Writing: the secret weapon within a librarian’s arsenal

Writing by Alan Cleaver via CC license on Flickr

I came across this great blog post yesterday on Hack Library School (one of my *favourite* blogs) called: “Learn to Write (Well)” by Joanna June. What pulled me into the post was the first sentence (and I quote):

Alternate Title: all I needed to know about acing grad school I learned in 6th grade.

Wow! I was immediately intrigued and read on. A lot of what June said I could agree with. It’s something that is not immediately obvious (or is so obvious you never think about it!), but librarians require strong writing skills – something that universities assume we have. It is something that people are taught, but ultimately it boils down to practice.

I love her point about how writing fast and easily is related to reading comprehension. She advises:

Once we know what we are trying to say, regurgitating those ideas in a cohesive manner is much easier. So my first tip when you sit down to write, know clearly in your own head what it is that you want to express.

She also recommends reading other authors critically to see how they have arranged their own ideas to get their points across.

After all, a crucial part of a librarian’s work is to: “efficiently sift through information and find the important bits.” If you have good reading comprehension skills and have honed the ability to pull out the important stuff, you are well on the way to becoming a good writer.

I personally have always been a bookworm (this reason was why my parents advised me to get into library work!) but I subconsciously developed the habit of speed-reading. I was so keen to get to the end of the book and see what happened, I would just skim-read to pull out the important concepts and grasp the flow of the story. I thought this was pretty ordinary, until I told someone at a meeting that I had read all 300 pages of board minutes on a one-hour flight from Hamilton to Wellington and she asked me if I had taken a speed-reading course! It is a pretty handy skill (particularly when you are a bit of a procrastinator – come on, who isn’t?), but it’s also vastly handy when developing your writing skills if you can grasp the point from the information and succinctly relay that point to an audience.

So back to the central point – how do we get better at writing?


After all, practice makes perfect, right?

Practice in a variety of contexts:

  • Blogging
  • Tweeting
  • Creative writing
  • Comment on blog posts
  • Newsletters
  • Announcements
  • Taking minutes
  • E-mails
  • Report writing

I’ve taken on a number of volunteer opportunities to hone my writing; including Volunteer Editor of LIANZA’s Library Life. I’ve learned so much from this last year on it, and have written a large number of different pieces including articles, editorials, and sales pitches. It has forced me to be succinct and concise and it had also made me work on my marketing skills to get people excited and involved.

I’m also really loving #BlogJune because it allows me to get in touch with my creative side, and put into words some topics I have been thinking about for a while. The quote below sums up my situation; blogging definitely helps me find my quiet space to shape ideas.

writing is best way to ...
Writing is best way to… by mwedwards815 via CC license on Flickr

So what about you? What are your tips or strategies for making your writing or reading comprehension better?


7 thoughts on “Writing: the secret weapon within a librarian’s arsenal

  1. Lovely post about writing 🙂 I find most librarians really care about good writing and are naturally pretty good at it too (from all the reading, I guess!). The thing I would like to get better at is speaking. Í can communicate perfectly in writing, but speaking I’m often lost for words, and long presentations exhaust me. Any tips for improving speaking skills? So important for job interviews too 😉

    • That’s a great point; developing your speaking skills too! I also need to work on that – presenting for the first time at LIANZA Conference this year on my research (10 minute session) and maybe on a paper about ANZ 23 Mobile Things (45 mins – eek!). Any tips would be gratefully received 🙂 It’s important to be well-rounded in communication; both written and oral 🙂

  2. Great post! I think what I try to do is dive in! I so often over analyse myself and think “that’s not good enough, people are going to read that”, but I do it so often that I don’t end up writing anything at all (and therefore don’t get the practice that is needed).
    I am also a massive bookworm, and have been known to speed read a little too much, but am trying to slow down, take in what I read and develop a better understanding on how some of my favourite authors express themselves. For example, Margaret Atwood is a beautiful writer and can express both fiction and fact in so many creative ways, reading her slowly and with a purpose has really helped me pick up a lot of great tips on how to write.

    • That’s a good point – dive in and hit the publish button 🙂 Don’t be afraid; it’s all a learning experience 🙂

      That’s a great point about reading more slowly too. I do try to do that sometimes; read it slowly so I can hear the words in my head or I read aloud to myself – but not for too long; it goes too slowly!

      • I’ve been going along with the ‘ht the publish button’ with great enthusiasm – it came as a bit of a shock when I asked my husband to read one of my posts before uploading… Probably a balance is best don’t dither over whether it s good enough or not, but also don’t hit publish without having given your writing some thought. Still, I think the more I write, the better it will get!

  3. I agree with you. Practice makes us better writers. I’ve just finished a MOOC on writing (well, actually, I haven’t really actively participated in it, but I watched the video lectures, and learned a lot by doing that). Throughout the course the message was: read, practice and reflect. https://www.coursera.org/course/composition

  4. Pingback: The Octopus Librarian | #BlogJune: Looking back…

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