Career Strategies for Librarians
From the Editor’s Desk
by Karla J. Block
Editing a professional newsletter can be a valuable, though sometimes undervalued, way to become
more involved in your profession and gain publishing experience. I’d like to describe my own
experiences editing a professional newsletter. In 2001, Health Science Libraries of Minnesota (HSLM)
was looking for a new editor for its quarterly newsletter, the Health Informer. I volunteered to be co-editor
but no other volunteers came forward. I agreed to edit the newsletter solo, but confess to feeling a little
apprehensive about what I was getting myself into! I began my editorial role with the first 2002 issue,
and have found the job to be both interesting and satisfying. In my experience, editing a professional
newsletter has provided great opportunities for me to grow professionally.
When I became editor in 2002, the Health Informer was published in a dual format—in print (for the
archives and HSLM members without e-mail access) and electronically via e-mail messages. The e-
mail list, managed by the membership chair, was cumbersome and difficult to maintain. Soon, HSLM
established a member listserv, which simplified e-mail communication with its members. Preparing the
newsletter in both print and e-mail formats was time-consuming, and limitations on sending e-mail
attachments meant that the newsletter had to be formatted separately for each purpose. After HSLM
developed a web site, I suggested posting the newsletter on the site and discontinuing e-mail
distribution. The newsletter is now available in print and PDF format on the HSLM web site (http://www.
hslm.org). Each newsletter includes a note from the chair, news about HSLM, its members and their
libraries, information about upcoming professional opportunities, and minutes from HSLM meetings.
Editing a professional newsletter is a good training ground to develop a variety of skills. While my role
as editor is not typically writing-intensive, it still helps develop my own writing and editing skills. I’ve
learned a great deal about putting together pieces to make a “whole,” communicating in a professional
and understandable manner, editing for consistent style, and writing headlines that are (hopefully!)
catchy. Editing a newsletter has made me more aware of ways that my own library could be sharing its
story with colleagues, administrators, and patrons. It has also made me think about the best ways to get
people interested in and excited about your message. My time commitment for each issue is typically
not huge, but through it I have grown in my ability to balance professional activities and job
responsibilities. I’ve also been able to apply my improved time management skills in my job as a
manager and librarian. My sense and awareness of professional opportunities and issues has grown
as well. I am constantly looking for items to include in the newsletter, and therefore have become more
aware of and interested in my profession. Moreover, I’ve become better at networking with colleagues
and have gotten to know many more librarians than I might have otherwise. Finally, editing a
professional newsletter has helped me enhance my skills as a manager, especially in follow-through
and diplomacy (librarians, just like everyone else, sometimes need a little nudge to meet deadlines!).
In addition to growing my skills in the areas detailed above, there have been other rewards from my role
as a newsletter editor for HSLM. The newsletter editor sits on the organization’s board, which has
provided me an opportunity to become involved more substantially and significantly in HSLM’s work.
Editing the newsletter and sitting on the board have been rewarding ways for me to be active in a
professional organization and demonstrate my professional contributions (something for which I’ll be
extremely grateful when I apply for continuous appointment/tenure in the near future).
It’s satisfying to include news about colleagues and learn about the interesting things that other
librarians and libraries are doing. I like being able to tell my colleagues about the great things HSLM
members have accomplished. I’ve enjoyed meeting more librarians and being able to put names to
faces and vice versa. I’ve also enjoyed seeing and hearing the positive response from colleagues and
realizing that the newsletter is a valued part of the organization. Editing this newsletter has allowed me
to be involved in the progress of the organization—including updating the newsletter’s masthead,
incorporating expanded electronic access, and brainstorming new ideas (e.g., could we use a blog
instead of the current format?).
Editing a professional newsletter can be a rewarding way to become more involved professionally. It
can also allow you to enhance skills that can be used in other aspects of job performance and
professional development. I encourage you to explore opportunities to become involved in newsletters
relevant to your professional interests, whether by contributing as a writer, offering to edit a regular
column, or becoming the editor or co-editor. The rewards from editing a professional newsletter are well
worth the time.
About the Author:
Karla J. Block is an assistant librarian and Head of Access and Outreach Services at the Bio-Medical
Library, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in Minneapolis. The Health Informer, newsletter of Health
Science Libraries of Minnesota, is available online at http://www.hslm.org.
Article published Feb 2004
Disclaimer: The ideas expressed in LIScareer articles are those of their respective authors and do not
necessarily represent the views of the LIScareer editors.