Category Archives: Uncategorized

Changing Roles: Mentee to Mentor

Like many of you, I just came back from ALA Annual in Chicago. I had the opportunity to attend some interesting sessions, meet new people, catch up with some old classmates, and see some librarians that I knew in library school.

In my previous ACRLog post, I talked a little about finding your own cohort. I found myself catching up with librarians that were supervisors at UIUC, as well as a classmate. We had a good mix of early career librarian and seasoned librarians. 

It seems like in any setting like that, we end up talking about our jobs, the profession, the job search, and telling each other of the future plans you’d like to accomplish. One of the things that I look forward to the most during conferences is catching up with people, hearing about their future plans, and also asking for advice on something I may have.

Mentorship is something I have touched on a lot during my time with ACRLog and it has gotten me thinking of the mentorship that I have received over the past 4 years. As a student, I received advice and help from not only the librarians supervising me, but the classmates who left and went off to great jobs. I would ask them for feedback on classes I would possibly take, professors I should avoid, and how to go about the job search. Two years later, I found myself being that person to a friend of mine who began library school last year. 

Now, I was the one getting asked for advice on classes, professors, the job hunt.  When did the mentee become the mentor? When I began American University, I was assigned to a mentor. By sheer luck, we were a perfect fit and I will probably continue to ask for her advice for the rest of my career.

I think that we never truly leave the roles of mentee and mentor, no matter our age or amount of time we have been in the profession. My thought or question to other librarians is, how do we manage both roles?

The Importance of Community

As everyone knows, library land is small. Having a profession where we all know each other or know of each other, can be a plus (but also has its drawbacks). This allows us to form our own smaller networks and build our own community. Being an early career librarian, I have quickly realized that while I have treated librarianship as a profession where one works alone, librarianship is in fact a team sport.

This past week, I had the opportunity to attend a conference-like event for my residency program. As most of you are familiar by now, I am part of the Diversity Alliance residency cohort. We have these conferences/gatherings about once a year. This year, we had a dual conference between Virginia Tech and American University.

The program included workshops, guest speakers, presentations and group dinners. Most importantly, all the residents were able to see each other again. While we occasionally see each other at conferences, these diversity alliance gatherings are an opportunity for the residents to catch up. We are able to talk about our jobs, our lives, any updates, and it’s a chance to catch up and learn about the exciting things that the residents are doing at their institutions.

I have been a librarian for only two years, but have realized the importance of having your own cohort. It does not necessarily mean that the people in this cohort are your best friends in the whole wide world. It might be a group of people who are not only your colleagues, but those who are able to be honest and frank with you. This is the group of people that you ask for advice, whether it’s library world or personal life. Above all, they are a support team. They support and mentor you–and you support and mentor them.

I would really encourage other librarians to think about the people they surround themselves with. I was basically put in a cohort as a diversity alliance resident, but after we all met, it just felt natural. We had shared experiences that brought us closer together and built a trust that you just can’t get out of thin air. I was lucky enough to be placed in a cohort, but I have also taken some time to slowly form other cohorts I want to be part of. I try not to force it, so I ask the readers, what is your advice to finding, forming, and nurturing groups like these?

The Season is Here: Conference Do’s and Don’ts

Conference season is upon us! With LOEX and ALA coming up, a lot of us are gearing up to travel and/or present at these conferences. Even with school coming to an end, conferences will certainly keep us librarians busy for the months to come.

The first library conference I attended was during my last semester as a library student. I attended Midwinter Chicago 2015 in order to go to the ALA Job Placement Center. The experience was one I remember very well. I was able to attend with some of my library school classmates and was able to have my resume looked at by another librarian. My main goal was preparing myself for the job search, but I do wish that I had networked more. Back then, I was a bit more shy and felt a little uneasy about interacting with people I did not know.

For a lot of you, this is not your first time attending a conference. For others, it is your first time. Everyone has different goals when it comes to attending conferences. It may be for networking, job hunting, committee work, or you might be presenting. While this post is mostly geared towards first-timers, it is my hope that everyone can get something out of this.

