Marketing and Advocating for the Academic Library

I was asked to give a presentation for university faculty and staff on marketing and advocating for the library. Below are slides and my notes. This presentation was geared towards an external (non-librarian) audience.

Marketing and Advocating for the Library

I have been asked to speak about marketing and advocating for the academic library.

  • We will walk through how I define marketing and advocacy along with their similarities and differences.
  • I’ll also provide examples of how marketing and advocacy can and should be applied in an academic library context.
  • I’ll wrap up with how marketing and advocacy fits into some trends I’m seeing with libraries and higher education.

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Before we get into it, I want to share my working definitions of marketing and advocacy. The two go hand-in-hand, but there are some differences.

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Marketing

Marketing focuses on the library’s current users and also our potential users. For us here at the university, that’s primarily going to be our students, but also faculty and staff, and community users.

It’s also important to recognize different segments our community. For students: it could be undergraduates, graduate students, international students, athletes, a particular major, etc.

For faculty: It could be marketing to their needs or using them as a channel to market library services to students.

For staff: It could be marketing library services like our leisure reading collection or curriculum materials collection. Something that adds value to their university employment.

The goal: Aligning the needs of the our students, faculty, and staff to the library’s services and resources.

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Advocating

Advocating is different. It’s all about the influencers and how the library reaches out to them. It’s focused on the individuals or groups that can influence the environment to benefit the library.

In our case, this would naturally include the Provost and senior leadership, possibly the Board too. With all the changes at the university, the library needs to communicate the value we provide to the University.

Influencers are not just top leadership of a university, but it could also be student organizations like Student Senate. The people here may not even use the library (like senior leadership), but they are the ones to make decisions. That’s why we need to advocate using the data and stories we collect to prove our case for the library.

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Marketing & Advocacy

So how do marketing and advocacy go hand in hand to create a better library?

Marketing can:

  • Increase the number of users of library services and resources
  • Shape services to meet the needs and wants of users
  • Ensure the understanding of the role of the library within the institution
  • Help users to understand the unique value of the library (Google paywall vs. library databases)

Advocacy can:

  • Increase decision-makers’ understanding of the library
  • Increase decision-makers’ understanding of the benefits to the institution of a strong sustainable library
  • Support changes in policy that will add to the library’s success

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So before I talk about why marketing and advocacy are an essential part of a library staff’s work, I want to do a little activity. 

Close your eyes. Think about a library.

What’s in there? What do you see? Who do you see?

Open your eyes. Use the scrap paper to write down FIRST 5 things you think of when you hear the word “LIBRARY.”

[discussion follows]

I did a similar activity like this, but a very different audience. Last year, I was asked to give a presentation to a group of high school students who were in a pre-college program. As potential university students I thought it might be interesting to get their take on libraries. So I asked them:

When you hear the word librarian, list five things you think of.

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So what did we get? Some of the usual stereotypes: books, old lady, mean, shhhh, and glasses.

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Then I switched the question to:

List five things you think a librarian does.

Here I got: read, shelving books, checking in books, help people find materials, and doing programs for the community.

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Perception Issue

We have a perception issue in terms of what librarians do. It’s very book-centric and focused on a lot of clerical tasks. Above is one of my favorite slides:

What our parents think we do, What our friends think we do, What students think we do, WHAT WE ACTUALLY DO

Now I’m not going to draw conclusions based on working with one high school group, but it’s a little anecdote that I think is worth sharing.

To me, libraries ARE NOT ABOUT THE BOOKS, THEY ARE ABOUT THE PEOPLE – and that’s what we need to market & advocate to.

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Marketing & Advocacy

So marketing and advocacy are an essential part of an academic library staff’s work. As we’ve seen, many people have a stereotyped image of libraries based on outdated experiences. We need to update the image of libraries, librarians, and all library staff. We have a responsibility to promote our professionalism and value to everyone. This is particularly necessary in the current environment of technological change.

Decision makers routinely deal with issues like funding cuts and accountability questions and so much more that impact library services. We need to provide a quick response so that their opinions can be informed by professional advice.

Let’s face it: There is intense competition for funding and we must continue to ensure that the value of the library is well-understood and appreciated so that there is a good reason to continue funding it.

To do that, we need to back up our marketing and advocacy with data and stories. And now I’m going to talk about a few of those examples.

