User Engagement Librarian, checking in

My first update on my new role comes over three months after starting, so that might be an indication of how busy I have been!

My official title is User Engagement Librarian. There were many discussions leading to the development of that title, and I think it was the best possible choice for what my role has been thus far. The discussion of what to call myself sparked a greater discussion about the name of our department (Information Literacy and Outreach), and how we might look to change that in the future. These decisions have a weighty impact, so if a change happens it will likely take years!

The project taking up most of my time presently is our library’s website redesign. I am on the team charged with designing the new site, and also that will draft policies/procedures to ensure that our site is more cohesive and responsive in the future. I was selected to be part of this group because of my education and experience in user experience design (UX). My concentration in graduate school was digital libraries, and UX has always been a professional passion.

At my previous institution I built the library’s website from scratch using LibGuides and was able to design and run my own user testing. The college decided to redo their website and I brought my knowledge to that project, and helped plan and run the user testing. That has been my role again here, but with a much larger audience and for a very complex website.

We have been mostly in the information gathering stage and in the new year transitioned into more of the testing phase. We are currently running an online card sorting activity and library faculty/staff survey. We have future plans for focus groups, user testing, A/B testing and potentially another survey. I am so blessed to be able to start my new role with a project of this magnitude that is also intellectually stimulating.

That project helps me define my role as being part of my department, but also as one that communicates across the library to improve the services we provide to our users. I’ve also been working on our in person and online instruction, developing standards for online videos, engaging users through social media and events, an institution wide project investigating the needs of transfer students, and partnering with our current Psychology and Social Work librarian to take over his duties when he retires this summer.

Outside my institution I have an upcoming ACRL panel presentation, a presentation at the Florida Library Association (FLA) Conference in May, and a book chapter due in March. I’m doing a lot of work with ACRL committees, FLA committees, and two ALA roundtables. I’m also getting more involved on campus with the Pride Faculty and Staff Association.

It seems overwhelming when I write it all out, but I come to work every day energized and excited to do work. Again, I will end with a hope for more consistent blogging in the future. Time will tell…

Seasons change

This is my last full week as a Regional Campus Librarian. I have taken a new position at my institution’s main campus, title yet to be determined. Our Information Literacy and Outreach department head left a few months after I started, and one of the librarians from that department took over as head over the summer. I am taking over her old role, with some new twists. My job will be to focus on emerging technologies, and also how to best serve our end users.

I’m also going to work with the current Psychology and Social Work subject librarian to slowly take over those duties as he gets ready to retire. So basically, this is the job description I would have written for myself after my first year as a librarian. The title is still TBD because the whole department is going to sit down and discuss what our roles are, and how we classify ourselves.

I am thrilled to be moving to what I like to call the mothership, as I think it will give me more opportunity to work on joint projects and ultimately move our library in a positive direction. I love the campus where I work now, and was blessed to have wonderful colleagues here. I am going to be a part of the search committee to fill my current job which will be posted soon.

My last hurrah here at this campus will be a faculty conference that I am planning in conjunction with our faculty administrator here. I had the idea to plan a day for all the regional campus faculty (we have ten locations) to attend professional development sessions that would be useful in all areas of their work. Of course, I am presenting one of the sessions!

We were also able to get a keynote speaker from one of our content providers, and speakers from several offices on campus. We sent the registration information yesterday and have four faculty signed up already. The conference takes place in early November, so I tried to get as many details worked out as possible while I was still on this campus.
I hope to blog more as I take over my new role. I am planning to spend time analyzing what we currently do, but also exploring new opportunities (like 3D printing!).

Library Summer Camp

I’m hoping that anyone who reads this had the chance to go to summer camp as a kid, and to actually enjoy the experience. There’s something magical about time away from home with people you see infrequently, doing different things, learning together, and getting very little sleep. When I was leaving ALA’s Annual Conference in Las Vegas I felt like I was leaving summer camp.

