Engaging in Outreach Efforts & Meaningful Community Building

As a MLIS student at San Jose State University (SJSU), I often read about the importance of promoting library services through outreach efforts. During that time, I ran across the following quote that illustrates this point, and it continues to resonate with me:

Gone are the days when libraries can simply open their doors and expect to be perceived as the number one option for information services. With fierce competition for funding and more people assuming everything offered by a library can be found online, libraries are feeling the pressure to blow their own horn (Hallmark et al., 2007).

Last year, I started as a Lecturer Librarian at CSU Northridge. Since I began in the summer of 2023, I did not immediately have instruction requests or deadlines for collection development. Instead, I directed my attention to outreach opportunities, which continued to be part of my priorities throughout the fall and even now in the spring. I work closely with the Outreach Librarian to deliver outreach programming to keep patrons abreast of upcoming library events, and to promote library collection materials by designing book displays. I have collaborated with faculty, staff, students, and community members to make these events successfully happen. So far, I have remained committed to outreach efforts by participating in the “Ask a Librarian” tabling events, the Resources & Services Fair, the New Student Orientation, CSUN Open House, National Transfer Student Week, and library tours for K-12 students. I am particularly proud of my involvement in creating virtual and in-person book displays for Latinx Heritage Month and Black History Month.

While the outreach opportunities mentioned above have been quite rewarding, I was curious to participate in wider campus efforts centered on outreach and community building. Late last fall, I was selected to be a Library Liaison for the Office of Community Engagement (OCE) at CSU Northridge. This office strives to enhance academic experiences through community-based (service) learning, engaged research and sustained partnerships within the San Fernando Valley, and the greater Los Angeles Area. In my role, I support faculty members as they develop community-engaged projects and/or courses. Faculty members receive support in creating syllabi that outline community-based learning outcomes centered on equity, diversity, and inclusion. I expect that I will also recommend community-engaged readings, and activities for their syllabi.

Since I’m serving in the inaugural cohort, the other Library Liaisons and I have been working on recruitment. During our last departmental meeting, we offered our librarian colleagues a brief overview about the OCE, and we introduced them to grant opportunities designed for faculty members committed to community-engaged courses, projects, research, or creative activities. Additionally, I have been spreading awareness about the OCE to professors and lecturers in the department of Central American & Transborder Studies. After I teach my information literacy sessions, I’ll typically pitch an elevator speech to these faculty members. Usually, faculty members teaching Ethnic Studies already incorporate community-building into the design of their courses, which makes them great candidates.

Overall, I’m hoping my efforts evolve into effective partnerships, so that I may further engage in meaningful practices centered on community building and social justice. I’m definitely in the early stages of developing my own approach towards outreach and community service. I was hoping to hear from experienced academic librarians. Would anyone be willing to share their own strategies?

Feeling Connected & Supported: An End of Academic Year Reflection

It’s summer here on campus. The library is quiet and I feel a sense of calm as I look at the things I want to accomplish this summer. As each academic year comes to a close, I find myself naturally reflecting on the year, to identify common themes, big successes, and challenges.

One thing that stood out to me as I thought back on this academic year was the way in which connections with others played a big role in me feeling supported. Within this “connections” theme, I see three subcategories. In this post, I want to take a minute to expand on these subcategories.

Opportunities outside the library

During the past academic year, I had the chance to participate in two opportunities that existed outside of the library (and didn’t have any other library colleagues involved in them). I was part of an inaugural Leadership Institute and participated in a mentoring circle for 3rd and 4th year tenure-track faculty. I appreciated the opportunities to connect with other colleagues across campus and to sort of pave my own path as I was the only library faculty member in these groups.

The Leadership Institute was a newly developed program on campus to bring together leaders across campus to discuss issues, challenges, and opportunities within higher education. I have previously written a little about this program when we took the leadership orientations questionnaire. Overall, I found the group to be a nice touchstone each month. With changes happening on campus, having this group to check in, talk about what was happening, and hear from other leaders and administrators across campus was really useful. In many ways, being in this group confirmed my desire to continue in leadership and administrator roles. I feel that this group helped me connect with colleagues and also continued to give me the language and resources as I grow in this space. 

The mentoring circle was also a monthly commitment. Each month our mentor would bring us together to discuss campus resources, bring in speakers from different units, share insight on the tenure and promotion process, and create space to talk about what was happening with the university. I looked forward to these meetings each month because I appreciated the opportunity to be with others on the tenure-track. I’m currently the only person in the library on the tenure-track, so having others across campus navigating this campus process felt so supportive. I also appreciated our mentor, who was kind, took time to get to know us, and provided so many words of encouragement. I didn’t realize how much I needed to hear from someone, outside of the library, that I was doing well and on the right track with my work towards tenure. 

