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…

Catching Up

I have a strong will power. If I commit to doing something in my life, I typically will continue doing it even when I’m not motivated or am frustrated. The flip side of this is that when I let my commitment to something wane I have difficulty starting again. That’s how I feel about this blog. I was really enjoying the experience and only had a few Thursday nights where I felt that I was struggling to write a post. I’d planned to take time off from the blog for the holidays, but not a whole extra month!

I’ve actually started this post before and stopped, but I’m pushing myself to get through it tonight in an attempt to get back to my regularly scheduled postings. I read quite a few blogs and I think they are a valuable and exciting way to share information and opinions. I hope that this semester I will be able to keep my commitment and track my first year as a librarian.

A lot of the faculty and staff here made jokes about being busy/crazy at the beginning of a semester and I think I underestimated how it would impact me! I got our new website mostly finished by the end of last year, and we got it live (with only a few hiccups!) on January 6th. I’ve yet to hear any complaints by students, faculty or staff so I’m happy with that project. My Dean and other full-time Librarian also both got involved creating pages and I was pleased that they showed so much enthusiasm for the project.

I was also working on a project to evaluate streaming video services, and the services we chose all became active at the end of last year. I’ve been slowly working on training myself and other people on how to use them. We have a more formal training session scheduled for later this month, and I need to create some training documents for that. I’ve also been doing some joint training with an Instructional Technologist that I work with. I found an article about a librarian doing an “Appy Hour” program, and we’ve started doing that here. There’s always been a monthly Tea & Technology training session that our Instructional Technologist leads, and 3 of the 6 scheduled for this semester are the “Appy Hour” theme. We did one a few weeks ago and had good turnout. We each showed 2 apps, she focused on more work related apps and I did some “fun” apps. Then we let attendees discuss apps they liked, and we projected them to the group. For our next session I’ll be covering the work apps and I’m going to discuss the EBSCOhost app and ArticleSearch. I might talk about the different e-reading apps available as well.

The most time consuming thing I worked on in January was re-designing the library instruction that’s a mandatory part of our ACA Basic Skills classes. I used Adobe’s Articulate software package to make online tutorials for our online students. I tried to make one long tutorial for them to complete but there were some technical issues and the head of the ACA program thought it might be confusing for her students. I broke down what I did into chunks and created a guide on our site to present the tutorials. It’s still being reviewed by the ACA instructors but I’m hoping to be done with the online part soon. For the in class sessions we traditionally have had the students come for two 45 minute sessions, or one combined 75 minute session. We used to do a library overview and scavenger hunt on the first day and a quick and dirty database session on the second day.

I changed these sessions so that the first session is called “Using Library Services” and the second is called “Doing Research”. I made the first day focus on what the library offers in person and online. The second day focuses on distinguishing between resource types, knowing where to find them, basic searching skills, and an overview of 2 popular databases. I’m going to use a method I found in the book “Humor and Information Literacy” called the Cephalonian Method.

I always try to bring humor into my instruction sessions because it helps the students feel more at ease and shows them that I’m human. I get more questions and follow up contact from students after particularly humorous sessions. Speaking of instruction sessions, I’ve been doing quite a few of them. I keep getting asked to do my Plagiarism & Citations workshop in classes. I’m also going to a local high school tomorrow to teach a class during 1st period and another during 2nd period about basic research skills. As of now, I’m scheduled to teach 21 classes in the 19 working days left this month! It’s been a little overwhelming but I like doing them.

The last thing I’ve been working on is some committees. I’m the Chair of a training committee for the catalog consortium we belong to for NC Community Colleges, which also makes me a member of the Steering Committee. I’m planning the first meeting of that committee for later this month. I was also asked to join the 2013 ALA Annual Conference Planning Committee for the ACRL’s Distance Learning Section, so I’m looking forward to getting more involved on a national level.

February looks to be one of the craziest months of my life. Beyond all the work stuff I’m moving into a new house at the end of the month! Thankfully I have a vacation to FL planned for early March to recover from this whirlwind month.

