Making Sense of Makerspaces: Academic Library Staff Response to a Makerspace

This past August I finished my second master’s degree. For me, it was not a job requirement as an academic librarian (at least in my current position), but for professional development. I had the opportunity to receive my master’s degree in adult and professional education from my employer, tuition-free.

When it came time to do my capstone project I decided to study makerspaces. I manage not a makerspace, but a 3D printing service at my library. For this project, I interviewed three staff members at a liberal arts college on their experiences with a makerspace.

Here’s the TL;DR:
Workload remains the key factor in smaller academic libraries, with one employee often shouldering much of the makerspace work. Training is self-directed. Organizational and teaching abilities are considered the most important skill set. Workload equity and hiring additional staff will foster sustainability of the makerspace.

Below is my full report.


Abstract
As academic libraries transition from repositories of materials to collaborative spaces for learning, investigating niche services will be key. One such service is a makerspace – a place to tinker with technology and explore arts and crafts. This study investigates makerspace impact on library staff at one academic library at a small liberal arts college. In interviews with staff, the conversation focuses on: 1) defining a makerspace, 2) workload, 3) skills and training, and 4) makerspace success. Bolman and Deal’s (2013) four frame leadership model is used as a framework to analyze employees’ views and foster sustainability of the makerspace.

INTRODUCTION

Adapting to cultural and technological changes, libraries now position themselves as community centers, offering an array of educational programs and services. One recent trend has been the adoption of the “maker movement” by libraries. This movement focuses on the do-it-yourself learner, from hobbyists to entrepreneurs, who tinker with new technology such as 3D printing and Raspberry Pi, or traditional items such as crafting supplies and sewing machines, to collaborate with members in their community, university, or school (American Library Association, 2017). Libraries, long noted as a locus for self-directed learning, are a natural fit for a “makerspace” – a place to make “things” (American Library Association, 2015).

My interest in this topic stems from my academic library’s addition of a 3D printer. At the present time, library staff process 3D printing requests for clients. No hands-on learning occurs with students and faculty. We offer no training or workshops. Anecdotal feedback from our 3D printing clients, combined with results of student survey that my library conducted last year, indicate that there is a growing interest in training and education in 3D printing and other maker movement topics.

Statement of the Problem
As the makerspace trend proliferates in libraries, library staff will encounter shifting job duties and new skills that need developing. As an academic librarian, I am interested in answering the question: In what ways do makerspaces affect academic library staff?

Makerspaces, also commonly known as hackerpaces, makerlabs, or fablabs trace their origins to the 1990s when educators began outreach to community members interested in creating or tinkering with materials; the concept took popular hold beginning in the mid to late 2000s (EDUCAUSE, 2013; Mandavilli, 2006). Although no official directory of library makerspaces exists, MakerBridge maintains a self-reporting directory. This online site lists nearly 100 library makerspaces in the United States, including over twenty at academic libraries (School of Information, University of Michigan, 2017). Based on my own professional observations through social media and peer networking at library conferences, the number is likely underreported. This, coupled with the trending rise in library makerspaces necessitates the need for more research. As an emerging topic, current research focuses primarily on the implementation process of library makerspaces–best practices and lessons learned (e.g., Fourie & Meyer, 2015).

Minimal research has been directed toward staff feedback on library makerspaces. The research that does exist usually features brief snippets of interviews with library staff. Koh and Abbas (2015) looked at skills needed by library and museum staff to manage makerspaces. Filar Williams and Folkman (2017) found a need for more staff training in their home state of North Carolina. Moorefield (2015) discovered that staffing models are a concern among some library staff. Interestingly, the research lacks much input from library administrators. This is surprising since one could surmise that large-scale projects like a makerspace do not move forward at a library without the approval of senior administration. From the research, it is obvious that much time is spent in the planning stage, but there is little focus on library staff, post-implementation.

For makerspaces to transition from a trend to a core library service, gathering library staff response to makerspaces — the people who plan, administer, fund, and teach with library makerspaces — will be key. By going deep, this qualitative case study focuses on the staff of one academic library, adding a rich and detailed framework of library staff and library administrators’ experiences with makerspaces. This research benefits academic library staff and administrators in any stage of working with makerspaces, from initial planning to those with successful makerspaces. In today’s budget-conscious climate, it is hoped that findings gained from this study can assist academic libraries in positioning staff and resources for a successful makerspace.

Purpose Statement and Research Questions
The purpose of this study is to describe academic library staff response to a makerspace, post-implementation. The study’s central research question is: In what ways are academic library staff affected by a makerspace? From this, I have developed four sub-questions:

  • In what ways are staff trained for a makerspace?
  • What competencies/skills do staff need to manage makerspaces?
  • In what ways have the job duties of staff changed since a makerspace was added to their library?
  • What criteria do staff use to define success for a makerspace?

Key Definitions
Makerspace staffing, equipment, and programming vary from library to library. Common resources in makerspaces include 3D printing, crafting and art supplies, toys (e.g., Lego blocks), technology (e.g., laser cutter), and mechanical equipment (e.g., sewing machine). Some libraries, like my own academic library, have elements of a makerspace (e.g., 3D printing) but offer no educational programming or collaborative opportunities. These educational activities form the backbone of a true makerspace. Thus, it is important to start with a working definition. EDUCAUSE, the higher education information technology association, offers this definition of a makerspace:

…a physical location where people gather to share resources and knowledge, work on projects, network, and build. Makerspaces provide tools and space in a community environment–a library, community center, private organization, or campus. Expert advisors may be available some of the time, but often novices get help from other users. The makerspace–sometimes referred to as a hackerspace–is often associated with fields such as engineering, computer science, and graphic design (2013).

Since an examination of staffing in an academic library makerspace forms the key component of this study, defining various terms associated with this is important. For the purpose of this study, these definitions will be used:

  • Academic library: As defined by the National Center for Education Statistics (n.d.), “An academic library is the library associated with a degree-granting institution of higher education.” This could include community colleges, technical schools, and colleges and universities from the bachelor’s degree through doctoral levels.
  • Academic library staff: I define this as any employee of an academic library.
  • Professional librarians: Commonly referred to as a librarian. I define this as an academic library employee that holds a master’s degree in library/information science. A professional librarian may or may not be in a supervisory capacity.
  • Support staff: I define this as an academic library employee who commonly holds a high school diploma or bachelor’s degree in any field, and commonly hold titles such as library clerk, library technician, or library assistant.
  • Library administrators: Usually of a subset of professional librarians. I define library administrator as the executive in charge of an academic library. This person often holds the title of library director or library dean.

Theoretical Framework: The Bolman & Deal Model
Makerspaces elicit images of 3D printing and crafting. However, at their essence, makerspaces are about people–from end users to staff. This research primarily investigates the views of academic library staff that work in makerspaces. As such, using a framework that analyzes the complexity of an organization is vital to understanding these employees’ perspectives. Bolman and Deal (2013) developed a four-frame leadership model to classify organizations. Each frame is a “coherent set of ideas or beliefs forming a prism or lens that enables you to see and understand more clearly what goes on from day to day” (p. 41). These four frames include:

  1. Structural frame: Organizations maintain clearly defined roles, relationships, policies, and goals. Efficiency and productivity may be achieved through the appropriate division of labor. Its image of leadership is social architecture. A factory is a metaphor for the structural frame.
  2. Human Resource frame: Organizations exist to serve people’s needs, not the other way around. Employee “fit” is mutually beneficially for both the individual and the organization. Its image of leadership is empowerment. The family is a metaphor for the human resource frame.
  3. Political frame: Organizations consist of collections of individuals and interest groups who hold different views and values. Power comes into play because resources, often minimal, must be allocated–a difficult task. Its image of leadership is advocacy. A jungle is a metaphor for the political frame.
  4. Symbolic frame: Organizations tell a story through myths, rituals, and beliefs. This forms the culture of the organization. This culture can help employees work together. Its image of leadership is inspiration. A carnival, temple, or theater can be a metaphor for the symbolic frame.   

Bolman and Deal point out that to be effective in your organization, you must use “multiframe thinking” (p. 18). Each frame presents ideas and assumptions–essentially a roadmap to make the job easier. However, one frame is not better than other. Effective employees should be able to move between the frames. In referencing Gottschall (2012), Bolman and Deal write:

Each frame tells a different story…but no single story is comprehensive enough to make an organization fully understandable or manageable. Effective managers need frames to generate multiple stories, the skill to sort through the alternatives, and the wisdom to match the right story to the situation (p. 20-21).

By interviewing multiple staff at one site, I hope to see how their “stories” impact the makerspace within their organization.  

LITERATURE REVIEW

Research on makerspaces, particularly focusing on academic libraries is still fairly new. However, it is worth noting that makerspace research on public and K-12 libraries is still applicable to academic libraries because the educational, creative, and collaborative elements remain the same.

Library Space Utilization
Because makerspaces are often the result of re-purposing of library space, there is a large body of research on the changing nature of libraries and space utilization, in general. Colegrove (2013) argues that the transition from print materials to electronic materials leaves libraries with a unique issue: potential open space in the building. With this prime real estate, the author recommends that library staff be proactive in approaching their parent institutions in repurposing space into an inviting and collaborative space lest it be reclaimed or its use dictated by the parent institution. Robinson (2009) emphasizes that for a makerspace to work it must be tied to the needs of the library’s community. This approach will help library staff visualize the makerspace in a positive light. For academic libraries, Bieraugel & Neill (2017) examine student learning behaviors in both library and non-library spaces at a large undergraduate university. They found that a makerspace encouraged the most innovation and creativity among students. Academic libraries, often a central hub for campus, looking at fostering this type of learning may want to adapt spaces such as a makerspace for their library.

