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.

 

A Little Library History: 1912 Library Director’s Report

Note: An update to this blog post.

Last week was National Library Week. Our library director shared with us her predecessor’s library report from 1912. I was struck by how many of the report’s themes are still integral to today’s libraries.

Library Director's Report from 1912 - photo courtesy Carroll University Archives

Library Director’s Report from 1912 – courtesy Carroll University Archives

Authored by Amanda Flattery, who worked as college librarian from 1905-1915 and who was described as possessing “outstanding scholarship, high ideals, and ready humor” (see her obituary – page 2), starts her report by describing the the juggling of multiple duties. Sound familiar, librarians? It then moves on to the year’s major activities and issues. Here’s where I see parallels to today’s library work:

  • Creating bibliographies: Aren’t those today’s LibGuides?
  • Students unable to find desired information: Yep, even in today’s info-rich environment, this is still a hallmark of what we do.
  • A course in reference work and bibliography: That has morphed into information literacy.
  • Issues with organizing information and providing access: A key issue in the 21st century!

Below are some excerpts relating to the main themes:

Research

“Many hours of time are required for research work for students who are ignorant of books, or unable for find information.”

“Exhaustive bibliographies have been prepared by the librarian for all inter-collegiate debates.”

Check out some of the topics that students were researching at the library:

  • Japanese social classes
  • Witchcraft in England
  • Student government at Princeton
  • Statistics on condensed milk
  • Visiting nurses
  • Hamlet’s insanity
  • National music of Scotland
  • Description of a cash register
  • Municipal aid for the unemployed
  • Headache powders

Information Literacy

“a course in reference work and bibliography has been given, consisting of lectures, with criticism of practice work done by the class.”

Collection Development

“A notable addition to the resources of the library consists of about 350 pamphlets on up-to-date subjects…prove to be excellent materials for debate work.”

Outreach

“To establish cordial relations with the women of the town, the librarian has given help to different members of the women’s clubs…”

Organization of Information

“Of the 3000 vols…only 1183 had been recorded in the accession book. There was no shelf-list, and the cataloging had been done in a confused and imperfect manner. It was impossible to build upon such a flimsy superstructure. It was absolutely necessary to go back to the very beginning and make the records correct and complete.”

Consistent Core Services

Years pass by, technology changes, people come and go, but a library’s core duties remain the same:

  • Providing access to information
  • Organizing information
  • A place to learn and get help
  • Materials for your community

PDF of the 1912 Library Director’s Report.

Creating an Undergraduate Student Library Practicum

This will sound blunt, but it’s reality: A library school student who “only” takes the classes but doesn’t complete a practicum, internship, or some form of library work (during or before the program)–such as a grad assistant, library student worker, paraprofessional… will fall to the bottom of the pack when applying for jobs. You will be up against peers who have these experiences and they will rise to the top. Competition is cutthroat in many locales and I won’t sugarcoat it.

We had a unique opportunity at my library. We were approached by an undergraduate education student who was thinking about eventually becoming a librarian. The student had enrolled in an education practicum class and wanted to know if the library could serve as a potential practicum site.

Without hesitation, I said “Yes!” By the way, *always* try to find a way to say yes if it’s an opportunity for your students!

I met with the student, learned about the practicum requirements, and agreed to the be the supervisor. I worked with the other librarians to create a list of objectives and tasks. The student had to complete 60 hours over March and April at the practicum site. Unlike many of the student’s classmates that had “passive” practicums (a lot of them were primarily workplace observations), I wanted the library practicum to be active.

Practicum Goals

I developed a list of “somethings” that we wanted to accomplish:

  1. Something the student could put on a resume.
  2. Something the student could point to and say: “Hey, I did/created this!”
  3. Something that offered the student variety at my small-ish academic library.
  4. Something that would allow the student to decide if librarianship would be a good career fit.
  5. Something that went beyond a traditional undergraduate student library worker job at my institution.

We decided to focus on five areas based on the library’s needs and the student’s interests: technology, information literacy, collection development, marketing/social media, and displays/outreach.

