5 Things I Didn’t Realize I’d Be Working on…

… When I Decided to Become a Librarian
(The alternate title for this was: Thank Goodness I Went to Syracuse’s iSchool)

For some time now there has been talk of how the roles of librarians are changing, and recently I find myself working on a variety of projects that I imagine are a bit removed from what librarians of yore might have been up to. Perhaps the fact that I find these projects 100 percent relevant to the academic library where I work, and am happy to take them on in my capacity as a reference and instruction librarian, further reflects the changes in the profession. So I thought I’d share some of those projects and see if anybody’s with me:

1. Authentication
Students log into programs (i.e. for course management, registration, email, etc.) run by their school, and then they need a separate authentication to access library resources? This actively discourages them from using the library. A single login is a usability priority. Once users are authenticated as enrolled, active students, they should be able to access all of the services the college provides to them — including all of the library resources and services.

2. Mobile Platforms
A few weeks ago I had my first patron complain about how she couldn’t connect to library databases with her Blackberry. (Our authentication system doesn’t allow it. See #1.) So now I am learning about mobile platforms. Luckily there are lots of librarians already working on this.

3. Course Management Systems
Online students may never come to the physical library building, but they can still benefit from the library’s array of online resources. Putting these online resources seamlessly into their classrooms is the next step. Students no longer have to go to the library for the materials needed for their classes — the library can come to them. We can put reserve materials, information literacy activities, catalog and database search boxes, etc. DIRECTLY into their class spaces. This is why instructional design is so important to me right now.

4. Unofficial Student Technical Support
Daily, I find myself solving common technical problems of students that are not just limited to printing and word processing. Even if I am not officially tech support, I am an adult sitting at a desk in a public space surrounded by computers, so guess what? I am going to answer a variety of computer questions. I know some librarians resent this, and I am never happy when a technical problem interrupts a research question, but most technical problems are things I have encountered myself and can solve quickly, or are ultimately relevant to my own computer use.

5. Making and Editing Videos
If we do not get to work with our students in person, we need to provide online help. And ultimately how would be best to do this? With fun and exciting video tutorials, naturally! Maybe I should have gone to film school after all. There is a lot of relatively inexpensive software available now to make and edit your own videos for the purpose of training. It is true that these can take a lot of time and thought, but when done well they can be extremely effective, provide help 24/7, and replace the need for repeated explanations of simple instructions from librarians.

I am sure there are plenty of other examples, but these are what I have for now. Please feel free to chime in!

17 thoughts on “5 Things I Didn’t Realize I’d Be Working on…

  1. I would agree that I am encountering these things more and more. I’m not sure what I thought being a librarian would entail, but it certainly encompasses more than I could have dreamed up. But I like this. Keeps it interesting and requires me to be open to new ideas, products, and services.

  2. My subtitle would be “thankfully I graduated from UW ischool” (which has M. Eisenberg as a tie in to Syracuse…), but I can completely relate to this post. While I valued and loved my grad school experience, what I am doing now has little of what I expected to be doing and lots of what I was wanting to be doing. Now, isn’t that weird. I get my cake and eat it too. I thought I would be in a more “traditional” academic institution environment, but I am perfectly suited and well able to help develop, run and maintain a digital archive with varying layers of access, help develop the e learning / distance learning module, and deploy open source tools to promote the work of the groups I support. Wow!

    And, to top it off, I am also well qualified to lend my volunteer time on taxonomy development for an online archive of social justice related groups, organizations, and materials. I also get to learn and pitch in on semantic web issues, and do reference work for people interested in local food and agriculture projects.

    Now, don’t get me wrong…I really do want to be in an academic library setting, and learn first hand how, what, and where everything is going. It is my first passion, but given current economic clime I am super-jazzed about having a skill set that defies classification and keeps me employed.

    I am human interstitial technology glue, er, I mean I am a digital librarian!

    At least while the electric supplies last ;)

  3. Hi,

    Out of interest what sort of databases does your library have access to? My local library (in the UK) doesn’t have any. There was 2-3 years of my life in which I was engaged in historical and genealogical research and as a UK resident I found it incredibly hard to get access to certain databases. I finally managed to get access to the ProQuest newspaper archives through a small library in MA called the Godfrey Memorial Library. They also had a lot of other databases, including Marquis Who’s Who, which I had paid $400 for a year’s subscription to.

    The only databases I was able to get access to here in the UK were the Times archive, Debrett’s Peerage and a few other Thompson-Gale DBs.