Makerspaces and Learning
Although my study focuses on the library staff side of makerspaces, it is important to bring in research on the educational aspects of makerspaces because this affects the training and skills of the library staff, and the makerspace programs offered by the library. Kurti, Kurti, and Fleming (2014) in their research with K-12 school makerspaces emphasize that makerspaces promote deeper learning among students due to the collaborative and exploratory nature. This allows for students to own their learning. Sheridan et al. (2014) in a collective case study investigate how people learn from makerspaces. The authors found that the interdisciplinarity of makerspaces foster creativity and allow people to navigate through different learning approaches. In another study, Halverson & Sheridan (2014) discuss the overall role of education in the maker movement, providing a good theoretical background tied to themes such as informal learning, progressive education, and constructionism. Interestingly, the authors question if the institutionalization of makerspaces will threaten their creativity and note the libraries are likely the best avenue for keeping makerspaces democratized.

Makerspace Operations
Best practices and a “how we did it” approach forms the largest component of library makerspace research. Oliver (2016), focusing on K-12 makerspaces, provided recommendations on makerspace design and set-up, equipment needed, strategies for engaging students, and teaching strategies. Likewise, Fontichiaro (2016), also focusing on the K-12 community, argues that long-term success of makerspaces depends on a three-pronged sustainable model focused on funding, supplies, and staffing. Similarly, Herron and Kaneshiro (2017) detail a systematic process for setting up a makerspace in an academic health sciences library, while Pryor (2014) developed a list of policies and procedures for setting up a 3D printing service in an academic library. Transitioning to public libraries, Lille (2016) developed a list of indicators for success in makerspaces, focusing on increasing participants’ use of new technologies, the number of makerspace events offered, providing participants with access to new technology, and measuring the self-confidence of participants.

Makerspace Staffing
Research on staffing, training and skills needed for library makerspaces is particularly important since this project focuses on staff aspects. In an investigation of 3D printing in a public library, Finley (2016) notes the importance of cross-training staff so that library users are not left waiting for the “expert” to show up. Staff training and delineation in duties will become more common themes as the makerspace trend increases. Research on Australian public library makerspaces by Slatter and Howard (2013) found that for makerspaces to succeed, library staff buy-in is key and must be coupled with professional development opportunities for staff working with makerspaces. This finding highlights the fact that, although ultimately a library exists to support its community, services must have strong staff support. Likewise, Moorefield-Lang (2014) in a collective case study found that most library staff have to seek their own training, as little support is given. Koh and Abbas (2015) developed a list of core competencies and skills needed by library or museum staff who work in makerspaces, while Filar Williams and Folkman (2017) developed a series of in-person and virtual makerspace training sessions in North Carolina. Originally envisioned for library science graduates students, it was quickly expanded to library staff of all types due to demand. The need for training may be impacted by staffing. Moorefield-Lang (2015) conducted interviews with librarians that manage makerspaces and noted that staffing models are a concern. Some libraries have started too big and had to scale back, while others have had to cut services because they do not have enough staff. Researching on staffing helped to form questions used in this study.

PROCEDURES

Methodology and Design
This capstone project employs a qualitative method using a case study as the research design. A case study was chosen because it allows the researcher to provide rich and detailed information, something that the current literature lacks. By deeply researching one case, I hope to transform my own professional practice. Merriam (1998) explains that:

A case study design is employed to gain an in-depth understanding of the situation and meaning for those involved. The interest is in the process rather than the outcomes, in context rather than a specific variable, in discovery, rather than confirmation. (p. 19)

This case study focuses on one academic library staff’s experiences in working with a makerspace. A purposeful sampling technique was utilized. While attending a professional librarians’ conference in spring 2017, I recruited staff at a small liberal arts college library in the midwestern United States. After permission was granted to interview staff, I visited the site in summer 2017 for a tour and conducted semi-structured interviews with: 1) the professional librarian who manages the makerspace, 2) a support staff member who is an instructional technologist that assists with training in the makerspace, and 3) the director of the academic library. By interviewing three categories of employees, I hoped to uncover any differences in philosophy. Each interview was conducted separately and ranged from 30 minutes to one hour.  

Data Gathering and Analysis
Data from the interviews was gathered using a laptop voice recording application, supplemented with handwritten notes. In addition to this, I took photos of the interview site to aid in the description while writing. Audio from the interviews was transcribed using word processing software. I then coded the data by hand since my interview pool was small. This project was exempt from Institutional Review Board approval. However, to protect my interview subjects and to allow for them to talk freely without any potential workplace repercussions, I have assigned pseudonyms to the participants and to the interview site.

FINDINGS

Description of the Site and Interview Subjects
Prairie Banks University (PBU) is a small liberal arts college located in the midwestern United States. With an enrollment of 1,500 full-time equivalent students, PBU is categorized as a Carnegie baccalaureate college with an arts and science focus, and as such, it remains a traditional undergraduate residential university. Like a lot of midwestern college towns, the community that PBU is located in is a mix of traditional manufacturing and service jobs. Owing to PBU’s proximity to the downtown area, the community gives off a college town vibe. The campus has the classic liberal arts college admissions brochure look – green grass, leafy trees, and a few stately buildings mixed in with newer facilities. The faculty to student ratio is low. Throughout the academic year, in additional to regular-length courses, students request “tutorials” for credit — essentially mini-classes — on various topics. Some of these tutorials are taught by professional librarians at PBU, who are considered part of the teaching faculty.

The staff at the PBU library includes the library director – the senior administrator in charge of the library, assisted by a staff of 14: seven professional librarians and seven support staff members divided into traditional academic library functions such as reference, information literacy, archives, technical services, and technology. For this study, three employees were interviewed:

Leanne. A professional librarian, Leanne, manages the library’s makerspace and is the primary point person for teaching and support with the makerspace. She was part of the grant team that brought the makerspace to the library. Employed at PBU for 11 years, her other library duties include reference and research assistance, teaching information literacy sessions, library media services, library website administration, social media marketing, and emerging technologies projects.

Norris. A support staff member, Norris, works as an instructional technologist. Employed at PBU for 11 years, his primary responsibility is to assist faculty with incorporating technology into their teaching. Norris was involved with the grant that brought the makerspace to the library. He devotes time as a makerspace trainer. Norris reports to the director of instructional technology.

Ken. The library director, Ken, has worked at PBU for 27 years. He is Leanne’s direct supervisor. Although personally interested in makerspaces, his management style is fairly hands-off. His primary goal is to support the makerspace with staff and funding, not day to day operations.

Makerspace Visit and Overview
The current library at PBU opened in the 1970s. A squat-looking building located in the center of campus, the main entrance is located down a sidewalk that runs perpendicular to the main thoroughfare through campus. Walking into the library, visitors enter onto the main floor. The circulation desk sits immediately to the left with the reference desk over to the right. The main floor includes a substantial reference collection, a large collection of music scores, various reading rooms, and staff offices. The library includes four upper levels with a mix of book collections, periodicals, study areas, and offices. In addition, the library houses the university’s information technology and instructional technology departments.  

I entered the library early for my appointment with staff with the plan to look around on my own. Upon entry, I looked for signage or wayfinding directing me to the makerspace, but did not notice any. However, Leanne quickly spotted me and came over to welcome me. She then directed me back to the makerspace, tucked away in a corner behind a large imposing wall. An open seating area outside the makerspace welcomes visitors with promotional materials and samples of prints and objects from the makerspace. Card swipe access to the makerspace allows students and faculty who have received makerspace training to access the room any time the library is open.

The makerspace room occupies the library’s former media services unit, which consisted of two offices. When the offices were transformed into a makerspace, a wall was removed to enlarge the space into one room. Counterspace along the walls house various makerspace equipment: PCs for 3D design, two 3D printers, two 3D scanners, an electronic cutter, a sewing machine, a painting and collage station, and a coloring station (e.g., coloring books). Instructions and procedures for using the equipment dot the walls. Supplies are readily available, including 3D printer filament, crafting and art supplies, and tools such as pliers, files for sanding, a hot glue gun, and tape measures.

Primarily operating on a self-service model, the makerspace room remains unstaffed. Students, faculty, and staff wanting to use the makerspace must first make an appointment for a training session conducted by the Leanne, the makerspace librarian; Norris, the instructional technologist; or a student trainer. After completing the training session, users can make an appointment for the equipment in the makerspace. Trained users are given card swipe access to the room. Students, faculty, and staff using the makerspace are asked to record their jobs and any technical issues in a usage log, which Leanne tracks. Troubleshooting is primarily self-mediated by the user through the use of support manuals and instructional directions posted in the room. Leanne also developed an extensive online help guide to direct users. However, both Leanne and Norris readily make themselves available to assist with projects or troubleshooting that require more advanced effort.

The origins of the library’s makerspace date back to when PBU opted to leave a media services staff position vacant following a retirement. The library, left with an unused space in its media services unit, decided to transform it into a hands-on collaborative learning space. Leanne, Norris, and a professor worked to formulate grants to bring a makerspace to the campus that would be open to all university constituents. At the time, one department on campus had makerspace elements (e.g., 3D printing) but usage was limited to students and faculty in that department. The library makerspace would be a central hub for for creativity and collaboration for the entire campus. Initially, the makerspace team sought an internal grant for funding. After that failed, the team successfully applied for and received an external grant of approximately $25,000 to cover makerspace setup, technology and equipment, supplies, and training. The makerspace debuted in Fall 2015.  

Analysis of the Themes

What is a Makerspace? Because the makerspace model can vary from library to library, I opened my conversations with PBU library staff by asking each of them to describe what a makerspace means to them. Perhaps not surprisingly, Ken – as the library director and senior administrator – with his strategic planning responsibilities took a big picture approach:

A makerspace is a model for what the library should be, because I think the whole library is essentially a makerspace. We make things in different ways. I talk about the library being less a warehouse than a laboratory, less a grocery store than a kitchen. It’s a place where we go to make things–where we put things together to make other things…The makerspace is doing this in a more tangible, physical way that libraries have traditionally not done. It’s a way for us to think about how libraries ought to work–so it’s a testbed.

Ken’s response hits at the rapid changes that academic libraries have been facing–the shift from print materials to digital and the centering of the academic library as a collaborative place for students and faculty.

Leanne, perhaps because she is the professional librarian focused on the day to day aspects of the makerspace, emphasized the traditional aspects of a makerspace–namely hands-on learning and creativity. She responded, “I think of it as a place for creating things, not just consuming.” This view, again, reflects the changing nature of the academic library from a place where people use or access materials into a place where people create materials. She went on to say:  

The idea for our space was for people to be able to apply what they are learning into something hands-on and creative, because I know that no matter what your major is, there will always be creative people who want to do more than just read and write papers.

