The End of the Line: Last Blog Post

Just a quick note to say this is my last post. The reason? Lack of time. I used to do a lot of writing on evenings and weekends when I had more time to think….but having a 1-Year Old gives you less of that time. And I’d rather play with the kiddo to be honest. I’ve been clear in my posts that I never say I love being a librarian. Instead, I enjoy it. Love is for family and friends. I like the distinction because my job doesn’t define me. This works for me. It’s just my perspective.

I’ll leave content up for a bit, but I do plan to delete my WordPress account by the end of the year (or maybe sooner) since I won’t be concentrating on blogging.

Thanks for reading!
Joe

Yes, Give the Job Interview Questions in Advance

One small starting point for creating equity throughout the interview process is to supply job interview questions in advance. As a hiring manager, this was something that took me time to come around on. Previously, I thought I needed to see job candidates “think on their feet.” This process was always something I went through, so why shouldn’t everyone else? Nah…instead let’s end the “Hunger Games” mentality of interviewing.

Are your questions really about “thinking on your feet”?
When it comes to asking “quick thinking” interview questions (e.g., scenario questions like a drug overdose in the library or someone harassing patrons/staff) these questions can be often be too artificial and are hard to encapsulate due to many variables. They are better covered through the library having appropriate policies and procedures to follow. Truth be told, outside of emergencies where you have to “spring into action,” I’d rather see a library employee take the time to thoughtfully and creatively determine an answer or solution.

So why should you give interview questions in advance?
Providing interview questions in advance creates a level playing field. It’s a more inclusive way of conducting a positive interview experience. Critics will argue that it allows people to design “fake” answers (isn’t that MORE work?) but remember you can always ask follow-up questions or clarifying questions. Think of an early career person–someone who just graduated with their degree. Professional interviewing is a new “thing” for them. I know I felt that way as a first gen college student. Or how about someone with social anxiety? On top of meeting new faces, seeing new spaces, you’re now subjected to many questions. Or what about neurodiverse applicants? Although they can ask for an accommodation of interview questions in advance, make this an opportunity to create a universal accommodation for everyone.

How early should you provide the interview questions?
Talk to your human resources professionals for advice. I’ve heard everything from supplying interview questions just 30 minutes in advance (personally, I would find that to be a stress inducer!) to 3 days to a week in advance. Anything more than that you risk over-preparing.

Hiring managers: How do you feel about putting all of your cards on the table? Interviewees: Would this lighten the stress load a little bit?

Image: question marks

Looking Ahead: A Sign of Hope?

It’s been one year since we shuttered the library building due to COVID-19. We were on a Spring Break that got extended by one additional week. Then the university made the decision to move all classes online. Faculty/staff were sent home to work by the Governor’s order. In prepping to close, we were busy turning off equipment, making sure we all had laptop access and remote desktop connection, and transitioning all services to online only.

What did we forget? The library plants.

In summer of 2020, we returned for a phased re-opening. In-person staffing was minimal while most of us continued working from home. Even now, we’re staffing at around 50 percent in-person. Foot traffic is off by about one-third.

And the plants? They had seen better days–especially an orchid that was a sure goner.

However, a year since we first closed the library building, this orchid has managed to spring back to life. Apropos for the season.

Now please don’t draw parallels to “resilience.” That word gets bandied about too much while ignoring things like the actual trauma and loss due to COVID-19, toxic stress, low morale, and the ever-present “do more with less” mantra. As if by merely staying positive, everything will work out. No, that’s not how life works.

Instead, I merely take the orchid blooming as a simple sign of hope. The hope that people will get vaccinated. The hope that people will continue to mask-up and social distance. I don’t like to say a hope for “returning to normal” because I think we’ve discovered things we would like to change over the past year. In some ways, the blooming is an opportunity for a new start. Time for new ideas, new possibilities. It’s the hope that things will get better.

The library orchid is back stronger than ever

Will COVID End the All-Day Academic Librarian Interview? I Hope So!

I come from a working class family. As I was approaching the end of my MLIS program and job hunting, I was perplexed by this all-day academic librarian interview thing. I kept thinking:

It takes the library ALL DAY to figure out if they want to hire someone?

Why All Day?
Then it was explained to me: The all-day interview is really just a series of shorter interviews with different groups of people, who often ask you the same question. At the end of the day, you’re either REALLY good at answering those questions, or so frazzled that your brain is fried. Also, in cases where the academic librarian position is faculty status with research expectations, they may want to ask you about your research agenda. I was told that it has to be an all day interview to see if you are a “good fit.” Today, more attention is paid to the inherent biases of interviewing for fit, which workplaces need to focus on eliminating.