  • Let’s begin with the basics, what do I pack? Conferences are usually 3 or 4 days, at the most. You usually do not need much, but if you’re like me, you overpack. No, you do not need 3 pairs of sandals or 3 “going out” dresses. I am still working on my packing skills, but I find that I usually take one pair of jeans, 2 “work” dresses, 2 business casual tops, one pair of flats, and one cardigan.  As soon as I perfect my packing skills, I will let you know.
  • Check the conference website for transportation directions or accommodations. Make sure you make the proper arrangements and know how to arrive at your final location. Do not leave it at the last minute, because you’ll be left scrambling at the airport or bus station (like me).
  • Before arriving, research the location. If the conference is in a big city, is there a museum or place that you’d like to visit? My favorite conference places are college campuses. I like to look at a map of where I am staying and also the necessary commodities that may be in the area (like the libraries and the school spirit shop).
  • If you have a tablet, leave the laptop at home. I usually take one overnight bag with me and find that the laptop takes more space than it should.  I am in the process of purchasing an iPad and portable keyboard, so that should alleviate some of the bulkiness.
  • Carry a small tote bag with you. Mine has the following: pen, small notebook, hand sanitizer, cell phone, conference packet/schedule, cell phone charger, water bottle, tissues, and a lot of snacks.
  • Take your own coffee mug. Most conferences tend to have coffee breaks, but I like to use my own mug because one could always use more coffee.
  • If it’s your first time, ask yourself, what is your goal? Is it to go to specific presentations? Is it to network? Is it to research something? Organize your schedule. Before arriving to the conference, have a copy of the schedule and choose which sessions you would like to attend. I find that doing this helps me have a calm and productive conference experience
  • If you attend a conference with friends or colleagues, remember to not only talk to librarians you do not know, but sit with them. Have lunch with a new group and get to know them. Food and new friends, what’s better?
  • Don’t forget those business cards! Always keep a couple handy, not only while you’re at the conference, but during dinners or happy hours.
  • Presentation jitters? Take some time before your presentation and go to your hotel room and practice either by yourself or with a friend. Or just take a couple moments to relax and meditate. 
  • Go to a presentation/workshop that is out of your element. I think we tend to attend presentations that are relevant to our job duties or research, and that’s to be expected. However, I like to go to at least one presentation that has nothing to do with my every day duties or research interests, It’s always enlightening to learn something new.
  • Conferences can be draining, so if you feel tired, rest! As always, to prevent burnout, get some rest the night before or try to pace yourself throughout the conference.

What are your tips for conference success? Share below in the comment section.

 

My Peeps, My Conference #acrl2017

Feeling so fortunate for the opportunity to attend ACRL in Baltimore, especially to meet my fellow ACRLoggers face-to-face!   With a plethora of conferences and development opportunities, it can be hard to justify attendance at a conference most people perceive as out of scope for a technical services librarian.  In a technical service-focused session I attended,  one librarian introduced herself by qualifying for the audience that her primary library association was ALCTS (Association of Library Collections and Technical Services).  I too have found some excellent development resources in the ALCTS community and established some professional scholarship there.  But  I’ve never felt my particular brand of technical services quite fit here.   This librarian’s certainty in her professional community had me pondering my ACRL conference experience and what sets it apart. [cue: David Byrne*]

How did I get here?
What is my conference?
Who is my community?

Most colleagues think I’m crazy, but I love ALA!  The community and the conference.  I love the size.  I love the ability to experience perspectives from all different kinds of libraries and all different parts of a library.  I love the chance to talk to vendors and (now, as a parent) the abundance of affordable souvenirs.  As a librarian responsible for budget matters, though, the timing of this conference becomes problematic, as it usually falls during our fiscal close.  So, although its provides good service opportunities, and the broadest professional network, this is not usually my conference.

NASIG (former acronym for North American Serials Interest Group) was probably the first specifically-focused professional community that really spoke my language.  I could dive deeper into world of serials librarianship, vendors, and systems in order to solve real work problems.  Similarly, as I became an e-resources librarian, ER&L was (and continues to be) one of my favorite professional communities for those same reasons.  Besides the added perk of being in beautiful Austin, TX each year, it also offers that user experience focus I am always seeking as a bridge from technical to public services. Both these communities see themselves as part of something bigger, despite the specialized name and audience they tend to attract.  Even so, the familiarity of a such specialized-focused conferences can at times be a crutch for broadening my perspective.

Hard as it may be to justify to my peeps here at home, I’m pretty sure my conference, my community is ACRL.  I say that not just because I blog here, and it’s more than just because I work in an academic library.  I do confess, it is in part resonant with Carla Hayden (ACRL Keynote and Librarian of Congress) declaring: “You all have the hippest conferences!”

ACRL Baltimore was only my second ACRL conference.  I first feel in love with ACRL 2015 in Portland, realizing it has a similar and unmistakeable “part of something big” feel as ALA, but with a greater chance of running into people I actually know.  I like ACRL because the language of research and academia is both familiar and challenging; the user focus I crave is meaningful and accessible; and I am often stretched in other areas, like leadership, political advocacy, and transforming shame into action.  I think (also like ER&L) I appreciate how this community of librarians challenge the norm.  As StevenB wrote of 2011’s conference, ACRL takes risks. Carla Hayden also recognized this, noting with appreciation that the conference was kept in Baltimore given all that was happening within this community.

ACRL librarians seem risk takers in their own right. They want to make a difference in what is otherwise perceived as an unchanging, institutionalized academia.  This year’s call for proposals asked for representation from the technical services perspective, perhaps challenging the perception that ACRL is overly-focused on scholarly communication and instruction.  Part of justifying my own attendance alongside all the other faculty who more obviously call this their conference their home means giving fresh eyes to how these issues matter in technical services and visa versa.