Ken echoed Leanne’s comments about this shift in academic work, stating, “Here on campus we’re hearing less about papers and more about presentations, posters, and projects.” For their makerspace, the staff see it as an extension and outlet for these collaborative types of activities.

Norris, meanwhile, placed himself squarely within the maker movement, explaining that having studied fine arts and art education, that he has always been drawn into creative work. He sees the makerspace as an outlet that combines student creativity with a student need. Norris said, “I’ve had art students, biology students, or chemistry students come in because they have an idea they want to manifest–and the makerspace really supports those endeavors.” He offered this story:

We’ve actually had students – men – who never had a home ec class in their lives, ask if they could learn how to sew [in the makerspace]. They had an idea that they could express themselves in some sort of fabric…that’s what I see as a makerspace.

The views of the PBU library staff reflect the varied viewpoints of professionals in the makerspace community. At its base level, the makerspace is a creative outlet for learning, but at a higher-level, the makerspace model could help inform library-wide practices.

Workload. As makerspaces are added to libraries, monitoring staff workload for equity, analyzing shifting job duties, or identifying cases where a pitch for additional staff could be made, will be important. Workload and staffing formed much of the conversation with the PBU library staff. Leanne, as the professional librarian in charge of the makerspace, shoulders most of the responsibility. Readily admitting that she didn’t necessarily want so many responsibilities, Leanne explained that the makerspace duties fell to her because she was one of the instrumental people on campus pushing for it. In addition, the space that it would occupy — Media Services – fell under her purview.

She has had limited success in getting other staff or students involved. Leanne trained other library staff members but found a lack of support: “they don’t seem interested in taking on additional makerspace responsibilities.” A student group, the Maker Club, functions as another outlet for possible support. Leanne envisioned using a train-the-trainer approach with the students so they could assist her with clients, but the group demonstrated a lack of follow-through and ownership. At the same time, makerspace usage continues to increase. Since it opened, nine courses have used the makerspace for projects. Those nine courses account for over 120 students, all who need to be trained by Leanne, Norris, or a student worker. Although, they often try to group students together for training, these sessions consume a substantial amount of work time. Besides the makerspace, Leanne juggles other duties as a professional librarian:

I do reference. So I’m at the reference desk a couple hours every day. I help with research appointments and classroom instruction [information literacy sessions]…Then I’m also responsible for the library website. When we changed our library catalog over [to a new system], I was responsible for getting that set up and running. We try to have a pretty robust social media presence at the library. The library administrative assistant and I team up on that…I’m also supposed to be on the lookout for emerging technologies. But then this media services stuff became a part of what I do, and then the makerspace. The librarians are considered faculty, so I’ve done tutorials [mini-courses that students take for credit]–so that take up a lot of time.

She remains fairly matter-of-fact about the workload: “I’m open to having others work in [the makerspace] and take on additional responsibilities, but you know how it is in libraries. We often have too many responsibilities as it is.” The amount of work time Leanne needs to set aside for the makerspace can vary, depending on the cyclical nature of the academic year. At some points during the academic calendar, the makerspace accounts for about 40 percent of her work time. During low periods, the amount falls to around 20 percent.

Leanne is clearly dedicated to her growing list of responsibilities and responsive to student and faculty needs. She accomplishes it with cheerfulness, aplomb, and little complaint. However, Ken, the library director and Leanne’s supervisor, recognizes that he may need to make changes, commenting:

Most of the makerspace is falling on [Leanne’s] shoulders…it’s brutal for her to try to do her own job…and all the other stuff we expect…I think we’ll need additional staff. I’m hoping [Leanne] can survive long enough until we get to the point where we can make a strong enough case for hiring somebody else.

For his own part, Ken is fairly hands-off with the makerspace, stating:

I thought I would be more involved because I’m interested in this kind of stuff. I love tinkering with machines, but it just hasn’t panned out. I try to be as supportive as I can in terms of both people time and money…Mostly I’m supportive of people doing good work.

Meanwhile, Norris, as the instructional technologist works primarily with faculty to incorporate technology into their teaching. He is called in to assist with makerspace training sessions. Norris volunteered himself for the additional duties as he has a personal interest in applications such as 3D printing and joined the team, with Leanne, to write the grant. Makerspace duties were officially written into his job description when he oversaw the space while Leanne was on maternity leave. Since the makerspace opened he has seen some of his duties shift from faculty support to student support. However, Norris sees faculty and student support in a symbiotic relationship:

[The makerspace] is a little outside the realm of supporting faculty’s use–but not really–in that a lot of the equipment is new to a majority of faculty. I am able to circulate and talk it up and approach them to get them thinking of sending their students over here for an assignment or some sort of project. [Faculty] want to know how this stuff works and have their students be supported in this work. So I’m enjoying the opportunity to work with more [students] in different ways.

By supporting students, Norris is supporting faculty with their assignments and curriculum that involve the makerspace.      

Skills & Training. Because the makespace was a new addition to the library, investigating how the PBU library staff went about educating themselves and developing a new skill set directly impacts makerspace success and sustainability. Thinking strategically, Leanne and the grant team wrote professional development as part of the grant. This allowed the team to bring in a consultant to teach Leanne and Norris about makerspace equipment and set up. In addition, a highly regarded guest speaker came to talk about higher education and maker pedagogy. In terms of learning, Leanne prefers a mix of auditory and kinesthetic styles of learning:

I do really well with the traditional method of just listening to someone talk and me taking notes, but I do find hands-on to be extremely helpful as well. Honestly, I don’t have much experience with formal learning of equipment. I have always just tinkered around to figure that stuff out.

For Norris, his eyes lit up when describing a trip he took to California to visit one of the United States’ first maker fairs. Through this professional development experience he was able to “get a better sense of who these makers are and what their motivation is. [I] was really blown away by the extent that people are using their hands and intellect to create anything.” Like Leanne, Norris describes himself as a self-directed learner. He talked about problem-solving using online discussion forums for the makerspace equipment. However, in learning about makerspaces, Norris also captured two essential elements: “I’m more of a trial and error person–where I made a lot of mistakes [with 3D printing].” This trial and error approach sits fully within the realm of using a makerspace to explore and create something. In addition, he relayed a story about how he was continually unsuccessful with a 3D print until a group of students stepped in with a suggestion that solved his problem. This demonstrates the collaborative aspect of makerspaces and the concept that all participants can be both teachers and learners.

On the subject of skills needed to manage makerspaces, Leanne, Norris, and Ken all emphasized the organizational aspects. Leanne discussed spending a significant amount of time on organizational or administrative tasks such as developing documentation and the makerspace’s online support guide. However, above all else, she spoke about adaptability:

One of the things I’ve found is to be ok with not knowing how to do something. Just be ok with trying to figure it out either by digging in and taking something apart and putting it back together, or looking through documentation and forums online.

All three touched upon the theme of teaching. Leanne mentioned that the job is more about teaching than troubleshooting, while both Norris and Ken said the job required good teachers. Norris stated, “The best teachers are those that are excited about the subject matter, so that would be a value.” Likewise, both Norris and Ken identified patience as a skill, with Ken commenting: “You have to be willing to be patient to help other people use something for the first time. [The makerspace] has a lot of moving parts and isn’t something that [clients] necessarily learned growing up.” Ken also recommended that as a general rule, library staff that manage makerspaces, should have the skill set as identified by research conducted by Koh & Abbas (2015) that includes management, program development, grant writing/fundraising, technological literacy, and learning facilitation.    

Makerspace Success. How do you know if your makerspace is successful? Leanne, Norris, and Ken rely primarily on usage statistics. Leanne requires students to record their projects on usage logs and she uses the data to determine if students were successful. If not, she or Norris can intervene with the students and provide assistance. Likewise, Ken, as the library director, pays attention to numbers and uses them for his current metrics: how many items are printed, how many items are made, number of class visits. He readily admits that the staff will need to start thinking about long-term goals soon. Norris compares activity in the makerspace when it first opened to activity now, almost two years later:

I guess the fact that initially we had to recruit makers–we had to, in effect–assign students with projects and since that introduction and forced participation, the numbers just continue to go up. Students are coming in on their own…We just sort of put [the makerspace] out there and [students] are coming.

Success can also be tied to client responsiveness. Norris relayed the story about male students wanting to use a sewing machine. Leanne purposely added it as a piece of makerspace equipment to counter stereotypes that makerspaces primarily appeal to male audiences. As usage of the makerspace has increased, students have sought out Leanne for tutorials (mini-courses where students receive credit) on 3D printing with new students coming up to her saying, “Hey, I heard you did a 3D tutorial last year?” Leanne enjoys this and generally agrees to offer more tutorials. Anecdotes such as this help demonstrate the makerspace as a successful addition to the library.

DISCUSSION

Discussion of Findings and Comparisons to Other Studies
To make sense of makerspaces, I opened my interviews with the question: What does a makerspace mean to you? Although some research points to makerspaces as comprising of educational programming and training (Kurti, Kurti, & Fleming, 2014), Leanne did not view that as a requirement. This reflects the views of Sheridan, et al. (2014) who argue that makerspace participants can learn independently or informally with peers; it does not need to be via formal training. Norris, with his background in art and technology, embodies the spirit of a maker and brings those practices to the makerspace. He is not bothered by the fact that a lot of the students use the makerspace for “fun” (e.g., non-academic or personal purposes) because he knows that there is still learning involved within the process. This dovetails with research by Rosenfeld Halverson and Sheridan (2014) that argues we should re-think what counts as learning. Likewise, when it comes to “re-thinking,” Ken’s commentary on the whole library as a makerspace points to examples that other academic libraries are doing, including the successful Hunt Library at North Carolina State University. Hunt Library was named a landmark library by Library Journal for its innovative services for collaboration, learning, and technology (Puckett Rodgers, 2016). The idea that the makerspace can lead to other collaborative and innovative practices in the library – to be a testing ground – for the entire library is a provocative view.    

