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!

Finishing up a Library Residency: My Final Thoughts

It has been almost three years since I moved to Washington DC for the Resident Librarian position at American University. My contract was for three years and this July, that contract will end. As I am preparing for my next steps, applying to jobs, and going through life changes, I am inclined to reflect on my residency and the residencies I have seen show up in our field over the past three years. Most of it positive, but some that has me left with questions.

Let’s start with the good:

I was the very first Resident Librarian at American University and while the first year was a little unstructured and we were all still learning, I have to say that the past two years have been productive and joyful. Not only is my residency more structured, but I also received so much support for developing as a professional. The support and success I have had has to do with the following:

Professional development funds: Here at AU, we have funds set aside for each librarian, which we can use to attend conferences or other professional development events. With this support, I have been able to present at conferences all over the country (National Diversity in Libraries Conference, ALA Annual, and ACRL NEC 2018) and meet other fellow resident librarians. Presenting and traveling to these conferences are essential, especially to an early career librarian who is looking to meet new professionals and get their name out there.

Peer-mentorship: As I was able to travel to conferences and get involved in the ACRL Residency Interest Group, I was able to network. A whole new world of resident librarianship opened up to me. I am glad and proud to say that I found a supportive, kind, and ambitious community in resident librarians, as well as other early-career librarians.

Formal mentorship: Many of you have heard me rave about my mentorship experience, but I will repeat it once more. At the beginning of my residency, I was paired with my mentor, Nikhat Ghouse. She has been a librarian for about 20 years, is a former resident librarian, and someone who has guided me, trusted in me, and pushed me to fulfill my full potential. Along with my formal mentor, I had others who have guided and advised me throughout my residency. I have learned so much from them and am grateful to have them in my life. They know who they are and without them, I would not have had such a productive time during my residency.

American University colleagues: Last, but not least, I have had amazing colleagues. My colleagues at American University immediately made me feel welcomed and part of the faculty. Throughout these three years, I felt like the administrators put their trust in me, especially when it came to taking on a larger teaching load, interim liaison duties, and participating in service throughout the university. I have heard of so many residents who say they did not receive much support throughout their residencies, so I am grateful to have a great group of librarians and mentors at American University. I try not to think about it, but when I leave in July, I will be sad to leave them. However, I know that they are colleagues for life.

Let’s talk about the…questionable things:

Goals of a residency: Over the past three years, I have spoken to and interacted with people who still do not know what the point of a residency program is. Some seem to have the idea that a residency is a type of internship. I will say that this accounts for very few people I have interacted with. It causes me to think if we as a profession have not done a great job at effectively communicating what a residency is or if the goals and definition of a residency are so vague, that it is hard for some to comprehend.

Rotational Residencies: This might be unpopular, but I am not a fan of rotational residencies. When American University posted their job description for their very first resident librarian, they advertised it as a position that would focus on reference and instruction. They also added in the description that the resident librarian would have the opportunity to work with other departments. While the freedom to explore other departments was appreciated, I knew going in that I wanted to work in public services. I knew that I wanted to improve my teaching and work with first year students. When I voiced these interests, I was able to take on duties that allowed me to work with incoming freshman and first year students.

I personally believe that if an institution is going to have a rotational residency, then they should plan this with the incoming resident librarian. At the very least, allow the incoming resident the freedom to be embedded in one department, but also have opportunities and freedom to work (or not work) with other departments. If a resident prefers one department to another and chooses to work with them, then this is going to make their residency more productive. Let us remember that many of these residencies tend to be two-year terms and that is actually a very short time to get significant experience, so that you’re able to get a job you want after you leave your residency.

