Digging In: Reflecting on a Work Anniversary

This week, I celebrated my two year work anniversary. I feel like I say this a lot, but I both can’t believe I’ve been here two years and also feel like I just started. A lot has happened in a short amount of time! In addition to this anniversary, I’ve also spent most of July compiling my dossier for tenure consideration this fall. Naturally, I’m spending a lot of time taking stock of how I got here, what I’ve accomplished, and what’s next.

When I think about my two years at my current institution, I see a different focus each year. My first year was focused on getting to know my team, understanding the dynamics of the library, and figuring out the type of supervisor I wanted to be. I felt very internal, but knew I wanted to establish a strong foundation before trying to face more externally. My second year was focused on getting out of the library and building relationships with folks across campus. This external relationships piece is one of my favorite parts of the job. I like to represent the library, hear about challenges and successes across campus, and seek out intersections for collaboration. These days, I find that I’m more comfortable walking around campus, seeing people I know, and getting together to figure out what’s next. I can only hope that year three will be a nice mix of work happening inside the library and collaboration with folks across campus.

The thing I’ve been thinking about a lot is the “figuring out what’s next” piece. During my meetings this summer, I felt like I was working with folks and we were laying out ideas that spanned more than just this upcoming academic year. I found myself referencing AY 24-25 or even AY 25-26! As I left those meetings, I thought about the ways I am “digging in” to the work. I’m envisioning a future at this institution for many years. This isn’t something I’ve experienced before. I’m both a little scared of this feeling and also excited about what it means for me.

While I was at my former institution for five years, I can’t place a time where I felt this “digging in.” Sure, I thought about the future of my work, but I don’t think I saw it as clearly on the horizon as I do right now. I can’t quite parse if that’s because I’m in a department head role and I naturally think forward multiple years, or if there’s something different about this role and location where I feel comfortable thinking ahead like that. In some ways, I think it is a combo of being wearing that department head and the location where I’m living. I genuinely enjoy living in Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky and I have a community around me that feels permanent in a way that I didn’t always feel in other spots, where everyone around me felt transient. 

Of course the other factor that could play into this “digging in” feeling is tenure. At my former institution, I left before I encountered my sixth year dossier. Now, it’s right there on the horizon. This summer, it was so satisfying to put all my work together and shape the narrative of my career trajectory. I found more parallels between my work as the Student Engagement Coordinator and as a department head. I could more clearly see the shifts in my thinking and my scholarship. I see my growth and I hope I’ve articulated that in a way that everyone can see. For me, achieving tenure doesn’t feel like stopping at the top of the mountain, but instead, gates opening up onto a new space, full of possibilities and options. 

Now this post isn’t meant to imply that everything is great. My institution is facing issues similar to other colleges and universities; enrollment challenges, budget concerns, and smaller staff/faculty numbers. We’re searching for new leadership and colleagues across the institution are stepping into interim roles while we wait to see how things pan out. We’ve definitely got our work cut out for us this year. I come to work every day, wondering what will happen next. As a supervisor, I’m trying to find ways to share information, hear questions, concerns, and fears from the team, and focus on the things we have in our control. Despite the uncertainty, I feel ready to dig in. Looking forward to seeing what’s next in year three. 

Featured image by Hadija on Unsplash

Unraveling the Bylaws Web: A Fresh Perspective on Institutional Memory

Editor’s note: This guest post has been authored by Stephanie Bennett and Rebecca Shaw. Stephanie is the Liaison Librarian for the Sciences and Rebecca is the Music Librarian at Appalachian State University.

Starting a new job can often feel like jumping into an unfamiliar river. You know how to swim, but you’re uncertain about the strength of the current or the temperature of the water. One very quick way to become acquainted with the ins and outs of a new institution is to dive head first into reviewing, revising, and writing new policies.

The following post is co-authored by two librarians who are new to Appalachian State University. Both authors hold distinct positions and come from smaller academic libraries that have different procedures and statuses from Appalachian State. Stephanie is a Collections Development librarian, serving as a liaison to the Science disciplines. Rebecca is a Music librarian who primarily works at the Nicholas Erneston Music Library, just a short walk from the main library on campus.