Workload formed the bulk of the conversation with the PBU library staff. As academic libraries add makerspaces, it will be interesting to see if library administrators:

  1. carve out new opportunities by adding staff,
  2. shift employees’ responsibilities, or
  3. let the mantra “other duties as assigned” become the usual work practice.

Leanne carries the weight of a large majority of the makerspace work. She juggles it with a diverse set of other library responsibilities from research assistance to technology. Her scenario lines up with research by Moorefield-Lang (2015) that discovered most makerspaces are primarily one-person operations. Related to this is a trend in libraries to carve out niche areas, like a makerspace, for an employee, and then saddle that person with all of the responsibility, but little support. This can ultimately lead to failure for both the library service and the employee. Gavia Libraria (2011) terms this trend “Coordinator Syndrome.” In some ways, Leanne’s job reflects this. Conceding that she did not necessarily want so many responsibilities, she nevertheless performs them all in a commendable manner. However, the workload may not be sustainable in the long run. Moorefield-Lang (2014) discovered that workload was a key factor with some library staff reporting that makerspace services floundered because no staff member had full-time responsibility for the makerspace. This is something that the PBU library will need to investigate to ensure sustainability of the makerspace.  

As working professionals, neither Leanne or Norris were specifically trained during their formal university education for makerspaces. In fact, makerspaces did not exist. Skills were gained through on the job training. This mirrors the experiences of most library staff working with makerspaces. Moorefield-Lang (2015) found that library staff consulted online forums and that library staff with an “adventurous spirit” (p. 110) tended to be more successful. Leanne and Norris embody this adventurous spirit. Both discussed the willingness to tinker around with equipment and to use a trial and error approach. Norris, particularly, relied on peers–which in the makerspace environment includes students–to troubleshoot issues and learn new skills. As far as specific skills needed to manage a makerspace, Leanne, Ken, and Norris all touched upon organizational and teaching skills. These are two of the skill sets developed by Koh and Abbas (2015) as essential to employees who manage makerspaces. Incidentally, the other areas – grant writing, technological literacy, and program development – were themes that one or more the PBU library staff addressed during the interview. Ultimately, to be successful at developing the appropriate skill set, libraries need to afford staff with the opportunity to learn. At the PBU library, this has been accomplished through a variety of outlets including on the job training, self-directed learning, professional conferences, consultants, and guest speakers.

The PBU library makerspace primarily relies on usage statistics (e.g., how many clients, how many projects) to constitute success. While usage statistics are important, they remain a very basic metric. Ken alluded to this by stating the need to think about long-term goals. Lille (2016) developed several indicators for makerspace success, including assessing users’ ability with new technologies. However the research remain slim. At the same time, as higher education shifts to a more evidence-based model, demonstrating the value of the makerspace will become key. The Association of College and Research Libraries (2010) developed a report outlining how to tie academic library services to student success, learning, and engagement. Some examples, detailed by Oliver (2016), include online portfolios and student reflection pieces. Collaborating with faculty and students to measure this should provide the library with powerful data and stories to illustrate success. In turn, this data could be used in lobbying for additional funding or employees.

Application of Study to Theoretical Framework
Bolman and Deal’s (2013) leadership model, used to analyze organizations, offers four distinct prisms to look at the PBU library makerspace: structural, human resource, political, and symbolic. It is clear, in talking with Leanne, Norris, and Ken, that workload plays a large factor with the library makerspace, particularly with Leanne. This naturally lends a look through the structural, human resource, and political frames of Bolman and Deal. Because of my limited time with the PBU library staff, it would not be appropriate to analyze through the symbolic frame which requires an in-depth understanding of the organization’s culture–which in and of itself could be a separate research study.

When viewed through the the structural frame, one sees that as a small academic library, the organizational structure is relatively flat. Employees perform many different tasks. However, one of the hallmarks of the structural frame is the appropriate allocation of work (Bolman & Deal, 2013). Based on Leanne’s description of her varied work duties combined with Ken’s comment that he hopes Leanne can “survive” clearly indicates a need to look at the structural balance at the library.

Along these same lines, the human resources frame looks at people within the organization. It is all about finding the right fit (Bolman & Deal, 2013). Leanne’s current workload with the makerspace, although performed admirably, runs the risk of bordering on exploitative. The library has received Leanne’s energy and motivation for her job for the past 11 years. This should not be a one-way street. The library clearly invested their trust in Leanne in developing the makerspace, now is the time to fulfill her request for additional staff.

For the PBU library, the political frame is less clear cut. This frame deals with differences among individuals and coalitions who hold different values and views. Conflict may arise when scarce resources are allocated (Bolman & Deal, 2013). For the library’s part, many of these “scant” resources would be doled out by the larger institution – the university. Issues with workload would easily be solved if the library had the full resources – budget and employees – that it needed. Ken discussed about needing “argue” for or lobby the university for an additional employee to assist Leanne. The library would be wise to build upon the strong reputation that the makerspace has. This power may ultimately help them build a successful case for additional resources.    

Limitations and Further Research
Owing to the fact that I interviewed three people at one site, I cannot draw large-scale conclusions on the state of academic library makerspaces. Rather, this small scale qualitative study could be used to develop questions for a larger, quantitative study. Because the library science field lacks quantitative research on academic library makerspaces, perhaps a survey addressing the themes in this research could be used as a starting point. In addition, because this is a new service in many academic libraries, as makerspaces become more popular, the number of potential sites and interviewees to study will increase.

Overall Significance of the Study
As an emerging topic in academic libraries, this research provides a large-scale exploration of makerspaces at one site. Addressing themes such as staff workload, and skills and training, are not only important to makerspaces, but to the evolving mission of the academic library in the twenty-first century.

CONCLUSION

As makerspaces develop from a trend to a core service in an academic library, its impact on library staff will be vital to ensure success and sustainability of the makerspace. This study investigated makerspace impact on library staff at one academic library at a small liberal arts college. In interviews with three library staff members, the conversation focused on: 1) defining a makerspace, 2) workload, 3) skills and training, and 4) makerspace success. Findings indicate that workload remains the key factor, with one employee shouldering much of the makerspace work. Training is self-directed, while organization and teaching are considered the most important skills needed. Using Bolman and Deal’s (2013) four frame leadership model, it can be argued that a reallocation of workload and hiring additional staff will foster sustainability of the makerspace.

REFERENCES

  1. American Library Association (2015). Libraries transform: Maker movement. Retrieved from http://www.ilovelibraries.org/librariestransform/maker-movement
  2. American Library Association. (2017). Library of the future: Maker movement. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/transforminglibraries/future/trends/makers
  3. Association of College and Research Libraries, American Library Association. (2010). Value of academic libraries: A comprehensive research review and report. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/sites/ala.org.acrl/files/content/issues/value/val_report.pdf
  4. Bieraugel, M. & Neill, S. (2017). Ascending Bloom’s pyramid: Fostering student creativity and innovation in academic library spaces. College & Research Libraries, 78, 35-52. doi:10.5860/crl.78.1.35
  5. Bolman, L.G. & Deal, T.E. (2013). Reframing organizations: Artistry, choice, & leadership. 5th ed. San Francisco: Wiley.
  6. Colegrove, T. (2013). Libraries as makerspace? Information Technology and Libraries, 32(1), 2-5.
  7. EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2013). 7 things you should know about makerspaces. Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eli7095.pdf
  8. Filar Williams, B., & Folkman, M. (2017). Librarians as makers. Journal of Library Administration, 57, 17-35. doi:10.1080/01930826.2016.1215676
  9. Finley, T.K. (2016). The impact of 3D printing services on library stakeholders: A case study. Public Services Quarterly, 12, 152-163. doi:10.1080/15228959.2016.1160808
  10. Fontichiaro, K. (2016). Sustaining a makerspace. Teacher Librarian, 43(3), 39-41.
  11. Fourie, I., & Meyer, A. (2015). What to make of makerspaces. Library Hi Tech, 33, 519-525. doi:10.1108/LHT-09-2015-0092.
  12. Gavia Libraria, The Library Loon. (2011). The C-word. Retrieved from https://gavialib.com/2011/12/the-c-word/
  13. Gottschall, J. (2012). The storytelling animal: How stories make us human. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  14. Herron, J., & Kaneshiro, K. (2017). A university-wide collaborative effort to designing a makerspace at an academic health sciences library. Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 36(1), 1-8. doi:10.1080/02763869.2017.1259878
  15. Koh, K., & Abbas, J. (2015). Competencies for information professionals in learning labs and makerspaces. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 56, 114-129. doi:10.12783/issn.2328-2967/56/2/3
  16. Kurti, R. S., Kurti, D. L., & Fleming, L. (2014). The philosophy of educational makerspaces. Teacher Librarian, 41(5), 8-11.
  17. Lille, M. (2016). Evaluating the success of a markerspace [sic] in a public library. New Library World, 117, 587-595. doi:10.1108/NLW-04-2016-0030
  18. Mandavilli, A. (2006). Make anything, anywhere. Nature, 442, 862-864.
  19. Merriam, S.B. (1998). Qualitative research and case study applications in education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  20. Moorefield-Lang, H. (2014). Makers in the library: Case studies of 3D printers and makerspaces in library settings. Library Hi Tech, 32, 583-593. doi:10.1108/LHT-06-2014-0056
  21. Moorefield-Lang, H. (2015). Change in the making: Makerspaces and the ever-changing landscape of libraries. TechTrends, 59, 107-112.
  22. National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education. (n.d.). Library Statistics Program: Academic Libraries. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/libraries/academic.asp
  23. Oliver, K.M. (2016). Professional development considerations for makerspace leaders, part two: Addressing “how?” Tech Trends, 60, 211-217. doi:10.1007/s11528-016-0050-7
  24. Pryor, S. (2014). Implementing a 3D printing service in an academic library. Journal of Library Administration, 54, 1-10. doi:10.1080/01930826.2014.893110
  25. Puckett Rodgers, E. (2016). James B. Hunt Jr. Library: New Landmark Libraries winner 2016. Library Journal. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2016/09/buildings/lbd/james-b-hunt-jr-library-new-landmark-libraries-2016-winner/
  26. Robinson, C.K. (2009). Library space in the digital age: The pressure is on. Bottom Line: Managing Library Finances, 22(1), 5-8. doi:10.1108/0880450910955369
  27. Rosenfeld Halverson, E., & Sheridan, K.M. (2014). The maker movement in education. Harvard Educational Review, 84, 495-504.
  28. School of Information, University of Michigan. (2017). MakerBridge: Makerspaces in libraries, museums, and schools map. Retrieved from http://makerbridge.si.umich.edu/makerspaces-in-libraries-museums-map/
  29. Sheridan, K.M., Rosenfeld Halverson, E., Litts, B.E., Jacobs-Priebe, L., Owens, T. (2014). Learning in the making: A comparative case study of three makerspaces. Harvard Educational Review, 84, 505-531.
  30. Slatter, D., & Howard, Z. (2013). A place to make, hack, and learn: Makerspaces in Australian public libraries. Australian Library Journal, 62, 272-284. doi:10.1080/00049670.2013.853335
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Academic Librarian: Week in the Life

TL;DR: Librarians do a lot of different things.

