Join the ACRLog Blog Team!

Are you interested in writing about issues that affect academic libraries? We’re looking to bring on a few new bloggers here at ACRLog!

Members of the ACRLog blog team write on any issue or idea that impacts academic librarianship, from current news items to workflow and procedural topics to upcoming changes in the profession and more. We aim to have group of bloggers who represent diverse perspectives on and career stages in academic librarianship who can commit to writing 1-2 posts per month. We’re especially interested to hear from librarians interested in writing about cataloging or technology, or those working at small colleges or community colleges, to balance the strengths of our current bloggers

If this sounds like you, use the ACRLog Tip Page to drop us a line by August 15th. Let us know who you are and why you’d like to blog at ACRLog, and send us a sample blog post. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

Another Goodbye

Well, today is my last post for ACRLog. When I started writing last October, I was in the middle of my first year of librarianship. Now I’ve got a year and half under my belt, and I don’t think I can claim the mantle of “first year experience” anymore. It’s time for me to move on to other things and make room for the next crop of first year librarians. I’ll still be grappling with many of the same questions I’ve written about this year, but I’m looking forward to entering my second academic year here with some of the confidence that experience brings.

Before I go, I want to thank the ACRLog team who made this such a positive experience for me by checking in each month, kicking around ideas for posts, and offering feedback on blog drafts. For any would-be bloggers who are interested in reflecting on and processing your first year of academic librarianship in a public space: don’t be afraid! There will be plenty of guidance and support along the way.

I wrote last month about some of the challenges I’ve experienced as I’ve made writing a more regular part of my professional practice, but I didn’t highlight some of the best parts of writing, and particularly of writing for ACRLog. In my efforts to generate ideas for posts, I’ve been inspired to read more widely which has had the natural effect of broadening my interests. I’ve started engaging in instead of standing on the sidelines of conversations happening in our field.  And I’ve starting clarifying my own philosophy of librarianship through the process. Thanks to ACRLog for giving me the space to do that, and thanks to everyone who engaged with my posts. As Quetzalli said, it is always nice to hear that something you’ve written has been read by others. I’m grateful for the conversations that came out of writing for this blog and hope to continue them even now that I’m moving on to other things.

Telling the stories of our spaces

Space is a challenge in my library. With limited square footage, we sometimes don’t have enough seating for the number of students seeking to use our space. We can’t accommodate all the furniture types and configurations we need for students’ assorted library space uses. We’re further challenged by the competition of different space uses (read: noise levels) in such close proximity. It’s not a surprise, then, that space improvement is a topic that’s on my mind quite often. We’re working to address these issues and needs with both small enhancements and larger-scale improvements, thinking about adjustments to our existing footprint while also advocating for an expansion.

Collecting and using data effectively is vital to our ability to identify, plan, and implement improvements. Relying on our assumptions about how students use and feel about space and services won’t cut it. So we’ve been using a variety of methods, both formal and informal, to inform our understanding of students and space–and how it could better meet their needs. Quantitative data like gate counts and service transactions document foot traffic and usage patterns. Occupancy rates show how many (or how few, as the case may be) seats we have in the library in relation to how many students we have. Enrollment trends and projections for our campus provide important context. Qualitative data–gathered through informal focus group meetings with student government and clubs and through questions posted on whiteboards in the library inviting students’ comments on space use and needs–contribute important, albeit selected, student perspectives to our understanding. And there are surely more data pieces we could gather and fit together in this puzzle. All this data can help us understand our current physical constraints and usage patterns and plan improved spaces.

Of course, space is tight on our campus for many departments and needs, not just the library. And competition for money is stiff. Funding for these improvements hinges, at least significantly if not entirely, on sharing the data in a meaningful and compelling way and effectively demonstrating our students’ needs. I’ve been searching around a bit for some inspiration or insight into how I might best tell the story of our students and space and stumbled across this from Jonathan Harris at just the right moment: “I think people have begun to forget how powerful human stories are, exchanging their sense of empathy for a fetishistic fascination with data, networks, patterns, and total information… Really, the data is just part of the story. The human stuff is the main stuff, and the data should enrich it.” Right when I was drowning in all the data visualization best practices and software recommendations–helpful in their own right to be sure–this timely reminder re-focused my view on the students at the center of our space story.