This feeling may have been heightened by the fact that I was staying with seven other librarians in two suites, but I think the communal aspect comes through even when you are staying solo. I can (and will) talk about the sessions, meetings, and learning but what I found most valuable this year was the time to be around other librarians having conversations ranging from personal to professional and back again. The eight of us that stayed together came from Florida, Ohio, Texas, California, Utah, Mississippi, and North Carolina. Some of us had met in person, or online, or not at all.

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Most of the suite at dinner

We spent a lot of time together in the evenings and in spare moments. I took something from all of them, and from the myriad other librarians with whom I interacted. The most important outcome of this conference for me was a rekindling of my passion for what I do. It’s never been lost, and I am more thankful each day for the work I do, but I’ve had a rough year personally. I separated from my partner of 11 ½ years, and there were times when it felt impossible to focus on work. I am healing, growing, and changing from the experience and ALA felt like a confirmation that I’m ready and able to throw myself fully into librarianship again.

That being said, the rest of my conference was good although not as rich for learning from sessions as other conferences I’ve attended. This was primarily due to the things I had to do for committees and work projects that took away from the time I could spend in sessions, coupled with a frustrating experience traveling to/from events. My first big/important event was Saturday morning, when I moderated the ACRL DLS/ULS panel “Leading From the Side: On, Off, and Within Your Campus”. It’s interesting to be on the other side of the podium at ALA!

Doing my moderation thing!

Doing my moderation thing!

The room looked massive, and we had around 180 attendees. I got there early to make sure we were set up and that our speakers were comfortable. The session went well from what I could tell. I had to modify some of the language written on our outline to make the session flow better, but it was a good way to stay fully engaged while the panelists were speaking. As a side bonus, the information they imparted was useful! I got to catch up with some friendly faces and meet some new people after the session, and I felt a big weight lift off after we successfully implemented the panel session.

On Saturday I also attended the inaugural Sustainability Round Table (SustainRT) board meeting. I went to a meeting for SustainRT at ALA in Chicago and agreed to be their webmaster, a role that I am still committed to. I’m also the unofficial social media person. The meeting was fantastic, there was a lot of energy in the room and I think we made some great decisions about how to move forward. If you have any interest in sustainability in libraries (environmental, collections, architecture, outreach, instruction, really anything!) it’s a great group to join.

After that I attended a session on training from the Learning Round Table that was interesting but not applicable to what I’m doing, however it did pique my interest in that RT. After a “quick” trip back to the hotel, several of my suitemates and I attended the joint ULS/DLS social. It was good to see more familiar faces that I met in Chicago and meet some new librarians. After that most of our suite went to see the V variety show and spent some time taking in the ridiculous Strip.

Sunday morning I met a colleague at the Springshare booth where we spent about 90 minutes talking through our LibGuides V2 migration that happened yesterday! He and I are leading the effort to migrate and hopefully revamp our guides. I spent a good bit of time in and out of the exhibits area this year and I thought it was very well done. I also held out for the best swag!

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After my meeting I caught the Sunday Ignite sessions and got to see a friend from NC do a presentation. I enjoyed every single one and took some short but good notes on marketing and design. I attended the SustainRT lightning rounds in the early afternoon. It was great to see the cool sustainability work going on in libraries around the country. I hope SustainRT can continue to hold the lightning round sessions at future conferences. It’s a great format for sharing.

After the lightning rounds I made my way to the Starbucks to meet my Hyperlinked Library MOOC instructor Michael Stephens in person. I ran into my panel co-chair John Jackson in line and the three of us had a great conversation.

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That evening I attended the LearnRT social at the LVH pool with some of my suitemates and a UCF colleague/friend. We met librarians from around the US and Canada, and enjoyed our time by the pool. After that we had dinner in the LVH and then spent a bit of time on the Strip before returning to the hotel. We all had early Monday meetings!

