Monday, June 22, 2009

Article note: Short one on roving librarians

Citation for the article:

Lavoie, Lisa. "Roving Librarians: Taking it to the Streets." Urban Library Journal 15.1 (2008): 78-82.

Read online as the journal is open access. Main page here.

This is a small piece advocating for the use of roving librarians. The idea of roving librarians is not a new one, but this small article makes a nice case for it. I have seen it mentioned at least here and here. I did find a bit unrealistic the notion of carrying around a laptop and a wireless printer along with a heap of "hot reads" books (79), but then again, the author does state her campus got a grant for the project which facilitated buying the hardware. I still thought it was a bit much to be carrying around in a campus, unless the campus is mostly in one building like my old workplace (and they have gone on to construct other buildings). Here, I can see us getting a good quality laptop, but a printer and a bunch of books? That would not be as likely. The article did not seem to specify if more than one person did the roaming, which makes me wonder because, again, I think that what Lavoie is suggesting in terms of gear may be a bit much for one person to carry. Additionally, for us, the books may be an issue (buying "hot reads" is a very low priority here, to put it politely). Let us put aside the logistics because overall I do think there are some very good points to this article, and personally, I think the idea could work for us on some level, so I don't want to worry about the logistics as much now. By the way, the context of the article is community college, but much of what she writes is applicable to any small campus.

Lavoie makes some very good points about the power of conversation, which I think are important to make:

  • "The roving librarian has to be a great conversationalist" (79).
  • Expanding on another study, "the current study posits that if knowledge is indeed created through conversation, and libraries are in the 'knowledge business,' then librarians are also in the conversation business" (79).
  • "But most of all, librarians have to be accessible and adept at hosting a conversation" (79).
Roving can also be helpful when it comes to retention, and this is something I can attest to from personal experience. It is also something I have pondered here and there:

  • "We know that personal interaction with a librarian can increase the retention of at-risk students in college" (80). This has to do with the idea of establishing personal connections both in academic terms and social terms.
  • "Roving librarians can play a role in this linking as we share personal and friendly interchanges with students while providing some direct or incidental learning. We also learn more about our students and their current interests and curiosities during roving than we would have in the traditional reference setting" (80).
  • "Personalized assistance for developmental college students has been proven to not only aid in their academic success, but to provide a means of mentoring students to continue with that success (Cousert, 1999; Thomas, 2000)" (qtd. in 80).
  • I liked this particular quote, which I identified with strongly because it was the type of work I used to do at my previous workplace. And I will admit that is work that I miss doing. It was something where I knew I could make a difference in some small measure. The quote then: "In this role, the roving librarian's work extends beyond librarianship to that of instructional and personal interventionist. We listen to students' academic trials and personal obstacles and we advise" (81). Keep in mind, we don't literally advise as an academic advisor would (I would send them to the actual advisor for that kind of thing, but some personal advice, it was given if asked).
Overall, this is a short read at four pages, and it makes some very good points. Now go pound that pavement.