Thursday, September 27, 2012

Gypsy Librarian packs the cart and moves to Berea College (or why I have not been blogging recently)

Picture of a Romanichal Brush vardo wagon
How time passes. I have not blogged since the end of June here at The Gypsy Librarian. I have done some blogging over at The Itinerant Librarian, but nothing of substance nor LIS-related here. There are some reasons for that, but the main one is that I was in the middle of hunting for a new job. That did take out a lot of energy and time, and blogging (serious blogging, that is) did become a low priority. We can also add that there were a few topics both related to my previous job and the LIS profession at large that I preferred to avoid, and that kept my motivation low to blog here. I have been keeping up, and I continue reading a lot of the library literature so you don't have to. I just have not gotten around to posting some of my reading notes up. I have been writing on my personal journal fairly often these days, but my four readers likely do not wish nor need to read those rambling thoughts. So, a lot has been going on in life as I made a pretty big move.

I can finally say here that I have a new job; if you are one of my friends of Facebook or follow me on Twitter, you already know this. I am the new Coordinator of Information Literacy for the Hutchins Library at Berea College. Yes, the Gypsy Librarian has moved from Texas to Kentucky. Why Kentucky of all places? For one, they needed a good, experienced instruction and information literacy librarian. Two, this college has a very unique mission that I definitely can embrace. Three, I needed to get back to library instruction and information literacy work, which is what I am best trained to do and what I am passionate about.

"If I may be so bold, it was a mistake for you to accept promotion. Commanding a starship is your first, best destiny; anything else is a waste of material" 
--Spock to Kirk, from the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Now, I am not saying my previous job was a mistake. I gained some valuable experience and learned some good things. However, it was time to return to what I do best, and here at Berea I know I can make a difference. Just like Admiral Kirk's best destiny is to command a starship, my best destiny is to work with students and serve as a teacher librarian. I will be doing a lot of that here. Now, the skeptical in my four readers may be concerned over the word "Coordinator" in the title. I might have been concerned too, but when I came here to interview I felt things would be better. And as I have now worked almost three weeks here (I reported for my first day on September 11. Please, no commenting on any obvious ominous feelings regarding the date), I have a few things going for me.

  • One, the library director is extremely supportive. She has pretty much said "do what must be done." 
  • Two, I have a very good instruction team in place. We need to do some significant work to reform the program, especially move us into more interactive pedagogy and work on assessment, but the people I have in place to assist me are good. One of them is even a graduate of the ACRL Immersion Teacher Track. 
  • Three, the Dean of Faculty is on board for this as well. In fact, when I interviewed here, and I met with him, he was the most challenging questioner, but he was also the most passionate. And he brought out the passion in me about teaching the students and working for a better campus. By the way, I should mention I am a professor now. Assistant Professor of Library Science. However, it is not tenure line, but rather renewable/continuing appointment. Yet, other than not being tenure-line, I am treated like any other faculty member in terms of campus privileges and responsibilities. It is an interesting experience, and one I may blog more about as it is new to me.
  • Four, I am a graduate of ACRL Immersion myself, both Teacher and Program Track, and that will serve me well here. Given the interest my director here has on assessment, I am hoping to apply for the Assessment Track and maybe take one of our librarians with me as well down the road. This is an area that has barely been touched, and we need to get on this. In the meantime, I am already prepping things.
  • Five, I get to do a little giving back to the profession as I may get the opportunity to mentor a younger librarian as others have offered their wisdom to me. I can only hope I can live up to the example of those who helped me out along the way.
  • Six, there is also room to do library outreach, so the experiences from my previous work will serve me well here as well.
So, I am gradually settling in. It was quite the move for my family and me, but we are all together now, and things are falling into place. I have been placed on the reference desk schedule now, and I hope to start picking up some classes soon. I have observed the other instruction librarians teaching, and I have had at least one meeting to discuss teaching and curriculum, so we are starting to get the ball rolling.  As I get focused back on instruction, teaching, information literacy and pedagogy, I hope I will be blogging a bit more since I will be reflecting on my practice more.

I am already starting to compile a big list of things to do, but I am taking things a little at a time. My boss and colleagues have been very gracious in allowing me to adapt, learn my way around, ask a lot of questions, and get my bearings. I have also been going to some campus events and activities, something that is highly encouraged. I may write more about some of those activities as well.

In the end, I have a lot of work ahead of me, and I will strive not to disappoint folks. But it is good work, challenging work, the kind of work I know I can do and that let's me serve others. The challenge now is not to get too overwhelmed too fast, but for that I am making lists and prioritizing so I can stay organized.

To my four readers then, if you are still hanging around, stay tuned. Things are bound to get interesting. As always, best, and keep on blogging.

Photo credit: Image of Romanichal wagon found on Wikipedia ( The photo is licensed under a Creative Commons Share and Attribute license.  The photo comes from this article on Wikipedia.