In early 2023, the University Libraries at Appalachian State University issued a call for volunteers to join a committee tasked with evaluating the Library Faculty Guidelines and creating accompanying Bylaws. These Bylaws are meant to assist with faculty governance at the department level. This process was in response to Faculty Senate-led revisions to the University’s Faculty Handbook. All academic departments on campus were engaged in similar work.

To initiate the process, a call was made for faculty librarians to join the governance body responsible for drafting the Bylaws document. Initially, we felt that joining the group would be unproductive. We would be two brand new faculty on a committee of seasoned librarians, joining a group that had already been working together as the Departmental Personnel Committee. Furthermore, this process can be highly procedural, with institutional memory playing a crucial role. Without it, important meaning can be lost. As new faculty, we lacked, for example, the previous knowledge that there were documents already in existence that addressed procedures. We also did not have the knowledge of the reasoning why those documents had previously been formed in the first place. However, a request was made for newer faculty members to consider joining, as a fresh perspective on policy was desired.

And so, our journey into drafting the Bylaws of our Library Faculty Guidelines, a completely new document for University Libraries, began. We started by reviewing existing Bylaws from other academic libraries. Several institutions, including Virginia Commonwealth University, Western Carolina, and the University of Cincinnati made their Bylaws documents available online. Our committee also reached out through ALA Connect to gain insights into how others approached drafting Bylaws. We received some wonderful feedback!

Robert Labaree from the University of Southern California recommended including provisions for updating the document while keeping it as concise as possible. He also suggested reviewing and aligning with the Faculty Senate Bylaws document to maintain consistency with our institution. Laura Gariepy from Virginia Commonwealth University shared that their library was considering a process to move away from Robert’s Rules of Order. This in turn led to our own discussion about transitioning library faculty meetings away from Robert’s. Although there are certain instances where we are required to use Robert’s Rules of Order, we do not necessarily need to use them for our faculty meetings. Moving away from Robert’s Rules could provide some flexibility, and conceivably allow others to feel more at ease with voicing their thoughts, without being overly concerned with restrictive procedure. 

The process of writing and revising Bylaws and foundational documents is a messy process that at times can be tedious. But it also offers an important opportunity to examine, question, and reframe how we want to function as a community of faculty librarians. Some of the topics discussed for inclusion in the Bylaws include: procedures for voting, special faculty status, faculty membership, and faculty governance committees such as the Appointment, Promotion, & Tenure Committee (aka APT). For example, when examining our process for voting, we discussed the process for making sure everyone’s voice is heard. We considered what might constitute an appropriate ballot. Would we only consider paper ballots each time? How would we handle absentee ballots, or would there ever be a time where we would rely only on electronic ballots? Moving forward, we will continue to have these conversations.

As one can imagine, navigating through multiple documents and ensuring consistency so that they all fit together seamlessly is a repetitive challenge, even for experienced librarians. For someone new, it can feel like treading water. As our committee updated the draft, we consulted with the rest of the library faculty for their input. This was done by sending out a draft for review where library faculty could add their comments. We also made space in our Faculty Meetings for open discussion of the Bylaws draft. Many suggestions lead to further revisions and discussions, and this process went on through several iterations. While this process can be tedious, it is a reminder for why having a provision in the documents for future revisions is so essential. 

We also will need to carefully align the library’s Guidelines and Bylaws with the broader institution. Without knowledge of past situations or institutional memory, it’s difficult to contribute ideas without the fear of potentially wasting the committee’s time. Concerns about important omissions and the fear of raising trivial apprehensions, are experiences shared by both authors of this post. But, truthfully, these fears have been alleviated by recognizing that the library is relatively ahead in the process compared to other departments on campus. As we continue this journey, we will make further adjustments to our foundational documents, the Library Faculty Handbook, and our new Bylaws. We are still swimming with the current!

ChatGPT Can’t Envision Anything: It’s Actually BS-ing

 Since my first post on ChatGPT way back at the end of January (which feels like lifetimes ago), I’ve been keeping up with all things AI-related. As much as I can, anyway. My Zotero folder on the subject feels like it doubles in size all the time. One aspect of AI Literacy that I am deeply concerned about is the anthropomorphizing of ChatGPT; I have seen this more generally across the internet, and now I am seeing it happen in library spaces. What I mean by this is calling ChatGPT a “colleague” or “mentor” or referring to its output as ChatGPT’s thoughts.   