Virtual World
With COVID, a lot of interviewing has gone virtual. Now is the time to re-evaluate if you truly need an all-day academic librarian interview. Rule #1: Be kind. Pity the job candidate who has to sit through an ALL DAY VIRTUAL INTERVIEW…and shame on that library! I even heard of a MULTIPLE DAY virtual interview. Or virtual interviews where you eat lunch on camera with library staff. Seriously?

In hiring during COVID times, I re-examined our interview template and decided we do not need an all-day interview for librarian positions–whether it is virtual or in-person. I had a dry run in late February 2020 for a librarian position and it worked well. I didn’t feel like I was missing out on important information to make a hiring decision. It’s also a more humane experience for the interviewee. For the record, I’m a library director at a small academic library (5 librarians, 3 support staff, 5 part-time evening/weekend staff) where librarians are classified as professional/administrative staff. All of the librarians report to me. So your mileage may vary.

Interview Template

9:00-9:50am
9:50-10:00am
10:00-10:45am
10:45-11:00am
11:00-11:15am
11:20-12:00pm

Welcome/Search committee/Library staff
Break
Presentation (no more than 15 minutes) + Q&A time
Break
HR/Benefits overview
Meet with Library Director

This interview template comes in at three hours. It gives me 135 “active” minutes to see the candidate one-on-one, in a group setting, and a teaching session/Q&A. This is in addition to the first-round preliminary phone interview. This is enough “face time” for me whether it’s on Zoom/Teams or in-person.

Criticisms
One criticism is lack of feedback from members outside of the library. This can easily be fixed by inviting campus faculty/staff and student representatives to sit in on the presentation to gain that perspective. You should also include people from outside of the library on the search committee from the get-go.

Another criticism is the lack of “social time.” I would push back on this too. We’re getting back to the “fit” question and its biases. Once COVID is over I might consider offering a wrap-up lunch as a thank you. But this is just a professional courtesy for investing your time with us as a candidate. The only time slot I would add back in for a physical interview is a library walk-through/tour.

Advantages
This template peels back the layers to what is essential: library staff face time, a short presentation, and one-on-one with the supervisor. In higher ed, we often have a tendency to add more window dressing. Let’s stop with that. Frankly, it’s a bear coordinating common meeting times when setting up interviews. I’m not one who thinks pulling all ideas from the business world into libraries/higher ed is good, but this is one.

The other big advantage is that it is more friendly toward the candidate. Everyone is trying their best to make-do in COVID time. Let’s not waste the candidate’s time or overburden them with an obnoxiously long Zoom/Teams call. Going forward, even after COVID is over, I could see us continuing to offer virtual interviews if that is what the candidate prefers.

Tips

  1. Give candidates an itinerary of the day’s events with their Zoom/Teams meeting links. Make sure time zones are clearly stated, if needed.
  2. Send an org chart with names, FACES, and titles. This is especially helpful in online-only environments.
  3. Give the presentation topic AT LEAST ONE WEEK in advance.
  4. Reiterate that there will be time reserved for the candidate to ask questions in each time slot.
  5. Reassure them it’s ok to have a water bottle, etc. at close hand.
  6. Consider that taking a barrage of questions from 5 or more people during a search committee time slot can be intimidating. It may make more sense for 2 or 3 people to ask the list of questions while others listen in.
  7. Consider giving interview questions in advance.
  8. Participants in the interviewing process should mute their microphone when not speaking.
Image: clock, representing the theme of an all-day interview
Image: clock, representing the theme of an all-day interview

Staff Trivia, or How I Got Through the Semester

Some people will groan at the mention of “staff trivia” and that is totally OK. However, it helped get me through the semester–and was a nice little weekly 5-minute distraction from all things pandemic.

Here’s How It Came About
I returned to work at the beginning of September after taking parental leave for a new baby. In the midst of the pandemic, my first duty was to check in with co-workers to see how they were doing. Staff rotate for in-person duty when not working remotely. All meetings moved to virtual-only. Comments from co-workers indicated they missed social interactions, lunch talk, and general chit-chat that was suspended due to social distancing.

How It Operates
At our weekly virtual all-staff meeting (8 daytime staff members), I reserve the last five minutes for a “staff trivia” question to end on a fun note. I generally just ask whatever pops into my head–being careful not to embarrass anyone or pick something that’s too private. I also try to avoid library-related “stuff” (e.g., how many books were checked out this week?) since that’s our job…staff trivia is meant to add some levity.

