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Meet Cheryl LaGuardia, research librarian at Harvard University, Editor and primary reviewer of Magazines for Libraries™ Update
Librarians frequently utilize reviews of books, serials and other research materials to determine what to include in their collections, but new open access and niche titles are often missed by librarians because these types of titles are not included in trusted sources. Magazines for Libraries™ Update closes this gap, with online in-depth reviews by Cheryl LaGuardia, a research librarian at Harvard University.
Magazines for Libraries™ Update is a free online resource available from ProQuest that features reviews of new open access and niche titles not featured in the Magazine for Libraries™ print edition. This popular comprehensive print publication of serials reviews, published annually, responds to the changing needs of libraries, and aims to help librarians discover and evaluate resources for their library collections.
Cheryl LaGuardia is a well-known advocate for librarians who offers her expertise in her analysis of reference materials for Library Journal’s eReviews; she also shares her perspective of library issues on the blog "Not Dead Yet." We’re happy that she had time to chat with us so we can get to know the editor and reviewer of this valuable blog series available on ProQuest.com.
PQ: What inspired you to pursue a career in library and information science?
CL: I’ve loved libraries since first stepping into the small Carnegie-built library in my hometown in upstate New York. It was a magical place that could take you around the world, and beyond, just by climbing a few steps up to the front door and exploring the shelves.
Q: What did you originally set out to do when you started the library program?
CL: I wanted to become a really good reference librarian, having been inspired especially by a group of outstanding librarians during my undergraduate and graduate school years. I went to SUNY Oneonta and SUNY Albany, and met and studied with great librarians and library teachers, including Christine Bulson, Joe Morehead, Ann Prentice, Bill Saffady, and, of course, Bill Katz.
Bill was my advisor and teacher at the SUNY Albany School of Library and Information Science, and the first lesson he taught us about being a good reference librarian was the importance of making connections: locally, nationally, and conceptually. That lesson has stayed with me throughout my career.
PQ: You’ve built a reputable career; any advice for librarians out there who may want to branch out?
CL: Don’t stay forever in one place, either physically or virtually, at least in the beginning of your career. Move around, to get different experiences and perspectives. One of the scarier things that can happen in a library is "groupthink" – if you don’t get new ideas and thoughts into the organization periodically, everything gets stale, including you!
PQ: What do you know now about the library profession that you wish you had known at the start of your career?
CL: You know the “six degrees of separation” theory? Well, in libraries, it’s more like 2 or 3 degrees of separation. Somebody knows somebody who knows you and the people around you. Keep that in mind, especially in the online age of information pervasiveness and ubiquity – once you put something out there, the whole world sees it, especially your library colleagues.
PQ: What do you find most exciting about the future of library and information work?
CL: It is NEVER static. I really couldn’t tell you all the major changes that have occurred in libraries since I graduated from library school and got into the profession, but they are myriad and profound. And that’s what keeps me going – I became a librarian because I was interested in so many different things, and being a reference librarian meant I could delve into countless subjects as the main part of my work. How cool is that?
Q: How do you feel about the Magazines for Libraries Update being published on ProQuest.com?
CL: I’m grateful to ProQuest for a couple of things: 1. They have done so much to preserve and extend Bill Katz’ vision of Magazines for Libraries, including the new, free MFL Update. If Bill were still here with us, I think he’d be thrilled to see the new online arm of MFL.
The second thing for which I (and I suspect many other librarians) am grateful to ProQuest for is their taking on the responsibility for updating and releasing The Statistical Abstract of the United States once the Census Bureau announced they were no longer going to do it. Having been a reference librarian for over 35 years, I can tell you that is one of the most important reference sources for librarians everywhere, and ProQuest’s continuing to publish it is a major public service, in my humble opinion.
PQ: Why do you think it’s important to review open access (OA) and niche titles?
CL: I know first-hand that librarians are struggling with budget reductions, and open access titles hold the promise of easing those struggles as they develop and thrive, so it’s a current awareness service to bring OA titles onto librarians’ screens. Many niche titles also offer tremendous utility to librarians and our users in an increasingly specialized world, but there may not be a lot of ways for librarians to hear about them. The Magazines for Libraries Update can do that for them.
PQ: What are the advantages of writing and publishing the reviews as a blog?
CL: I get to post the reviews myself, and I’ll be able to update them easily whenever that’s necessary and appropriate. I like to think it also keeps readers coming back to see what’s new and different – the blog, like libraries, is never static.
PQ: With the vast amount of open access content available, how do you decide which titles to review?
CL: That involves a lot of different factors: content, quality, design, constituencies, subject trending, and inclusion in DOAJ and/or the ROAD Directory, to name a few. I’m also looking forward to getting recommendations from readers for titles to review, and having readers volunteer to do reviews themselves of titles they think are important.
Q: How do you hope the Magazine for Libraries Updates will contribute to the library profession?
CL: Much like the (by now) venerable Magazines for Libraries master reference resource that Bill Katz had the perspicacity to create in 1969, I hope the Magazine for Libraries Updates will continue to serve librarians who need to create, maintain, and weed library collections. I’m hoping, too, that they will be used – like the MFL volume – for teaching students the power of critical thinking, and how to identify bias and quality in the journals they use in their research.