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Low Key Assessment

One less time intensive project that I like is from library at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. It’s a simple Post-It Note wall. It asks students:

“What do you love about the library?”

“What do you hate about the library?”

It’s an easy way for students to give feedback and an easy way for the library to listen. It keys library staff into unmet needs or services. As an assessment tool, it tells us what we’re doing well and what we could improve on. We could take the a data from the post-it notes to advocate for library improvements or resources.

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Library as a Place

In the past ten years or so, there has been a focus on promoting the Library as a Place – on a college campus, that sort of makes the library like the living room. You want to have various spaces in the library that appeals to all types of students. So collecting student data in how they use the library is essential in arguing for additional resources for library improvements.

One example I have here is from a team of researchers, mostly from Drexel University, where librarians started to taking NOT just hourly building counts, but actually SEAT counts–and recording which spaces students were using. Then they devised a heatmap to show where students were congregating. Red/orange/yellow is higher use, blue/green is lower use.

In the left example, students were using solo/pairs tables by the windows. In the right example, students were using the computer pods in the middle.

So based off of this data, library administration could go to senior leadership in proposing renovations or improvements based on space. In today’s data-driven higher ed environment, you need to use the numbers to prove your story.

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“Just in Time” Marketing

Another idea I like are these “Library Minute” videos from Arizona State University. Designed for “just in time” help, these videos market library services and resources. It’s a good way to reach current and potential users. They are short: around one minute as the title suggests. Videos can be embedded on the library’s website, their Research Guides, and can be promoted by the university or the library via social media. They have a whole list of short videos: how to access online resources, how to get materials through Interlibrary Loan, and even more complicated issues like open access.

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Kindness Audit

This is another concept I love because it’s undercover marketing to students, but it also gives you data that you can use to advocate for the library. I first heard about in a MOOC I took with Michael Stephens at San Jose State University. 

So what is it? This is an idea that I adopted here. I started with new library student workers, but I also recommend tapping the broader student body. 

I asked students to use their smartphone camera and walk through the library and take photos of:

  • Things you liked
  • Things you didn’t like
  • Things that confuse you
  • Things that surprise you

The goal: Have students assess the library’s physical space to see how “kind” it is. The students find out new things on their own as they explore the library. Library staff can use the data to improve the space.

We used the Kindness Audit data to:

  • Convert our gendered, single-stall restrooms, into gender-neutral restrooms.
  • Add more electrical outlets.
  • Create collaborative open study in the Library Classroom when not being used for a class session.
  • Liberalize the library’s food & drink policy.

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A Sense of Fun

I also think we should market social events that help change that stuffy perception of the academic library. Encourage some fun events, get students involved, and then when they actually need research help they will feel comfortable coming back. Here I’ve been involved with our welcome parties that we did for a couple of years. When I worked at my previous institution, I instituted an Edible Book Contest for National Library Week which was fun.

This past January, we hosted laser tag in the Library, which I loved:

  • Required little time and no money from the library
  • Was sponsored by Student Activities who coordinated the staffing
  • I was happy to offer up our space for the event
  • Creates goodwill among the students
  • It would have been easy to say “No” but I want to create that culture of saying yes and showing the Library off in a different light.

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Trends

So I’m a person who always like to see things on the horizon. So I want to talk a little bit about some trends I’m seeing in higher ed and how library marketing and advocacy will be key.

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Open Educational Resources

This is something that is both marketing to Faculty, and being an advocate for Students. I’m concerned about the rising cost of textbooks. Students already pay a lot for college and this doesn’t help. I think the Library should be marketing to faculty the use of open educational resources.

OERs are freely available, open licensed textbooks, media, and other digital materials that can be used in the Classroom. There is a lot of high quality content out there, it’s just making the time to search for it and figure out how it might fit into the curriculum that takes time.

The library could host a workshop with faculty in discovering and evaluating resources such as these and maybe start a pilot program where a few faculty members experiment with them in their courses.

To me OER fits squarely within the university ethos with respect to stewardship of material resources and would be beneficial for our students.

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Scholarly Communication

This one primarily affects Faculty. The cost of journals continue to rise beyond inflation each year and they are now owned by a small number of multinational publishing conglomerates which can jack up the prices. I think the library should be marketing open access journals to faculty and advocating for university support for faculty to publish in them.

