Internet Services Librarian

Back in April, April 15th to be exact, I started a new position within the same company. I’ve moved from Information Services (Reference) to Computer Services.

I am now my system’s Internet Services Librarian, it was kind of a quick turn around. It was a surprise to me when the previous Internet Services Librarian left and at first I was hesitant to apply. In the end I posited that it would be a positive thing for me even if I did not get the job. But I got it!

It’s somewhat hard to explain what I actually do but it’s along the lines of:

  • Overseeing, maintaining and providing content for Library’s web pages and social networking sites – I work closely with our county’s webteam, as well as play the-go-between between them and our staff.
  • Serving as chair of the library’s web committee
  • Serving as a member of the Public Relations committee
  • Serving as online reader’s advisory newsletters administrator
  • Serving as public and staff support regarding downloading materials
  • Serving as lead for staff internal communications

And of course projects and duties that come up out of necessity.  I’m really enjoying myself, it’s a different world as compared to the reference desk. I still work with the public through providing customer support with our downloadable media, but mostly I’m behind the scene sort of speak. With this position come new challenges and successes, some I’ll have to catch you up on. Hopefully I’ll be more inspired to catalogue it, you know the whole reason I started this blog.

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!

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.

PLA 2012: The Future of Libraries

This post was suppose to go out last week…oops!

 The last session I was able to catch was on the Future of Libraries. I’ve been actively interested in this topic since I started and completed my independent study with Dr. Chow on Library Space Design. The idea being looking at how the libraries role is changing and how is that affecting the design in library spaces. In theory you would think that library design wouldn’t be exempt from other design trends. That as the architectural trends drift to one way so would library space design. But interestingly enough some people believe that libraries should be exempt. That libraries are made to be stuck in one design mold;  classical, ornate, and well…stuffy. Although I should hasten to say this is just one camp, for there is another camp that is whole heartedly thinking libraries should be forward thinking in design, ultra sleek and ultra modern. There’s also people who have a love for both types of design trends, I’m one of those people.

I think what’s important is that how people react to library designs speaks volume to how people see the library. If you are part of my community then you may or may not know that we recently passed a bond to have our main library rebuilt (or renovate) as well as two branches. In the last few months we have held three community meetings to have public give their thoughts on what it should look like and what should be included.  It’s been interesting to see what people are saying they want in a new library. Now as a staff member I have my own ideas about what the new library should be like.

This session was fun, because it allowed me to see a number of libraries that had recently been built on the west coast. What I noticed was a lean towards ultra modern and ultra sleek designs. They were straight lines, heavy on the glass and large open areas with focus on open design plans and small intimate spaces on the sides and corners. If there was a curve in the space it was usually a focus design feature usually relegated to the atrium of the library. And almost every single design had an atrium. It was interesting at the end they concluded with a slide that said libraries were moving away from the classical design, with a picture I’m more than positive was a shot of an interior in an academic library and moving towards the future, an image of an all glass and steel public library.

I think the architects would have a hard time convincing people in my community to go for an ultra modern main library. I think we could get away with a branch that was all glass and steel. but the main library not so much. I’ve worked in a newly built open space library before, and I don’t mind saying I have mixed feelings about it. Yes it was new and shiny and it felt good to come into a building that was nice and clean. It lifted your spirit, made you feel happy. The stacks were low so you could see almost everywhere in the building, and a lot of books had weeded and sent to other locations so the shelves were easy to keep up.

But on the flip side those large windows let in the sun and the heat. It was very hard to control the temperature in the building. And if it was an overcast day, it was very hard to see in the building. Noise was a problem as it carried easily. Like I said earlier a lot of weeding was done and books were sent to other places, and there was a point to only keep new or good-looking books on the shelves as this conveyed better. I felt that the customers where being cheated. Were they impressed when they walked in the door and saw how open and bright it was? Yes. Did that feeling diminished when they couldn’t read their computer screens or were told that they would have to wait a day or two before they could get their hands on that one book they came out to get? Yes.

My first major in undergrad was Interior Architecture and one of the first things we learned is that form follows function. The space should function. Did they really speak to that in this session? No. What they did speak to was thinking of terms of how do we bring the customer back over and over. Epic spaces and something for everyone. Encouraging discovery and enabling staff to cope with growth. There was a lot of talk on the form aspect of library design. Which is always fun. Pretty libraries are always a joy to look at. But the talk on function I felt was a little light. But I’m finding that’s might be easier said then done because no one can say what function the library of the future will have and these buildings have to last for some time.

PLA 2012: Program Palooza

This week my library paid for those who wanted to attend the PLA (Public Library Association) Virtual Conference that was going on simultaneous as the physical PLA. We had it set up in our boardroom so we could come and go as our schedule allowed. I wasn’t able to catch any of the first day’s broadcasts but I was able to catch two on the last day. The first and last one, which were the ones I was most excited about.

