Linworth Libraries Unlimited

Mastering Subject Specialties

Practical Advice from the Field

by Karen Sobel, Editor


Essential for any liaison librarian, this book's advice from colleagues who have "been there, done that" guides new and established academic librarians through the steps to succeeding as a subject specialist.

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Cover image for Mastering Subject Specialties

March 2016

Libraries Unlimited

Pages 184
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Librarianship: Philosophy, Values, and Issues/LIS Profession
  Management and Administration/Human Resources and Communication

Covering the most common subject specialties and departmental liaison roles found in colleges and universities, this guide is for early- and mid-career librarians looking to move up in their chosen specialty as well as for established academic librarians interested in changing fields or for librarians taking on liaison roles in areas outside their expertise.

Becoming a subject specialist is a rewarding career path for academic librarians: it allows you to pursue intellectual passions as well as move up in the organization. In this practical guide, experienced academic and research librarians describe how to succeed in various subject fields, presenting expert perspectives on the coursework, work experience, and core knowledge necessary for librarians interested in joining their specialty areas.

For each specialty, an expert identifies useful or necessary coursework, provides insights on work and internship experiences, and pinpoints core knowledge areas necessary for success. The chapters offer valuable advice for early- and mid-career librarians on how to advance their career goals through building relevant skills, professional development, networking, and participating in professional associations. This book is crucial reading for library and information science students—and those who teach and advise them—as well as new librarians preparing for their careers and mid-career-changers.


  • Supplies invaluable career advice from experienced professionals on key subjects such as changing fields within librarianship, patterns of scholarly communication in different fields, tenure, and moving up in your chosen field
  • Provides information far beyond the basics taught in courses on academic librarianship
  • Offers valuable insights for beginning academic librarians as well as experienced librarians and career-changers
  • Covers the most commonly found subject specialties in colleges and universities—literature, history, social and behavioral sciences, arts, pure and applied sciences, and business—as well as in academic special libraries for law, health science, music, and government information
Author Info

Karen Sobel, MLS, is associate professor and research and instruction librarian for art, architecture, music, and urban planning at the University of Colorado Denver. She holds a master of science in library science and a master's degree in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her previous work includes Libraries Unlimited's Information Basics for College Students. More information about Sobel is available at

Table of Contents


  • Introduction: Factors Affecting Most Academic Library Subject Specialist Positions
  • PART I
  • Chapter 1: Reference and Instruction Generalists Jason Coleman
  • Chapter 2: Physical Sciences Subject Specialist Zahra Behdadfar Kamarei
  • Chapter 3: Biological Sciences Kelli J. Trei
  • Chapter 4: Engineering and Applied Science Jack M. Maness
  • Chapter 5: Art Librarianship Emilee Mathews
  • Chapter 6: Music Librarianship Stephanie Bonjack
  • Chapter 7: Law Librarianship as a Subject Specialty Jennifer Allison
  • Chapter 8: Literature and Languages Librarianship Arianne Hartsell-Gundy
  • Chapter 9: Area Studies Librarianship Betsaida M. Reyes
  • Chapter 10: Government Information Shari Laster
  • Chapter 11: Subject Specialist for Education, Psychology, Sociology and Social Work Lise M. Dyckman and Laura Koltutsky
  • Chapter 12: History, Religion, and Philosophy Librarianship Chella Vaidyanathan
  • Chapter 13: Mastering Subject Specialties: Business Diane Zabel
  • Chapter 14: Health Sciences Librarianship Dixie A. Jones
  • Chapter 15: Changing Fields within Academic and Research Libraries Josiah M. Drewry
  • Chapter 16: Preparing to Move up the Ladder Lisa Norberg
  • Index



    "Primarily aimed at potential and current library school students, current professionals considering pursuing a career change within or into academia will find this a useful guide as well. As a reference book that readers will refer to for specific information based on the reader's interest area(s), it is an essential resource for library school libraries, especially if the library school does not have the benefit of local expertise on the full-range of specialties offered in this book."VOYA

    "By sharing their experiences and the details of their roles as subject specialists, the contributors to Mastering Subject Specialties: Practical Advice from the Field have written a helpful guide for those in library school or those looking for a new personal direction within the profession. . . . Current library students, as well as those contemplating a move into the
    library profession, are the target audience for this volume, and Mastering Subject Specialties would be a natural purchase for libraries supporting MLIS students. It may also prove a useful resource for mid-career librarians who are interested in a new professional trajectory, or who have a supervisory role over subject specialists in various disciplines."Technical Services Quarterly

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