Hint: Avoid asking questions that other staff members might know (e.g., a lot of them knew my favorite movie is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off). Instead, re-phrase the question to: Name a (e.g., any) favorite movie of yours.

  1. I send out the staff trivia question in advance.
  2. Everyone emails me back with their answer.
  3. Then I send a staff email with everyone’s responses (minus names).
  4. People email me back with their guesses on “who said what.”
  5. I tally up the points each week.
  6. At the staff meeting, I share a Powerpoint/Google Slide with everyone’s responses.

The last few minutes of the staff meeting, we share our responses. We’ve all learned new things about each other—even those of us who have been here awhile. At the end of the semester, the person with the most points gets a food delivery gift card (which seems appropriate in these socially distanced times). It is a low-cost, low-stakes activity to keep interaction going. It helped keep us “glued” together in a challenging semester. Below are the questions that I asked. If you have any good trivia questions, let me know!

Staff Trivia Questions

  1. Name a favorite movie of yours.
  2. Name something that you wish your house/apartment had. This could be practical or “big dream.”
  3. Name a place in the United States that you’ve been to that you think…wow, once this pandemic is over, I’d really like to go back!
  4. If you could be any TV character (scripted, animated, etc), who would you pick? Tell me the character and TV show.
  5. Name a TV show that everyone seems to love/loved (can be current or old) that you just never had any desire to watch.
  6. If you could only pick one food item (like a dish, recipe, entrée) to eat the rest of your life, what would it be?
  7. What’s the weirdest or strangest thing you have in your work office or desk drawer?
  8. If you could jet off to a country (once the pandemic is over!) that you have never been to before, what country would you pick?
  9. In an alternate reality or 2nd chance, what career would you choose if there were no limitations?
  10. If you could invite three living “famous” people (however you define it) to dinner, who would you pick?
  11. What is your least favorite “earworm” song? – one that gets stuck in your head and you hate it!
  12. By the time Christmas rolls around, what Christmas song do you NOT WANT TO HEAR for a great while?

PS–If you want to know my answers…
1) My Cousin Vinny 2) Professional landscaping 3) Cannon Beach, Oregon 4) Susie Greene from Curb Your Enthusiasm 5) Game of Thrones 6) Fish tacos 7) Orange safety/traffic vest 8) New Zealand 9) national parks photographer 10) Dolly Parton, Sonia Sotomayor, Amy Sedaris 11) “Mambo No. 5” – Lou Bega 12) “Santa Baby” – Madonna version.

Cannon Beach, Oregon
Cannon Beach, Oregon – taken by me!

Faculty: Do This! Working with Your Academic Librarian for Student Success

This has been an tough academic year so far–on students, on faculty, on library staff. At times, I’ve felt like a teacher, therapist, commiserator, coach, and cheerleader all wrapped into one.

We’re getting by–the semester will be over soon. Some of us have been working mostly in-person while others are exclusively doing remote work. Some of us our teaching in-person, some online, others both. We’ve had to scramble, learn new technology, alter assignments, and just…adapt.

In doing so, don’t forget your academic librarian! Here are 8 simple tips to make the relationship successful and how your academic librarian can contribute to your students’ success.

Sharing
Do share research assignments with your librarian. A quick email to your librarian with your assignment will keep us on the lookout for students who might be struggling. Always upload a copy to your LMS course–this is often my first question to a student: “Did your professor upload a copy of the assignment to Canvas?

Research v. Writing
Do understand the difference between research assistance and writing assistance and know where to direct students. It will vary from institution to institution, but generally library staff can help with research assistance and a writing tutor will help with thesis statements, etc. A librarian usually doesn’t do both. I’m great with research, finding sources, and talking about topics–but I direct students to a writing tutor to talk about essay structure, thesis statements, and how to proofread.

Required appointments
Do check with a librarian before requiring students make a research appointment as part of an assignment. Sometimes we get blindsided by requests like “My professor told me you had to approve my research topic.” Well, no. This should be a partnership between the professor and librarian. In a lot of cases, an information literacy session would be a better alternative.