Monday morning we spent the hour getting to the Convention Center and then several of us attended the meeting for the ACRL Innovations Committee that is working on several events/opportunities/things for the 2015 conference in Portland. It was a busy 90 minutes but we got a lot accomplished. I like being able to meet with my committee members in person, it makes it easier to communicate virtually after you have a chance to get to know people. In the afternoon six of us drove out to the desert to hike Mary Jane Falls in the Mt. Charleston area.

PicMonkey Collage 2

Even the hike was educational! At some point during the 3 mile round trip I paired off with each person for a while and had discussions about programs, instruction, imposter syndrome, career development, publishing and research (among more personal topics!). That night I attended a burlesque show with some colleagues. Tuesday morning was time to say goodbye. My flight was at noon and I was blessed to have one of my suitemates on the same first leg of the flight! We didn’t plan it and figured it out once we were in Vegas. I love when life works out that way.

If you’re still with me or TL;DR: great trip!

Scenes from the trip

Scenes from the trip

Learning and Generating Ideas

Last week was a momentous one professionally. May 10th was my one year anniversary of working as a Regional Campus Librarian for the University of Central Florida. It’s been a year of great change for me personally, and I’ve grown quite a bit professionally as well. Working for a larger institution has given me the opportunity to interact with a larger group of librarians on a regular basis. This has helped me develop a better sense of who I am professionally and what my interests are within librarianship. I also had the opportunity to attend the Florida Library Association Annual Conference last week, which furthered my learning and helped me to generate some new ideas.

The conference spanned three days, and was attended by librarians from the entire state. It’s always interesting to interact with new people. I find myself having conversations with other academic librarians facing the same challenges, and also with public and school librarians who have a very different daily experience but who are rooted in the same core values. I find both to be valuable in my quest to provide the best service possible to my institution. The first day of the conference I presented a poster with two of my colleagues.


My colleagues and me with our poster. (L to R) Kelly Robinson, Carrie Moran (me), and Michael Furlong.

My colleagues and me with our poster. (L to R) Kelly Robinson, Carrie Moran (me), and Michael Furlong.

Our poster was titled “Mythbusters: The Digital Native”. We addressed the common myths about digital natives, provided evidence from our various reference desks, and offered some solutions to address the technology challenges all libraries face. I’m happy to send the PDF to anyone interested in the topic. The poster sessions were the first experience for most people as they took place immediately before and after the opening session. It was my first poster session and I enjoyed having the opportunity to discuss our work with multiple people in a more intimate setting than a presentation.

The keynote was fantastic. It was a talk titled “The Art of Perception” by Amy Herman. Herman developed a training program to teach police officers to enhance their observational skills while working at the Frick Museum in NYC. Her program uses art and imagery to teach these concepts and she was fantastic, so fantastic that I attended the follow up session later in the day. Her website The Art of Perception has more details, and anyone who works with the public should check it out.

On the second day I attended a great lightning round session. There were seven mini sessions and each one gave me something to ponder. One group of librarians used GoPro cameras to track user behavior in the library, another group used theater students to make library instruction videos, and one librarian discussed a project where he was embedded in a class who had to edit Wikipedia as a course assignment. After that I went to a session on retooling a reference program, and although I didn’t find what they did especially relevant, it did spark me to spend 10 minutes writing ideas for things I can do in my library.

The final session I attended that day was on project planning and it was fantastic. The speaker used a model from the “Getting Things Done” method, and gave us time to work in small groups to discuss projects we felt stuck on. One thing I am going to do as a direct result is make sure to start all meetings with a statement of purpose. I already do this frequently, but I think it should be the first step on any meeting agenda. The learning I did on day two inspired this tweet:


The final day of the conference was a half day but still packed with good stuff. I got to see a Twitter friend present in real life on library web performance and user expectations. I also attended a session on social media that focused entirely on public libraries, but still had some good takeaways. I think our library can do better about having conversations on social media and at making our posts more fun – even those that ask our users to do something. The closing keynote was from J. Jeff Kober from Disney. His talk was on customer service and creating excellence, and he was one of the best speakers I’ve ever seen live. The biggest takeaway from Kober was to make sure everyone in the organization knows the greater mission and cultivates that in his/her daily work.