I wish we could encourage faculty to consider publishing in reputable open access journals (those that provide free access online and are non-profit). However, it’s a balance because those faculty members going up for tenure want to publish in a high-profile journal and those still tend to be owned by those large scholarly publishers.

The library should develop some sort of award or prize for faculty publishing in an open access journal. We do get questions from faculty asking for help in identifying journals to publish in, so maybe some sort of workshop or brown bag is in order. But I think it’s the library’s job to promote and advocate for this.

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Experiential Learning

This involves both students and faculty. Usually the library is thought of as a one way transaction: You download a journal article or you check out a book. I would like the library to be a place where students create things. So maybe that’s a makerspace that combines art & technology skills, but I would love to connect with faculty and students on something like this.

For example: We have a 3D printer, but there’s no educational programming done. People submit their jobs to the library and we print their items. If we could design a space that is collaborative and market it to faculty and students as a place to experiment and create things and talk about what we’re doing and what we are learning, that would great. To me, that places the library in the forefront of not just being a repository of THINGS, but a place that CREATES things–and I think that sends a powerful message to campus.

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Marketing & Advocacy

So to wrap-up…

These days everyone’s attention is so segmented. The academic library cannot just expect to exist as it is. We need to reach out to our current and potential users and promote our services and resources. We also need to investigate the unmet needs of our users and figure out: WHAT ARE WE NOT DOING THAT WE SHOULD BE DOING? In doing so, it’s important for the library collect data and stories from our users to paint a picture for senior leadership. The goal is to create a funded library that serves our community of users.

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Library Tourism: Seattle Area Libraries

In January I attended the American Library Association midwinter meeting in Seattle. One thing I had rarely done before at library conferences is to actually tour other libraries. Weird I know…so it was time to rectify that!

I saw that LLAMA was sponsoring visits to the library at Seattle University and the Undergraduate Library at the University of Washington–both spaces that have undergone recent renovations. Then on my own, I toured Suzzallo Library at the University of Washington and also the Seattle Public Library.

Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons, Seattle University

Seattle University, a private university located just east of downtown, enrolls approximately 7,000 students. Lemieux Library was built in 1966. In 2010, the firm of Pfeiffer was hired to renovate the 80,000 square feet building plus add an additional 40,000 square feet to create a new “front door.”

Owing to the rain and cloudiness of Seattle (I would start to see this as an architectural theme!), the new front part of the library building features a lot of glass and natural light.

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Lemieux Library, Seattle University

The space includes (from an information sheet given to visitors):

  • Library and learning commons with physical and digital information resource access
  • Active learning classrooms
  • Reading rooms
  • Group study rooms
  • Individual study carrels and consultation cubicles
  • Computer labs
  • Learning Assistance Programs for tutoring
  • Writing Center
  • Math Lab
  • Media Production Center
  • Cafe

A few highlights:

Computer area with space for students to collaborate and spread out.

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Computer area, Lemieux Library, Seattle University

Group study rooms that can be reserved.

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Group Study Room, Lemieux Library, Seattle University

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Group Study Room, Lemieux Library, Seattle University

Research assistance from librarians and Writing Center tutors available on the same floor (two separate reporting structures, but co-located).

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Research Consultations, Lemieux Library, Seattle University

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Writing Center consultations, Lemieux Library, Seattle University

A variety of study spaces

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Lemieux Library, Seattle University

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Reading room, Lemieux Library, Seattle University

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Lemieux Library, Seattle University

Odegaard Undergraduate Library, University of Washington

The University of Washington in Seattle enrolls 40,000+ students. Red Square, the university’s central plaza is home to Odegaard Undergraduate Library & Learning Commons. Constructed in the 1970s, the building is a classic Brutalist structure which (like most of these types of buildings) appears unwelcoming from the exterior. However, you step inside to an inviting space.

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Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

Renovated in 2011-2013 by Miller Hull, the darkness of the Brutalism is gone with the addition of a skylight. A large hulking central stairwell was replaced with a more efficient staircase, opening the space up.

