Paradigm Shift

I’m an Instruction and Reference Librarian. Instruction is one of the main things I do, and it is my favorite part of my job. This is continually surprising to me because it’s not something I even considered during my graduate school work. Fortunately, many of the classes I took for my Digital Libraries concentration focused on user centered design. Although I learned about that concept in the framework of designing online spaces, it can easily apply to developing learning experiences. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last year reading, attending conference presentations, and viewing webinars on instruction (from a library perspective, a general perspective, and an adult training perspective). At the beginning of this process I was heavily influenced by the instructional program in place here when I started because I had no relevant framework for instruction.

The process of self-directed learning on instruction has been vital as it’s helped me to gain new perspectives and apply them to my practice. Recently I read two articles within a few days of each other that caused me to go through a paradigm shift in the way I view instruction. At the time it felt profound and uncomfortable. After a few weeks of reflection it feels like something I should have known all along. The first article I read was “Rebooting infolit, the BATTLE DECKS way” from Ned Potter (aka thewikiman). In the article Ned discusses how he redesigned a traditional information literacy session. The biggest thing that struck me was how he structured the session more like he would a presentation to an external audience. In particular, he said this “For infolit teaching my process used to go like this: look at all the stuff I have to tell them about the library, and then work through it as unboringly as possible. For external workshops my process goes like this: think what is most useful and interesting to the audience, then try and present it in an engaging way so it stays with them. These are definitely distinct approaches. Thinking about what is most useful to the audience may well involve not actually talking about ‘library’ stuff nearly as much. But if the students get more out of it, is that really a problem?”

That was the first part of my shift. I realized that I’ve been doing my best to cram every bit of library information I can into a 45-75 minute session in the least boring way possible, rather than thinking about what’s most useful to my students. Over the last year I’ve redesigned the majority of our instruction with an attempt to focus on the skills I thought our students needed, but this article made me realize that I didn’t do a great job of it. I also realized that we tend to repeat very similar instruction to every class, regardless of subject or level. This article has inspired me to make a broad plan for instruction that teaches that massive glob of library information in stages. I think my lack of experience when I started working here caused me to develop an attitude that we had to present a comprehensive overview of library services/resources to every single class. Now I realize that it is likely better to tackle the information in stages and to be okay with the fact that some essential skills will get covered later in the students’ academic careers.

I think it’s probably better for beginning students to spend half an hour learning how to find a book by actually finding books for themselves than to cram that information into the first 5 minutes of every presentation. That would free up time in upper level courses to skip the generic catalog spiel and spend more time on constructing searches or exploring subject appropriate databases. On one of my listservs recently someone posted a link to an Integrated Instruction Framework from Portland Community College. I’d love to develop something similar to this for our campus now that I’m more familiar with when we get access to students and how they progress through a degree program.

The second article that cemented the shift was “Let’s (Not) Do the Numbers” by Barbara Fister. The article discusses how academic libraries are so focused on business metrics and being liked that they’re missing out on fulfilling the mission of  supporting student success. One quote I particularly liked was “There seems to be a sense that if libraries can’t please everyone all the time, if they don’t have as much market share and mindshare as possible, they are not demonstrating their value and . . . and what? They’ll be closed?” My partner has a business degree and through years of helping her study I developed a good knowledge of business terms and concepts. Throughout graduate school and my experiences since, I’ve noticed how much libraries have adopted these business concepts, and this article pointed out why that may not be the best way to do things.

This article cemented my shift because it made me realize that the most important thing I do every day is help our students achieve their educational goals. It doesn’t matter if I do it from the reference desk, through an online tutorial, by teaching one of their instructors how to embed a video in Blackboard, or by showing them how to print. Being focused on the number of student interactions or workshop attendees or website hits isn’t going to help me in the moment where a student is practically in tears trying to finish citations. As I begin my process of mapping our library instruction I’m going to challenge myself to ensure that each step is something that will be useful to our students and to be okay with presenting the library in a way that makes sense to them rather than in a way that makes me feel like I’m proving our worth.

