Come work with me! Teaching & Learning Librarian

We’re hiring!

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

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

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

Todd Wehr Memorial Library, Carroll University

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

Carroll University, Waukesha, WI

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

downtown Waukesha, Wisconsin

 

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Chat Reference Tip: Sharing Permanent URLs for Searches

We get over 25% of our reference questions through chat and the number grows every year. I spend a lot of time guiding students to the right library databases and brainstorming keywords with them. Besides the library’s general chat box, instructors often refer students to our respective My Librarian chat boxes. Unless it’s a quick question, I generally operate under the “teach them to fish” approach. So I do a lot of the “Click on this…click on that. Why don’t you try this…” method.

I know some libraries use screen sharing apps to hone in and make sure students are getting the info they need. However, these apps often lead to end-user issues. Some people find it helpful. Others find it creepy. Students just want an answer–or a starting point.

Instead, I’ve come to rely on the ability to share permanent URLs of search results from our library databases. After the student has had a chance to search with me, I share the permanent URL for the search results on my computer screen to make sure the student is in the right spot. At my current workplace, our two largest database providers are EBSCO and Proquest.

EBSCO
Sharing permanent URLs of EBSCO searches is easy. On the search results page, just click on: Share >>> Use Permalink. Copy and paste the URL into your library’s chat box. The URL should be going through your library’s proxy server.

ebsco

Proquest
In Proquest, the option to share search results is a bit hidden, but still useful. In fact, at first glance I thought it wasn’t possible. However, the good folks at Proquest pointed me in the right direction. At the top of the page, click on: Recent Searches.

proquest1

Select: Actions >>> Get link. Copy and paste the URL into your library’s chat box. The URL should be going through your library’s proxy server.

proquest3

Providing the permanent URL gives students a good starting point and a well-formulated search strategy to build upon.

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!

Disappearing Information

Let me be up front: I’m not a gov docs expert, but I do get irked when tax money that was used to collect Census info isn’t being used to make (or maintain) that information in an easily accessible manner to the public. It reminds me of last year’s debacle with the Statistical Abstract of the United States.

I’m talking about last week’s web conference on the recently re-designed American FactFinder from the U.S. Census Bureau. Basically, the issue boils down to this: American FactFinder will only contain data from the two most recent decennial U.S. censuses (currently 2000 and 2010). So once 2020 data is available, we can say “bye bye” to 2000, because then it will hold 2010 and 2020. This doesn’t make sense. You can find out more on this topic by looking at the GOVDOC-L discussion list archives from this month.

Researching trends with our populace over time is common among both social scientists and humanities scholars. You can’t tell me that a system can only “hold” data from two censuses. What compounds the problem is that the Census data is no longer released in a tangible format. So once it’s gone from the Census Bureau website, then it’s pretty much gone for good–at least as far as the general public is concerned. Now, the U.S. Census Bureau did say you could FTP to the older Census information, but that doesn’t boil down to easy access.

Our tax dollars go to support the collection of this information. We deserve to have this information (current and historical) displayed publicly, online, and in an easy-to-use format. Librarians have stood aside as the “gatekeepers” to information. Now we emphasize “access.” But we’re losing that now, too.

Save the Statistical Abstract!

There is no other single statistical source as useful as the Statistical Abstract of the United States. Published since 1878, it is the “go to” source for statistics on “the social, political, and economic organization of the United States.”

When I get a statistical question at the reference desk, I’m always amazed at how many times the information can be answered from just this one source. Why then, is the Census Bureau cutting it?

Last Friday, I started seeing tweets about this. Sure enough, the U.S. Census Bureau budget estimates for FY 2012 [pdf, p. 82] recommend elimination of the Statistical Abstract program:

The availability elsewhere of much of the information in the Statistical Abstract has led the Department and Census Bureau to the difficult decision to terminate the program.

The availability “elsewhere” of the information? Hey, Census Bureau: where might that be? It’s surely not in one convenient location! I do love the online version of the Statistical Abstract, but what about people on the other side of the digital divide? In fact, a quick look at the 2011 Statistical Abstract shows that still 31% of Americans have no Internet access in their homes! [Table 1155]. This source is vitally important to libraries. PS: The “information age” is supposed to make finding information easier, not harder!