Streaming Content
Do check access/availability when assigning streaming content for students to view. Streaming is the wild west of content. Maybe it’s available through the library? No? How about Netflix, Hulu, Amazon? A bootleg YouTube video? Tsk. Tsk. A lot of time, the content is exclusive to one provider. Do not frustrate your students. Do not expect them to have paid subscriptions to different streaming providers. If it’s not easily accessible, pick something else. Also, a commenter offered this helpful suggestion: “Consider sending your librarian a list of films you’d like to use. Given advance notice, your librarian can research the collection and streaming options to see if they have what you need, and if not, they can offer available alternatives.”

E-Resources
Do understand that different libraries may have different e-content (databases, e-books, etc.)–especially if you are new to teaching at an institution or you adjunct at several institutions, this can be hard to monitor. Just ask your librarian!

Sources
Do be clear about the types of sources you want your students to use. Terminology can differ across subject areas, but students may not necessarily know that. I’ve seen students question if peer-reviewed articles, scholarly articles, and academic articles are different, when they are “roughly” the same. Also, the term primary source is different in history or literature versus biology or chemistry.

Citations
Do be kind about citation requirements. The most important component is simply making sure your students understand WHY they should cite something. Pick a popular citation style (APA, MLA, Chicago). Avoid extremely narrow subject-specific styles (examples: APSA, ASA, CBE) since most of your students are not going directly into graduate research programs in your field of study.

Information Literacy vs. Tech Literacy
Do know that students often overestimate their information literacy skills. Being good with tech doesn’t necessarily carry over to having good info-seeking and evaluative skills. That whole “digital natives” things was not necessarily true anyway.

Ask for help and advice. We would love to partner with you. We want your students to be successful in their courses.

Lessons on Working from Home

I used to think I was the textbook example of a classic introvert–that is until I started working from home.

Now I realize how much I crave those social interactions. My family is at home with me, so it’s not like I’m “alone alone” but it’s just different not seeing co-workers and patrons/students every day. The now ubiquitous Zoom and Microsoft Teams video meetings get the work done, but are not a replacement for our in-person interactions.

As Covid-19 was ratcheting up nationwide, it was just starting to gain attention in my corner of Wisconsin. The week of March 9 we were on Spring Break (read: super quiet in the library). Then the university extended Spring Break by an additional week as it assessed the situation. I migrated the library to skeletal staffing (2 people rotating per day with the remainder working remotely). Then the situation became worse as the number of cases in our county started to rise. On March 20, we closed up the library building and have remained closed. The university moved the rest of Spring classes all online. Since then, we have all been working from home.

I’m grateful for this privilege–for all of our staff to have this privilege–recognizing that some in the library profession have not been afforded this opportunity. They should have.

It’s also given me time to think about working from home. Something I always wished I could do. I guess be careful what you wish for! Now that I’ve been doing it for the past two months, I’ve learned some things about myself and some about being a manager. Here are a few things that come to mind.

Don’t Say “When We Get Back to Work”
Nothing raises my hackles more than someone saying “when we get back to work.” Just don’t. What you are trying to say is: When we get back to the building. We HAVE been working: answering chat questions from students/faculty, holding Microsoft Teams meetings with student groups doing research, loading e-books into our catalog, processing interlibrary loan requests for e-content, and figuring out how to transition services/resources to online only. We’ve been doing this from home and actually it’s been A LOT of work.

Forget Productivity
So when a lot of Americans began telecommuting during Covid-19, people started tweeting how productive Isaac Newton was during the bubonic plague (read this rebuttal)–like he should be our role model. This is the time to write that novel, discover a new breakthrough, or learn to speak another language. OK, more power to you, but how about just trying to get through the day? I consider that productive. As a manager, yes you should check in with your employees and work toward goals. But productivity is a myth. I know some managers require remote workers to log their activities. Please STOP. I don’t have time to read that! Let. People. Breathe. (just not on each other)

Try New Things
Productivity aside, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the opportunity to try new things. In the library setting, this whole online-only world is new for most of us. We’ve done great work in turning our libraries into community hubs. But what do you do when everything is now virtual? At our academic library, we experimented with offering online professional development for faculty/staff. Our Library@Home series, conducted via Microsoft Teams, was well received. Sessions focused on: genealogy research, citation management, Wikipedia, and journal publishing. We’ve had requests to offer more sessions. So it has been a good time to do some beta testing.

Kid and Pets: All in a Day’s Work
Participating in a lot of Zoom meetings or Microsoft Teams calls? The occasional appearance of kids, babies, and fur babies is OK. This is not a sterile office environment. You’re working from home; there are no boundaries. You’re managing to be a parent or pet parent AND working from home AND social distancing? This likely isn’t the work life (or home life!) you signed up for. We even did a Twitter post of library employee’s pets just to show a different side to us. On Fridays we do a “virtual happy hour” where those kids and pets are even invited to make an appearance. It helps keep us as a cohesive team while we are all distancing. Managers, cut your employees some slack. It’s not unprofessional; it’s called life.

