Serving the needs of all patrons

I think that everyone would agree that libraries are here to serve all their patrons. Over the past few weeks, my library has seen an unusual increase in the number of public patrons who come to use the internet on our public workstations. Now that second semester is in full swing, there have been moments when there are not workstations for students who came to the library to do research. The problem was identified by all of our staff members and we set out to discuss what actions should be taken during several staff meetings. I felt that this was one policy discussion that library school prepared me well to debate. When in graduate school, we talked about the pros and cons of similar situations and possible actions and repercussions. I applied the same discussions I had with other students in classes to our staff meetings. Since we are a federal depository library, and therefore open to the public for use of government information, we did not to ask public patrons to refrain from visiting, but have asked them to use the library’s computers for research purposes during high traffic times of student use. So far, the action has worked and we have struck a balance between the two groups needs. Public patrons who came to game or surf the internet are willing to transfer to another computer so students can use the ones located near the reference desk. I know that similar situations happen in libraries all over. I am curious to see how others libraries have acted in like situations; please feel free to share your comments.

Approaching the next semester

Last time I wrote, I was preparing to say good-bye to a colleague who helped me work through my first semester as an academic librarian. As spring semester approaches, my library welcomes a new member to our staff. The search committee and hiring processes wrapped up and I think the experience was something that library schools should touch on to prepare new librarians for once in the working world. For any new librarian who will go through the process, I recommended listening to others on the committee and to your human resources contact for the legal aspects you must keep in mind during the search process. I also went through notes from my administration and management class in graduate school – to refresh the basics. Most importantly, make sure that you speak up in search committee meetings – remember, you will be hiring a new staff member that everyone will have to work with everyday. Our new staff member started this week and I have helped with the transition and the training; all is going well. Training is one of the easiest parts of the transition; library school did a wonderful job preparing me for that aspect.

End of the semester changes & challenges

As we near the end of the first semester, I have more added to my plate than last minute reference questions concerning papers, projects, and presentations. A long time staff member has decided to make a career move to another institution and we will have to hire a replacement. As a result, I have become a member of the search committee to hire a replacement – something which I have never done before. Although graduate school covered hiring practices in my administration & management classes, it has been quite challenging with many promising applicants. The other librarians and older faculty members on staff have been most helpful in the beginning stages of the process. The second challenge that we will be facing as a library staff is a major conversion of our circulation, acquisitions, and cataloging systems. Again, older staff members and librarians at other institutions have been most helpful during the first few weeks on a topic that is not covered in library school. A topic that is not necessarily able to be covered in school, but one of those changes that you can only work through and learn from the experience. The unseen challenges and preparation work make me a little nervous, but once we complete the switch (and hire someone new just before it happens), it will be a learning experience that can be applied again and again in the future.

Keeping up with it all…

I have made it halfway through my first semester and I find that keeping up with professional development is a time consuming task. There is so much information out there. Over the past couple of months, I have received several emails from other new academic librarians in their first professional job like myself. Professional development is always a topic that is mentioned and I would invite input from librarians with more experience as to how you manage it. I attempt to read a few journals regularly, receive digests from listservs, read blogs, and talk with colleagues. I have also attended the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in New Orleans and thought that the presentations, poster sessions, and speakers were another source of information. Is there anything I am missing? Are there any other sources of information that you keep track of? Do you attend many conferences? Are their specific publications or sources that have proved themselves more useful than others? For those of us who are new to the profession, I think that dialogues with more experienced colleagues are a great source of information and know-how. After all, exchange of information is a two-way street. The other librarians that I work with have been tremendously helpful as I get through the first year and learn the ropes. I would value input and advice from other members of the profession.

Lessons Learned

Midterms are just as busy for librarians as they are for students. This week, I completed 11 instructional sessions for a variety of classes and I think that it served as “my right of passage” into academic librarianship. Overall, graduate school prepared me well and I approached the task with a variety of resources available, including assistance and support from other librarians on staff. While I have been busy teaching library instruction sessions, the students have been teaching me a thing or two as well. First, no matter how well you plan a class, it will have to change at some point. Each class has its own dynamic and what works in one class might not translate well into another. Backup plans are great. Second, some students think that they know more about information resources than they really do. Even though I am relatively new librarian, I find the best method is to gently point them in the right direction. I tell them learning is an ongoing process and new resources at the college level are just the next step. Third, students think librarians are cool! We can find resources on almost any topic, know all of the databases and their uses, we can edit citations, and we can even fix the printers! It has been satisfying to have students come back over and over again with new questions. It has been nice to have them knock at my office door to let me know they got an “A” on that paper. It demonstrates that they trust us, still need us, and are ready to take their information skill set to the next level.