Program Palooza

I have to say the main reason why I wanted to go to this session was because it had the word “Palooza” in it…it’s just a fun word. And this session was indeed a palooza of programs. They covered 60 different kinds of programs in 60 minutes. I’m just now dipping my toes in the programming world, with Money Smart and the Ask-A-Lawyer day I help organize in February, but I’m finding that I’m actually enjoying making contacts and having people come in and share their expertise. My supervisor has expressed that she feels we do better jobs as Reference Librarians at the service desk and truthfully I’m not sure how I feel about that. I think the service desk is valuable don’t get me wrong. But I’m starting to see that programs and events are becoming the public libraries little niche, and it’s something sorely needed in a lot of communities.

Some of the key points that I took away from this session was opening the way so that everyone could be involved in program planning; not just the librarians or directors, but the paraprofessionals and the volunteers. The library that presented the program believed that anyone can have a passion for a topic and they should be allowed to suggest a program and help bring it about. They then broke down into categories;

Signature Events

Events that happen on a regular basis, weekly, monthly, yearly, etc. Something that your costumer base could always depend on. For example their customers could expect a big event around the Dia de los ninos, Dia de los Libros celebration. I think this is a great idea, because every time you go to organize it, it will become easier and easier to pull it all together. However, I can see a downside to it, especially with public libraries who either have people moving on a constant rate and sometimes the positions aren’t filled OR people who stick around forever and get stuck in tradition. Both of these things can have a big impact on programming. Signature events have to be flexible because interest are always changing but you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel every year.

Family/Intergenerational

These programs surround the idea of bringing different age groups together. Some examples where Stroller Shimmy and Sweat for New Moms. Dog Day Fashion Show and Parade, who wouldn’t want to dress up their dogs and parade them around? Family Game Day and Mother or Grandparent Day Tea. The point is not always thinking of programs in age brackets, meaning only the youth librarians can give a program dealing with children. Sometimes programs would be enjoyed by more than one age group, for example video gaming events . More and more games are being targeted to families, so a video game tournament could be enjoyed by someone who is 8 and someone who is 28.

Out of School Time

Programs specifically aiming at topics to help kids bridge that gap of time after school and before they go home or weekend activities. They don’t all have to have an immediate lesson behind them, like Cursive Club to help kids learn how to write in cursive, they can be just pure entertainment, like Lego Club.

Passive Programs

I really enjoyed this section as I never thought about how some of these activities are programs that need little effort on the librarian part. The passive programs were programs that worked in getting the costumers involved on a project that didn’t require them to come to the library at a specific time or date. Holiday Mail for Military Heroes, having the community write letters and greeting cards for military families and dropping them off at the library, who then dropped them off at organizations who delivered them. You can set up signs and notices during the month of November and December and just allow people to drop off letters at their leisure. No commitment and it cost you the amount of signage. Spot the library mascot…get a library mascot, take pictures of it in different parts of the library, and post them. Makes the kids want to come in a find the mascot and get a sticker or something. Nothing big but it’s a fun way to let the kids explore the library, help them bridge the gap between the children section and their parents browsing time.

I really enjoyed this session and it gave me some ideas of things I would like to do or even help collaborate with others. I have no intention becoming the programming queen but I do think with the idea of a new main library being built we need to up our gambit on why people should come to the library over and over. I’m okay with the idea of programs getting them into the building, because the programs gives us a chance to show off all the great resources we have…for FREE.

LSTA Grant: Approval to Apply

Apparently when one goes after big money it’s more complicated than one thinks. If you can cast your minds back to a few posts ago when I mentioned I was on a grant writing committee with my library. We are seeking funds to start offering new services to our transient population, as well as our general community. One of the major things about the library I work at is that it’s the main central branch. This means we serve a variety of people, unlike the branches who have become more of a neighborhood branch we are like the city’s neighborhood branch. More and more public libraries are expected to offer programs, both fun and informational. Well that costs money and that’s not something public libraries have in abundance. And with talk of a new central library being built I can only imagine the feeling that we would have more programming is steadily growing.

So a grant is in order and since we last left off I was working on some preliminary research and programming planning to go into the Letter of Intent. Well went sent that off and waited anxiously for word on whether or not we should actually submit a full grant proposal request. This past week we met and discussed the questions and concerns the state library brought. The first being the suggestion we ask for more money. At the end of the meeting we came away with more things to do, my number task is to pull up every single article that mentions public libraries and homelessness. Which is a lot, some with the homeless population painted in a negative view and some with them in a positive view? Since it’s more than I actually thought would be out there I’m narrowing it down to articles about programming and homelessness. I’ve found a great from a book club model in Australia that sounds similar to what we are trying to achieve through the programs.

Six Months Later

Sunday marked the end of the six months since I earned my MLIS degree, and you know what I feel just like I thought it would. I’m exhausted…and jubilant.