I am seriously concerned by “fun” articles that anthropomorphize ChatGPT in this way. We’re all librarians with evaluation skills that can critically think about ChatGPT’s answers to our prompts. But our knowledge on large language models varies from person to person, and it feels quite irresponsible to publish something wherein ChatGPT is referred to as a “colleague.” Even if ChatGPT is the one that “wrote” that.  

Part of this is simply because we don’t have much language to describe what ChatGPT is doing, so we resort to things like “what ChatGPT thought.” A large language model does not think. It is putting words in order based on how they’ve been put in order in its past training data. We can think of it like a giant autocomplete, or to be a bit crasser: a worldclass bullshitter.  

Because natural language is used both when engaging with ChatGPT and when it generates answers, we are more inclined to personify the software. In my own tests lately, my colleague pointed out that I said “Oh, sorry,” when ChatGPT said it couldn’t do something I asked it to do. It is incredibly difficult to not treat ChatGPT like something that thinks or has feelings, even for someone like me who’s been immersed in the literature for a while now.  Given that, we need to be vigilant about the danger of anthropomorphizing.  

I also find myself concerned with articles that are mostly AI-generated, with maybe a paragraph or two from the human author.  Given, the author had to come up with specific prompts and ask ChatGPT to tweak its results, but I don’t think that’s enough. My own post back in January doesn’t even list the ChatGPT results in its body; I link out to it, and all 890 words are my own thoughts and musings (with some citations along the way). Why are we giving a large language model a direct platform? And one as popular as ChatGPT, at that? I’d love to say that I don’t think people are going to continue having ChatGPT write their articles for them, but it just happened with a lawyer writing an argument with fake sources (Weiser, 2023).  

Cox and Tzoc wrote about the implications of ChatGPT for academic libraries back in March, and they have done a fairly good job with driving home that ChatGPT is not a “someone.” It’s continuously referred to as a tool throughout. I don’t necessarily agree that ChatGPT is the best tool to use in some of these situations; reference questions are one of those examples.  I tried doing this with my own ChatGPT account many times, and with real reference questions we’ve gotten at the desk here at my university. Some answers are just fine. There obviously isn’t any teaching going on, just ChatGPT spitting out answers. Students will come back to ChatGPT again and again because they aren’t being shown how to do anything, not to mention that ChatGPT can’t guide them through a database’s user interface. It will occasionally prompt the user for more information on their question, just like we as reference librarians do. It also suggests that users evaluate their sources more deeply (and to consult librarians).  

I asked it for journals on substance abuse and social work specifically, and it actually linked out to them and suggested that the patron check with their institution or library. If my prompt asks for “information from a scholarly journal,” ChatGPT will say it doesn’t have access to that. If I ask for research though, it’s got no problem spawning a list of (mostly) fake citations. I find it interesting what it will or won’t generate based on the specific words in your prompt. Due to this, I’m really not worried about ChatGPT replacing librarians; ChatGPT can’t do reference.  

We need to talk and think about the challenges and limitations that come with using ChatGPT. Algorithmic bias is one of the biggest challenges. ChatGPT is trained on a vast amount of data from the internet, and we all know how much of a cesspool the internet can be. I was able to get ChatGPT to give me bias by asking it for career ideas as a female high school senior: Healthcare, Education, Business, Technology, Creative Arts, and Social Services. In the Healthcare category, physician was not a listed option; nurse was first. I then corrected the model and told it I was male. Its suggestions now included Engineering, Information Technology, Business, Healthcare, Law, and Creative Arts. What was first in the Healthcare category? Physician.  

ChatGPT’s bias would be much, much worse if not for the human trainers that made the software safer to use. An article from TIME magazine by Billy Perrigo goes into the details, but just like social media moderation, training these models can be downright traumatic.  

There’s even more we need to think about when it comes to large language models – the environmental impact (Li et al, 2023), financial cost, opportunity cost (Bender et al, 2021), OpenAI’s clear intention to use us and our interactions with ChatGPT as training data, and copyright concerns. Personally, I don’t feel it’s worth using ChatGPT in any capacity; but I know the students I work with are going to, and we need to be able to talk about it. I liken it to SpellCheck; useful to a certain point, but when it tells me my own last name is spelled wrong, I can move on and ignore the suggestion.  I want to have conversations with students about the potential use cases, and when it’s not the best idea to employ ChatGPT. 