My strongest takeaways from this year’s conference were not scholarly community and instruction, but data analysis and visualization.  Opening keynote speaker, David McCandless, provided interactive, fun, complex, and thought-provoking data visualizations.  He explained why information is beautiful and also necessary at this particular time in our society.  I was surprised that this beauty, even in the most concerning analyses, felt primarily (and strangely) soothing.  That sense of calm resonates with McCandless’ assertion that visualizations allow you to simultaneously absorb and understand massive amounts of information, rather than become overwhelmed by it.  McCandless spoke our language when illustrating how easy and accessible the starting point is to such complex beauty — it begins with questions.  What do I want to know? What data might tell me about that?  What can it reveal?  Building on this keynote, I attended other sessions on communicating real value with data.   More than just making pictures from data we are asked to collect, I saw how concerted, beautiful design in visualization allows us to ask new questions.

I found “my peeps” are the ones always asking and welcoming questions.  ACRL allowed us to inquire a lot about equity and inclusion in our academic spaces.  Sessions and speakers offered perspective on this from the lens of scholarly access, to how we meet diverse instruction needs, to how we understand biases in our own scholarship, to service to our patrons, and in our personal and professional relationships.  Roxanne Gay, gave an amazing keynote and Q&A session to challenge my thinking on this.  Others, especially (I worried about) those chastised by #acrl2017 twitter afterwards, will hopefully see that challenge themselves and remain open to keep seeking too.

While uncomfortable, sure, that chastising (and don’t miss this other recap  too) demonstrates how the ACRL community challenges not just the institutional norm, but each other, individually.  I just find that refreshing.  It is a reminder that we definitely aren’t perfect, but we are always, must always be learning.

We do honor and openly appreciate each other publicly as well!  “Your peeps” was how final keynote speaker Carla Hayden acknowledged the various applause and shout-outs librarians received in the Q&A portion of her keynote.   So refreshingly approachable and energizing, her keynote challenged me to be more aware, to remember to explore the “more to everyone’s story”.  How she described the key factors motivating her to accept the position as Librarian of Congress reminded me of the necessity for transformation, while remaining true to ourselves and our service mission as librarians.

There is so much more to share from this conference — on technical services and public services interdependencies, on interlibrary loan and SciHub, and on important leadership and organizational management issues related to resilience, gender, and innovation. Watch for another post (either here or or on my own blog ) on these soon!

*Corrected misspelling with sincere apologies to the singer and his fans for the editorial slight.

The Merging of ACRL and the Diversity Alliance

As many of you know, I am a resident librarian at American University in Washington, DC. In my first post for ACRLog, I posted that my residency is  part of a program called the Diversity Alliance. This program began with four schools. American University, West Virginia University, University of Iowa, and Virginia Tech University. These schools hired resident librarians and we began during the summer/fall of 2015. According to the ACRL Residency Interest Group, a residency position is “post-degree work experience designed as an entry level program for recent graduates of an MLS program.”

Almost two years later, the eight residents have formed a close cohort where we support, listen, and uplift each other.

So, what exactly is the Diversity Alliance? The Diversity Alliance began as a small collaboration of four schools, but over the past year and a half, has grown significantly. Since its founding, the Diversity Alliance saw the potential in not only their own residency programs, but in the potential as an organization and its opportunity for growth. The American Association of Research Libraries (ACRL) announced that they would unite “academic libraries who share a commitment to increase the hiring pipeline of qualified, talented individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. By thinking bigger and broader, across all academic libraries, we will introduce and welcome to the job market underrepresented racial and ethnic groups with work experiences that advance academic/research libraries.” 

“The commitment of each library leader to create one or more residency positions will increase the numbers of opportunities for professionally underrepresented racial and ethnic groups to gain the knowledge, skills and competencies to thrive in an academic context.”

It started with 4 schools and now 24 other universities (and still growing) have pledged to establish a residency program at their libraries.

As a resident, it’s been a great experience to be able to attend conferences and have people come up to me and ask me about my residency. I have spoken with many who want to bring a residency position to their university and who want to know more about my experience.  I have noticed that the conversation of residents and residency programs has increased and that more interest continues to rise. 

However, we have to remember that residency programs are not a new concept. The Mary P. Key Diversity Residency Program from Ohio State University was initiated in 1989 and its past residents include Courtney Young, former president of the American Libraries Association and Jon Cawthorne, the current Dean of Libraries at West Virginia University. As you can see, residencies have the potential to create top-notch librarians.

My hope is that years from now, we can look back at former residents of the Diversity Alliance and be proud of their accomplishments and show that residencies are beneficial in mentoring and allowing librarians the opportunity to explore the different facets of academic librarianship.

Over the past year and a half at American University, I have been able to kick-off my career as an academic librarian. I have had the support of my wonderful colleagues, my amazing mentor, and the support of American University. Through this residency, not only have I been able to get a great start on my career, but I was also able to participate and contribute to the university through committee work. During my time at American University, I have served on university-wide faculty committees, search committees for the library, and pursue my own interests outside of reference and instruction.

It has been a great experience and one I am lucky to have. That is why I am happy to share that American University will be hiring a second resident librarian! I am excited to have a second resident working alongside my colleagues and myself at American University.

Be sure to check out the job post and make sure to apply. If you have any questions, please email the address in the job listing or myself at Qlbarri@american.edu.