Two years ago I honestly had no idea what I was getting into, and truthfully I’m still learning what it means to be a librarian. And here’s a clue; it doesn’t involve shushing people. Not that I thought it did but I hear that often when someone asks about my profession.  If ever there was a misunderstood profession I would nominate the world of Librarianship. It’s almost like we are a mysterious cult but if you ever just take the time to ask a librarian about their library or their job I guarantee you they could talk for hours on one-tenth of what they do and what their library has to offer.

I guess I could sum of the last six months in a timeline sort of fashion but that would be boring. And librarians aren’t boring despite what literature would have you believe. The last six months really can be boiled down to one thing: Job Searching.

I started early (right before winter break I sent out my first resume), but not nearly as early as some people. I suggest you do the same, start looking for possible leads early on. Get on a variety of list-serves, a good friend and colleague of mines, Amanda Goodman, did an awesome write-up of some of the places she looked at and subscribed to for job leads. I cleaned up and invested some time into my social media outlets. I’ve had a LinkedIn profile since 2007 that I never got around to actually filling out. While I had the time I flushed it out and kept up with it.

These last six months were emotionally tough, as anyone who’s done any job searching since 2007 can surely tell you. But in the end I would say it was worth it. I can’t wait to see what the next six months hold for me.

Cultural Diversity Committee

Last week I sat in my first committee meeting. It’s kind of weird to say I’m on a committee.  I’ve been apart of things within groups but I can honestly say I’ve never been on a committee. And it’s a great committee to be on, Cultural Diversity. Although it should come to no surprise that it’s the first committee I chose to get involved with. The aim of the committee is to increase cultural diversity within our community inside the library and outside, for the public as well as the staff of the library.

Right now it’s a small committee relative to the importance, at least I think, of the committee. I see great things that could come of such a committee. And you know what’s true for any committee, group, or special interest the more you do the more people start to pay attention to you. It’s just simple logic. I guess I’m just one of those people who likes to shake things up now and then, especially when I’m passionate about something. But at the same time I know I’m just coming in and the last thing I want to do is step on toes. To all my librarians to be and any person who has yet to work in a professional environment, politics plays a major role in how things work in any company or business (even if it’s not related to politics…human nature?). My best advice to you would be to sit back and observe, never rush in.

Through the time in grad school and working with other scholars there were a lot of opportunities to experience cultural diversity that I would love to share with other people. And I know a lot of my ex-scholars are doing great work in diversity. Plus my hometown and surrounding area is getting more and more diverse that you can’t help but to get excited about a chance to share that with people.

We’ve got great plans for the upcoming year and I joined right when they are planning the Staff Thanksgiving Potluck Luncheon, so now I have to think of a great dish because you know they will be looking at the new faces and evaluating us on such an important task.

Parateching

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am the ParaTech for my department. I’m not sure if this is a thing that goes on at other libraries, but when you have to cut positions,  I think this is a creative way to help out an overburden department.

As the ParaTech for my department I act as the liaison for the IT department and the Information Services department. I make sure anything technological is working and it’s working like it’s suppose to. A lot of what I do is troubleshooting the computers and handling questions that deal with the Public Access Technology (the computers, copiers, printer, etc.). I also have to attend monthly meetings and get to learn about new technology coming to the library system. Which is neat.

For the last couple of weeks we’ve been having a reoccurring issue with our public access computers and the reservation software. Usually the customers are able to log on to any computer that is not already in use, or reserved, and sign on for two hours to complete focused work. However, lately the computers have been giving false reservation messages, saying it’s reserved for someone when it’s not and shorting customers time, giving them 30-45 mins at a time. I’ve reported it, but as far as IT and the company knows there is nothing wrong on their end. But the issue persist.

I started keeping track of when we experience the problem and noticed it wasn’t all the time and kind of had a pattern; but since I wasn’t on the desk all the time I wasn’t able to get concrete results. In response I created a form using Google Docs that all the staff can use to help me track computer issues in our department. As I showed everyone the form they really responded well to it. You honestly never know how people will react when you ask them to do a new step in their daily regime. But I posed it as a way to help us better understand the problems with the software and have written proof that something screwy is going on.

I hardly knew thee…

It’s 12:05…I turn and flick the last switch off, effectively ending my stint as an academic reference librarian. With a deep and heartfelt sigh I look over the now dark and silent room. A nod and a smirk and I’m on my way. 

This past Saturday was my last night at HPU. I had been going back and forth about staying on. As I said before I wanted to stay on in the position because I’ve enjoyed myself in both the academic world and the public and I thought I would be able to have the best of both worlds. But despite what that teen-bopper sings you can’t have the best of both worlds without having the worst. I realized that I wasn’t able to give both jobs 100% and the people who would suffer the most would be my patrons.

From what I’ve been able to see and from my own personal convictions a mark of a good librarian is that you care more about getting that information out to those who needed it. In the end I was just plain exhausted all the time, and I had no time for myself.

I’m so grateful for the brief opportunity I had there and it’s just one more thing I can tag on my life story.