We as academic librarians are in a perfect position to teach AI Literacy and to help those around us navigate this new technology. We don’t need to be computer experts to do this – I certainly am not. But the first component of AI Literacy is knowing that large language models like ChatGPT cannot and do not think. “Fun” pieces that personify the technology only perpetuate the myth that it does.  


Bender, E. M., Gebru, T., McMillan-Major, A., & Shmitchell, S. (2021). On the Dangers of Stochastic Parrots: Can Language Models Be Too Big? ?. Proceedings of the 2021 ACM Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency, 610–623. https://doi.org/10.1145/3442188.3445922 

Cox, C., & Tzoc, E. (2023). ChatGPT: Implications for academic libraries. College & Research Libraries News, 84(3), 99. https://doi.org/10.5860/crln.84.3.99

Li, P., Yang, J., Islam, M. A., & Ren, S. (2023). Making AI Less “Thirsty”: Uncovering and Addressing the Secret Water Footprint of AI Models (arXiv:2304.03271). arXiv. http://arxiv.org/abs/2304.03271 

Perrigo, B. (2023, January 18). Exclusive: The $2 Per Hour Workers Who Made ChatGPT Safer. Time. https://time.com/6247678/openai-chatgpt-kenya-workers/ 

Weiser, B. (2023, May 27). Here’s What Happens When Your Lawyer Uses ChatGPT. New York Times (Online). https://www.proquest.com/nytimes/docview/2819646324/citation/BD819582BDA74BAAPQ/1 

Advocating with an Open Heart

Editor’s note: This guest post has been authored by Alejandro Marquez. Alejandro is a Collection Development Librarian at the Auraria Library which serves the University of Colorado Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver, and the Community College of Denver.

I recently heard a term in passing called guerilla librarianship which I envision is similar to guerrilla theatre. I imagine it to be the idea of fast moving and small-scale actions. Library workers who are subverting the way things are normally done. Library professionals who aren’t allowed to do a LGBTQ+ display during pride month so they do another display on summer reads with only queer authors. Individuals who are taking action whenever and wherever possible to advocate for change behind the scenes. Other visible actions would be starting a union, writing editorials to the newspaper, or political advocacy.

I feel like there needs to be more action in the world. I don’t like reading the news anymore. Book challenges, anti-intellectualism, and DEI higher education legislation makes me hide away from it all. This is just what is happening in library land. I see the spike in anti-trans legislation, assaults on women’s health care, and Tennessee’s drag ban. It often feels like there is not going to be a white knight coming to save us.

As a queer and BIPOC librarian, it makes me fearful for the future. Growing up Hispanic and gay meant that I was always having to assess my surroundings. From this early age, I felt like if I could control myself, my actions, thoughts and desires then I wouldn’t face the disapproval of my parents, school, and society. I became hypervigilant. By trying to control everything, I was unconsciously trying to protect myself from experiencing trauma again. I would make myself invisible.

I feel like all of this political legislation is erasing all the marginalized communities that I love and care about. The worst part of feeling invisible is that I feel like I am the only one. Do others feel the same way? Do others care to try something? If this message is resonating with you, know that you are not alone. Take care of those beaten down. As the cliche airline phrase goes, “Put your own air mask on first.”

It begs the question, Where do we go from here? James Baldwin once said, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” Black, Brown, and Queer folx have been around for millennia. They have been documenting their history and making their contributions to society. They weren’t afraid to go out on the streets and live their lives. They have left behind a rich legacy of photographs, diaries, books, and pamphlets. If we stand tall, it is because we stand on the shoulders of our many ancestors.

As library workers, our learning materials provide our communities a chance to connect with themselves and others. It is an opportunity to connect to our spiritual and historical ancestors both real and fictional. Marcus Garvey famously wrote, “A people without knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” Libraries provide a space to connect with our collective history and hopefully heal.