———-

“I love books, too!”

By now, most librarians are used to that response when someone asks what they do. To be honest, as an academic librarian, I rarely do readers’ advisory. I would probably break out into a cold sweat if someone asked me for the next great mystery or romance to read. In fact, you should probably take away my librarian card because I don’t often read for “fun” in this stage of my life–it usually ebbs and flows.

My favorite response to what people think I do was when I was taking grad classes for my master’s in education through my place of employment. During one class session we were asked to go up to the whiteboard for an interactive exercise. One of my classmates said:

“Send Joe up to the board. He’s probably a good speller since he reads all day at his job.”

Ouch! I didn’t let that one go unaddressed.

As an academic librarian, I find that people who even work on campus in other departments don’t understand what we do. Nope, I’m not the book shelver or the book stamper–unless there’s some sort of emergency or staffing shortage. That’s usually what we train our student workers to do.

So I thought I’d write about what I did last week. In my current position, I am the Reference & Instruction Librarian at a small(ish) academic library. We have a student population of 3,500. Our staff includes 5 FTE librarians, 2.5 FTE support staff, 4 part-time evening/weekend staff, and 50+ student workers.

In terms of general job duties, here what I do:

  • Coordinate the library’s research assistance services. I’m one of two primary “front-line” librarians here for general research help (if it’s subject-specific, the subject librarian for that area will pick it up from here). I’m also usually available for research help from chat when I’m not in a meeting or away from my desk.
  • In charge of scheduling and staffing for the first-year information literacy program. I share in the workload with the other librarians for the program, but end up taking a majority of the info lit sessions since it’s my coordination area.
  • Subject librarian for the education, graduate education, music, psychology, and diversity programs (so research assistance, info lit, collection development).
  • Manage the Curriculum Materials Collection and supervise one student worker.
  • Supervise the Information Commons and Classroom Manager (a support staff position).
  • Supervise the part-time Library Evening/Weekend Supervisors who are responsible for overall management of the building and research assistance during the evenings and weekends.
  • Manage 3D printing services.
  • Design/create social media posts/library graphics.

So it’s kind of a hodgepodge of duties, but that’s what I enormously like about working in a small(ish) academic library. No chance of getting bored!

My “official” workweek is Monday-Friday 8:00am to 4:30pm. Because I work in a “train town” and cross four sets of railroad tracks to get to work, I usually plan to arrive just a bit earlier in case I get stuck at the tracks. Generally, I walk in the library doors around 7:45am.

In outlining what I did for the week, I have color-coded my tasks into five main areas:

  • Research questions or Research for my job = red
  • Info Lit = green
  • Management/Supervisory = blue
  • Technology = purple
  • Marketing, incl. social media = pink

Here’s what I did…

MONDAY

  • Arrived at 7:45am. Went to my office. Logged in to my computer and glanced at my emails to see if anything needed an immediate response.
  • Today the university was hosting a visit from the Higher Learning Commission accreditors. At 8am, I walked through the library to straighten up any furniture/items so that everything was tidy for their visit.
  • 8:15am: Took less than 10 minutes and walked over to the Main Dining Room on campus for the free employee continental breakfast (I usually grab a coffee and banana to go). Hey, I take advantage of all our benefits here! Good way to see colleagues in other departments. I do this most work days.
  • Morning tasks:
    • Start responding to emails, including:
      • Requests from two professors for info lit sessions.
      • Professor looking for full-text of an article.
      • Opened a work order with the I.T. department about students having issues with their printing allotment (printing money).
      • Sent an email to volunteer for a staff committee position.
      • Approved vacation time for a position I supervise.
      • 3D printing request: clarification for more info from the client.
    • Updated the research assistance schedule to fill a couple vacant shifts.
    • Created a social media post on Constitution Day for Facebook and Twitter.
    • Prepped for an infolit session on Tuesday for an education class.
    • Helped a professor who was working in the Info Commons on how to navigate the new course management system.
  • Quick drop-by/chat questions from students…nothing too in-depth. 
  • Lunch from 12-1pm. I have a fishbowl-style office, so make a point of taking my lunch time away from it. I walked over to the Main Dining Room and used one of my meal swipes that faculty/staff can purchase for a discount.
  • Afternoon tasks:
    • Worked on budgeting (Excel stuff) for Spring semester for our Library Evening/Weekend Supervisor shifts.
    • Did a comparison of library hours at peer institutions. I’m using the data to see if I can re-work the budget to possibly extend library hours in the future. Sent info to my supervisor (the Library Director) and set up a meeting to discuss.
    • Developed a training schedule for a new Curriculum Materials Collection student worker position that I share with the Tech Services and Serials areas.
    • Updated the 3D Print Job Queue for the Library Evening/Weekend Supervisors (they run the 3D printer when I’m not here).
  • 3:30pm: Attended an open forum for staff hosted by the accreditation visitors.
  • Got back to my office at 4:15 in time to update the Library Evening/Weekend Supervisor on duty (she works 4pm-Midnight) and see what projects she could work on this evening.
  • Left work at 4:30pm.

TUESDAY

  • Arrived at 7:50am. Logged into my computer and glanced at emails.
  • 8:05am: Main Dining Room for free coffee and a banana. Chatted with a couple colleagues in a different department on campus.
  • Morning tasks:
    • Start responding to emails, including:
      • Asking a professor for her syllabus/assignment info so I could prep for her upcoming info lit class.
      • Professor requesting a “Library Needs Assessment” for two proposed courses (all proposed courses require this. It’s a report that looks at library resources and services to demonstrate we can support the course and possibly argue for more money–although that is rare).
      • Created a Facebook and Twitter post about the library’s interlibrary loan service in conjunction with an article I read from The Chronicle.
  • Research question: Helped a student find advertisements that demonstrate gender roles in different time periods. We used our set of LIFE magazines from the 1950s and compared them with some of our “coffee shop” magazines (Time, People, etc.) from today.
  • The professor I helped chaperone a class with to Italy this past summer, dropped by. Wanted to know if I had a slideshow of pictures I could share with him for a campus “study abroad fair.” Sent him a link to one of my Flickr albums.
  • 11am-12:30pm: Started training a new student worker for the Curriculum Materials Collection.
    • General job duties overview, Library of Congress classification, LC Easy tutorial (wow, that’s old–but it still does the job!), how to shelve materials, gathering a list of display books for me.   
  • Lunch from 12:30pm-1:30pm. Brought leftovers from home and ate in the library’s staff room. Then took a walk outside for the rest of my lunch hour.
  • Quick drop-by/chat questions from students…nothing too in-depth. 
  • 2pm-3:50pm: Info lit session for a 300-level Education class. Students were researching various topics in the scholarly or professional literature. I do little lecturing, preferring a workshop-format where I visit with each student and walk around the room.
  • Updated the Library/Evening Weekend Supervisor on any outstanding issues.
  • Left work at 4:30pm.

WEDNESDAY

  • Arrived at 7:45am. Logged into my computer and glanced at emails.
  • 8:05am: Main Dining Room for free coffee and a banana.
  • Morning tasks:
    • Answer emails.
    • Ran a report on 3D printing usage. 
    • Started a 3D print job for a client.
    • Did a Facebook and Twitter post about the library’s travel books to cross-promote with the campus study abroad fair later that day.
  • Research question from a student: Looking for scholarly articles analyzing the Gospel of Matthew. Normally I would refer student to subject librarian for religion, but she was unavailable.
  • 10-11am: Prepped for an info lit class scheduled for Thursday surrounding the topic of African-American social conditions, injustice, the Black Lives Matter movement, etc. The class is reading The Hate U Give and All American Boys. This class was for one of the first-year Cultural Seminar courses we do info lit for–and that freshmen students are required to take. Each of the 37 sections of the course has library activities customized to the course topic. So, I spent some time researching the topic and formulating a hands-on activity.
  • 11am-12pm: Conference call for the Wisconsin Association of Academic Librarians. I’m on the conference planning committee.
  • 12pm-1pm: Lunch at the Main Dining Room, stopped by the campus bookstore to buy a t-shirt, and then went for a walk for the remainder of my lunch hour.
  • Afternoon tasks:
  • 4:00-4:30pm: Updated the Library Evening/Weekend Supervisor on duty. We worked with the 3D printer.
  • 6pm-6:15pm: Drop-by info lit session for a 300-level psychology class–quick step-by-step on how to find an empirical article from the psychological literature. 
  • Graduate student stopped by just before I was leaving to see how to renew an interlibrary loan book that was overdue (quick answer: you can’t!)–and that one of our books was accidentally returned to the public library in a different city! Yikes! Gave student contact info for the library staff person responsible for dealing with this–and also dashed off a quick email to that person to give a heads-up.
  • Left work at 6:45pm.