Ready for Your Close Up?
All of these video calls can be draining. Don’t force people to use a webcam. Yes, I like to see faces (and the fun backgrounds!). However, it’s more important to respect people’s privacy. You can make do with audio. It’s not the end of the world. Same goes for wearing “professional” clothing. There’s a lot of classism tied to that. I’m not getting “dressed up” to work from home. Also if my webcam is off, it might be because I’m in my pajamas. OK, that last line is a joke…or is it?

Encourage Self-Care
If I hear “we’re all in this together” again I think I will scream. But that’s my cue to take a walk. That’s what relaxes me. As a manager, support self-care for your employees. In a remote work environment, that might mean taking lunches at weird times (as in, OMG it’s 10:08am and the sun is shining…I need to go outside!). In general, remind people to TAKE YOUR LUNCH. Going for a walk, taking the dog out, supporting a local business, etc. are all good things.

Short-Term vs. Long-Term
One of the hardest transitions has been navigating short-term vs. long-term projects. Working from home I’ve encountered a lot of starts and stops. When I’m at the library, I typically do some short-term stuff at the beginning of my day. At home, keeping a running list of short and long-term projects has been helpful. Some library staff have also had to switch their routine around. A few staff who had more physical tasks in the library had to switch their work-from-home routines to focus on long-term projects that we typically did in the summer. That’s OK. It’s not “back burner” work. It’s stuff that needs doing anyway. We’re just doing it now.

Everyone Needs an Office
Even though we are working from home, it’s made me think about how when we are back at the library everyone needs an office. Will Covid-19 officially kill the open office plan? I hope so. Having worked in a cube farm before, I didn’t like it. Everyone needs privacy and the ability to concentrate. Now they need a space that also protects them from viruses.

Managers Need to Lead
If you’re the library director working from home while the rest of the staff has to come in, you’re doing your job wrong. If you’re the library director who is having staff out doing curbside pick up and you’re not participating, you’re doing your job wrong. I get that sometimes things are above your control (the library is part of a municipality/county or the library is part of a school/university). In those cases, you need to be the advocate. You may not win, but you at least need to make your case.

Protect Staff
It’s a weird time to be a librarian. Budgets are precarious. We’re not sure what will happen on the horizon. Above all else, protect staff–from a financial standpoint and public health standpoint. Again, you’re probably not going to win every battle, but you owe it to them to try. They are at the core of the library. Not the building, not the books.

lone tree

lone tree

Come work with me! Electronic Resources/Systems Librarian

Note from Joe: This position has been filled. Thanks!


We’re hiring!

Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin is looking for a full-time Electronic Resources/Systems Librarian. Details are on the university’s employment site.

About the Electronic Resources/Systems Librarian
The person in this position will be responsible for the overall management, access, and assessment of the library’s electronic resources, discovery layer, integrated library system, and proxy server. We use Sierra as our ILS and and implemented OCLC WDS for our discovery layer in Fall 2019. There will also be opportunities to help shape the library’s policies, programs, and outreach on topics such as open access and OER.

All professional librarian positions participate in the library’s liaison program for assigned subject areas (research assistance, information literacy sessions, and collection development) and share in teaching information literacy sessions for the first-year general education program. We have a budget for professional development. This usually gives each of the librarians the opportunity to attend/travel to one large national conference per year or multiple smaller regional/state conferences. Librarians are administrative staff. Publishing, presenting, and research are not required, but encouraged and supported during your work time.

Todd Wehr Memorial Library, Carroll University

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 evening/weekend staff, and approximately 50 student workers. The library prides itself on a team environment.

Carroll University

Carroll University

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, WI

Downtown Waukesha, WI

 

Starting a Food Pantry in an Academic Library

It started with library student workers.

We noticed that some of them were skipping meals, not eating, or out of meal swipes (ID card “swipes” tied to the university’s dining plan). It was a combination of several factors: being over-scheduled with classes, navigating between their library job and a second job, long commutes, and money. Typical issues that almost any U.S. college student has to deal with these days. And for anyone complaining that younger folks have it “easy”…yeah, just stop with that nonsense.