Frustrations and Successes

I doubt anyone reads my blog regularly as there’s not much traffic, so it’s not likely anyone will notice that my post is a day late this week. I worked a weird schedule this week, so I wasn’t here last night and worked Wednesday night instead. Wednesday night we were exceptionally busy. We had several students working on the same assignment, a substantial research paper for one of our upper level English classes. We’ve also had quite a few students doing the last minute scramble to find sources. I had a student come in this week looking for a book on a somewhat obscure Civil War soldier, and she couldn’t grasp why we didn’t just have one book only about him. I did my best to show her how to browse our Civil War collection and use book indexes, but she was in a rush and in no mood to be taught how to do something. This was a frustrating experience for me because I was doing everything I could to teach her instead of just passively giving her what she needed, but she wasn’t open to the experience.

Yesterday morning I taught another class at a local high school, and this time there were 27 students. 27 high school students are a bit overwhelming!! They were loud and rowdy and tough to settle down. Their instructor wanted me to cover plagiarism and APA style in depth. When I started my instruction (after my standard Plagiarism “Ice Ice Baby” vs. “Under Pressure” video clips), I could tell that a lot of them were zoning out. Fortunately, they’d already been assigned the VAIL Tutor so I knew I could get through the plagiarism portion and then maybe grab their attention with content that was both new and more relevant. They also already knew their assignment (a research paper on an issue in the prison system), so I could tailor everything to that. I took some extra time after going over APA to show them how easy it is to find articles in our databases, emphasizing that it can actually be faster than Google and the benefit of the citation generator built into the database. By the time I was done they asked questions and all wanted my email address to ask more questions in the future. I started out very apprehensive, but finished feeling relatively successful. On my way in to teach I ran into the instructor I taught for 2 weeks ago and she told me she’s already seen improvement in their work, so it was a good experience all around.

The rest of last week and this week I’ve been essentially chained to my desk (when I’m not working Reference) to work on migrating our site. I’m almost done with the main part of the site (one pesky Web 2.0 Tools page left!), but then I still have to migrate about half of our research guides. I also have to walk my boss through making guides so she can do the English guides. I’ve got 4 days next week to work, so I’m hoping I can get it all done, but we do have a week in January before students come back so I should be able to finish by then. If I’m not able to post again next week I wish anyone who stumbles upon this post a happy holiday season!

Busy Week!

It’s been a busy week here in the library. The last day of classes is December 19th, so we are getting busy with students scrambling to finish final papers and study. It’s been busy for me outside of reference sessions also. I had been splitting my focus between a lot of different things, but now I have a project that needs the majority of my work time until the end of the year. We are migrating our entire website to a new library focused CMS, and I’m basically responsible for moving all of the content. My Dean told me this week that she’d like to have the new site ready for the Spring semester, so I essentially need to get it ready by the 22nd when our holiday break starts. I also have to teach her and my fellow librarian how to build content pages tomorrow so they can help with a few of the easier things. I’m definitely feeling pressured to get it done, but I also really enjoy building websites so it’s easy to lose track of time.

The good news is that I’ve seen some longer term projects get completed or close to completed recently. Last week we held a “Meet Your Librarians (And Put Them to Work!)” session for faculty members where we had food and each of us spoke about our educational background, our interests, and our role in the library. We tried to highlight some of our under-utilized services and resources. We had about 20 people show up (about half were already good friends of the library!), but I think it was a success. I have been interacting more with different faculty members and they are starting to come directly to me for things. I’m looking forward to building on these relationships to help promote myself and the library in the future.

The other big project that’s essentially finished is that I was tasked to explore streaming video services for use in instruction. I set up a trial of 5 services and worked with about 15 faculty members to get feedback on what they liked and what they would use. We met this week and made a decision on what to purchase, and I’m happy with our choices. I’m looking forward to getting them set up and to start holding faculty training sessions to teach them how to use the fantastic content we’re getting. I really do enjoy the instruction aspect of my job, and it keeps catching me off guard. I never considered the librarian as instructor role in grad school but I am so glad it found me. I could go on, but the website is calling!