thoughts on library life, work, and play by an academic librarian
any thoughts and opinions posted herein are my own and do not reflect those of my employer, university, etc.
Before being hired for my current position, my library experience consisted of working in a small academic library environment. I had my reasons for moving on to a larger institution, but there are a few elements that I sorely miss and appreciate even more in hindsight.
Among these are…
1. the sense of autonomy that I enjoyed.
I had a direct relationship with my director and the university’s vice provost, so I had a strong sense of what my objectives and roles were within the library and the institution. There is a lot of bureaucracy that comes with working in a larger environment, and infinitely more layers to go through when trying to get any kind of project off the ground.
2. the power to make suggestions and purchases at will.
In addition to being a librarian, I had the dubious pleasure of being an assistant administrator. Small institutions definitely make it easier to rise within the ranks without all the hoop jumping of a larger unit; however, it also meant I was at the top of my ladder and would have no further opportunity to advance within the field unless a) I became the director (no, thank you) or b) I took on a new job. So I took a new job.
3. the lack of committees.
This has a lot to do with the first two. Although, I enjoy the ability to work with others on projects, the whole committee situation (wherein any and all decisions must go through committee before anything can happen) is not my cup of tea. However, I’m in a new environment now and can adapt to these things even if they aren’t my preferred method.
What’s the moral of this story?
Small libraries are great places to learn, but they may not offer much growth (generally speaking). However, if you find a great job in a small library, if you love it, and if you have some sense of security, consider your options before diving into a larger environment.
have compiled a list of the various projects i have assigned myself/agreed to take part of this year. had a brief moment of panic where i asked myself if i hadn’t gone a bit far… had my eagerness to be involved gotten the better of me.
it will pass. it always does.
here’s to my first year at a new institution.
one of my fellow librarians had a great idea for developing posters for national library week to promote the value of the university library across campus. here’s a rough sketch of my initial idea for the series.
Why does it seem that the larger the library the harder it is for anything to get done? I’ve never had to go through so many talks to get a project started.
When reference transactions fail because a student refuses to ask their professor for clarification on an assignment.
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Covering orientation duty. Dressed up our table with some books and a few things I found in the old orientation kit. Also made some impromptu signage to complement our board.
Kind of wish I had some chocolates to offer, but it looks much better than it did the first time I sat in on orientation.
My initial space study has revealed some interesting factoids about actual library use at our campus (we are the smaller sister campus to a medium-sized, urban university).
Things I learned after a week of observations:
1) Our students are traditional library users. The ones that are in the building are here to study and engage in some form of learning.
2) They like to work on their own. Consistently, the number of students studying on their own was higher than the number studying in groups. The same was observed at the student center during sweeps.
3) They like large tables for individual study.
4) Many will hide among the study carrels. This is one f the reasons why they are nearly invisible to us unless we make a concerted effort to seek them out.
5) However, though we can’t always see them (the building is designed in such a way that the study spaces are hard to unless you go beyond the stacks), the average number of users per day after a week of sweeps was 61.5. This is based on sustained usage, meaning those students who were in the building engaging in some form of activity that involved sitting in a library space (rather than just passing through or seeking information/books/etc.)
I conducted 9 sweeps between May 27 and June 3rd and recorded 554 instances of library space usage. I plan on replicating the study and improving the survey method during the Fall semester to measure changes in use after renovations are completed this summer.
One of the most challenging/exhilarating aspects of the new job is putting myself out there and creating my own tasks/roles/responsibilities. I’m an introvert at heart, but this makes me have to participate in some seriously extroverted activities. Which is great, as it makes life more interesting, but it also means being much more social than I am IRL. Nevertheless… challenge accepted.
The first project I’m working on is a space usage study. Specifically, what are students really doing when they are in the building? When are they here? Where are they sitting? Etc. I’m using the university’s student center for comparison and finding some surprising results. For one, the library consistently has more users despite the student center’s quiet and study-oriented atmosphere. Number two: even though previous surveys and word-of-mouth suggest that students want lounge seating, they seem to prefer group study tables most of all, even for individual study.
The goal is to identify usage trends and behaviors before conducting a user survey in the fall to compare actual vs. perceived usage in order to find ways to improve our physical presence.
Study space in transition… it’s a mix of really random furniture.
Ultra fabulous new student center lounge area…