap, the author re-assures you that there is always a way back.
The book is enriched with further advice on how to 'retool your résumé' and organise your skills and experience to appeal to a range of employers. There is a comprehensive list of useful Web sites and as you would be very busy planning your move, you would be grateful for the facilities provided by the accompanying Web site.
This might not be a book you wish to take on your summer holiday or read cover to cover even when you return refreshed to your desk. However, its good structure allows you to read as much or as little as you need in order to face your future career options with confidence.