THURSDAY

  • Arrived at 7:50am. Logged into my computer and glanced at emails.
  • 8:05am: Main Dining Room for free coffee and a banana.
  • Morning tasks:
    • Answer emails.
    • Get 3D print job started for a client.
  • Research question from a professor on bibliometrics: How can I find out when a specific term became popular in the scholarly literature? How can I track development of this topic over time?
  • 10-11am: Infolit session for 100-level Cultural Seminar class on African-American social conditions, injustice, and Black Lives Matter movement. No lecturing…lots of interactive exercises to get students thinking and using our resources!
  • Research question from a student: Looking for an article to share with classmates for a discussion activity. How have gender roles changed in the United States from 1950s to today?
  • 12pm-1pm: Lunch. Used my faculty/staff meal swipe at the Au Bon Pain on campus. Went for a walk for the remainder of my lunch hour.
  • 1pm-1:30pm: Training with Curriculum Materials Collection student worker. 
  • Worked with the Info Commons/Library Classroom manager on a tech problem. Ended up doing a work order for the campus IT department as we (correctly) suspected some of our public computers did not get re-imaged properly (they were missing Deep Freeze software).
  • 2:30pm-4:15pm: Banned Books Week display. Searched library catalog for books, ran a report with call numbers, retrieved the books with the help of a student worker, changed books’ status in catalog to “On Display,” organized the display and created graphics for it. Ideas for the display came from the Library Think Tank group on Facebook.
  • 4:15pm: Updated the Library Evening/Weekend Supervisor on duty.
  • Left work at 4:30pm.

FRIDAY

  • Came in early at 7:30am since I knew I had an 8:30am meeting. Walked straight over to the Main Dining Room to get my usual coffee and a banana, and then headed to my office.
  • Logged into my computer and started checking email.
    • Heard that one (the only?) non-air conditioned classroom building was positively sweltering in 90 Fahrenheit heat. Emailed some professors over there to see if they wanted to use our Library Classroom for the day (since, for once, we had no info lit sessions scheduled). Several happily took me up on the offer!
  • 8:30am-9:30am: Met with the Library Director and the campus’ Digital Marketing Strategist to preview new library website. Received training for the new web editing software.
  • Troubleshoot 3D printer: A piece of filament broke off inside the plastic feeding tube. Used a metal hangar to push the filament through the remainder of the tube and pliers to pull it out. Genius!
  • Started a 3D print job for a client.
  • Student looking for book…only had e-book copy. Helped student set up an e-book account.
  • Did a quick display for National Hispanic Heritage Month. Searched for books in the library catalog, gathered them, organized a display, and printed some graphics. 
  • Lunch from 12pm-1pm: Used my faculty/staff meal swipe at the Main Dining Room. Used the remainder of my lunch hour to go for a walk.
  • Afternoon tasks:
    • Completed “Library Needs Assessment” reports for two proposed music courses. Sent reports to the professor.
    • Posted to the library’s intranet site to update the Library Evening/Weekend Supervisors on projects to work on.
  • Because I worked a longer day on Wednesday, I left today at 2:30pm.

So that’s my detailed week. It may look like a lot, but I bet if any other librarian outlined their work week, they come up with an equally long (or longer!) list too.

My work is often cyclical, just like the academic year. This was only the second full week of classes here, so in-depth research questions have not yet reached their peak. Info lit is starting to pick up. Usually from this time through the first week in November, I’ll be prepping for and teaching anywhere from 2-6 info lit sessions per week.

I’m surprised how much of it is spent with supervisory/management stuff or tech stuff, but that’s the nature of my job. Would be interested in seeing how it compares to other academic librarians from a cross-section of small to large institutions.

…Oh and I didn’t tell you what didn’t get completed and pushed to the back burner for next week, but that could be a whole other blog post!

No More Cruise Control: Driving Change with Students, Staff, and Space

Last month I gave a presentation at the Wisconsin Association of Academic Librarians conference. I love this conference!–it’s my regional peers, in a small setting, sharing creative and practical tips from their libraries.

Description of the presentation: 
Adapt or die. It’s a mantra we hear, but libraries have always been about change. The key now is to be in the driver’s seat. Librarians from Carroll University will discuss four ways they have embraced change:

1) a workflows assessment to analyze staff duties,

2) a ʺkindness auditʺ to examine barriers to library services,

3) an enhanced patron count to determine how to best utilize library space,

4) a survey to report how students use the library.

Combined, these initiatives position the library as a change maker. Learn about these practices and take the wheel to share your experiences with change, too!

 

I tend not to do the death-by-bullet point PowerPoint, so a little info may be lost outside of the presentation. What it all boils down to are four things my library has done to respond to and anticipate change. Some focus on students and improving library spaces and services, while some focus on staff duties and how to best position the library for the future.

If you have any questions about it, let me know!

 

Working with Students on the Autism Spectrum in an Academic Library

I don’t want to give away too much information on this situation, so I’m changing a few of the things to protect privacy, but here goes…

Background
I was facilitating an information literacy session for a class–a typical first-year gen ed course. My usual plan incorporates a hands-on activity (research worksheet) where students, working in groups, find different information sources on their class topic (books, ebooks, streaming films, newspapers/magazines, scholarly articles). After searching, each group shares how they found the information with their classmates. In total, the session incorporates multiple learning styles (visual, aural, and tactile).

Instead of me doing the talking, I outline what we want to accomplish during the session and point out a couple of things on the library website. Then I let the groups start their work. I walk around and visit each group to make sure they are headed in the right direction.

Issue
A group was struggling in interactions with one of their classmates.

  • A student kept asking me question after question. I love when students ask questions in info lit sessions (yes!), but the student was bogged down in technical minutiae — missing the forest through the trees — that sort of thing.
  • The student fixated on answering each question on the research worksheet and was taking very little input from other group members.
  • The student argued with the other students about the answers. The student was concerned that there were multiple avenues for determining a “correct” answer.
  • The student was verbally critical in a raised voice when help was offered to the group (e.g., “Why didn’t you show us how to do this AT THE BEGINNING!”).
  • The student also seemed sidetracked with the settings on the library laptops that were being used by the students.

I realized I *likely* (granted, just an inference on my part) had a student on the autism spectrum in class. No formal indication was communicated to me–nor should it–that is up to the individual. In typical “pro” librarian style, you just need to roll with the situation and be flexible.

My Reaction
As this was happening, I made a mental note to remain calm and supportive. The last thing I want to do to any student is be dismissive, curt, or yell back.

I focused on providing a little more in-depth step-by-step instruction with the student (e.g., “Let’s take a look at your question and see what we can find out.”). However, I did feel like I got behind schedule and the rest of the students were waiting for us to catch up–some were noticeably annoyed. It’s a difficult balancing act that we will see more of at the higher ed level.

I wish I could have facilitated the session more smoothly. I’d be interested in hearing tips and techniques from other librarians. 

Things to Keep in Mind
Individuals on the autism spectrum are all unique, but there are a few general tips to be aware of in regards to the library and information literacy:

  1. Meeting in a new location (like the Library Classroom) may disrupt the student’s routine.
  2. My “there are many ways to find the answer” research worksheet may not be structured enough for someone on the autism spectrum. I could have supplemented it by outlining a step-by-step research strategy on the chalkboard/whiteboard.
  3. Technology in the Library Classroom could be distracting or contribute to sensory overload (I typically use both laptops and touchscreen technology with students).
  4. I usually require students to work in pairs or groups for the research worksheet activity, but should recognize that if a student wishes to work independently, that is an OK option.
  5. Emphasize additional services:
    • Appointments to meet with a librarian if that’s what the student is interested in.
    • Online tutorials and the library’s online chat box that can be accessed from the comfort of home/dorm room, etc… if a face-to-face interaction is not preferred.
    • Quiet spaces are available in the library if that’s the type of space that the student is interested in utilizing.
  6. As a librarian/higher ed professional, I will readily admit to not having a lot of training in the area of working with students on the autism spectrum. Contact your university’s office of disability services to see what further support the library could provide, or to arrange for staff training opportunities.
  7. Remember, *all* students learn differently. Keep in mind the principles of Universal Design for Learning.

Further Reading

 

Friday Fun: Silence in the Library – A Playlist

Friday afternoon is probably the quietest time in an academic library. Most students (and professors) like to do Tue/Thu and Mon/Wed classes. It’s the freshmen who get stuck in dreaded Mon-Wed-Fri classes…and even then, it’s usually just in the morning.

By Friday afternoon, the library is SILENT. The other days of the week it’s bustling. Groups are studying. People are clacking away on the computers and their devices. Research assistance is busy. An open seat is a rare thing.

But Friday afternoon…it’s what most people think of when they think of a library: quiet, silent, peaceful.

That had me thinking, what playlist could I put together with songs about quietness and silence? Or songs that play on the theme of silence in the title? Here are a few that came to mind:

“The Sound of Silence” / Simon & Garfunkel

“Enjoy the Silence” / Depeche Mode

“Don’t Speak” / No Doubt

“Our Lips are Sealed” / The Go-Go’s

“Hush” / Deep Purple

“Voices Carry” / ‘Til Tuesday 

“A Quiet Place” / Garnet Mimms 

“It’s Oh So Quiet” / Björk

“Hymns to the Silence” / Van Morrison

Hush Hush; Hush Hush / The Pussycat Dolls

What else am I missing?

 

Killing It with Kindness: Incorporating Sustainable Assessment through Kindness Audits

Last month, Jessica Olin of Letters to a Young Librarian and I gave a presentation about kindness audits at the Association of College and Research Libraries virtual conference.

Brief Description:
Learn how to design and conduct a kindness audit, a low-cost and high-reward assessment method that helps librarians examine barriers to library services and spaces through a user experience lens. Varying methods for kindness audits, lessons learned, and suggestions for identifying and implementing low-cost improvements for library spaces and services, will all be discussed.

Presentation Slides:
Below are our slides from the presentation.

Presentation Notes:
This post is a lot longer than what is normally published on this blog, but both Jessica and I want to make as much of the virtual session presentation we gave for ACRL 2015 available as we can.

This post is identical to the one published on my presentation partner’s blog.