Later today I’m attending a webinar on neuroscience and learning, tomorrow I’m attending one on customer service for libraries, and last week I attended one on learning activities. My plan is to reflect on these in my next post, which will hopefully be Thursday evening.

Nine Month Anniversary

Trying to write a consistent blog is quite a challenge. I was doing well with the Thursday evening blog posts but it’s easy to let yourself slip. And then once you’ve slipped it is hard to come back. I’ve been thinking about potential blog posts since my last post. When I checked to see when my last post was, I was shocked that I’ve let two and a half months pass since my last post! Perhaps if I hold myself to a less rigorous schedule, like once every two weeks, I can be more consistent. I’m really enjoying keeping a record of the beginning of my career. Speaking of that, today marks 9 months since I started working as an Instruction/Reference Librarian!  I’m getting more used to telling people that I’m a librarian, but it still gets me a little excited/overwhelmed whenever I do. I can’t believe that it’s been almost a year since I graduated from Drexel, and less than two and a half years since I decided to become a librarian.

I am incredibly glad I decided to take this journey, and I feel like I’m in a good place professionally. Trying to keep up with the very active library community can sometimes be intimidating. I’d like to make an impact on librarianship as a whole, but it’s hard to figure out what my niche will be to accomplish that goal. I’m considering applying for the ALA’s Emerging Leaders program, but I’m also thinking of maybe waiting a year until I have more professional experience. Earning my MLIS online was a fantastic experience, but I think it limited some of the opportunities my fellow new librarians had in more traditional programs like opportunities to attend professional development events and give presentations. I’d like to build up that side of my career a bit more before I really put myself out there.

Fortunately, I’m working on some great committees and I keep being asked to join things! I also just found out that I’ll be co-presenting with a librarian from NC LIVE and a librarian from Catawba Valley Community College at the North Carolina Community College System Conference in October. This will be my first professional presentation and I’m really looking forward to it. I’m going to be talking about how our library’s online resources support the QEP we developed for our recent accreditation process. The conference is for everyone involved with the North Carolina Community College System, not just librarians. This means more opportunity to meet people and to learn about what I’m doing on a broader scope. I just read an excellent blog post about community college librarianship that I’d highly recommend to anyone in this field or anyone considering it.

Another good blog post I found recently had an embedded video of a presentation by Char Booth and Brian Mathews called “Understanding the Learner Experience”. The presentation was over an hour long but it was worth every minute. I really encourage you to watch it to get the full picture. Essentially it discussed how to analyze both the student experience and the faculty experience, and how to make the library a third place that can help facilitate more successful and meaningful experiences for everyone involved. I’m looking forward to implementing some of their ideas and techniques into my own work.

The final incredibly valuable experience I’ve had recently was the opportunity to attend a Black Belt Librarians workshop with Warren Graham. He was one of the most magnetic and interesting speakers I’ve ever seen. The workshop was a whole day and it was hosted by a consortium for higher education institutions in the Charlotte area. The workshop was about security in the library and was full of practical information that we can start applying here. It made me realize how much work we need to do in that area. Our office manager went with me, and we’re meeting with our Dean and other full time librarian to discuss how to start updating our security procedures. Warren wrote a book called The Black Belt Librarian: Real World Safety & Security that should contain all the information he presented. If you can find him presenting somewhere near you I’d highly recommend attending!

My poor neglected blog

The 23 things program is officially wrapping up this week, and I am disappointed to say that I didn’t officially complete any Thing past Thing 13. My last post was in late August, just after I accepted the position where I am now working. In the last 8 weeks I’ve moved to a new state, started my first official librarian position, and attended my first professional conference. It has certainly been a whirlwind, but I wouldn’t have been as successful if I hadn’t been working on the 23 Things before this crazy time in my life started!

I’m going to attempt to briefly address the last 10 Things in this post, and my goal is to transition from using this blog as a vehicle for 23 Things to it being a record of the beginnings of my career as a librarian. I actually just had to pause this post to help several students, and then had a chat with my boss about keeping a record of my professional development activities throughout the year, so now I have even more incentive to keep my blog active!