The space includes (from an information sheet given to visitors):

  • Odegaard Learning Commons
  • 24 collaboration pods with group work monitors
  • 38 large writeable surfaces
  • 26 booths or nooks for group work
  • 14 side-by-side consultation areas with power & writeable surfaces
  • 21 enclosed, reservable group study rooms with writeable surfaces and monitors
  • Odegaard Writing and Research Center
  • Learning Studio with 30 workstations
  • Computer help desk

A few highlights:

Two Active Learning Classrooms feature team tables, each with its own large screen monitor. Each classroom can seat 100+.

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Active Learning Classroom, Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

In the evenings or weekends when not being used for classes, a movable glass wall can be opened, making the space more transparent so students know that they can and should be using the space.

I also noticed booth style seating where students could collaborate on projects. These booths are lettered because they can be reserved.

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Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

Study rooms can also be reserved and feature whiteboards, technology, and plenty of table space and chairs.

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Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

Research assistance from librarians and writing assistance from tutors are co-located (though still two separate reporting structures, I believe) in the Odegaard Writing and Research Center. A genius bar is set up for drop-ins, or you can make an appointment.

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Odegaard Writing and Research Center, Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

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Odegaard Writing and Research Center, Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

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Odegaard Writing and Research Center, Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

The second floor features a large computer commons area in traditional rows, but also in collaborative tables.

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Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

The third floor features the book stacks. This is the designated quiet area and has not yet been renovated. Because the building features a large atrium, doors help to keep out noise.

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Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

They also have a nice marketing campaign!

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Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington

 

Suzzallo Library, University of Washington

OK, I call Suzzallo Library Seattle’s very own Hogwarts. Even Yelp and Tripadvisor think so!

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Suzzallo Library exterior, University of Washington

Harry Potter, you say? Check out the interior.

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Seattle’s own Hogwarts

When you picture the classic library, this is it. Designed in the Collegiate Gothic style, construction began in 1923.

Additional space was added to Suzzallo, and Allen Library opened in 1990. This essentially created one large library building. Interestingly, Allen Library is named after Kenneth Allen, associate director of libraries, who is the father of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Suzzallo Library is now a quiet reading room. I felt a little sorry for the four students who were studying in there on a Sunday afternoon just after it opened. There were more tourists snapping photos and taking selfies than there were students!

Oh, here’s one thing I don’t have to worry about in Wisconsin: earthquake retrofitting the library!

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Suzzallo/Allen Libraries, U. of Washington

Central Library, Seattle Public Library

Seattle Public Library’s current Central Library opened in 2004. It’s a good example of Deconstructivist architecture. At first glance, you notice the lines of the building are all askew. You might imagine haphazard interior spaces.

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Exterior of Central Library, Seattle Public Library

Inside though, you get a modern cathedral-like feel. It features over 350,000 square feet with lots of glass and light (important in the cloudy/rainy Pacific Northwest!). We’re worshipping books here. Unlike some libraries that hide their book collection, or push it off to the side, Seattle Public Library includes books and media on its main floor.

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Central Library, Seattle Public Library

Escalators guide visitors up to floors with more books and technology.

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Escalator to upper floors

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Central Library, Seattle Public Library

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Technology area

The circulation desk features monitors that highlight books that have recently been returned.

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Recently returned books at the Circulation Desk

Besides physical materials, the library features innovative programming for citizens and visitors. Start with the Seattle Public Library A-Z Programs and Services list to find out more.

The space is open. Because of this, I thought the building would be overly noisy…and I’m not one of the “anti-noise” librarians…I just figured the design would exacerbate that. But it doesn’t. It’s quiet. People can talk at a normal level, but the building overall remains peaceful. Wayfinding was useful. Although getting back down from the top floors is limited to the elevators.

The gift shop is a must-stop while touring the building. Library lovers can’t leave without purchasing something. Can’t visit? Check out these pages:

So who else likes to do a little bit of library tourism? Let me know!

The Accidental Library Director

If you would have told me just over a year ago that I would be a library director, hysterical laughter would be my response:

But here I am. I keep calling myself the “accidental” library director. That’s how I introduced myself with a group of new college library director peers. My husband told me to stop saying that. “You’re devaluing your worth!” or something to that effect. I can’t help it. Midwestern self-deprecation is my coping mechanism. No one should seem too self-important.

There was never a desire for a career in library leadership. Up until now, my entire 15+ year stretch as an academic librarian has been focused on information literacy, research assistance, and outreach. I got to do “fun” things like 3D printing, managing a children’s/young adult literature collection, teaching a podcasting course, and designing active learning exercises. I had the freedom to be as creative as I wanted to be.