What has helped you tell the story of your students and spaces? How have you made your story and advocacy most compelling? Your planning most effective? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

 

A Farewell to you all

I wanted to come on here to say a good bye. This will be my last blog post for ACRLog. I began writing for ACRLog about 3 years ago, when I was right out of library school and starting my first professional job.

ACRLog has allowed me the opportunity to voice my thoughts about not only academic librarianship, but social issues like DACA or the current state of library residency positions.

At first, I saw this writing opportunity as a way for me to let my thoughts out and provide some type of productive advice. Recently, I was on an on-campus interview and near the end of a meeting, one of the librarians told me that she had enjoyed some of my job-hunt related posts. It made me smile because I thought, “wow, people actually read my articles!” As silly as it might sound, sometimes when you’re writing a blog post, you don’t think that anybody is going to read it.

I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone who read any of my (sometimes very long) blog posts. I also want to thank the ACRLog team for being the supportive and kind librarians I can look up to.

As some might know, my time as a Resident Librarian has come to an end at American University. I will be moving to the Boston area where I will continue with academic librarianship. I hope to see some of you around!

Thoughts on Writing From a First-Time Author

One of my performance goals this year is to write more. My position isn’t tenure-track so there’s no pressure to publish, but finding meaning in my work is important to me and the best way I know how to that is drawing connections between what I’m doing all day and the broader environment in which I’m doing it; in other words, building a reflective practice.

Writing is, at least for me, a deeply uncomfortable process. I suspect this likely because it’s an un-flexed muscle of mine. I applied to write for ACRLog because I wanted to push myself to write more often for a public audience, hoping that the process would get easier, and to get more comfortable articulating my own thoughts about librarianship. Each month, I go through several false starts. I’ll write half a blog post hoping that the thing I want to say will become more clear to me as I write. Sometimes this happens and sometimes it doesn’t, so I’ll often end up switching several times settling on my final topic. I’ve also learned that I need to give myself plenty of time for editing. I wish I were the type of writer who could dash something off, perfectly formed, but I find myself having to back and rewrite and rearrange constantly in order to come up with something I feel really gets to the point I was trying to make in the first place.

It’s also a very vulnerable process to share your writing with other people, even if (maybe especially if?) it’s in a professional context. I think the most engaging writers and the ones I’ve learned the most from manage to be radically honest in their writing, even for an audience of their professional colleagues. While this is what I am working towards, I still find myself worrying in advance about how something I write will be received. I wonder if openness, too, is a muscle that needs to be flexed regularly.

These thoughts have been on my mind recently because I’m about to submit the first draft of the first book chapter I’ve ever worked on, and I’m feeling nervous about sending it off for feedback. I was lucky to collaborate with three of my colleagues on it, and I was reminded of this as I read Michele Santamaria’s recent post on Embracing the Value of Sharing “Rough Work”, in which she writes about the value of being part of a learning community and sharing “rough” work with your peers. The research community she describes challenged and encouraged the author as she was working on a project outside her comfort zone, and I completely relate. Although it wasn’t a formalized learning community, working alongside my colleagues (sometimes literally) on this chapter opened up space to work together on moving from unformed ideas to rough work to an actual chapter. In truth, I don’t think I would have been able to get through a project like this without their solidarity, encouragement, and feedback.

Pushing myself to write and to grapple with the insecurities it brings has helped me grow, but it also helps me empathize more with the undergraduate students I work with (and graduate students and faculty – I’m sure they’re not immune!). It’s easy to talk about “Scholarship as Conversation” and jauntily remind students that they are scholars, too, but writing this chapter reminded me that it is really, really hard sometimes to figure out what it is that you could actually contribute to that conversation and intimidating to assert your own thoughts and ideas in a realm that you may have only experienced as a consumer. There may not be a lightbulb moment where you realize you have a brilliant idea to contribute to the scholarly dialogue. Maybe the only way to get there is to practice.