April 18, 2018

Rachel Singer Gordon | Movers & Shakers 2002

Accidental Internet Guru

Championing online career development

Rachel Singer Gordon never wanted to be a computer geek. The prototypical girl with her nose in a book, she once was even misplaced by her camp counselor who never thought to look for her in the camp’s library. So when Gordon, who had two degrees in religious studies, needed to go back to school to become employable, library school was a natural for her. She became reference librarian at Franklin Park Public Library in 1996.


Current position: Head, Computer Services Department, Franklin Park Public Library, IL

Degree: MLS, Rosary College (now Dominican University), River Forest, IL, 1996

Active in: ALA, New Members Round Table and REFORMA; Illinois Library Association

She still didn’t want to be a geek, but someone had to take charge. Armed with a willingness to unscrew the back of a computer and the ability to sit through ten minutes of Muzak while waiting for tech support, she learned on the job how to be a systems librarian. She set up new computers and connected them to an NT server, installed software and drivers, created a web page for the library, and trained patrons and staff on finding information on the Internet.

Meanwhile, she had noticed there were few good resources for librarians who wanted to improve their job skills and hunt for work, so in 1996 she started the web site Lisjobs.com, where librarians and prospective employers could conduct their mating dance. In 1997, she began to share her knowledge with the rest of the library community. She wrote an outstanding book for ALA called Teaching the Internet in Libraries (2001). As proof of her own theories about using the Internet for networking, she found Sarah Nesbeitt online, a Massachusetts librarian who was also running a jobs site for information professionals. They joined forces, first to conduct a survey of new librarians (“Who We Are, Where We’re Going: A Report from the Front,” LJ 5/15/99, p. 36-39) and then to write a book, The Information Professional’s Guide to Career Development Online, after which they met in person for the first time; they had done their entire collaboration by e-mail.

Gordon has become a speaker in great demand at conferences and workshops, where she shares her knowledge on such topics as teaching the Internet to patrons, advancing your career through electronic networking, and the art of being a systems librarian. She is also the new Computer Media columnist for LJ. She never wanted to be a geek. And you know something? She isn’t one. She can force the machines to her will but not because she loves them. They’re just a means to an end for her.