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Writing and Publishing: the Librarian’s Handbook
Smallwood, Carol (Editor) (2010)
USA: American Library Association
ISBN: 9780838909966)
189 pages
 
 
In terms of its prolific output and expansive scope, catering for all possible aspects of the library profession, the American Library Association surely rates as an outstanding publisher. This book is the most recent title in a new series, ALA Guides for the Busy Librarian. Focusing on the business of professional writing and publishing, it wraps up a dimension of librarianship, which although highly pertinent, is not often addressed so comprehensively. Carol Smallwood’s editorial and authorial experience, as well as her close association with the library profession, provide her with an appropriate overview of, and insight into, the field of publishing. For the purpose of this book, she has gathered a rich compilation of advice and experience, thoughts and ideas from forty-seven published librarian-writers across school, public, academic and special libraries, as well as library and information sciences faculty, in the United States and Canada. Their offerings comprise a hardcopy social network focused on the primacy of the printed word. Topics mostly address the wide range of opportunities available to librarian-writers, but not exclusively. Many authors exceed this scope by sharing ‘inside’ knowledge about a variety of ‘outside’ genres and modes. Collectively, they perceive all librarians as potentially creative communicators, capable of finding their niche in the published world, be it in print or online – an appealing approach to prospective readers.
 
In calling for submissions for this collection, Smallwood informs us that she cautioned contributors with Gustave Flaubert’s ultimatum: “Whenever you can shorten a sentence, do. And one always can. The best sentence? The shortest”. Fortunately, all heeded this counsel; their contributions are consistently concise, none exceeding the proposed limit of two thousand words. Smallwood’s editorial experience is evident in her organization of the compilation. Whereas ninety-two articles (many contributors feature several times) might sound daunting, they are grouped by topic in five organizing parts. These are clearly delineated in the Table of Contents, and also indexed by subject and author. As a result, the collection is extremely accessible, either as a consecutive read or for bite-size browsing.
 
Part One, Why Write? nominates a variety of purposes for writing, not all restricted to the professional field. Part Two, Education of a Writer, contains twenty-six instructive pieces from a broad range of authentic experience. These are grouped under sub-headings of getting started, writing with others, revision and lessons from publishing. Part Three, Finding Your Niche in Print, is the biggest section covering genre and mode: books, newsletters and newspapers, reviewing, magazine and journal articles, essays, textbook writing, children’s literature and writing on specific subjects. Part Four, Finding Your Niche Online, is smaller, but equally informative. Finally Part Five gives voice to experience in Maximizing Opportunities. This section offers a range of possibilities available to those wishing to engage with this parallel dimension of the library profession.
 
As exemplars, both Foreword and Afterword are authored by actively publishing author-librarians. A list of contributors, whose professional and academic credentials, as well as details of published works, attests the quality of this useful handbook. This is an inviting, readable book, full of helpful advice, encouragement and interesting possibilities – not so much from the traditional base of in-house publishing professionals, but from the experienced voices of those who are willing to share what they have learned in order to encourage others in their profession to try their hand. 
 
Reviewed by Dr Susan Boyce
Member of Synergy board