Column Editor: Debbie Vaughn (College of Charleston) <email@example.com>
Column Editor’s Note: About two-and-a-half years ago, the company Decision Demographics prepared a report for the American Library Association to inform its strategic planning initiatives (available at http://www.ala.org/research/librarystaffstats/recruitment). This report includes rather thought-provoking data regarding the number of librarians by age since 1980. While Gen Xers did not make up the largest age group at the time of the report’s publication, it is logical to assume that the number of professional librarians born in this generation — my own generation — will continue to grow. How timely, then that McFarland has published a collection of essays on this sector of the profession. Many thanks to reviewer Joey van Arnhem for her examination of this title. Happy holidays and happy reading, everyone! — DV
Wallace, Martin K., Rebecca Tolley-Stokes, and Erik Sean Estep. The Generation X Librarian: Essays on Leadership, Technology, Pop Culture, Social Responsibility and Professional Identity. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011. 978-0-7864-6309-1. 217 pages. $55.00.
Reviewed by Jolanda-Pieta (Joey) van Arnhem, MFA (Instructor and Technology Coordinator, College of Charleston Libraries) <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Generation X Librarian: Essays on Leadership, Technology, Pop Culture, Social Responsibility and Professional Identity provides an insightful glimpse into the varied and diverse backgrounds of the Gen X Librarian. This collection of critical essays, edited by Martin K. Wallace, Rebecca Tolley-Stokes, and Erik Sean Estep offers a unique and personal take on who Gen Xers are, what makes them tick, and what they bring to the table in roles of leadership, technology, and social responsibility, as well as how they may be instrumental in bridging the current generation gap that exists in many libraries today. As noted by Jessica Clemons in her essay, Leading the Way into the Future of Libraries “…a transition is being made from the brick-and-mortar library to include space and place in the abstract.” The Generation X Librarian clearly elucidates that Gen X Librarians have a lot to contribute to the future of the library.
This collection of essays also provides a refreshing and much needed juxtaposition to mainstream criticism and 90s research of Gen Xers as cynical, disengaged, over-educated slackers who job-hop and are skeptical of organizations and hierarchy. Mathews and Rizzo clearly examine these misconceptions in their essay titled Gen X Librarians, Faculty, Information Literacy, noting that common characteristics shared by Gen Xers include being “…the first kids who grew up with two working parents or divorced parents, an unstable economy, a hole in the ozone layer, homelessness, AIDS, national debt, crack, video games, and the advent of MTV.” They conclude that the prevalence of experiences such as these has helped to create a generation that is self-reliant, entrepreneurial, techno-focused, media-savvy, and socially tolerant. These qualities often make Gen Xers good matches for leadership roles that will help to negotiate change. This generation will by necessity take a lead role in bridging the many gaps caused by technological and social shifts that Libraries are facing now, and will no doubt continue to face in the future.
The Generation X Librarian: Essays on Leadership, Technology, Pop Culture, Social Responsibility and Professional Identity, is designed to concretely examine the Gen X philosophy and provides practical insight and frank discussions from Gen X Librarians in the field on a wide array of topics from Radical Reference to Zine collection. Wallace, Tolley-Stokes, and Estep’s careful selection of essays encompasses a range of themes that include “generational differences and stereotypes, technology, library management and leadership, social justice and responsibilities of librarians, and the portrayal of librarians in popular culture.” The book’s contribution to the professional literature about Generation X Librarians provides an inside look at the profession and the changes it is facing. The Generation X Librarian: Essays on Leadership, Technology, Pop Culture, Social Responsibility and Professional Identity is a valuable practical aid for any librarian. The book has something for everyone, whether you are a Baby Boomer trying to manage a Gen Xer, a Gen X Librarian trying to find your way, or a Millennial just entering or thinking about joining the library profession. This is one book that you will want to read, keep, and re-read.
The Generation X Librarian: Essays on Leadership, Technology, Pop Culture, Social Responsibility and Professional Identity is available at www.mcfarlandpub.com or by calling 800-253-2187.
Leah was appointed Executive Director of the Charleston Conference in 2017, and has served in various roles with the Charleston Information Group, LLC, since 2004. Prior to working for the conference, she was Assistant Director of Graduate Admissions for the College of Charleston for four years. She lives in a small town near Columbia, SC, with her husband and two kids where they raise a menagerie of farm animals.