Slide 1:
Jessica: Hello everyone and welcome to Killing it with Kindness, Incorporating Sustainable Assessment through Kindness Audits. We will introduce ourselves in a minute, but first I wanted to give you an overview of how this session will go. After introductions, we’re going to give a brief explanation of kindness audits, then each of us will discuss one aspect of the overall process and how that aspect played out at our schools. We’re going to try to keep that part brief so that we can save time, hopefully 15-20 minutes, at the end for question and answer. You have our twitter handles and our session hashtag and also the email address we set up specifically for this session for people who aren’t on Twitter. Of course, we also have the chat function here in the Adobe Connect session. We’re going to do our best to keep track of questions as we go through the session and we’ll also have a good chunk for Q&A at the end.

Slide 2:
Jessica: Now to introduce ourselves…

Joe: Hi, I’m Joe Hardenbrook. I’m a reference and instruction librarian at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin. I coordinate research assistance and information literacy and am the library’s liaison to the university’s education, psychology, and diversity programs. I’ve been at Carroll since 2014, but I’ve been an academic librarian since 2003.

Jessica: Hi, I’m Jessica Olin. I’ve been a librarian since 2003 and the director of the library at Wesley College since the beginning of 2013. We want to do something a little goofy as a way to make this less formal, so we’re going to play a game called Two Truths and a Lie.

Slide 3:
Joe: OK, so here are three statements about me. Two of them are true, and one is a lie. To get you used to using the chat box, type in the letter of the statement that you think is a lie…So what’s the lie? My favorite movie is not Legally Blonde. It’s an OK movie, but my favorite movie is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I am actually a certified storm chaser through NOAA and I won an airport trivia code contest once – it came down to “LGW” which is London Gatwick and I won.

Slide 4:
Jessica: My turn. Which one of these is the lie? I’ll give you a moment to read through them and then just vote for your choice by typing the letter in the chat window. {wait until someone guesses B} Yes, [name] was the first to guess that I have not lived in 10 states. I’ve only lived in 7. And if you’re curious, William Whipple of Connecticut is the signer in my family tree and I played Pearl at age 5 in the 1979 PBS miniseries of The Scarlet Letter.

Slide 5:
Joe: What is a Kindness Audit? It’s all about taking a concerted effort to look at your library with fresh eyes and experience it as a new user. It’s taking a look at things such as wayfinding, signage, library spaces, and furniture. It’s also about asking things like: Are the service desks welcoming? What obstacles do your users encounter? I was first introduced to kindness audits through a MOOC I completed in Fall 2013: The Hyperlinked Library MOOC from San Jose State University taught by Michael Stevens and Kyle Jones. I completed a kindness audit at the library I was working at and I’ve now replicated it at my current workplace at Carroll University. Jessica and I each did things a little differently for our respective kindness audits, so we will walk you through how each of us approached it prior to discussing how you can recreate it at your own institutions.

Slide 6:
Joe: First, a little bit about Carroll University so you know my background. We’re located in Waukesha, Wisconsin–about 20 minutes from downtown Milwaukee. Our enrollment is just over 3,000 students. Starting in the mid-1990s the institution  transitioned from a traditional small liberal arts college to a university with a strong health sciences focus. Today, our most popular undergrad majors are: exercise science, nursing, psychology, business administration, and biology. We also have several graduate programs, including MBA, Master of Education, and Doctor of Physical Therapy.

Slide 7:
Joe: The Todd Wehr Memorial Library opened in 1942. It was expanded in the 1960s and remodeled in the late 1990s. A renovated Library Classroom in 2013 was our latest change. Our staff includes 6 librarians, 2.5 staff members, and 5 part-time evening/weekend staff.

Slide 8:
Joe: I conducted my kindness audit in May 2014. This was a librarian-led audit. I also did one with students, but Jessica will talk more about her experiences with that. For my audit, I really wanted to see it as a “new user” – so I started at our front entrance on the main floor and wound my way through the building. I used a library iPad to take photos and when I was finished, I divided the photos into 2 categories: 1) Commendable, or 2) Needs Improvement.

Slide 9:
Joe: So what did I find? Let’s start out with the “good stuff.” In terms of commendable, I think the library does a good job of providing information about the library. The photo on the left shows the large plasma screen when you walk in that rotates with library news and announcements. It also features photos of the librarians and their subject areas. I’m a big proponent of the idea that the library isn’t just a building – it’s about the people. This helps to promote that. The photo on the right are the librarians’ business cards. Again, they feature photos of the librarians to help students connect a face to name. This is vitally important since we have a very strong library liaison program. These cards are available at all of the service desks.

Slide 10:
Joe: Another commendable item is technology. There are plenty of computers for use in the Information Commons. It’s not the largest lab on campus, but it is definitely the busiest. There are also 60 iPads available for checkout at the Circulation Desk.

Slide 11:
Joe: The library’s coffee shop is another commendable space. It’s very inviting, has large windows with great views of campus, and lots of soft seating–something the rest of the library lacks. Also important: the coffee shop doors close so noise is not a disruption to the library proper.

Slide 12:
Joe: So what needs improvement? We could definitely do a better job with our signage. The photo on the left is food and drink signage. It’s negative, overly wordy, and in some cases looks cheap. We have a coffee shop in the library, so I think you need to expect food and drink to travel. What the library probably needs to do is to re-evaluate its policy and likely liberalize it. The photo on the right is missing call number signage. In my walk-through I noticed some end caps didn’t have call numbers and some were handwritten. I also noticed some that listed subject areas (like “US History” or “Psychology”) – that’s very helpful. Why wasn’t this applied to the entire collection? Again, we just need to be consistent with our signage.

Slide 13:
Joe: Also needing improvement: some of our services and how we market them. The photo on the left is our Information Desk – not that you would know that. There’s no branding. What is the desk for? What questions can you ask here? Why is no one there? How is it different than other service desks that are nearby? Well, there usually is a student worker seated here and it’s intended for patrons to ask simple questions about printing, technology, copying, and scanning. We just need to identify and market it better. The photo on the right is our disability workstation. Again, same problem: no signage and it’s not labeled. It looks like a scanning station if you happen to walk past it. So again, another branding and marketing opportunity.

Slide 14:
Joe: So here’s why I love kindness audits: Changes can often be implemented quickly and easily. Shown here is our Library Classroom. We made some changes immediately after the kindness audit. The photo on the left shows an open door. Prior to that the door was kept closed. We now leave it open to be more welcoming. Since the room had changed from a traditional computer lab with desktop PCs to a laptop classroom, students weren’t sure how they could utilize the space. If you looked through the closed door, all you would see is movable furniture. So to help, we also positioned our student worker (photo on the right) from the front of the classroom to the entrance to answer student questions about using the classroom and checking out laptops for students. Now the space has seen increased usage.

Slide 15:
Joe: We love the movable furniture, but the default set-up shown on the left was not conducive to group work. So we changed the set-up to pods of tables, shown on the right. This is more popular with students. Also prior to the kindness audit, students were not permitted to use the touchscreen technology and whiteboards. We changed that. Students are now encouraged to use the technology and they can also move the furniture around to suit their needs, too. These simple changes have made the space much more inviting and we’ve received a lot of positive feedback from students.

Slide 16:
Joe: One thing I questioned on the kindness audit was our single occupancy restrooms. They just don’t make any sense. However, it turned out that the kindness audit matched good timing: The university decided to switch all single occupancy restrooms to gender neutral. It’s more inclusive and it reduces wait times.

Slide 17:
Joe: Here’s another quick change we implemented. The librarian’s offices in the Information Commons are fishbowl style. Pictured here is my office. The photo on the left is before the kindness audit: I have my blinds down. The photo on the right is after: To be more noticeable, I now keep my blinds up. I also placed a research sign in my window encouraging people to interrupt me. As a result, I get more questions now. So again, another fix that was free, quick, and easy.

Slide 18:
Joe: Another change that didn’t happen to cost us any money involved our group study rooms. The photo on the left is the before pic: The rooms featured trapezoid shaped tables that made maneuvering in the room difficult. The photo on the right is the after pic: We swapped out the trapezoid tables for round tables that came from another campus department that was getting rid of furniture. Now the rooms are more inviting for groups.

Slide 19:
Joe: Like most libraries we suffer from a deficit of outlets. The photo on the left shows how one student has a strung a laptop cord across the floor which creates a trip hazard. Although we didn’t have the funds to put in more outlets, we’re utilizing the ones we do have more wisely. We placed additional plugs that also include USB ports in strategic locations where students typically study. The new plugs cost $15 each.

Slide 20:
Joe: So what surprised us about the kindness audit? I was impressed by how many of the things I noticed were easy fixes, quick changes, and low cost–or even no cost in most instances. There weren’t any major suggestions related to infrastructure. My findings mirrored the kindness audit that my students completed too. There was also more to like than not like–and that was good to see. We just need to do a better job of marketing and branding.

Slide 21:
Jessica: First I’m going to give you some context, background on the school and my library, and then I’m going to show you some of what we learned by having student workers conduct kindness audits as a balance for librarian audits. Wesley College was founded in 1873 as a prep school mostly because the Methodist mothers and fathers of Delaware were tired of sending their children out of state to attend college. We still have a covenant relationship with the Methodist church. We became a 4 year college in the 70s under the guidance of the library’s namesake. Right now we have approximately 1400 undergraduates in 24 majors. Business Administration and health related majors are our most popular programs, but we have the full range of what you’d expect from a small liberal arts college. We have a few masters programs, but they are still relatively small. We have plans to start a master’s of occupational therapy in the near future. One last thing: we’ve recently been designated an official minority serving institution which means that more than 50% of our enrolled students are African American, Hispanic, and/or Native American.

Slide 22:
Jessica: While the college has had a library all along, we’ve only been in this location since 1970. Our building originally housed classrooms and faculty offices and was renovated. We had another round of renovations that were exclusively cosmetic in 2001. We aren’t the only department in the building. We share the space with academic support, the tutoring center, disability services, the career center, IT, and the history department. We have a super small staff with 1.91 full time librarians (me and a reference librarian who is on a 10 month contract, although there is a frozen 12 month MLIS position), 6 part time non-degree holding staff, and 7 work study. We still manage to open 7 days a week for a total of 94 hours. We’re part of a 50 library consortium with almost every library in Delaware, which helps a lot.