Lack of support from an institution: Most, if not all residencies are promoted as positions that will provide you the opportunity to become immersed in academic libraries. These institutions also might promise support in the form of mentorship and professional development opportunities. It is unfortunate that I have spoken to resident librarians that are frustrated in their residency, because they are not getting the support and guidance that they were promised. As an example, I received an email about a year ago from a resident librarian I have known for a couple of years. They had emailed me because they were now in the instruction portion of their residency rotation and had taught their first class. This resident felt like it had not gone well and needed some advice. In their email, they mentioned that they had not received enough training. While I shared my advice on instruction, it was disturbing to me that an institution would let a resident librarian, who did not have much instruction experience go out and teach a class without basic training. Had there not been an observation of how other librarians teach? Was the resident librarian able to co-teach before teaching a class on their own? It is disappointing, but while it is an institutions job to make sure that a resident librarian gets the proper training, the responsibility tends to fall on the resident librarian to keep their institution accountable.

Final Thoughts:

Our field of librarianship puts a lot of emphasis on the recruitment of librarians of color and from underrepresented groups, but once you get a resident librarian at your institution, that institution now bears some of the responsibility of retaining that person. If a resident librarian is not getting the training and experience that was promised and important to their career, then how can we expect them to want to stay in academic librarianship?

All of this brings me to my final point. In the past three years I have been a resident librarian, I have voiced my opinions and concerns, along with many other librarians about some of the issues with residency programs. While there are many in our field who truly care about improving the residency experience, there are some, who are involved in forming these residencies or coordinating residents, that are willing to listen to our residency feedback, but are not willing to address it and take action. When this happens, the issues are ignored, not taken seriously, or scoffed at. This is not helping anyone and I predict that these issues will begin to stack up and affect retention rates of these resident librarians and residency programs.

My last piece of advice would be for resident librarians. If you find yourself in a not-so-great situation at your institute, please know that there are people who are willing to listen to you and support you. Groups such as ACRL Residency Interest Group, We Here, or a long list of former resident librarians. Your experience is important, your concerns are important, and your success is important.

Classroom Woes: What to do when class does not go as planned

As librarians and teachers, there have been times in the classroom where we have encountered testing situations. We have all had our good and not-so-good classes, but for the most part, we come out of those classrooms feeling confident that we showed and taught students the resources that will be most useful to them. We have also interacted with students and faculty of different backgrounds and different personalities.

However, what happens when you walk into a classroom and can immediately sense the tension between the students and professor? The sense of distrust and disrespect that both sides have for each other?

At that moment, what do you do?

  • Assert yourself and take control of the room, because it is obvious that the professor is not going to.
  • This type of control will be different for every librarian, but for me, it is about having a strong tone of voice that you are comfortable in, making sure that all the students feel involved in the conversation, and not letting the side conversations take over.
  • If it’s not in your personality to be strict or harsh, then don’t.
  • Put your frustration aside, because at this moment, it is not productive or useful to anyone.

Some would say that it is the professor’s responsibility to make sure that their class is respectful and attentive. However, when it is clear that it is not the case, the responsibility is on you.

So, what happens after? What do we learn? As someone who was put in this position a short time ago, here is what I did.

  • You cannot blame yourself for the atmosphere. Sometimes librarians get caught in the middle of these bad situations and we cannot do much except do our job.
  • Reflect on the situation. I keep a personal log to reflect on my library instruction sessions. I have found it useful in keeping track of what I have taught and my progress as a teacher.
  • Do not feel pressured into having more library sessions for this professor.

With everything being said, I was glad to have experienced this situation. Even though I was not happy in that moment, it allowed me think quickly on my feet. All my previous teaching experienced allowed me to quickly gauge the situation and prevent it from getting worst. Has anyone else experienced something like this? What was your reaction in the moment?

 

 

 

 

 

From Mentor to Mentee: Navigating Peer-to-Peer Relationships

As I am writing this blog, I am sitting in my bedroom. It’s an odd combination of the hot air coming from the vents, but the freezing air coming from the window. Like everyone and their grandmas, the pipes at our house have frozen a couple times this week. Living in DC, we don’t experience much single digit weather, but we make do. As I have been wallowing in self pity of my household woes, I caught up with a friend who is currently in her last semester of library school and applying to jobs. 