Conversely, being library director sounded like a creativity killer: budgets, human resources, management.

But truth be told, I was inching toward leadership: I had plenty of programmatic leadership experience, and in the past few years also managed staff.

In October 2017, the interim library director at our small-ish academic library (approx. 3,400 students) resigned. We did not have a back up plan. That’s not a criticism–we just all had too many other things to do. Succession planning was not at the top of the list.

After realizing that none of the other librarians wanted to step up, I offered to. I also told the Provost that I was not interested in the job permanently. Well, you can see where that went: Accidental Library Director.

I filled the interim role for 6 months before applying for the permanent position. Even though an internal applicant, I still had to go through the full interview process: resume/cover letter, phone interview, in-person interview. And I’m glad I did: it made the process transparent and worthwhile. In May 2018, I was appointed permanent library director.

Why Didn’t I Want to Do It (at first)?

  1. I like being a front line librarian and the interactions and energy with students, faculty, and staff.
  2. We had no one trained as a #2 person who could step up to the top role.
  3. At our small-ish academic library, the library director also oversees access services (circulation, interlibrary loan, reserves) and I had absolutely no interest in that.
  4. I really enjoyed my coordination area of info lit and research assistance. My office in the Information Commons was a hub for student activity. I would miss that.
  5. I wasn’t sure I was the right person to be an effective advocate for the library with senior administration (cue imposter syndrome).

Why Did I Change My Mind?

  1. As director, I’m still a front line librarian! At a smaller institution, all of the librarians are front line. I may not be doing as much info lit as I did previously, but I have plenty of interactions. I just worked with a senior capstone English class and their outstanding research topics have energized me as reference librarian this semester.
  2. I got over my “I hate access services” feeling. We all have job duties that are not our “favorite.” You sometimes just have to suck it up. I’m backed up by an incredible circulation manager who handles a lot of day-to-day access services issues.
  3. Yeah, I did enjoy info lit over the years (and I still happily participate as library director–I just don’t have to do as much). But secretly, I was getting to the point where I could potentially see myself getting burnt out. It was time for a change. I got to re-write my “old” position description and hire a new Teaching & Learning Librarian who is off to an outstanding start!
  4. It took some non-library people to convince me to apply: a professor, a senior administrator, and a staff member to say: “Joe: You could TOTALLY do this job!” For me, I gradually realized that all of my experiences prepared me for this. My feelings transitioned from “I could do the job” to “I want to do this job.”
  5. In the interim role, I started making small changes. Then I wanted to see those changes develop. Library administration is not boring. I love collaborating with colleagues from inside and outside the library. I’m proud of the exciting things that library staff are doing. I want to promote that and work with stakeholders on carrying out the library’s mission of student success.

With that said, there is so much to learn and you can be pulled in a million different directions. It’s a big switch for me. For the first year, I’ve been doing a lot of listening: amongst library staff, students, and faculty on campus. I’ve been energized in interactions with the College Library Director Mentoring Program and some of my professional associations and by great colleagues on Twitter.

In a few months, I’ll run a follow-up post on what I’m learning. Lately, it’s been mostly HVAC issues, hah!

Tapping Student Talent to Diversify the Library Collection

At the university where I work, all students are required to participate in a cross-cultural experience. Some students go away for a semester abroad–often through a partner institution. Some professors here take students to a different country for anywhere from 1-3 weeks. But it doesn’t have to be international either–we also offer domestic trips to different cities, rural locations, the US/Mexico borderland, and Native American reservations. They key is to create an immersive experience. You must go beyond simply being a “tourist.” I’ve chaperoned two trips to Italy and it’s a rewarding experience for students.

As part of the preparation, the library collection often comes into play. A lot of the cross-cultural experiences require students to read a novel set in the locale/country they are visiting, written by an author from that locale/country. The librarians see a lot of research questions like:

“I need to find a book set in Peru and written by a Peruvian author.”

…And that’s when we found our library collection was not too diverse. A lot of the fiction was 1) white and 2) US or Eurocentric. We needed to diversify.

