Spring Break + Social Capital

Last week was Spring Break for my institution and for the partner institution where I am physically located. This created an interesting situation: my institution requires me to work during this time, but my partner institution closes completely. Fortunately, there is an administrative office for my institution located in the same building as the library that is home to roughly ten staff and the faculty offices that was kept open during the break. This gave me a good opportunity to build relationships with the staff in that office (assistant director, office manager, front desk, faculty coordinator, IT, advisors, and student services).

I spent the week working on long term research projects, playing with data, catching up on professional development, and communicating with students and faculty online. On Monday I happened to read a post by my current favorite library blogger Sally at Librarian Hats titled “Cashing In: Social Capital and the Informationist”. The post was about how we can use social capital to build relationships between libraries and faculty. I found it to be a good reminder of one of the benefits of spending the week in an alternate location: strengthening my social capital.

I know I am fortunate to work with a small body of faculty within a much larger group. I have spent quite a bit of time in my first ten months here in building those relationships. I email about what I can do for them, what I can do for their students, and new resources in their discipline. I visit offices and classrooms to give them helpful materials and have short conversations about what issues they face with their students. I attend faculty meetings that are both social and productive in scope. Through all these interactions my goal is to listen to them first, and then try to identify a way that I or the library can solve their problems. I was glad to read about social capital because to me that sums up what I am doing.

I haven’t spent as much time working on my relationship with the staff members located at this campus. I feel that I’m well known to our faculty by now, and staff is my next focus area. They often see students who don’t come to the library, and building their knowledge about how I can help students will only encourage them to send students to me. Our faculty coordinator has become a good friend, and he fills me in on relevant conversations that happen so I can follow up with individual faculty.

In light of the new ACRL information literacy standards I discussed in my previous post, I wonder if we should begin to use social capital within our instruction and reference work with students. It’s always my goal to provide a long view of the skills I’m teaching, and I think it can be valuable to let students know that they will be regarded more highly in the workplace if they can apply information skills to their work and to building relationships that will lead to better opportunities.


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