Slide 23:
Jessica: The student audits were conducted towards the beginning of the spring semester of the 2013-2014 school year. Since these 7 students had worked for us for a semester by the time we did this, I felt comfortable giving them just a general direction. I had them read the blog post that Joe wrote about his own kindness audit, told them to take pictures and take notes on what they’d seen, and to look for both things they liked and things they didn’t like about the library.

Slide 24:
Jessica: These were student workers, so I’m assuming they were a bit biased, but they all commented on how helpful and friendly the staff were.

Slide 25:
Jessica: The majority of them also talked about how much they liked the different book displays we put out and the white board polls we conduct. They liked how it made the library more interactive. If anyone is interested in more information about our white board polls, I wrote about it for my own blog recently.

Slide 26:
Jessica: While this wasn’t strictly part of what they were supposed to capture since we were looking for their response to the physical environment, one student talked about how much they liked the consortium because it helped with school work and fun reading and saved them money.

Slide 27:
Jessica: Unlike what Joe experienced, our student workers found a lot more to dislike than they did to like. This is just one example. Our study areas looked, quite frankly, like a mishmash of leftover furniture that didn’t get sold at a yard sale. Though some of how things were arranged had more to do with students rearranging our spaces, it was still a big problem.

Slide 28:
Jessica: Another thing they didn’t like was the furniture itself. Most of what we have in the building is pretty old, a lot of it dating from the 1980s. We don’t have a single study carrel that is without graffiti, and the arrangement of furniture was off as well.

Slide 29:
Jessica: I don’t know if there is a library out there that doesn’t have at least a couple of problems with signage, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work on it. Students talked about how hard the signs are to read in some places, how there were lots of handmade signs, that they aren’t always up to date like that directory sign you see there, and there weren’t enough signs by far.

Slide 30:
Jessica: This is actually an after picture since it’s kind of hard to capture a picture of noise, but that was a major problem we were having. Some of it can’t be helped since we share our space with so many other departments, but we have made a lot of progress towards improvement by designating specific spaces for quiet and loud. We have also started walking through the library, being a seen presence, once or twice per hour.

Slide 31:
Jessica: We have a lot of technology problems at the college as a whole, it’s just that the library is a place where those problems are most noticeable.  In some ways this is out of the libraries control, other than we developed and/or asked for workarounds to help students. Those two sheets of paper you see there are detailed instructions for basic functions such as logging in and printing as well as how to enact the fixes we need. We have brought an outside company onto campus to fix our IT issues, but there is a lot more to fix than we realized.

Slide 32:
Jessica: Our print system is a bit of a throwback. Students don’t like having to pay for printing regardless, but the fact that they have to use a coin operated system that frequently breaks makes it even worse. While I haven’t been able to address this just yet, I have been soliciting quotes for print management software and have been working with our new IT to make sure it’s a scalable solution that can extend beyond the library in due time.

Slide 33:
Jessica: While the student workers think the staff and the librarians are great, there was some concern about us spending so much time in our offices. We didn’t have a reference desk of any sort at that time, and really the circulation desk is too small for more than one person to stay back there, so there wasn’t much room for us to be anywhere but our offices at that time.

Slide 34:
Jessica:  Most of the changes, other than designating areas of the library for quiet and for loud, took a bit longer than what Joe said about his library. This change couldn’t happen until the summer when we students wouldn’t be around as much. We spent a lot of time rearranging furniture to make the loud area more conducive to group study. You can also see a white board in the back. Students weren’t allowed to use it, but we’ve changed that and now have a kit with dry erase markers and an eraser and students now students use this space for practicing presentations and planning out group projects.

Slide 35:
Jessica: And we moved furniture to make the quiet study areas more conducive to individual work. We also spent a lot of time moving chairs from one level to another so that, even if they are a bit older, they at least match. One other thing that hasn’t happened yet but that is in the works is that our Student Government Association is talking about buying the library some new study carrels. They are also a bit part of the reason why we will be able to afford the print management software as they are going to sponsor that in part or maybe in whole.

Slide 36:
Jessica: While we haven’t been able to solve the print management problem just yet, we have gotten new printers for the library. Our old ones were incredibly old for the setting at 5 years, so these new printers have been a good thing even if it is only one small aspect of our overall technical issues.

Slide 37:
Jessica: And the change that we’re most proud of is that we now have a reference desk. This library hadn’t had one in recent memory, and we didn’t really have anyway to put a regular computer anywhere that would have made sense, not without spending a lot of money from a small budget. However, we did some research and found that a chromebook and a table with two chairs serves just as well. We just started providing this service last semester. We’re still getting students and faculty used to the fact that we provide this service now, but our numbers have been slowly climbing. More recently we’ve  started bribing students with candy to ask us reference questions and that is pretty popular.

Slide 38:
Jessica: One of the biggest surprises we had was how much the student audits overlapped with the librarian audits. These specific student workers had been with us for a few months so our perspective had rubbed off on them a bit, but it still made us feel that we had at least some understanding of the student perspective. We also were surprised that students had noticed the consortium and could articulate so specifically the kinds of benefits it brought to them. Finally, although our easy fixes weren’t as immediately put in place as Joe’s, it was a bit startling how much moving our old furniture around could change the atmosphere.

Slide 39:
Jessica: You are looking at pictures of the namesakes of our two libraries. We thought it would be a cute way to introduce our discussion of how the differences in our libraries may have impacted specifics, but each library benefited from the kindness audits.

Joe: For me, I was only about 6 months into my job when I conducted my kindness audit, so it was easier to see things with fresh eyes. However, I needed to rely on co-workers to get a historical overview about certain aspects of the library. In addition, although we operate in a very collaborative environment, I don’t have final decision-making or budgetary authority to make large-scale library changes. That would be handled by our library director.

Jessica: I’ve got a smaller budget and staff and library than Joe, but I was in a position as the director to make this a priority for us.

Slide 40:
Jessica: Okay, now we want to talk about how you can do your own kindness audit. For me, it worked to give the students just a general overview of what I expected and wanted then give them an opportunity to ask questions. I required that they take lots of pictures, but all of them had phones with cameras so I let them use their own rather than providing a camera. I also asked them to take detailed notes about what they were photographing so I could know what I was seeing. Finally, it was crucial to get the students involved above and beyond the librarian audits.

Joe: For the student kindness audit, I was a little more explicit in my instructions. I was using brand new freshmen student workers during their first week on the job. I got the feeling that they might be hesitant to provide critical feedback, so I gave them instructions to take photos of things in the library and place them into one of these categories: Things I like, Things I didn’t like, That that confused me, Things that surprised me, Things I had questions about. It worked. Students took over 200 photos.

Jessica: one final thing that I want to urge you to do is to share the results of your assessment, both with your immediate stakeholders and with the community. It was that kind of sharing that got the Wesley College SGA interested in helping us pay for new study carrels.

Slide 41:
Jessica: Here’s a list of a few of the barriers you want to keep in mind. If you don’t have a background on any of these, you’ll probably want to consult someone who does or teach yourself about them. For instance, I’m biased because of my first job in higher ed to be sensitive to ADA requirements, but there are a lot of regulations for public spaces. An example of this is that there are specific regulations for how much difference you need to have on signs between the background and the print. You also need to remember the needs of any international students you might have as well was taking into account campus culture. We’re both in shared spaces, so any major changes we want to institute need to keep those partnerships in mind – those shared spaces and also influence how students and other parts of your community perceive the library. Add bit about need states.

Joe: If you are recruiting students for your kindness audit, be aware of any approval you may need to seek from your university’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) since your work involves human subjects. Both Jessica and I used student workers who were performing the kindness audit as a task related to their employment, so we did not have to go through the IRB process.

Jessica: Finally, this isn’t a one-off assessment. We’re planning to run it again this coming Fall and hopefully every other year from now on. Like any assessment, this needs to be part of a continuous cycle of improvement.

Slide 42:
Joe: We are more than happy to take your questions through the chat window. We can also keep the conversation going on Twitter by using the hashtag #acrlkindness. You can tweet directly to Jessica at @olinj or to me at @mrlibrarydude. You can also send us an email to librarykindnessaudit@gmail.com.

Slide 43:
Jessica: Thanks so much for attending this session. I think I’ve learned just as much from your questions a I was hoping to impart. We both really believe in the benefits of this process and want to help you put it in place at your libraries, so here are our emails so you can contact us in the future.

Post Script:
We got a lot of great questions both throughout the presentation and during the official question and answer period. The recording of our actual presentation is available via the ACRL 2015 Virtual Conferences website (for a fee), but we also hope to publish an article with more details sometime in the near-ish future. Let us know if you have any questions at any time. And thanks for your interest.

Librarian jobs have changed: Update on the 1912 Library Director’s report

The library at Carroll University (then Carroll College) circa 1920. Photo courtesy Carroll University Archives.

The library at Carroll University (then Carroll College) circa 1920s-1930s. Photo courtesy Carroll University Archives.

Yesterday, I wrote about a little archival find: a 1912 library director’s report from my current workplace.

Several commenters equated this to: Librarians’ jobs haven’t changed in a 100 years.

ERMAHGERD…no! That sounds like a bad clickbait headline with black and white photos of shushing librarians. It makes us seem like we’re complacent, when most of us are not.

What I was trying to get across – and it’s my fault for not stating it more clearly – was that I was able to see a lot of parallels to today’s job duties of librarians. I had expected to read the report from 1912 and chuckle at some of the work the library was doing. But I didn’t. Instead, I saw how our VALUES have remained consistent over time (providing access, organizing info, place to learn and get help, materials for the community). That’s what I was trying to emphasize.

I have 12 years of librarian-ing under my belt now. There are plenty of things that I’m doing now in 2015 that I wasn’t doing in 2003:

  • Researching 3D printers for my library.
  • Overhauling LibGuides.
  • Working on video tutorials.
  • Using ethnographic research to make the library better.
  • Planning a large-scale student “party” in the library.

So our job duties may change over time, but we still remain wedded to our core values. Consistency is good. Complacency is not.

Students working with a librarian at the Carroll University library - 2014.

Students working with a librarian at the Carroll University library.