Posted on June 30, 2011.
Interview with Dawn Bassett, Co-Author of Facelifts for special libraries: a practical guide to revitalizing diverse physical and digital spaces.
What inspired you to publish this book?
In library school I took a course called Writing and Publishing in the Book Trade for Children, which not only left me with a broader understanding of all of the steps involved in publishing for any market – but our instructor, Maggie de Vries, challenged those of us who were interested in publishing to write and submit something consistently. This inspired me to promise myself to write and submit at least one article a year. This promise has stuck and I have managed to have at least one item published every year since about 2004.
In 2008 Chandos Publishing contacted me. They had read one of my previous articles and asked if I would consider developing something for their Information Professional Series. I was really interested in the challenge and opportunity of publishing something longer than a few pages so I decided to submit a proposal.
The inspiration for subject of Facelifts for Special Libraries came from an article that I wrote with my colleague Brooke Ballantyne Scott. Revitalization and Renewal: Renovations in special libraries may not be as challenging as you think appeared in Wired West, volume 11, number 2 in 2008. It discussed the ways that Brooke and I had revitalized our libraries and also presented some survey results of other librarians who had gone through similar revitalization projects. At the time we wrote the article, both Brooke and I felt that while there was ample information available to large public and academic libraries to help with renovation projects, there wasn’t much practical advice for special libraries with extremely limited people and financial resources. This idea informed both the subject matter and the format of Facelifts for Special Libraries.
What was the process behind publishing this? Did you find any challenges publishing, while working full-time?
Because I had been approached by the publishing company, I managed to avoid having to “shop” the idea around to different publishers. The challenge that I initially faced was that I wasn’t sure if I would actually be able to do all of the research and writing on my own, particularly because I was expecting my first child at the time. So, I turned to my colleagues, Brooke and Jenny and asked if they were interested in co-authoring the book with me. Thankfully they accepted.
The research and writing part was quite easy. Once we had a proposal and an outline that we liked, we split the research and writing up into the areas each of us had a particular interest in. We used Google Documents to share our research and our work schedule and met once a month to discuss the project, go over research and hash out details. Once we had a draft, we circulated it over and over until we had a product we were happy with.
What advice do you have for other library professionals for publishing a book of this magnitude?
First, take the chance! Second, if you want to do this and aren’t sure that you have the time, ask someone to help you. I speak for both of my co-authors and myself when I say that individually, we may not have been brave enough to try something like this. In addition to being there to support each other when we felt overwhelmed, Jenny, Brooke and I discovered that between the three of us, there was a good balance of talents in different areas. For example, some of us enjoyed research more than writing, and others liked to do the actually writing or editing. Having three of us meant that no one had to work constantly doing something they didn’t like and this made the whole process seem painless.
What can a library professional expect to learn from this book?
I hope that library professionals who work in small special libraries will be able to draw on the examples, images, and ideas in the book to help assess their existing spaces to see what can be accomplished with very little in terms of resources, help build successful teams for their revitalization projects, and help plan, manage and implement successful small-scale revitalization projects. Library professionals will also find many useful resources designed to help them locate the answer to a question if we have not managed to answer it directly.
What was the most rewarding aspect of writing this book?
There were many rewarding aspects of writing the Facelifts for Special Libraries, but three come immediately to mind. For me, the most rewarding aspect of writing was the process of creating it with my colleagues. Like any project, when you are able complete a product you are proud of and deliver it on time, that is good feeling, even better when you have a team to share that success with.
Other highlights include the weekly emails I receive from Jenny Fry letting us know which libraries have purchased the book. Knowing that our book is on the shelves in libraries all over the world is a great feeling.
Finally, receiving that first royalty cheque, although very small, is also a highlight. Being paid to do work that you love is also a great thing even if the pay is only pennies. I actually framed and hung my first royalty cheque as probably many writers do. It wasn’t very much in terms of money, but signified a great personal accomplishment.
How has this publishing experience changed your career?
I am not sure if this publishing experience has changed my career. It has certainly made me more aware of and engaged in my profession. It has lead to some speaking opportunities. Publishing in general has had an influence on my career. I believe that the process of writing regularly has improved my ability to explain why the profession is important to me which in turn has given me confidence to enlighten my supervisors and colleagues at work about the importance of libraries and librarians to the work that they do.
Facelifts for special libraries: a practical guide to revitalizing diverse physical and digital spaces. Dawn Bassett, Brooke Ballantyne Scott and Jenny Fry. Chandos Publishing 2010. Available for sale in Canada through Amazon or the Ontario Library Association Bookstore
Dawn Bassett is the Coordinator of Library Services for the Canadian Grain Commission and the Current Treasurer of the Western Chapter of the SLA. Dawn holds a BA in English Literature from Simon Fraser University and an MLIS from the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies (SLAIS) at the University of British Columbia. Dawn has had the pleasure of working as a corporate librarian in both for profit and not-for-profit special libraries, as an academic reference librarian and as an independent researcher. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org