This is where student workers come into play. One of our excellent circulation student workers happens to be an English and Global Studies major. Besides having her do regular circ desk work, why not use her skills from English and Global Studies? It’s a chance for her to use her course experiences and apply them. After talking with her, this is the project we devised:

  1. Get a list of countries/regions/locales where students can complete their cross-cultural experience requirement.
  2. Using Novelist, Amazon, Worldcat, and other tools, research books set in some of the areas where students will be studying, written by authors from those areas.
  3. Check our library catalog to make sure we don’t already own the items.
  4. Organize the list by area, followed by titles/authors.
  5. Using her English/Global Studies background knowledge, prioritize novels by areas with greatest need.

The student worker was able to make recommendations using knowledge from the courses she had taken and then used the tools to find more books. She was passionate about the project and it gave her the opportunity to see how the library is directly connected to student success and support. It was also a project she could put on her resume. It’s important to mention that we always need to be mindful that we are not exploiting students for their labor (and the student worker was paid for this work), but if we can find worthwhile projects that match student interests and career goals, then go for it!

I then was able to order the novels using the library’s “diversity” fund line in our materials budget. Several years ago we had carved out this fund line from the “big” materials budget explicitly for diversifying the collection. We use a broad definition for diversity, and this project fit the bill.

Now when a student says, “I’m studying in Morocco and I need a novel by a Moroccan author”…we have it!

Finding Uncle Dan

In 2018, with all the technology and communication available, people can still slip off the radar. There seems to be this insistence that everyone is online; everyone has a smartphone. Of course, that’s overly simplistic. It ignores the digital divide and people who simply, for whatever reason, choose not to engage online. That’s the case with my Uncle Dan.

My mom texted me the other day saying she’s been trying to get ahold of Dan, her brother-in-law, but found that his phone number was disconnected. I hadn’t thought of my Uncle Dan in quite awhile. He was my dad’s older brother–by quite a few years–and the sole surviving sibling after my dad passed away in 2012.

Meeting Uncle Dan
The first time I met Dan was about 1980…but I don’t remember it; I was only around two years old. My mom and I had flown out to California to attend a wedding on her side of the family, but it was Dan–my dad’s brother–that graciously offered to pick us up at LAX.

The second time I met Dan was in 1989…and this I remember. My mom, dad, and I had flown out to California to see family and do the Disneyland thing. We visited with Dan in Long Beach where he lived. I remember him taking us to his favorite breakfast joint, Eggs, Etc. We also ventured down with him to Mission San Juan Capistrano, Dana Point, and Laguna Beach.

The following year in 1990, he came out to Indiana by train (he didn’t like to fly) to visit with us and his mom (my grandma) who wasn’t always the easiest person to get along with.

That was the last time I saw him in person. He and my dad weren’t close. They loved each other, but a phone call on Christmas and birthdays usually sufficed. After my dad passed away, we lost touch. That’s on me.

About Uncle Dan
So here’s what I know (or think I know) about Dan. His full name is Daniel Alan Hardenbrook. He is around 83 years old as of 2018. He is a U.S. military veteran, having served in Korea. I’m not sure which branch of the military. I believe he also spent time in Greenland during his military service.

After the military, he ended up settling in Long Beach, CA where I think he worked as a pipe fitter. When we saw him in 1989, he was working at a hardware store. I remember him being down-to-earth with a fierce independent streak.

He lived in an apartment and his longtime address was 1121 Stanley Avenue, Long Beach, CA, 90804.

Lost Communication

After my dad died and my mom moved own of town, she disconnected her landline phone number of 30+ years. That’s the number that Dan would have known. She had given him her mobile number, but we’re not sure if he wrote it down or saved it.

I had given him my mobile number a few years back, but I’ve since changed it. Dan didn’t have a mobile number. He also wasn’t on social media.

Dan wasn’t in touch with any immediate family members that we are aware of.

Librarian Sleuthing and Court Records Search

I tried doing some librarian sleuthing. His name hasn’t popped up in the Long Beach newspaper. However, I did find something unsettling. After doing a California court records search, apparently he was evicted from his apartment–his longtime address–in November 2017.

Where does an 83-year old man go? He had friends, but we can’t recall names nor how to get in contact with them. Do I start looking for neighbors? Check homeless shelters? Maybe VA facilities since he was a veteran?

This is our fault for not staying in touch. Despite living in a world of constant communication and technology that seems to be increasingly invading our private lives, some people are off the grid.

