Q&A with Dr. Sandra Hirsh, Editor of Information Services Today

This interview is over 1 year old and may no longer be up to date or reflect the interviewee/interviewees’ positions

Q&A with Dr. Sandra Hirsh, Editor of Information Services Today: An Introduction

by Alison Peters, INALJ Contributor

Sandra HirshLewis Carroll wrote in Alice in Wonderland: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” I love Alice in Wonderland—the book, animated movie, and Disneyland ride—but I didn’t remember that quote till I got a copy of the new LIS textbook, Information Services Today: An Introduction. Compiled and edited in just under one year by the director of San José State University’s iSchool, Dr. Sandra Hirsh, the book is a breath of fresh air, gathering everything you ever wanted to know about library and information science (LIS) in one really good read. For an example, just see chapter 5, “Librarianship A Continuously Evolving Profession,” written by Stephen Abram, which includes the quote that stuck with me. And INALJ’s own Naomi House fittingly contributed her expertise to the chapter on “Career Management Strategies for Lifelong Success.”

The textbook is multilayered, informative, and best of all, readable, with each of the contributing LIS-thought-leader-authors writing about what you need to know to be an information professional in today’s environment. Students and professionals will benefit from one of the primary themes running throughout the book: the value and significance of lifelong learning. Information Services Today serves as a “refresher course” for professionals committed to their own educational development; an introduction to LIS for new students; and it’s perfect for those outside the LIS field who want to know what we do. Personally, I think it’s nice to be able to give that last group concrete proof that LIS careers are as varied and interesting as anything out there, and not all about physical library spaces. (But we love that part too!)

Information Services Today can be part of your career trajectory guide. It’s available in stores in March, and, if you’re an SJSU iSchool student or alumni, you can use the special discount code to get a 30% price break. (Just mention promo code 4S15IST when ordering the book from publisher Rowman & Littlefield. Offer good until December 31, 2015, and the discount applies to any format of the book (paperback, hardback, or ebook.) It’s worth it! In addition to the actual textbook, there are accompanying multimedia materials that, since they’re online, can be updated as changes in the field necessitate; and a series of free webinars through Library Journal, where selected authors from the book will discuss their topics in more detail.

It’s a one-stop LIS education shop, and I talked with Dr. Hirsh about the process of editing a 21st-century textbook, and what LIS professionals need to know, today.

Information Services Today book coverA new textbook seems like a huge process: what made you decide to take up the challenge?

Dr. Hirsh: It ended up being a bigger undertaking than I expected! I thought about my own perspectives about the field of library and information and the opportunities I believe are available to people with our knowledge and expertise, and how this could be a fun project. I thought that editing the textbook would be easier than authoring a textbook myself, and it probably was, but it was substantially more time consuming and involving than I thought it would be. It was my first book—so exciting.

How did you determine what information should be included as an introduction to LIS?

Dr. Hirsh: Deciding what information to include was challenging as we have so many important aspects to our field that I wanted to make sure we addressed. I thought about my own viewpoint of the field, consulted with my faculty about the outline and got their feedback, took into account input from advisory boards—which are filled with experts in the field—and considered the skillsets that employers are looking for by reviewing research about the field and employment trends. New students and professionals need to have a strong foundation and understanding of information and its role in a range of information environments, and they need to continue to learn and adapt to new changes.

Is this book for an international LIS audience, or specific to the U.S. or North America?

Dr. Hirsh: One of the key themes of the book is to provide a global perspective of what it means to be a library and information professional today, because I strongly believe that information is not contained in one geographic area, and that we need to take a broader view. One of the ways this is accomplished is through the selection of authors, many of whom were selected for their global perspectives, as demonstrated in some cases by residing in non-U.S. countries, and in other cases by working on global initiatives as part of their day-to-day work. SJSU iSchool already attracts the leading experts in different areas because we are 100% online and people can teach for us no matter where they live. I didn’t want to draw too many people from our school, but there ended up being a lot because we have so many experts in the field. They made sense for the book.

The textbook has several multi-media accomplainments. What will the Library Journal webcasts focus on?

Dr. Hirsh:  A truly dynamic part of the supplemental materials for Information Services Today: An Introduction are its webinars, produced by Rowman and Littlefield and Library Journal. Readers of the book will be able to hear many of the authors from the book address key themes and discuss them in ways that extend the content and the value of the book.

The full series includes six 50-minute webinars corresponding to major sections of the textbook. Each webinar offers a well-rounded introduction, presentations from panelists, and a brief Q&A session where panelists discuss key trends, competencies, and strategies for success within the field of library and information science. The value found of the webinars is the opportunity to listen to a panel of industry experts as they address key concepts relating to their chapter and share their forward-thinking insights about what it means to be an information professional today.

What is the next big LIS issue?

Dr. Hirsh: It’s not about a piece of information or a concrete thing, but the importance of ongoing learning, the openness and readiness to embrace change, to try to continue to try new things, put yourself in leadership roles & purse them. Just that ongoing investment in your own career path and skills.

There was a time when we could expect that employers would oversee and be responsible for ongoing skills and learning, but really at the end of the day its the individual who needs to be responsible for ongoing learning and career investment. Getting the MA is just one step in that journey, it’s not the end state. It’s not a concrete thing, it’s the ongoing learning that’s critical, especially in a field like ours. And that’s why I think our field is so exciting, our field is the change and we need to embrace that and help shape the next generation!

What’s up next for you?

Because there’s never a dull moment, I’m currently president of the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T), and I’m leading a strategic effort for that group. I’m doing the informational tours for the iSchool, which have been great. We have Library 2.015 coming up, a series of  webinars, and the Spring Summit on April 30. I’m also planning to go to Australia this summer. Our school has a unique partnership with the Queensland Institute of Technology for the San José Gateway PhD program, and I’ve never been able to meet stakeholders and thought-leaders, and participate in their library conference! I’ll be doing a workshop there in research methods and giving presentations,  and visiting Charles Sturt University, which is another online LIS program in Wagga Wagga. It’ll be busy, but very exciting.


Alison PetersAlison Peters is currently obtaining her MLIS from San Jose State University’s iSchool, where she’s been having fun taking a variety of courses ranging from web design to reference services to information architecture. Alison has worked on the iSchool’s LIS Publications Wiki, participated in fantastic project-based-learning internship with Librarians Without Borders, and currently finds fascinating people to interview as a student assistant writing the school’s Community Profiles. Alison got her BA in English from UC Berkeley, and, when not working, querying, or in class, puts her MFA from Mills College to good use and and shares her love for all things bookish on Book Riot. You can find her serious professional side on LinkedIn and the fun stuff on Twitter @onellestarfish.