To streamline the practicum experience, I:

  1. Worked with the student to plan out a schedule of hours.
  2. Created a list of projects or tasks assigned for each day.
  3. Assigned each project or task to the appropriate librarian so that s/he could liaise with the student.

Practicum Activities

  • Meet with each of the librarians individually to discuss job duties and responsibilities, their paths to becoming a librarian, biggest challenges and opportunities, etc. (Areas covered: access services, administration, archives, electronic resources, information literacy/reference, technical services.)
  • Technology: LibGuides
    • Trained on editing and clean-up.
    • Give feedback from a student perspective on design.
    • Create “galleries” of new books for subject LibGuides.
  • Information Literacy
    • Observe information literacy sessions (e.g., English Comp, Theatre, Health Sciences).
    • Join librarians in a teaching roundtable: Assisting health science students in finding research with evidence-based practices.
  • Collection Development
    • Research young adult fiction relating to mental health to fill a gap in the Curriculum Materials Collection. Generate a list of 20 books to recommend to the librarian with brief synopses.
    • Research diverse children’s literature (via sources such as We Need Diverse Books and CCBC) to help broaden and expand the Curriculum Materials Collection. Generate a list of 50 books to recommend to the librarian with brief synopses.
  • Marketing/Social Media
    • Assist with library’s “March Madness” bracket activity.
    • Assist with library booth for the university’s Health & Wellness Fair.
    • Social media: Brainstorm and create 10 Facebook and Twitter posts.
  • Displays/Outreach
    • Remove the “Women’s History Month” display at end of March. Create a spreadsheet of books that were used in the display for future planning purposes.
    • Search library catalog and create a list of 50 books relating to the environment and sustainability. Create an “Earth Day” display.
    • Search library catalog and create a list of 20 young adult books for a display that collaborates with the Education Club and their promotion of young adult lit for a movie showing of Divergent.

The practicum went smoothly. The student was engaged with the work and asked great questions–and had projects to show for it. I had to sign off on the hours for each week and the student had to submit a journal of activities to the professor. In fact, the professor said the library practicum sounded the “most interesting” of all of the practicums …so hey, I think we did something right!

Our undergrad practicum can serve as a building block to create an enhanced internship or practicum that would be appropriate for grad level students in library school. Most importantly, it gave our student valuable experience to decide if library school should be the next step–and if it is, then that’s one opportunity the student has under the belt!

How “Kind” is Your Library? Pictures Wanted!

Do you work in a “kind” library? Librarian Jessica Olin of Letters to a Young Librarian and I are presenting on “kindness audits” at the Association of College and Research Libraries virtual conference next week. Here’s our session description:

Killing It with Kindness: Incorporating Sustainable Assessment through Kindness Audits
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.

Jessica and I will share photos of our experiences with kindness audits, but we want to hear from you!

We Need Your Help
Here’s how to get involved: Are you proud of a library space, furniture, signage, services desks, etc… at your library? Or maybe you have an example that could use some improvement? That’s OK too!

Take a Photo
Take a photo and send it our way! Email us at: librarykindnessaudit@gmail.com and provide a description of the photo.

We may use your photo in our presentation, however we will not use your name (unless you want us to!). Keep in mind that identifying info may be apparent from the photo.

Jessica and I will make our slides freely available after the conference. We’ll also be using the Twitter hashtag #acrlkindness during our presentation.

Need some inspiration? Here are a few examples:

 

I Heart Poultry, or: The Importance of the Reference Interview

With Valentine’s Day coming up, this reference interaction popped into my head.

Now I normally don’t blog about specific patron encounters, but this one was years ago… circa 2003 when I was a newbie librarian.

A man approached the reference desk and asked a simple question:

Do you have any books on poultry?

With my newly minted MLS, I thought I better do a good reference interview:

Well, are you looking for books on any specific type of poultry: like chickens or turkeys? About farming, urban chickens, or feral? We have a fairly large agriculture collection. 

