Mindfuless and Unorthodox Roles for Librarians

I was drawn to librarianship for many reasons. Although I couldn’t have expressed it at the time I chose to start my graduate work, I know now that one of the things that keeps me excited about librarianship is that I get to wear many hats in the course of my normal work day. I also get to work with people ages eighteen to eighty (with some outliers) who have vastly different goals and motivations. I can teach the same class or workshop two days in a row and have completely different experiences.

This week has reminded me why I enjoy my job so much. I dusted off an old workshop I used to do at my last library on plagiarism and citations, and offered two sessions this week. One of our Psychology faculty offered extra credit for attendance and I had 9 students total show up for both workshops (bear in mind that I’m at a regional campus with only 450 of my institution’s students). The first session went well. I like to use personal examples, especially for a topic that’s dry like plagiarism and citations.

I have my BA in Psychology and the students were all very interested in my educational background. They were engaged throughout the session and asked relevant questions. When I wrapped up they all lingered for a few minutes to ask more questions about the workshop, their major, graduate school, and other library questions. It was amazing! Two of them stayed even longer, and then one came back to my office to get assistance with an assignment. When I finished with her she told me that I was more helpful than anyone yet, talk about an ego boost! I got a feeling similar to runner’s high when I finished the session, and I find that instruction and interacting with students often leaves me feeling this way.

In our work as librarians we can step out of the traditional role of information conduit to offer support, counsel, and direction to our students. Library anxiety is a very real phenomenon and I am thankful for my background in counseling that helps me get the most out of my interactions with students. I often think about how challenging it is to be a student: the application process, registration, financial aid, navigating a campus, picking good classes, completing the massive workloads, etc. One of my goals as a librarian is to find ways to step in and offer assistance, even if it’s something as small as walking a student to the academic advising or financial aid office.

Information seeking in academic libraries is about more than research and supporting academic coursework, and we should all strive to connect students with whatever it is they need. I’m also trying to be more proactive with identifying information needs and designing a realistic intervention. I know that three Psychology classes on my campus require students to find peer-reviewed articles, and that their faculty assume that they have this skill before coming to class. I also know the reality of our student’s skills and knowledge doesn’t meet this expectation, so I decided to create a two sided worksheet that walks them through the process and rationale with my contact information.

I looked up the course enrollments, made enough copies for every student, and hand delivered them to each of our Psychology faculty members to ask them to distribute them in class. I am hoping this will encourage students to reach out for help, and to feel less anxiety about that part of their work. Similarly, I am embedded in five online courses that each have intense research requirements. I am making active use of the discussion board to identify weaknesses in their work and then provide targeted information on the Library discussion board. I’ve gotten more thank you emails and comments in the last two weeks than for the entire previous semester!

I am actively cultivating a mindset of being grateful in my life, and it has been easy this week to connect to that experience in my work. Mindfulness and meditation are tools I’ve been exploring for almost a year and I think they’ve made a significant impact on my work. I am more aware of problems, have more focus when working on projects, and am better able to communicate with my colleagues and students. This week has been very affirming, especially in the face of a more hectic schedule than I faced before the break!


5 thoughts on “Mindfuless and Unorthodox Roles for Librarians

  1. Fascinating post. As someone who is embarking on a career-switch into librarianship, your blog has been nothing short of inspirational. Thanks ever so much for taking the time to articulate your journey as a librarian, especially reassuring for those of us who are somewhat apprehensive about what to expect, yet excited about the opportunity to pursue a career in a profession that seems to fit my passions and skills (yet somehow failed to realise it until now!). I have bookmarked this post along with a few others, and will be sure to keep tabs on the blog in the future, as I wade further into the field.

    • Wow. I’m floored by your comment and appreciate the feedback. I am happy to answer any questions you have, good luck on your journey (I recommend blogging about it!).

  2. Thanks Carrie. You write in such a matter-of-fact manner. that I ended up spending most of yesterday evening reading through your blog! The post about Chrome foldered-bookmarks, Google Reader, Feedly, Dropbox and Workflowy (the latter of which I’d never heard of until then) really struck a chord, it was like someone had ripped a page out of my own life, changed the main character and slapped it online! Naturally I’ve added your blog, and your favourite LIS bloggers (from another post) onto my own LIS-dedicated collection on Feedly. I’d also never heard of Prezi before, so thanks for introducing me to that too. Finally, in the course of reading your entries I came across your Girl in Half blog, which I’ve also bookmarked. Your weight-loss, meditation experiences and reflections on gratitude, are quite simply (running out of adjectives) inspirational.

      • Sure, you can add me on twitter: @ablokeinlondon – it’d be great to keep in touch. In fact, I meant to add you on twitter last night, but got so distracted by your blog, I forgot about it. Will add you now. This is my personal twitter account. I’ve also just created a new one dedicated to LIS (@hramLIS), but I probably won’t be using it much until I’ve actually got something to write about my own reflections, which with any luck will be later this summer. I’m also hoping to connect that new twitter account with a blog (shamelessly modeled on yours, I suspect). Watch this space!

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