However, this blog is not about the job hunt, it’s about informal peer-to-peer mentorship. While there are many formal programs, relationships, or structures to this type of mentorship, a lot of us “fall” into it. When I got my first job at American University, this particular friend was thinking about going to library school and I found myself being giving her the information and mentorship that I wish I had gotten before starting library school.

Almost two years have passed since my friend entered library school and our friendship has evolved in many ways. While we are experiencing different phases of our lives, our conversations changed from the topic of library school and recommended classes, to the very first job search and the stress and anxiety that comes with that.

In the midst of sharing my own interview tips, I was caught by surprise. I noticed that the roles had flipped. She was now mentoring and giving her assurance to me. Seeing as how I am geographically bound on my current job search, she was sending me job posts and assuring me that the job market would pick up. She was telling me that everything was going to be alright. 

This type of informal peer-to-peer mentorship relationship is important because it helps the next generation of librarians, but also because of the shared experiences the two of you might encounter and share, both positive and negative. Peer-to-peer mentorship relationships are an integral part of your growth as a librarian.

Anyone can share their experiences in library land, their journey through that first job hunt, or any other helpful information. However, there are some topics that may be a little hard to discuss and share with just anyone. 

I believe that the foundation of a good mentorship relationship of any kind is trust, empathy, and respect. It takes these three things to be able to talk openly about some difficult topics in librarianship. Topics such as being the very few women of color at your workplace, microaggressions, unspoken rules of interviewing for a job, or navigating difficult relationships.

Having these conversations allows for reflection, discussion, and action. The great thing about this relationship is that you’re able to see the growth of the other person, both personally and professionally. It’s almost as if you’ve grown up together and become adults. I encourage everyone to cherish these relationships because your education as a librarian is never over. The best teachers are the ones closest to you. 

Library Job Hunt: Round Two

Recently, I was at an on-campus interview for a position at a large academic library. Early on in the day, I found myself being relaxed and calm. I was not sure if the environment was so welcoming, that it made me feel this way or if I had just gotten better at interviewing. I’d like to think it was both. It has been two and a half years since my last interview. The first time around, I remember being nervous and afraid I would blow the teaching demo/presentation portion. Second time around, I still had some nervousness, but a couple of things were different. I know the internet is full of “tips and tricks” for academic library interviews, so this is geared for librarians who might still be “early career” professionals and are gearing up to move on to a new job.

Two tips:

  • Schedule a mock/practice presentation/teaching demo. Invite five or so colleagues and remember to leave plenty of time at the end for feedback. When I was in library school, one of my supervisors came up to me and said “I scheduled a room for a mock presentation and invited a couple of librarians.” I was taken aback and was definitely nervous about presenting in front of these experienced people (a lot whom I admire). Now, as a professional, you take it upon yourself to schedule a practice presentation and welcome constructive criticism from your colleagues.
  • Interview preparation is about the same. Except, this second time around, I had already served on a couple of search committees. I knew what questions were to be expected and which ones I needed to work on. I will admit that my phone interview for this most recent position…was not the best. Therefore, I knew I had to redeem myself during the on-campus interview.

For the most part, the preparation aspect was the same. However, I found myself going into this interview with confidence. This time around, I had two and a half years under my belt. I was more confident in my abilities, my experience, my presentation, and myself. A couple of stark differences this second time around was the questions I had for the committee and the rest of the administration members I met with. My questions were mostly focused on their role as faculty members at that institution, their method of evaluation for librarians and how they receive promotions, and their work environment. I have certain things that I look for in a job and I am sure you do as well. During this whole process, I found myself dealing with more anxiety and frustration at my presentation, because I expected an almost-perfect product. Is this realistic? Maybe not. I was a lot harder on myself, because you cannot expect others to push you to be your best. You have to do that on your own.

In conclusion,  I felt a heck of a lot more confident this time. Show off! I know it’s easier said than done, but if you don’t show off your experience, your skills, and what you bring to the table, then when can you?

Fellow librarians who have had their second or even third round of this job hunt, what tips do you have? What was different then? How do you interview now? Comment down below!