The departmental team

Within the library, the department I lead (Education & Outreach Services, EOS for short), was another important spot of connection. As I mentioned in my one-year job anniversary post, I love the team I lead and especially the ways we laugh and enjoy our time together. This year the laughter continued and so did our work. Countless times during the fall and spring semesters I would leave a department meeting and feel such excitement for how we were all working together. I appreciated the moments where someone on the team poised an idea or next step that was in line with where I was leading the team. It felt good to assign projects to the department and watch them come to life. I feel like my relationships with each member in the department continue to grow and having that sense of community has been so grounding.

My network

The final subcategory that contributed to me being connected and supported was my personal network. From the group texts, the weekly Zoom lunches, the regular check-ins, Teams messages, and the in-person meets up at ACRL, I felt lucky to have a great group of colleagues and friends by my side. I was especially thankful for my regular check-ins with other teaching and learning department heads at other libraries (shout out to Charissa and Rosan). It was so nice to have colleagues leading similar teams to discuss our challenges, our opportunities, and support one another. As I think back on the year, I couldn’t have done what I did without this network of support and encouragement. 

Overall, I feel like I’m headed into the summer with two feet firmly on the ground, ready to take on some big projects. I’m going to continue to create space to sustain these connections and seek out more opportunities to build and be in community. 

I’d love to hear from you – who helped you feel connected and supported this past year? What other themes did you see from this past academic year? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments of this post. 


Featured image by Conny Schneider on Unsplash

Your Invisible Board of Directors: Support Networks in Academic Librarianship

Someone much more perceptive and experienced than I once told me to imagine I have an invisible board of directors in my life and career. There are people sitting at your table who have profound effect on your professional and personal life. These are people who offer you support, guidance, advice, perspective, empathy. They may not know they have such a meaningful relationship for you (but they probably do). Think about who is sitting at your table, whether they know they are or not. 

My knowledge of board of directors doesn’t go much further than the many boardroom scenes I’ve seen in Succession [warning: strong language from Logan Roy]. I do know a board of directors sets strategies, develops goals, and advises on the overall vision of the company (the company – in this metaphor – is you!). 

I’m a big advocate of mentorship, whether formally or informally. I believe that professional (and personal) support networks are one of the fundamental pieces to a rewarding life and career. Mentors help with so much: all aspects of job searching, how promotion or tenure work at your institution, understanding work culture, what professional development opportunities to take on, someone to provide perspective on issues you’re struggling with – the list is endless. I’m lucky enough to have a wonderfully supportive mentor at the U of Manitoba, who shares insightful perspective, incisive advice, and endless encouragement.  

Think about seeking out support networks that are available – through your institution or library associations, but also know opportunities will present themselves, whether formally or informally. The whole idea is you build a support network, based on connection and relationship with others, whether that’s others you work with or near. Maybe it includes your colleagues, your supervisor, someone in library administration, someone at a different institution, someone you went to school with, or someone in a different city altogether that you’ve met and gotten to know. 

I recently read an interesting article that identified six types of mentors: personal guide, personal advisor, full-service mentor, career advisor, career guide, and role model. Some guides, advisors, or mentors may offer more professional support, some more psychosocial support, and some a mix of both. Some may be short-term, long-term, or span the length of your entire career. 

I’ve found that your directors may change and that’s okay. As you move throughout your career, you will have different people that are meaningful to you. In the American Psychological Association’s Introduction to Mentoring, the authors note it is common to have multiple guides and advisors over the course of your career, able to address different needs depending on your stage of career or individual needs, and in effect, creating a developmental network. Different people can address different aspects of your professional life. I find mentors promote a sense of meaning in your work, give direction to areas where you’re otherwise directionless, and use their experience to inform your own. 

I’ve written in the past about the power of connection and I strongly encourage you to seek support from colleagues or to take on opportunities for mentorship that you find. Whether you find the board of directors metaphor useful or not, give some thought to who is at the table of your personal board of directors, and let’s just hope – for your sake – there are no boardroom coups or hostile takeovers.

I Love How We Laugh: A Year into Being a Department Head

Last week, I celebrated my one-year anniversary as a department head. The day consisted of teaching students, celebratory cookies, and a few reflective moments on the last 365 days. I can’t believe it has been a year! 

The last year has gone by quickly. We’ve adapted to changing pandemic seasons, dealt with staffing changes and hiring freezes, and continued to support student success. I feel like I’ve grown so much, as a librarian and as a manager. This job continues to be challenging in positive ways and I feel like I’m stretching and learning every day. I definitely haven’t had the perfect year; I’ve made mistakes, tried stuff that didn’t work, and dropped some balls. However, on the whole, I think last year was successful. I got the chance to work with the team I lead, participate in the work, and dream about what we can do as a department. I think this work builds so nicely from my experience as the Student Engagement Coordinator and allows me to take that work one step further. As a department, we collaboratively created our own mission, vision, and scope of work document, and continue to find ways to maximize the various expertises and experiences we each bring to the group. I’ve made connections with colleagues across campus and have had the chance to do what I think I do best, promote the library and envision new ways we can collaborate to support our students. 

