FYAL Observations

Editor’s Note: Please join us in welcoming Rosemary Medrano, Collections Management and Research Librarian at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, as a new First Year Academic Librarian blogger for the 2022-2023 year here at ACRLog.

As I slide past the 3 month mark that concludes my probationary period as the Collections Manager and Research Librarian at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, it’s a good time to reflect. This is my first job at an academic library, but I had been working at a local public library for close to 5 years before this. After graduating with my MLIS in May, I knew I wanted to make a shift that would better match my professional interests. A position opened up in the same city that I live in, and while it was hard to leave the public library and all the good work we were doing, I think I made the right decision. I’ve been thinking a lot about the day-to-day work in each library and here are some of my general observations:

  • In public libraries you’re expected to be all things to all people, or maybe you expect yourself to be. I found this to be completely unsustainable. So far in this job, I’ve been able to focus on the two aspects of my job title, but I can see how even that demonstrates a trend in the workforce of having to fill multiple roles. They are totally different skill sets that could be filled by two people. I’m sure this is mirrored at countless other academic libraries where librarians are pulling double-duty. It will be interesting to see if and how this trend will change as the workforce changes in age and culture.  
  • There are different kinds of busy. At the public library, I could not sit at the computer in my office for very long before being interrupted by a phone call that bounced back from the reference desk, a coworker needing help after a long line of patrons started forming, or patrons casually strolling into the office to chat or ask for help. At times, it was difficult to complete other tasks. Now, I am rarely not at my desk, the work still piles up, but I look forward to being interrupted by students needing research help. I wonder if a year from now I will be an open door or closed door type of librarian when I am not having office hours.
  • I was worried about making the shift, but skills I developed at the public library are definitely transferable to the academic setting. What has been difficult is the transition to a different service model. It’s not better, or worse – just different. I’m sure I’ll be spending this next year developing this different style of research help where we teach how to search and how to use the catalog instead of just giving people their answers. Honing collection development to be more data-driven and curriculum supporting will also be a lot different than purchasing for the public library collection based on reviews and usage. I have some ideas on improving circulation that I brought with me, and I want to experiment with here. I’ll report back if I’ve had any success on the implementation or on the increasing circulation part.

Before I graduated, I was able to connect with some librarians across the US and Canada. They generously shared their time and talked about their paths to academic librarianship. It really gave me an advantage when I was applying for this job. It also gave me some perspective when I was thinking about changing jobs. To me, the academic library was shiny and new, and I held it up on a pillar. I’m thankful for the reality check and I look forward to the challenges this job brings.   

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