I hope I can find Uncle Dan.

Come work with me! Teaching & Learning Librarian

Note: This position has been filled. Thanks!

We’re hiring!

Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin is looking for a full-time Teaching & Learning Librarian. Details are on the university’s employment site.

About the Teaching & Learning Librarian
The Teaching & Learning Librarian oversees all aspects of the library’s research assistance and General Education information literacy initiatives. This position also maintains the Information Commons and Library Classroom, coordinates the library’s Curriculum Materials Collection, serves as the library’s liaison to the Education department and other assigned subject areas, and oversees the library’s 3D printing service. This position also co-supervises the Information Commons & Acquisitions Manager and one student worker. The library is known for its strong liaison program (“MyLibrarian”) and integration into the first-year curriculum.

Formerly titled Reference & Instruction Librarian, the Teaching & Learning Librarian was my position before I moved over to the Library Director role. I took the opportunity to update the title to reflect current practices in the profession and to emphasize the teaching and learning initiatives that the job entails (e.g., research assistance, info lit coordination, information commons management, liaison work, 3D printing). I like to characterize this as a “fun” job…there is a lot of room for growth, creativity, and autonomy.

Todd Wehr Memorial Library, Carroll University

About Carroll University
Carroll University has approximately 3,400 students in undergraduate and graduate programs. The university has a strong focus in health & life science programs, but with a grounding in the liberal arts. The library employs 5 professional librarians, 3 support staff members, 5 part-time staff, and approximately 50 student workers. The library prides itself on a team environment.

Carroll University, Waukesha, WI

About Waukesha, Wisconsin
Waukesha (pop. 70,000+) was recently named most livable city in Wisconsin. It is located 20 minutes from downtown Milwaukee (with a metro pop. of 1.5 million), one hour from Madison, and two hours from Chicago.

downtown Waukesha, Wisconsin

 

Librarian Advice: 15 years in…

This month marks my 15th anniversary as a librarian. I started my first post-MLS job in February 2003. It has gone by so fast. I don’t feel “mid-career” but I guess it’s official now! Wait…does that mean I can retire in another 15 years? Answer: No, I will only be 54 years old then!

So in honor of those 15 years, here are 15 bits of wisdom or advice. Got your own story or advice to share? Feel free to comment below.

1. I’m still here–with help from my friends
Hey, how did I make it here? With a little bit of luck and wisdom from some great library folks I worked with: There’s Carol, my very first supervisor way back when I was a student worker. I didn’t realize I wanted to be a librarian but I slowly saw the rewarding work that Carol did. Then there was Karin, a library director and “old school” librarian who just knew how to make everything work–she could problem-solve anything. Then there was Paula–the queen of library marketing and outreach who was always thinking two steps ahead of everyone else. And Susan: who demonstrated the deep connections librarians can make to their communities. I learned from all of them!

2. I enjoy my job, but I don’t love it
Yep, I said it. For me, love is for family and friends. Don’t get me wrong: I like my job! It’s always been nice to have a job where you don’t dread going into work every day. I have many a friend who cannot say that. But I don’t live for my job. It fits squarely into my Type B personality. I also have a policy of not doing work at home (although I may glance at an email or two from time to time).

3. Work/Life balance
And that brings me to my next point: The work/life balance. About 4 years into being a librarian I was encouraged to apply for an additional part-time position at my organization. Money was tight at the time, so it seemed like it would be a good option for extra income–and it was. The downside? I was clocking 60 hours per week. I ended up getting burnt out–not just of the extra job–but of the whole organization–and sought employment elsewhere. Learn how to juggle multiple demands and speak up when “enough is enough.” Libraries can often be exploitative of labor.

4. Do I have a career or a job?
Related to #1 and #2, I waffle on whether I have a career or just a job. Being a librarian is my first and only career–so I guess it’s a career then, right? I’ve moved around libraries a lot as a trailing spouse/partner, so for me, looking for a job in the right location has always been more important than some sort of career trajectory. I’ve also been a front-line librarian the entire time. It wasn’t until about 4 years ago that I became a “middle manager” with supervisory responsibilities. I hate the “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” question–so mostly I consider myself having a “job.” I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

5. People think you’re cool!
I know a lot of librarians get the typical “oh, you must like to read” response when you tell them you are a librarian. But just as often, I get people who think being a librarian is cool–or even more. A few months ago, while on a cruise ship, I was making chit-chat with a woman and when I told her what I did, she responded in all earnestness: “I consider librarians vital to our democracy! You’re on the front lines of the information war.” Agreed!