The recent political legislation and systemic barriers are a harm to marginalized communities and a harm to everyone. Even people who we feel are on the other side of the issue. Just like I monitored myself growing up, maintaining rigid rules is exhausting. The world we live in is rarely binary but rather a spectrum of diversity. This inflexible thinking keeps us as a society from building connection, health, vulnerability, and joy which makes us human.

It is hard to show up every day with an open heart. It means feeling vulnerable, offering critiques, and speaking up. I invite everyone to be a hero in library land by creating the world they want everyone to live in.

Summer Adventures in Weeding

It’s summer, there’s barely anyone here on campus, let alone the library. What does that mean? 

WEEDING! (Which has been talked about on ACRLog, of course: example 1 and example 2).  

I won’t lie; I love the process of weeding (or deselection). I really enjoy getting to see the thought processes of librarians past, with what books have made it this far and what was purchased when. Additionally, it’s fun to see when a patron clearly had a burst of energy in researching their specific topic when all or many books in that topic have the same return date.  

This is the first time that I’ve been able to do so for larger swathes of a collection – I have been focusing on my exercise science and recreation/leisure sections. At Salisbury, the department liaisons are responsible for their subjects. As a student worker in my previous libraries, I was never on the Access Services side; I could grab a book, even use GVSU’s Automated Storage and Retrieval System to get something for a patron, but it wasn’t my day in and day out to be up in the stacks. I think I went into UIUC’s massive Main Stacks maybe 3-4 times total, partly due to the pandemic. (I am a bit saddened by this, as I would’ve loved to just wander.) Collection development and being in the stacks still isn’t a part of my daily routine, but I really love it when it gets to be.  

My process has been to get a call number list from our wonderful Collection Management department, which includes all the book’s information, the total number of loans, when it was added, etc. I don’t have any hard and fast rules about what gets to stay and what doesn’t. I am guided by our overarching collection development policy as well as our subject ones, but there are some consistent thoughts while looking through the stats.  

Generally, if it hasn’t been checked out in the last twenty years, it’s on the chopping block; but if we only have, say, 4 books on softball, I’m likely going keep them all (as a sidenote, we have 92 books on baseball but 4 on softball, so I know I’m going to do some purchasing come the new budgets!). If it’s historical, though, like the title Great college football coaches of the twenties and thirties, I’m going to most likely keep. If it has something to do with Maryland or Chesapeake Bay, it’s probably going to stay too. I am also checking to see if our other USMAI (University System of Maryland) colleges have the book as well. If we are the only one to have something in our system, I’ll do even more digging to see if, despite the low circulation stats, it’s something we should hold on to. I’m more stringent with exercise science and anything health related, since it’s important that those stay up to date.  

I am also checking the books against the Eastern Academic Scholars’ Trust (EAST). I only do this for books I already decided to weed. As a member, Salisbury University has to retain certain texts in our collection; there are many books that I deemed ready for deselection that have to stay. All of this is done before I ever go up to the stacks to actually take the books off the shelves! I’ve been staring at a computer screen and Excel sheets a lot this week.  

Once I’m actually up there in the shelves, I’m making decisions as I go along. There are some books where I ultimately decided not to weed after paging through. Catalog entries are sometimes very bare bones, and especially if it’s an older book, it can be hard to find information online. So the final determination comes when I’m holding the book in my hands. Two books that were on the chopping block stayed because they were signed by the author. Finally, some books are marked with a red “RCL” stamp, which also signals to me that they must be retained. This retention differs from EAST, though I’d need to ask Collection Management for details. If I come across books that are in poor condition, I will also pull them to either be deselected or repaired.  

Being in the stacks and gathering the books is undoubtedly my favorite part. That’s where I get to see all the weird covers, illustrations, sun damage… I affectionately caption it all “adventures in weeding.” (As a sidenote, I am definitely not the one who came up with that; many a librarian has posted their weird and wonderful books with that phrase.) Here’s a few: 

Can you believe that Mall Walking Madness is one of the books we have to retain? (I suppose it is a bit of an artifact at this point…) The second photo with highlight is pointing out the “Possibilities for PDAs” in a book on physical education and technology. The last trio of photos are all from the same one on playground equipment, and it is all diagrams with little written instruction (and some slightly disturbing illustrations for different sections). Finally, this short video is of a book with some intense sun damage.  

What are some of your best “adventures in weeding”?