    One thing I can certainly say the US is better than the UK at is your libraries. Although you guy wouldn’t let me in. Not even if I paid :)

  4. hi , this is jameskara,working as a librarian in oxford university,the database u had collected is very great.all though we have not much colletions on computer studies.it is very difficult to access certain database.at all the students are interested t make theire collections from internet.

  5. David,
    Database access varies by institution & type of library in the U.S., but you can see the ones we have at our community college library by going here:
    http://library.camdencc.edu/
    and clicking on “Find Articles & More.” Then you can look at the databases by title, subject, or the most popular ones (on the right.) You do have to be a student enrolled at the college to use these databases, however.

  6. thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience with us. i observed that you take your work pretty seriously and enjoy it too. you try to see everything from a students eye that should be done when you are a librarian like you want your library to the students rather than coming students to the library. that’s a very positive thing. I am very happy hearing that at least still some people thinks about us, the students.

  7. I agree that librarians at service desks are de facto tech support; as such, continuous learning should extend to new versions of software, hardware, mobile devices, etc.

    Furthermore, there are times when I think that librarians (all librarians) should start hacking code… remember when HTML was relegated to the IT backrooms? Now, it seems that professionals of all types need to be proficient, or at the very least, familiar with the principles of web design and coding.

  8. Ameet – I think librarians with real programming skills are understandably in high demand. I took an introductory computer programming class last spring & now feel ‘code literate’ — I wish I had learned the basics earlier.

    David – It’s always changing, but currently we only use ProQuest for access to the Wall Street Journal. Other libraries where I worked previously had ProQuest databases, but I don’t know the reasoning behind any of these decisions.

  9. I encounter all of these issues almost daily.

    1. Authentication
    One way to eleviate this problem is through what our school calls its “portal”. I believe many schools now offer something like this. It allows you to login with your school email and password to gain access to your student account, library resources, etc. all in one place. However, it does seem that in this age of technology, “authentication” could be made much easier.

    4. Unofficial Student Technical Support
    I think this is a huge problem in every library. Not having in-house tech support can be very challenging for patrons and staff. Since I teach library instruction classes from what is otherwise a public terminal, I frequently encounter technical problems caused harmlessly and unknowingly by patrons. Of course, these problems are often realized only minutes before my class is scheduled.

    5. Making and Editing Videos
    I have been experimenting with a software that allows me to create screencasts. I can record my screen actions, narrate and even video myself while demonstrating how to use various library technologies. Screen recording software also allows for lecture capturing, all of which can be easily uploaded to a website, LibGuide or emailed to faculty and students. The software I have been experimenting with is called ScreenFlow. Others include Adobe Captivate, Camptasia. I’ve just found out about some free online screen recording software. Some of these are: Screencast-O-Matic, GoView, ScreenToaster, Skoffer. Reviews about these online screencasting software are here http://www.labnol.org/software/web-screencasting-apps-create-screencasts-online/6038/.

    As for learning the software, I would say that a small amount of tech savviness is necessary, but most importantly is that you understand the capabilities of the software and be curious and enthusiastic to learn how to harness those capabilities. I am cetainly on the low end of the tech savvy scale, but I knew that screen capturing software would give me the freedom to create everything from a short tutorial on “How to Renew Library Materials Online” to full library instruction sessions for distance learning classes.

  10. I am grateful for the fact that my First Year Students are eager and willing to become scholars at the beginning of their experience as undergraduates at Notre Dame. This has made all the difference. Prior to becoming an Academic Librarian, I had the privilege to have worked as a Student Affairs professional in which I was able to link extra-curricular programming with courses being taught. That experience solidified for me, that an academic career is warranted and the fact I can be as creative, dynamic, and still not lose the “intellectual discourse” components required of me as the First Year Librarian. While a Library Science student at Wayne State University, I took advantage of my graduate student access, by taking some courses/workshops on teaching, instruction, etc. I also took the time to engage T&R faculty in friendly banter on how they work with their subject librarians; most of them did not, but I think I pushed the issue along enough for them to consider developing a relationship with their campus librarian. I have been thinking about expanding my creativity into making YouTube videos to continually “bring home” the idea of getting help from the library. As a First Year Experience Librarian we are at once:
    Librarian
    Actor
    Motivator
    PR Expert Extraordinaire
    Professor/Instructor/Teacher
    Always willing to try new ideas in getting students to see that its important that they develop skills necessary to becoming critical consumers of information.
    This changes daily of course, but thats what makes this piece of the Academic Library puzzle fulfilling and rewarding!

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