Thing 14 Zotero / Mendeley / citeulike

I don’t currently use any of these tools and I never had. I took a stab at using a similar service, RefWorks, when I was getting my MLIS but I wasn’t thrilled with its functionality and I’m super organized with my research so I didn’t bother to use the service. I’ve spent some time exploring these three options, and I think Mendeley looks like the one I will go with in the future when I hopefully start collaborating on research. I’m finding that I’m starting to look at tools through the lens of our users’ needs, and most community college students (and faculty!) aren’t likely to make use of citation services. That being said, I’m working on new courses that we can offer faculty and if my Web 2.0 Tools class happens I intend to include information on citation tools.

Thing 15: Attending, presenting at and organising seminars, conferences and other events

As I mentioned in my intro, I just attended my first conference last week! It was for the North Carolina Library Association and I found it to be an incredibly rewarding experience from start to finish. I met a lot of other librarians who are doing amazing things, learned about some new tools, and started to build my confidence as a legitimate librarian. I was out this past weekend and met some new people, and it felt so exhilarating to introduce myself as a librarian to someone outside of the college for the first time! When I originally read the 23 Things post for this topic the idea of presenting at a conference/seminar was daunting. Now that I’ve been teaching classes and have attended conference sessions I have decided this is something I’d like to pursue. I’ve written before about my struggle to reconcile the differences between being in a career vs. just a job, and sometimes seeing how involved other librarians are is overwhelming. At the same time, I get energized by meeting new people and sharing experiences so I’d like to push myself to become an active librarian!

Thing 16: Advocacy, speaking up for the profession and getting published.

I didn’t quite realize how important advocacy was until I started working as a librarian. I’m finding that my first point of focus is the faculty and staff on our campus. I don’t think our services and skills are being utilized the way they could be, and one of my first goals in my position is to do outreach with our faculty, staff, and students. I know this will be a challenge so I’d love feedback on how other people have done this.

As far as getting published, the community college setting doesn’t require me to do so, but it is something I’d like to pursue for myself. I met some really fantastic people at the NCLA conference and I’m working up the courage to see if any of them would partner with me on research endeavors. I also need to spend a little more time deciding what avenues of research I’d like to pursue.

Thing 17: Prezi / data visualisation / slideshare

I was familiar with all of these tools/topics prior to reading the CPD23 post. I actually used a Prezi to get my job here, and I’d like to make a series of Information Literacy based Prezi’s that I’ll record using Camtasia to make videos for our library site. Data visualization is a topic that I first took notice of during my graduate studies and I find it fascinating but daunting. There are certainly some amazing free web tools to create visualizations, and this is something I’m exploring to make our library website more engaging and appealing. I’ve seen quite a few presentations on Slideshare and I like the idea of using it, but I haven’t yet created a presentation that I feel is worthy of uploading to test it out! Slideshare does serve a useful purpose, but I feel as though we should all be moving away from static Powerpoint style presentations to make use of more dynamic tools like Prezi and screen capture services.

Thing 18: Jing / screen capture / podcasts (making and following them)

Man, that turned out to be a nice segue! I hadn’t really used Jing or other screen capture services before I started my job, however, I am very proficient in the CTRL+PrtScn function in Microsoft! I like Jing because it’s fast and can be used for quick tutorials and help guides. Our campus has subscriptions to SnagIt and Camtasia so I am more likely to use those tools since they are already on my desktop.

Podcasts have been around for quite some time but I’ve never taken the time to get into using them. I don’t know why this is, and I’ve tried several times to get more into it but I just can’t. I’m not a huge talk radio or audio book type person, and I guess I’d rather read/see something than hear it. I suppose that makes me a visual learner! That being said, one of the things I’ve learned here at the community college is how important it is to present information in multiple formats so that all users can access it in a way that makes sense and is comfortable for them. Once things settle down in my job (ha ha) I will revisit podcasting and how I might be able to apply it here.