I’m blessed to work for an organization that supports professional development and new learning opportunities. I am looking forward to applying some of the knowledge I gained to new programs and outreach efforts at my library. Attending this local conference also got me excited for ALA Annual in Las Vegas, hope to see some of you there!

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!

Off to the Races

I apologize for the corny title. I grew up about 20 minutes from Saratoga Springs, NY which has one of the US’s most well-loved race tracks. I think it seeps into the culture of that region of New York. If you are ethically okay with horse racing I would recommend a visit if you are in the area!

I don’t know that there’s a better metaphor than “off to the races” for the beginning of an academic semester. Now that I am a runner I can see many parallels between an academic semester and a big race. There is a period of preparation (obviously much longer for a race than a semester, as prep work continues throughout the semester) followed by a frantic beginning where the environment of the race/semester is assessed. It’s easy to push too hard at this beginning stage because all the important milestones lay ahead and you are anxious to begin.

After you settle in it’s easier to take in the whole picture, slow down and (hopefully) enjoy the experience. This middle section is a period of work and feedback that informs actions during the current race/semester and the prep work for the next one. The last few weeks of the semester or few miles of a race are about making a big push to finish strong. The completion of a semester or race affords a period of rest where one can devote energy to recovering and getting ready for a new round of preparation.

This semester was interesting because it started on the Monday after the New Year’s week. I worked on the previous Thursday and Friday, but many of my colleagues did not. The transition between Fall and Spring is often more hectic because of the interruption of the holiday break.

I have been back from break for just under two weeks. I’ve taught one orientation session and one in class session. I’ve started my embedded work in five classes, two of which are already working on their library assignment. I have four workshops and six classes scheduled between now and mid-February. I have been working diligently on preparation for these sessions. Most of them are revamped versions of previous sessions, but a few are requiring me to get familiar with databases that are new to me. It’s an exciting time, and I’m trying to keep myself at the right pace to get through the semester successfully.

I am extremely grateful for the way the campus community has embraced me and my role. I am building on my relationships with old faculty, meeting new faculty, getting back in touch with staff, and collaborating with my partner librarians. More importantly, I have already been in touch with students in person, online, and on the phone to answer questions and provide instruction. I have some new library association opportunities brewing, and have been planning with some of my librarian buddies for ALA Annual in Las Vegas. I hope you are all embracing the frantic start to the semester, and that you continue to be successful throughout the Spring!

Handbook of Academic Writing for Librarians Review

My last post outlined my plans and goals for this year. Several of these will require me to work on manuscripts for publication, something I’ve not yet achieved. My inclination to obsess/research a topic before I tackle it led me to the book “Handbook of Academic Writing for Librarians” by Christopher V. Hollister.

I read the book in the quiet time between semesters and had to return it before I wrote this review so I am working of my memory and my notes. To get the big question out of the way: yes, I would highly recommend this title to any librarian who is writing for publication. It is extremely useful for writing an academic research article, but also includes information on writing books/book chapters and other publications. As I was not an English major, I appreciated some of the grammatical review as well.

One thing that struck me about the book was how readable it was. I expected to skim and skip around through the chapters, but I found myself reading in depth and in order. The structure of the book was quite logical, moving from mechanics to scholarly paper elements to where to publish to the publishing process. There was a chapter following those on writing a book that included elements such as proposals and the editing process.

The advice was often very practical, and the author provided great examples of each point he made. I especially liked the templates provided for queries to editors and manuscript cover letters. The information in the book was also helpful to my work with faculty and students as it detailed the elements of a scholarly paper and the publishing process, things with which I was familiar but I enjoyed reading another’s take on them. As I read through my notes I realize that they aren’t the best for composing a review, but they are full of tips and well-researched practices that I will certainly implement as I get started on my writing process.