Our library marketing/events team* started brainstorming the issue. We had long had a “snack drawer” for student workers, but wanted to do more. What started with just student workers ended up being rolled out to any student. Aware that nothing else at the time (more on that later) was being done on campus about food insecurity and college students, we started a food pantry.

Starting the Food Pantry
The library’s Info Commons is a high-traffic area that houses research help, study space, librarians’ offices, and a busy computer lab. It also houses a rotating book tower. This book tower was often neglected and we struggled to find time to put together an interesting or eye-catching display. Realizing we weren’t getting the best potential out of it, we co-opted it for our food pantry. We had discussions on where to place it. Some staff felt that by putting it in a high-traffic area, people who feel shame (for lack of better word) about using a food pantry might avoid it. On the other hand, if it’s not visible, how do people find out about it? It can definitely be a balancing act, but we chose to keep it in the high-traffic area.

Our Philosophy
To stock it, we first asked staff for donations of non-perishable items. One of our librarians, Meghan, came up with our guiding philosophy of “take what you need, give when you can.” This means that if you’re in need, take something–no questions asked. When you want to “pay it forward” then drop off a donation. That’s why we refer to it as a “food share” on our campus. We also strongly felt that the food pantry should be unmediated. With sensitive issues such as food insecurity, people may feel embarrassed to ask for help. The food pantry is self-service. We promote it as judgment-free zone. It doesn’t matter if you’re out of money for meals or you’ve had back-to-back classes and you just need something quick from the pantry to nourish yourself. It’s there for you.

Campus Response
I took a “ask forgiveness, not permission” approach to this. You know what’s best at your institution, so this approach may not be appropriate for you. I informed my direct supervisor that we were starting the food pantry and then I let word of mouth take hold. We did a soft roll out by simply making the items available on the book tower starting in January 2019. Students began using it right away and donated items would “magically” appear on the shelves, reflecting our “take what you need, give when you can” philosophy. So it works! In hindsight, I should have approached our wonderful Student Affairs staff about partnering on this. Instead, they wanted to know more about what we were doing. Over the summer, we collaborated with Student Affairs who brought the library’s idea campus-wide. Their expertise helped us expand the project by adding two additional university locations: one in the student union and one at a branch campus facility. Our Student Affairs staff also helped sustain the project for the long-term–something that is a concern about food pantries. The university’s chaplain will coordinate efforts and our Institutional Advancement folks set up an online giving form for employees, alumni, and the community to donate monetarily.

Potential Criticism
When starting a food pantry, you may come across folks who feel that a service such as this does not teach students “self-reliance.” First of all, eff that. We’re here to meet students where they are. At my institution, we have an ethos that centers on respect, integrity, and stewardship. Cultivating and caring for our students is one of those hallmarks. Another potential criticism relates to the increasing cost of higher education in the United States. If tuition and textbooks weren’t so high, then food pantries across college campuses might not be needed. I can’t argue with that–but I’m simply working in the moment right now. Lastly, another typical criticism is that a food pantry does not relate to the academic library’s mission. I disagree. We strive for an academic library where students feel welcomed. It becomes a second or third home for them. For students to succeed academically, we need to care for them in a holistic manner. If students aren’t living a life of wellness, it’s hard to succeed academically.

What to Stock in a Food Pantry…and Going Beyond Food
This will be dependent on your population, but we have seen the following items move quickly:

  • granola bars/fruit bars
  • packages of raisins, dried fruit, nuts
  • peanut butter
  • individual servings of noodle cups, ramen, mac n cheese–anything ready to go
  • Soup cups that can be microwaved
  • toaster pastries (like Pop Tarts)
  • pudding cups
  • fruit cups (like Dole)

As for what has been slow to move?: Canned goods and boxes of dried pasta (e.g. penne, etc…). Our population doesn’t do much cooking.

We limit to non-perishable items. However, ventures like campus/community gardens could provide fresh veggie/fruit options.

People bringing in donations wanted to know if we could expand beyond food and we said, “YES!” Popular non-food items include:

  • tampons
  • toothpaste/toothbrushes
  • bath soap
  • laundry detergent/laundry pods
  • notebooks

Also important: We have found that most students do not want to take an entire box of something (tampons, Pop Tarts, granola bars), so we generally just open up those boxes and place the individually wrapped items from those boxes on the shelf. Those move much more quickly.

Resources

*Credit to the Library Marketing/Events Team:

  • Rachel Aten, Library Business Manager
  • Meghan Dowell, Teaching & Learning Librarian
  • Denise Friestedt, Circulation Manager
  • Joe Hardenbrook, Director of Library Services