Wow, how self-important I sounded! It resulted in a quizzical look from the man. He said:

No! No! I’m looking for romance stuff.

At this point I’m confused. Chickens? Romance?

Then it dawned on me. He wasn’t looking for books about poultry. He was looking for books about POETRY. He wanted romantic poems. I misunderstood him.

You see, wanting to “impress” the patron with my knowledge, I should have just started the reference interview with a simple question: Can you tell me more about what you want to find? 

Problem solved and there wouldn’t have been a poultry/poetry dilemma. Lesson learned!

A Doggone Good Time: Therapy Dogs at the Library

Sorry, I couldn’t resist the title. I know….I know…

I’ve been seeing posts and pictures recently of other library therapy dogs events. Who doesn’t like to see some doggie pics? So I thought I’d throw in my own experience:

Today was the library’s 3rd annual visit of therapy dogs (technically they’re outreach dogs–dogs that have passed their canine good citizenship test). It’s something that the students eagerly look forward to (and now come expect!) as fall semester Final Exams begin. We had 16 dogs with us today and several hundred students.

It’s a great way to put a different face on the academic library: to show students we care about their mental well-being. We want them relaxed for Final Exams. We want to relieve those jitters for a little while. This gives them an opportunity to take a break from studying if for just a bit.

I blogged about the broader topic last spring – De-Stressing for Student Finals –  and a colleague and I gave a presentation on marketing and outreach activities such as this last year: Creating an Engaging Library: Marketing from the Group Up.

For the library it costs little money. The local kennel club participants volunteer their time for free. Our marketing is via the library website, Facebook, and Twitter. We spent some money printing posters. It’s also important to be in contact with your parent organization’s risk management person to make sure the appropriate paperwork and insurance forms are filled out. Otherwise, it’s a pretty easy event to handle.

Concerns about noise and allergies? Although that’s definitely a legitimate concern, we’ve heard very little comment. We’re lucky in that our library is 7 floors. For us, it boils down to this: The event takes up 1 floor for 2 hours on 1 day a year. You have to balance the reward with the consequences. For us, the reward is overwhelming: This is an event that students look forward to. Students are lined up on the floor waiting to see the dogs as they come into the building. Want to see more? Check out these pics:

Examining Library Spaces through a “Kindness Audit”

Have you ever considered doing a “kindness audit” at your library?

In the HyperlibMOOC class, Michael Stephens discusses the concept of a “kindness audit” – look at your library space and examine how kind it is for your patrons.

  • Is the signage positive?
  • Are your service desks welcoming?
  • Can users find their way easily?
  • What obstacles do your users encounter?

I did a walk through of my library and tried to experience it from someone who has never set foot in the doors.

First a little bit about my library:

  • academic library
  • campus of 6,500 students, plus faculty, staff, and community members.
  • 8 floors

It’s also important to note that the library does not occupy all floors: other campus offices (including the Chancellor, Provost, university human resources, etc.) occupy space in the library building. The “library proper” is floors 2-6, and part of floor 7. The outside entrance brings you into floor 2.

So what were some of the positives?

Call numbers can be confusing for the casual library user. We’ve improved our signage to incorporate subject areas:

Call number signage with subject areas and tips on how to get help.

Call number signage with subject areas and tips on how to get help.

User-friendly terminology is used for signage at the Research Help Desk (formerly called the “Reference Desk”) and the Public Services Desk (circulation, equipment, tech help):

Signage at service desks

Signage at service desks

The current Research Help Desk is three years old and replaced a “fortress” style reference desk. It’s a low desk with roller chairs, a dual monitor set-up, and a wireless keyboard and mouse. In addition, the Research Help Desk has been co-located with the Public Services Desk (Circulation) area allowing for seamless help among different library services. No more passing people between service points.

Research Help Desk

Research Help Desk

Cell Phone Signage:

"To promote a research-friendly environment..."

“To promote a research-friendly environment…”

Here are a few more positive notes:

What could be improved?

Many of these are infrastructure issues, while others are more cosmetic in nature: