Technology and our New Central Library

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before but my library system is slated to be getting a new main central library. Right now everything is in the planning stages, we don’t even know where it will be. But everyone is very interested in what will go into the new library. A couple of years back one of our branch libraries got a new building. The community input for that was great but minimal. We’ve held several public meetings and they were well attended. In the last couple of months the question of what kind technology should be included in the new library. Word has filtered back, via the commissioners, to the library that some people are wondering why we need to build a new building. After all do people really use the library anymore? If we build a new one we should just stuff it full of computers, that’s why people use the library if they do use the library, right?

For some weird reason I am always surprised when I hear people actually think like this. I mean really? For all libraries, academic to public to special, they all seem to have at least one thing in common. Letting people know what they do and how valuable they are to their community. I find it that every time our new building comes up in conversation, what the library does comes up as well.

About a month ago my director asked one of my old professors from library school, Dr. Anthony Chow, to come to our library and do a presentation about libraries and future technology. It was a great presentation, it was well received among those who were in attendance. Our deputy county manager asked some great questions and was really engaged.

This presentation led to a committee being created of local members of our city chambers. The point of the committee I am told is to give us and the commissioners recommendation on what technology should be included in the new central. This past Monday we met with them to do a presentation on where the library was now. I presented on our virtual library, which isn’t exactly part of the technology but is just as important.

We kind of went into the meeting trying to prove that as a library unit we are actively aware of current technology and all. Not that we don’t welcome community opinion, because we do. But at the end of the day like every other library it comes down to funding. Sure we would love to provided both pc and mac computers but those trusty dells are so much cheaper to obtain and maintain.

I think we got our point across but I will be interested to see what the committee comes up with. We will not meet with them again while they come up with recommendations. Truthfully after our presentation the conversation became more about partnering with these community companies as suppose to what technology was in the library or needed.

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LSTA – Homelessness Grant

It’s been about a year since my library was awarded a LSTA grant for our Homelessness Project. We still have yet to rename the project and refer to it as the Homelessness Grant. I’ve been very hesitant in writing about the grant because I’ve been on a roller coaster of emotions about it.

On the one hand I understand and totally back the idea that it’s needed. Urban libraries across the nation, possibly the world, service many persons experiencing homelessness. As long as that state of living exist libraries should and will be there to serve them.

On the other hand there are times in the last year that I’ve feared we’ve taken on more than we are capable of actually accomplishing.  It’s compounded by the fact that so many people/groups/organizations are looking at this project for validation either positive or negative.

We’ve made some great progress in some of our entertainment focused programs, and even our Men Rap Session is growing every session. However our informational programs, not so much.

It could be that the topics are off, we haven’t nailed the right times, or a number of other things. I feel very connected with those programs because they were my idea, I came by them after reading the literature and listening to all of our community partners. I want them to succeed but at the same time I’m not sure what success looks like in regards to them. With the new position my role on the committee might be changing, different responsibilities and all.

Any day now we are going to see if Year Two is approved to continue on the grant, I think we’ve done great work for the first year especially since this project is somewhat new and untested in the field. I think we are still figuring out things and understanding where the Library plays a role in this.

 

 

Circulation forum

Today was a Monday. That should sum it up nicely. No? Oh alright…

It’s really amazing to see how routine my life is at work now. Sometimes I stop and think about the fact that I haven’t made it to the year mark but I’ve already established myself into the department. Of course there are tons of things still yet to be learned but I no longer feel the rush of “OMG! You want me to be here alone?!” Every time I’m left in the department without back up.

I am currently working on yet another grant proposal that is due in less than 2 weeks. It’s just me working and I am slightly overwhelmed but my supervisor has faith in me so…we’ll see how this goes.

This afternoon I attended a Circulation Forums which was more of training and revisiting of circulation policies. This was great in itself, being on the Reference desk I do not interact with these circulation policies on a day to day basis. However these policies do affect other aspects of the library experience namely access to the computers. And every now and then we do field questions about circulation issues. There were some things that were covered that I had no clue about and things I had forgotten. Being honest and upfront I do have to admit I was not really expecting the training bit…since it was announced as a forum I was expecting more talking about current circulation issues and thoughts about working through them. But the training is always welcomed.

The Children’s Department

Today I spent two hours working on the Children’s Department service desk. It was very different and highly interesting to compare the two.

Our Children’s department is like a library within a library. They have fiction, non-fiction, audio-visual collections, special collections, computers, periodicals, a reading area, and the cutest little tables and chairs I’ve ever seen. It’s a self-contained environment. And even though they are directly below us, it was like I was traveling into a different world.

On most days I’m surrounded my quietness. Whispers and clickty clacks as people discuss things with their study partners or work on the computers. Its disruptive when someone speaks on the phone, even in the lowest of voices because it’s so quiet. But like I said the children’s department is beneath us and the stairs are open so it’s not always quiet and sometimes we have loud study groups, and individuals. But we can usually quiet them down to a bearable level. In the Children’s department noise is expected and reveled.

I have to admit I had to fight my librarian instinct to go “Shush”. Although it was real fun to see such tiny people enjoying books and remembering my adventures in the same Children’s department years ago.

One little girl came up to me with the most serious face I’ve ever seen on an elementary age kid. She was looking for good books for her younger sister who was in second grade. Her sister was a really good reader so she wanted chapter books with pictures, and she liked funny stories. Of course I had no idea what to offer up but lucky some of our awesome children librarians were near by so I picked their brain. The two girls left with armfuls of books.

Year One

This past Sunday marked the one year anniversary of me matriculated from library school. I can hardly believe how fast this year has gone. I decided to look back on my capstone and compare the five year professional development I wrote and what has happened this year.

For a recap here is what I wrote a year ago:

Year One: January 2011 to December 2011

Career

  • Take on a practicum at Wake Forest University’s library: Z. Smith Reynolds Library in the Research and Instruction department to gain experience in reference services, library instruction, and general academic library experience.
  • Graduate from UNCG’s Master’s in Library and Information Studies program – May 2011.
  • Find, apply, and gain full time employment in an academic library, in a position that focuses on research, reference services, instruction, and technology.

Professional Growth/ Maintaining and Updating skills

  • Continue my membership in professional associations (American Library Association and North Carolina Library Association).
  • Attend conferences, nationally and/or statewide, to network and learn of new trends in the LIS field.
  • Provide mentoring help with the new cohort of Academic Cultural Enrichment Scholars.

Publications

  • Apply for research grants to continue research previously started, (i.e. Modern Teens and Library Usage).
  • Submit end product of Public Library Design and Technology to scholarly journal for publication with Dr. Chow.

Here’s the breakdown:

Career

The spring of 2011 I did in fact complete a practicum at Wake Forest in their Research and Instruction department. I taught a total of 3 classes as part of a Library Instruction course and complete many hours on the reference desk. You can read about my practicum here. I graduated from UNCG with an MLIS in May of 2011, a very exciting time and nerve-wracking at the same time. In September of 2011 I found, applied and gained full-time professional work at the public library in my hometown.

Professional Growth/ Maintaining and Updating skills

This year I will not be attending ALA but I did attend NCLA and PLA online. It has been a bit more challenging than I realized to continue in the professional association as well as get more involved in these associations. I do hope to do better in year two. This past year one of the second cohort ACE Scholars did their internship at my library and in my department. I actively tried to talk to her not just about the library school program but also the field as I’ve experienced so far. I’ve also had conversations with other interns here and people who by happenstance are applying to the program this upcoming term. It’s always strikes me as odd when I find myself having these conversations and actually having an opinion and things to share with people who are in the same place I was just a short time ago.

Publications

I was able to present my research with my professor at the NCLA conference this past October. And that’s as far as publication has gone. I realized that there was a lot more research and observation that needed to happen. This is still an goal of mines but I’m not sure when that will get checked off.

Looks like I’m settling in nicely into the library field…yay!

Cross Training

Yesterday I attended an orientation for our Popular Library, this orientation brings about the end of a number of orientation sessions I’ve attended this past month. A while back our associate director felt the need for all the staff that service a public desk should be cross trained at each service desk in the main library. Afterwards each staff member would be charged with serving an hour twice a month to a different department, to be carried out throughout the year. The goal of this cross training is to encourage teamwork and camaraderie among all the different departments in the main library, for which there is five public desks total. At first I will not lie I was apprehensive of this plan and how it would all work out. Not because I didn’t care for the other departments, I’m all for getting experience in different places to break up the monotonous that comes with an office job. But I was already stressed out about Money Smart Week I couldn’t wrap my head around it.

I have truly enjoyed each orientation for each department. Even though I work here and lived in the town all my life, it’s amazing what sort of information is stored in this building. If you live in a place that has a multiple library system, I so urge you to check out the main library often. We are really the heart of the system and we have resources that our branches don’t.

I’m still quite nervous about serving on these desks, because I’m still getting to know my department. Thankfully I’m not exhibiting “the deer caught in headlights” look anymore when someone asks about non-profit help or investments. Although I suspect that look might come back when I’m down in the NC Room and someone wants help reconstructing a local event from 1874.

You should write a book

Every time I talk to other people about my job it’s usually very predictable. They ask me what I do; I tell them I’m a reference librarian at the main library downtown. Their eyes glaze over some and they say “Oh that’s nice.” Half of them change the subject and the other half continue on with, “So what exactly do you do? You aren’t one of those shushing librarians are you?” It is at this point I kind of list my head off to the side and go, “Well I—“ I find it hard to tell someone what I do when what I do day-to-day changes. But usually I sum it up with “I help people find information.” This is truly the bulk of my job. Often times I get the “You must like to read…” line or the “I haven’t been in a library in a long time…” line.

The last one is often followed with, “Do people even read books anymore? I didn’t think people still used the library like that.” I always try to not roll my eyes at these statements; it’s really hard to restrain myself sometimes. Instead I tell them about some crazy thing that happened at work either that day or week. I’m rarely at a lost for a crazy library story. In fact no matter what library I happened to be working at I’m rarely at a lost for a crazy library story. It just seems to me that anyone who says libraries are quiet and serious has never really worked in one. We see and hear some of the weirdest stuff.

Lately when talking to new people about my job the conversation usually ends with “Wow you should write a book!”

But I guess the purpose of this blog is supposed to take the place of writing a book. I think there are some really great books out there written from the librarian point of view and some great ones to come. Maybe one day I’ll actually write a book about being a librarian. I feel there’s so much I have yet to experience in my career. I never really felt like I’ve found my voice with these posts. I try to be professional and give the facts with little spurts of fun things. I don’t think it would hurt to relay some of the crazy library stories on here.

*The random photo at the beginning of this post was taken by me looking out the window in my office on a foggy morning.

Six Months In

This post is almost a month late but that seems to be my style lately. At any rate March 19th marked my six months in this position. And it’s been rife with learning and development for me at least. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs these six months. Some days I question myself on my ability as I’m sure many people do especially when you have a trying day with complicated costumers back to back. And then there are days when I’m on a constant high from the gratitude costumers show for my help.

The other day I read through my First Week post and kind of marveled at how little I had to do during that first week. I think for many of those days I spent a great amount of time on the service desk. Now I feel like I’m constantly on the go. This month along I have eight programs happening and 3 times that many that I’ve helped organized and plan. We’ve also started a cross training in the hopes of creating a better team atmosphere between the departments. Working in the main library is different from the branches as there are several departments that feel like their own mini library. So there are days when I don’t really see other people in other departments which sometimes makes me feel like I’m in a little bubble. I think it’s a great way to share with others what their department does every day and vice versa.   

In general I’m more confident in my role as a reference librarian. I’m still learning about sources, which is a tricky thing. There is always more than one way to get the information and even still there are times when the information isn’t available. Which I think people have a hard time believing that. I have developed a working knowledge of regulars and they of me. And during these six months I’ve been able to speak to at least 3 different people thinking about going into the field. Which has been great to share my take on the field and pass on my small cache of knowledge.

It’s been a whirlwind six months and I can’t wait to see what the next six months have in store.