One thing I’ve thought about a lot the last few months is the energy of the department I’m a part of. Even during my interview, I felt the enthusiasm and excitement for information literacy and students in the department meeting. That hasn’t changed since I arrived. The group I lead is always willing to try something new, talk through the pros and cons of a situation, and collaborate with one another to put an idea into action. It’s great to be on a team like this and I feel lucky to support and champion our work. 

The other thing that this department loves is laughter (as the title of this blog post suggests). In the past year, we’ve collected several inside jokes and I appreciate the department meetings where something funny happens and we’re all doubled over, laughing. There’s so much joy in that kind of laughter. I appreciate the space we as a department create for that joy. We can disagree and debate, but there’s something really nice about our ability to come together, share some stories, and laugh. For me, despite the stress I feel in this job or some of the dynamics outside of my control, I feel grounded knowing we can laugh as a department and figure things out.

As I think about my second year, I know we will continue to make changes and try new things. I’m excited to continue to learn from my colleagues and grow as a manager. And I’m thankful the laughter will continue. 

Tell me – what are some things about the team you work on that you appreciate? Would love to know from others if this idea resonates with you!

The Teleworking Diaries: Initial Thoughts from Working Remote

Last week, things didn’t seem so bad and I told myself I wasn’t going to write about the coronavirus for this month’s blog post. I told myself I would write about a project I’m working on or an element of librarianship I wanted to do a bit of a deep dive into. But this, this pandemic, is a “rapidly evolving situation” and now it would just feel strange if I didn’t talk about it. I’m using this post to mark time, to capture my early thoughts about working remotely, using Zoom, and growing a community while being contained in my apartment in Central Pennsylvania.  

So much has changed in just a week. Each day feels like we are waiting for another shoe to drop. My institution has moved entirely online for the spring semester, commencement is canceled, and my days often revolve around checking maps, watching press briefings, thinking about vocational awe as libraries debate about closing to the public, and listening to podcasts on the pandemic.

I’ve been teleworking for about a week. It seems that every day is a bit of a rollercoaster. A slow start to each morning followed by an increasingly accelerated series of meetings, decisions, chats, and emails. The ride returns to the starting line between 5-5:30 PM and I quickly pack up my remote office, in an effort to stop myself from picking at work until bed. I’ve started to go for a post-work walks in my neighborhood and can’t help but notice the large amount of lion lawn ornaments folks have. Transitions between activities, especially work and personal, seem more important these days. Time has a new meaning, with nowhere to go and no plans to make. 

As a student engagement librarian, my semester has bottomed out. Many of my events have either been canceled or are in the process of going fully online. This week I’ve created a lot of Zoom links, talked through remote possibilities for student work and events, and watched how the students I work with adapt to using remote methods. As someone who normally participates in a lot of online meetings, it never really occurred to me to change my display name or add a colorful background of a sunset. In some ways, it feels like I’m learning Zoom all over again. 

In attempting to find a new normal (if we even want to call it that), I noticed the tension between wanting to just up and move everything online, as if this is a choice we willingly made, and the need to slow down and accept what’s happening around us. While some things cannot simply be plucked from face-to-face and moved online, there are other things that seem better suited to this new environment. I imagine that whenever we return to our offices, there will be residual effects from this. For someone who considers herself a bit of a workhorse, a “stay late and get it done” sort of gal, this change to teleworking has pushed me. I’ve been trying to accept the idea that it’s okay to take a beat to regroup and refocus. I try to hold that same space for my colleagues and students. As I was reminded in a meeting today, this “normal” we feel this week could look drastically different next week. There’s so much uncertainty in the air.

What this week has shown me is that even in this uncertainty, we have community. I feel a new sense of community and an intention to build. This intention comes in a variety of ways, from the group texts, the Gchats, the Marco Polo videos, and the virtual happy hours. When you’re not with people all the time, there’s a stronger need to (virtually) congregate. It has been reassuring for me to log into a Zoom room and see a friendly face. Even if we spend the first 15 minutes sharing all the information we’ve read and heard on COVID-19, it feels nice to share and know that we’re trying to get through this together. And if this pandemic lasts for weeks on end, our community is the thing that’s going to get us through.

In wrapping up this week, I’ve figured out my own ways of coping and marking time. I’ve started a daily picture of me at work and another thread on things that give me joy. I would be curious to hear how you all are getting through and ways you’ve found to build your community — at your institution or with friends and family, near and far. 
So I’ll end this post with my new sign off, a play on the Call Your Girlfriend signoff — see you in another Zoom room!