6. Opportunities for New Librarians
I was extremely grateful to get my first librarian job. But there was a problem: I was bored. For the first six months it seemed like my only “task” was a two hour daily shift at a reference desk. THERE. WAS. NOTHING. ELSE. TO. DO. I stared at my office computer and surfed the web. And it wasn’t like I could drum up my own projects due to being micro-managed. Supervisors: When you hire a new person make sure they have work to do. I know you don’t want to overwhelm them, but trust them with projects. They will do a good a job!

7. Say Yes to New Things
When opportunity knocks, open the door! Get out of your comfort zone. A lot of my growth as a librarian involved taking on new things like coordinating info lit programming, teaching for-credit classes, or implementing 3D printing. Sometimes things are just a fluke: An invitation to do an info lit session for a cultural immersion course led to a trip to Italy with the group! One thing I enjoy as a librarian is that I’m always learning. And new things look good on the ol’ resume, too!

8. Trust Your Instincts
The old adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Trust your judgment on people and workplace situations. I was burned once on a job that turned out to be a disaster. I was excited to take it, but there were some warning signs I overlooked (like why I only met my supervisor for a few brief minutes on an “all day” interview). Lesson learned!

9. Failure is a learning experience
You need to get over the belief that failure is a bad thing. Failure is a learning experience that can help you innovate. As a supervisor now, I’ve tried to get co-workers to see that experimentation and failure are OK in the workplace. We’re always in beta mode! So what if the outreach event you planned didn’t pan out? Or the info lit session was bad? Re-tool it and think about how you can make it successful the next time.

10. Impostor Syndrome never goes away
There are still days when I think I’m not qualified to do my job. Part of it is being in higher ed: As an academic librarian I’ve never really considered myself an “academic”–whatever that means. Sometimes I feel like I snuck in to academia. I was the first in my family to to go college and that experience still affects my outlook. At the end of the day, I just have to tell myself “I do belong” here and people know I do a good job.

11. Avoid Negative Co-workers
Easier said than done–especially if the negative person is your supervisor. My one social gift is using some good-natured humor to get around these things. Truth be told: I’m a reactive person–so if everyone around me is negative I will respond with negativity. I’ve had to train myself to step out of the situation. With negative co-workers, I just don’t engage with them. I can converse with them about library-related tasks, but beyond that, I just don’t care about them. Focus instead on keeping yourself in good mental health!

12. You’re an expert, too!
I like that librarians share their knowledge! It has made me such a better librarian. Just following other librarians on Twitter I’ve learned many new ideas, tips, and best practices. Share what you are doing! I’ve been serving on the conference planning committee for my state’s academic library association and have been so grateful to learn from my peers through various presentations and panels and have even presented my own a few times!

13. The “Unicorn Librarian” must die
The job market for librarians has been stagnant (or worse) since I graduated with my MLS in 2002. Libraries and hiring managers take advantage of this by posting what I call “unicorn librarian” positions. You’ve seen them: The job posting demands years of post-MLS experience, additional degrees beyond the MLS (hello, college debt!), multiple foreign languages, computer coding, and more. Instead, we should invest in the training and education of new librarians when hired. Hiring managers: Don’t write job postings just so you don’t have to sift through applications. Lots of talented librarians are qualified for these positions–cast a wider net and you will be pleasantly suprised.

14. Be kind
My default operating mode is set to “kindness.” Maybe empathy is a better word for what I’m trying to describe? I don’t want to make it sound like I’m forcing people to be kind. Other emotions, such as anger, can rightfully be used–especially in situations relating to inequality and justice. But for me, being kind is stepping into someone else’s experiences: Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes…that sort of thing. Note: Kindness should not be construed as being a pushover. Use “tough love” when you need to.

15. Have fun!
Most people flourish in jobs where they can be creative–at least that has always worked for me. So look for experiences that allow for joy, fun, and adventure. Doesn’t matter if you’re focusing on fun with your library users, staff, or your own personal interests–but make it a goal. “Fun” has lead to crazy things like the Lego Library and Librarian Twitter Bingo for me!