Monday, March 28, 2005

Never a boring day (so far)

Since I got hired, and I started working, I have been able to say that there is never a boring day around here. Sure, there are some days that are slower than others, but I can say none are boring. I can only hope I will be saying the same thing years from now. For instance, this morning I am sitting at the Information Desk for a two hour stretch. I actually enjoy my time at the desk; I use the slow time to catch up on professional reading or other smaller items, and when patrons come asking for things, that is the best time.

Papers are starting to come due, so more students are coming in asking for help to locate articles. They seem especially interested in finding full-text articles from the databases they search, and very often this boils down to showing them the steps so they can access it. I had one of those requests today, another asking for places to find articles on economics. I would have likely interviewed her a bit further, but at this point she mentioned she wanted more along the lines of browsing to see what was available. When at the desk, I always go back to the basic principles of the reference interview where you try to figure out what it is the patron wants while they try to tell you in not so clear a way. I have learned that sometimes a librarian has to coax a patron to tell you what they want, which adds to the challenge.

At this point in time, I am also full of ideas of things I want to try out or implement at the library. Since I am a liason to the Arts and Humanities, it keeps me busy, and it means I have to work on developing those relationships with my faculty. Now, when last semester started, I had the good fortune of meeting with our only full time music professor, which allowed me to get a little profile on her needs for teaching and her interests. I have been able to meet a few other faculty members in other areas, much of it through my function as the Instruction Librarian. But I have still have much to do, at least I think so. *has to pause a moment to help a student locate an item on reserve*

What got me thinking about furthering my outreach efforts to the faculty was an article I just read in College and Research Libraries News for March 2005. The title of the article is "The Must List." The article gives some practical ideas on how to enhance the liaison role. The author, Jessica Albano, writes that "the foundation of subject librarianship is being liaison to an academic department or school. The effectiveness of the subject librarian depends on the strength of his or her relationships with the faculty and students in the department" (203). I could not agree more, but one has to take into account that Ms. Albano is working at a larger research university where liaison work is usually much more focused. She is a Communication Studies Librarian. Me, on the other hand, work with Arts and Humanities, and Communication Studies happens to be one of the areas in the field, meaning I have to juggle a few more balls than she does when it comes to specialization. Not that I question her focused role, but as I sit here, maybe someone should write a bit more about us librarians in more general settings. At any rate, her article does provide some very useful hints and advice that any librarian can likely try out. The bottom line of the article is that a subject librarian needs to constantly communicate with his or her clientele, which is nothing I did not know already, and I am sure a few others know this as well. So, I think the article is one of those reminders that come our way every once in a while, the type of little thing that helps validate our practices while giving us a new idea or two. That is what this article does for me. I am not sure about her suggestion about "magnetic business cards so your contact information can hang in their office year-round" not because I think it a bad idea, but in my case, I am not sure I could get a bit of funding to do it. Not to mention, knowing how absent minded some faculty can be (and no, this is not just ragging, some really are, you should look at their offices if you can even get in them hehe), odds are they could lose even a magnet. She does give other little suggestions such as publishing pathfinders (see my other blog post on that), and making oneself available, something I do with my students every chance I get. But I liked her lines at the end of the short article, which I found both reassuring and inspiring. She writes:

"Subject librarians serve as a bridge between library and user, between collections and service. Nothing can stop a creative and proactive librarian from leading an academic library to fulfill its mission of connecting people with knowledge" (205).

I think all librarians serve as a bridge, not just the specialists, but those of us in a liaison role have a bit more of an incentive to do so.

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