Thing 19: Some time to think about how you might integrate the Things so far into your workflow and routines.

For the purposes of completeness, I will add a sentence here to say how glad I am for this program. Things 1-12 helped me find my job, feel comfortable doing it, and be more able to reflect on my experiences to make positive changes.

Thing 20: Library Day in the Life and Library Routes/Roots

Library Day in the Life is something I learned about during the height of my job search, and thus I didn’t participate. I did pay close attention to the concept, and spent some time reading blogs to get a better idea of what I might be doing once I found a job. I look forward to being involved with the project in the future!

My Library Roots go pretty deep! My Mother was the librarian at my high school (she retired in 2006) and my Aunt is currently a part time librarian for the Army and for a community college. I grew up in the library. I loved helping my Mom check out books to patrons and fondly remember her sitting on the couch reading library journals and booklists while I did my homework or read a book. She has been my strongest support throughout my life, and she was surprised when I chose to become a librarian. I got my undergraduate degree in Psychology in 2007 and planned to take some time off from school before rushing into a graduate program. I didn’t start working in the field of Psychology until 2009, and I quickly realized I didn’t want to be a therapist. I also realized that my favorite part of my undergraduate work was research. Not necessarily writing the paper, and not necessarily just in Psychology, but I discovered that I loved to learn new things. The more I thought about it the more I realized that working in an academic library would allow me to marry my love of learning/research with my love of technology/the Internet, and I quickly applied for Library School.

My Library Routes pick up from here. I chose Drexel University for a few reasons. The first was because I could apply and enroll within a few short months. Secondly, I could complete the degree online which would help me to be able to work and support myself at the same time. Third, they have an excellent reputation. Fourth, I could complete the degree in 15 months. I had a good experience at Drexel. Most of my professors were brilliant and engaging, my classmates were smart and well-spoken, and I was able to take classes that matched my interests. My biggest challenge was that I’d never learned about libraries before, so I spent more time reading than I thought I would. I knew I wanted to work in an academic library and I began applying for jobs about 4 months before I graduated. I began to get frustrated with my search about a month after graduating and realized I needed more real-life experience (I had none). I was able to begin volunteering at a local University working with metadata, but I only did this for about 3 weeks before I was offered my current position. I have now been working as the Instruction/Reference Librarian for about 6 weeks and I love my job so far. I get to do reference, teach classes, build websites, and pretty much tackle any project I can think up. I’m looking forward to seeing what I can accomplish in my first year!

Thing 21: How to identify your strengths, how to capitalise on your interests, how to write something eyecatching that meets job specs.

Identifying my strengths was a huge part of actually getting a job in the field. I had to market my skills from being a customer service rep, bookseller, and crisis counselor into library terms. I think it’s important for me to continue identifying my strengths and weaknesses in my new position to make sure that I continue to grow as a librarian. The job application process was one of the most difficult things I’ve done in my life. I feel incredibly blessed to have found a job that I love in such a short period of time. I know that one of the things that “sealed the deal” was my interview, as I’ve heard feedback from all of my current co-workers who were on my interview panel about how I did. I actually did my interview on Skype, and I spent about 4 hours researching interview questions & how to ace a Skype interview. I found a fantastic blog about library interviews, and I literally wrote out my answers to most of the questions and practiced them with my partner. Everyone who was on the panel told me that I was the only candidate who didn’t take long pauses to come up with an answer, and that my answers felt very natural. I would highly recommend a good practice session to anyone who is going to be interviewing in the future. Another recommendation is to research the organization, and to use that research in your interview. I made sure they knew that I was excited to be working with them and that I wanted to be a part of their community.

Thing 22: Volunteering to get experience

I mentioned this in my Routes section, and although I think the volunteering had little to do with me getting my current job, I know that if I’d had to continue my search my experience volunteering would have been invaluable. The volunteer experience exposed me to the workings of an academic library, and got me to start meeting other librarians. I wish I could have spent more time there!

