Deepening the Conversation

thinking about questions of authority, technology, learning, and 2.0 in academic libraries


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Reno Update #1

I’m long overdue for a status update!

Brief update: I have moved! And it is good. I am happy. Very happy. Happy has become my default state.

I’m really enjoying Reno. The West suits me, the mountains are breathtaking, the people are kind and generous and sometimes very wonderfully odd. Being new has good points, but I am starting to realize I haven’t been “new” in any substantive ways since 2005. And I’d forgotten how hard it can be, without touchstone people and the complete absence of anything familiar. It’s exciting, and wonderful, in so many ways. But as the shine wears off I suspect I will have to remember all those old strategies for how to be new (reading in coffee shops, picking up hobbies, remembering to leave the apartment…). Luckily, I want to do all these things!

So, gorgeous locale. Good people. Exciting work. Wonderfully friendly and collegial colleagues. Men who look as I believe men should (and even one or two or so who might be dating me…). A happy cat.

Less briefly: I knew coming here that my job wasn’t entirely defined. That’s cool though — it’s the first time ever I’ve take a job that existed before me, so it’s more defined than any other job I started! My title is Reference and Instruction Librarian. This semester there’s some reference work (at a combined service point, so for the first time ever I’m learning Circ stuff!). I won’t likely be doing any actual instruction this semester (due to timing) but am part of a number of groups and committees looking at instruction and I’m really enjoying all of that!

A number of folks have left recently (mostly retirements) and many jobs are being redefined, so the subject librarians will be working together to discuss the spread of departments amongst us, and hopefully what it means to be a subject librarian. I’m really excited about this kind of engaged approach to unit self-management, and am very excited about what I hope is an opportunity for us to build common ground about what we will be doing as liaisons. I’ve been reading widely on this topic, and am excited to dig in. (for what it’s worth, my take on this is relationships. It’s about building relationships.  Everything else flows from that)

There’s also enormous potential right now in Instruction. We do a lot of instruction, but not in structured or scaffolded ways, and we could be doing a lot more. I’ve had a lot of good conversations about what we might be doing in this area in the near future. Most is on hold waiting for the new GenEd plan to be released from the committee. SO MUCH POTENTIAL!! I’m pretty excited!

I do, however, need to start saying no. I’ve said no to a couple of things, and let’s hold off for a moment on a couple of others. But here is what I have said yes to so far (in addition to regular hours on the combined research services service point — which means I am learning a LOT about Circ!):

  • Summon implementation group. I’m a little over my head at this point, but that’s OK. The expectations are for me to have more input when we get Summon and think about how we want to display and teach it.
  • Teaching and learning group. This is the group talking about Instruction. Very exciting!  Below are some of the things we’re discussing and working on
    • first year IL
    • infoLit request form (ridiculous how many ideas I have for this!)
    • Thinking about how we advertise/market/talk about our services
    • We will discuss impact of Summon on. IL and on library/community interfaces
    • Hopefully, please soon, programmatically thinking about IL, about scaffolding, about goals
  • Pinterest. I have started a Pinterest board for the Knowledge Center. It’s not quite ready for prime time yet, but I’m having a good time getting to know our resources (and my colleagues. This is such a highly collaborative project!). The Knowledge Center has so many, and so many kinds of, great visual artifacts. More to follow on this front!
  • Freshman fair. I’m working with a colleague to design a freshman experience that is superior to the tours currently offered. I built something like this at Potsdam, and am excited to see what we can pull off on a larger scale here (more than twice as many students…)
  • Student advisory group. The fantastic Lisa Kurt and I will be working with student government to develop channels of input from students to the libraries. We’re not sure at this point if it will be a formal Advisory Group, or take some other shape. But I’m so excited to work with Lisa on this, and get to know our students!
  • Onsite user experience group I’ve asked to join this committee, and think I can make some valuable contributions. As Learning Commons Librarian I devoted a lot of energy to space use concerns, and Lisa is on the Virtual UX group, so between us we should be able to communicate student concerns & ideas effectively for the entire library environment
  • Library website task force. I just said yes to this. How could I say no??
  • Curiosity committee/subject specialists This is the group working to reformulate how we do liaison work, in relation specifically to faculty, but it’s brand new and has lots of potential. This is my Dean’s brainchild. Have I mentioned how much I love my Dean?
  • Usability group The always awesome Aaron Schmidt was here before I started, and showed off how to do quick and dirty usability testing. Two of my colleagues started this group of 5-6 of us to get the ball rolling, and make usability testing part of our culture. We had our planning meeting, and I am in awe of the speed at which we can make things happen here!


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New job!

Some of you may have noticed that this blog has been very quiet (at least, it was quiet until LISNews picked up a post!). But there has been very good reason for that (not just friendfeed!), reason I can now announce: I will be moving back to my alma mater and taking up the position of Learning Commons Coordinator at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (in the famously underground Undergraduate Library affectionately know as UGL).

Over the course of the summer I had three campus interviews, for very different positions. And I had the rare experience of standing at a fork in the road and waiting to see which of two very different paths would be the one I would choose to walk. It was a great experience, and I wish I had been willing to blog about it at the time.

As I have begun the process of transitioning out of my current position I have realized how deeply I will miss Collection Development — not just the actual selecting of books (which I believe will be some small part of my new position) but the big theoretical side, the planning and organizing and thinking about what allocation decisions mean and the role of content in the library.

But I will be trading that for several valuable and exciting career elements:

  • the possibility of focus.
  • getting to think about information literacy in broad trans-disciplinary, non-disciplinary and pre-disciplinary ways. Outside of the classroom
  • Getting to think about and play with ways to cultivate critical thinking, and the library as the intellectual heart of campus in sustained ways — and manifesting that!
  • Getting to spend some quality time doing research — specifically researching the changing role of changing technologies in education and in students’ lives. Digital literacies, privacy implications, the effect of the blending of private/public/work/play on learning and libraries. That kind of thing.

I will also be working with some really amazing people. Which means great colleagues, exciting opportunities and some impressive new challenges. I can’t wait! And I hope you all stick around for the ride!

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