The elimination of the Statistical Abstract program saves $2.9 million and 24 FTE positions: a drop in the bucket when compared to the whole budget. More information on this and other statistical sources being eliminated is available on the University of Michigan Population Studies Center blog. Check out the GOVDOC-L discussion list for more info, too.

This is what it comes down to for me: the Census Bureau collects information about us. Therefore, we, the people, deserve free and unfettered access to this information. Please contact your representative and senators and urge them to keep funding the Statistical Abstract program. Contact the Census Bureau to tell them we still need these resources!

“Helping you make informed decisions” is the slogan of the Census Bureau. With the elimination of the Statistical Abstract, the Census Bureau is abandoning its own mission.

Reference Desk: What to Call It?

The phone rings at the Reference Desk. I pick it up to answer:

Me: Library Reference Desk, may I help you?

Patron: Umm…I don’t need you to be a reference. But can I ask a question?

Me: (Not missing a beat) Absolutely!

So, did the library patron really think the Reference Desk was the place to call to have someone vouch for them on a resume? Sigh.

What should it be called? Information Desk, Research Desk, Help Desk? I just don’t think the term reference registers with a lot of users. I also struggle with using the term reference when I do library instruction. I generally don’t even say “reference books”–instead, it’s background info, encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc.

I worked at a library where the Reference Desk was known as the “Research Assistance” desk. That made sense to users (this was an academic library). The students knew to go to this desk and get help from the librarian.

I also like “Information Desk”: questions = information. That’s easy to understand. “Help Desk” is a perfect description, too. However, it has been co-opted by information technology departments. Would users assume that a “Help Desk” is only for technology questions? Although, many libraries do already answer many tech questions anyway.

Which name do you prefer?

The library I currently work at recently installed a merged circulation/reference area. Now I struggle whether to refer separately to them as “circulation desk” and “reference desk,” (they are technically two desks, separated by small opening) or some new name?

After the re-model:

I’d love to hear from other librarians who have merged circulation/reference areas. What do you call it?

I Need “The Source”

Have you ever had a reference transaction that just sort of ran off the rails? In my eight or so years of a being a librarian, this is my own personal favorite reference encounter while staffing the desk:

Patron: “Do you have the source?”

Me: “What source?”

Patron: “The SOURCE!”

Me: “Do you know the name of the source?”

Patron: “It’s just THE SOURCE.”

Me: “Is it something you need for your class?”

Patron: “YES! The professor said you had it.”

Me: “Is it something your professor put on reserve, like a journal article?”

Patron: “No.”

Me: “Well, can you describe the source? Tell me more about it?”

Patron: “It’s a book that lists words of other words.”

Me: “Oh…a THE-SAUR-US! Yes, I have a thesaurus. It’s right here behind my desk.”

Yep, true story. A simple miscommunication (and mispronunciation!). Ahh, the art of the reference interview. If I had asked the patron to describe “the source” in the first place, we could have avoided this whole mess. And you know what, it was my fault. I should have more readily assessed the patron’s ability to describe “the source.” The Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) posts guidelines for the reference interview. In short:

  1. Approachability – Stop looking at your computer screens, reference librarians! See Will Manley’s American Libraries column on this.
  2. InterestStephanie Willen Brown writes that indicating her interest in the patron’s question also helps her buy time in thinking of appropriate resources to use. Clever!
  3. Listening/Inquiry – Here is where I could have improved. The patron did not have a “research” question. He knew exactly what he needed. A simple clarification could have solved the issue immediately.
  4. Searching – The teaching moment. When it’s a research question, I’m always emphasizing what keywords to use and why. I help brainstorm different keywords with the patron (Searching for heart attack? Try myocardial infarction, too!). I’ll often write them down for the patron in case he/she will be searching independently later. Interesting debate as to whether librarians “teach” at the Reference Desk from Edward Eckel. My view: if it’s more than just a simple directional or ready reference question, then teach ’em to “fish”!
  5. Follow-up – I like showing patrons how to get to the Research Help page on the library’s website. Good common sense customer service.

So, have you had a reference transaction that’s gone down the drain? Share it!