Thing 23: What have you learnt and where do you want to go from here?

In summary, I’ve learned that professional development is a lifelong process that will give as much back to you as you put into it. It takes a lot of effort to keep up with the many active librarians on Twitter, read blogs, explore new resources, meet new people, reflect on your experiences, and incorporate the new knowledge you gain into your professional and personal life. The 23 Things exposed me to a flurry of online library activity, and to the skills of reflective practice and networking that will be essential to me as I continue in my career. I look forward to continuing my professional development and to using this blog as a tool to build my career.


Week 7: Things 10 & 11

Thing 10: Route into Librarianship

I found it fascinating to read through the options available toUKlibrarians. I don’t know that my path would have been much different than the one I chose here in the US, but it seems as though the LIS community is perhaps more welcoming and supportive of new librarians. From the few posts I’ve seen this week on this topic, it appears that many of my fellow participants found themselves working in a library almost by accident and then decided that they enjoyed it so they pursued a degree in the field.

I am almost the exact opposite, where I decided to become a librarian and get my Masters degree without ever having worked in a library. Although I’ve never worked in libraries, I did grow up in and around them. My Mother is a retired librarian, and she was the Library Media Specialist in my high school. I have many distinct memories of running through her library as a child, and we took weekly visits to the public library together. In high school I’d hang out in the library in my free time, and I’d usually jump on the computer and help my classmates check out and find books.

I got my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, a topic that grabbed my attention in high school, and one that I still find exciting. I decided toward the end of my undergraduate career to take a few years to work before I decided what type of post-graduate education to pursue. It took longer than I expected, but I finally found my current job where I work as a crisis counselor. This experience helped me realize that I didn’t want to be a therapist, and although I love Psychology, I didn’t want to be stuck in a lab researching and experimenting either. I almost started a program to get my Masters in Women’s Studies, but at the last minute I realized that it wouldn’t have the practical focus that I was looking for. I went through a bit of an identity crisis but gave myself time to explore my interests, evaluate my strengths, and decide what my next step would be.

My favorite part of my undergraduate work was always doing research and reading new articles. I didn’t necessarily love writing the papers that followed, but I loved the hunt for information and the satisfaction of finding just what was needed. I know that I am skilled in working with people, and that I love being in libraries. It took some internal struggle to accept the fact that I was technically following in my Mother’s footsteps because I’ve always been one to try to blaze my own trail. Now that I’ve completed my degree I’m quite pleased with my decision and can’t wait to start working full time as a librarian. I mentioned in my last post that I’ve started volunteering at a local university, and I absolutely love the work I’m doing and being in a library twice a week. My only regret is that I didn’t pursue any opportunities for library experience during my degree program, and I’m hoping that it won’t be long until I can be making a living as a librarian!

Thing 11: Mentoring

Mentoring is definitely something I’ve been considering lately. When I graduated in June I began reaching out on message boards and found the reassurance of seasoned professionals to be incredibly helpful. I went on the ALAConnect website and used their mentoring section to reach out to several librarians, but unfortunately I haven’t received any responses. This is certainly something I intend to follow up on, but with working part time, volunteering just as much, and full-time job hunting it’s been less of a priority.

My time volunteering so far has been fantastic, and the librarian I’ve been working with has been very open about her experiences. I already feel a bit of a mentor/mentee relationship developing between us, and I may consider asking her to make it more formal once I’ve been working at the library longer. Another benefit of volunteering there is the librarians I’ve been talking to in the lunchroom! There is another volunteer who is already working as a librarian and she is considering taking classes at my alma mater to brush up on her Digital Library knowledge. It was nice to be able to share my experiences with her and get her perspective on the information I’ve learned. I have also been able to chat with a few other librarians at the university, and am considering reaching out to them to look for more volunteer hours. I had a great conversation with my Mom about the experience, and she agreed that the collegial relationships she built as a librarian were one of the most rewarding aspects of her career. I’m looking forward to meeting more librarians at different points in their careers and learning as much as I can from them.