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September Review

Careful footing by Alex Gilbert

September felt like a breeze this year. Though extremely busy, I had more confidence from a year’s worth of experience under my belt. Even potentially stressful situations, like having to hire three new library assistants, went smoothly.

I also feel like an expert on the reference desk. However, there have been a few times where I’ve been pleasantly surprised and challenged by the questions. So, when do you really feel like you know it all? I’m pretty sure the fun part about librarianship is that it is impossible to know or anticipate every question. Now, instead of feeling like I have to know everything, I can say to a student, “what a great topic! – let’s explore this together.” For example, a student was researching monadology, and even with several philosophy courses in my academic history, this was a challenge. It takes the pressure off and encourages more student interaction.

I’ve also had some great questions during information literacy sessions. My favourite: “so, who are the ‘peers’?” during a session where I explain peer-review. Usually eyes are glazed over at this point, so it was amazing to see this level of curiosity (on a Friday morning at 8:00 am, too).

Librarianship is about having your own curiosity piqued by inquisitive students.


Weeding, or the anxiety of throwing away books

So I’ve become pretty obsessed with my weeding projects. This is better than the feeling of being totally overwhelmed!

As the Collections Librarian, I am basically responsible for the maintenance of the physical collection. My library was moved to its current location in 2003 and underwent a massive weeding previous to that move. Our collection is wonderfully maintained – lots of space at the end of each shelf, continually shelf-read and ‘edged’ to the front of the shelf. We get lots of comments about how neat and tidy our shelves are (in contrast to other libraries I’ve seen).

While we have a fairly large collection for an institution of our size, I realized quickly that we have a lot of dated materials. Adjusting to the college environment meant that I would be responsible for getting rid of rows of books – something that can invoke anxiety and fear into the book-lover librarian. We simply cannot be a research library.

After a year working with students and faculty, I’ve come around to the realization that meeting user needs is really the most important goal of the collection. Our students are not writing theses or conducting graduate research and beyond. In most cases, research is not even at the upper undergraduate level.

For example, having out-dated medical texts on autism is a complete disservice to our students in early childhood education or education assistant programs who are looking for basic information. These students trust that the information provided to them by the library is accurate.

So my self-assigned project this fall involves making my way through the R’s (all of medicine) and being ruthless in my judgments. I’ve even involved a couple of faculty in the project – this made a great connection and helped the faculty understand the sources their students were consulting for assignments.

a new year

I’ve made many changes over the last few months including moving 2000 miles across the country for my new job. With September around the corner, I now am approaching the school year from the other side. No longer a student, I will be part of the staff that helps ensure student success.

Beginning this week, I will be conducting new student orientation sessions as well as formal information literacy classes. I’m most excited about putting into practice all of the studying I did in grad school on these topics. Will I be able to effectively engage today’s student and help set them on the right research path? With so many options when it comes to information sources, it really isn’t surprising that creating searches in databases might seem overwhelming and unneccessarily complex compared to Google.

My library has some exciting initiatives to be implemented this fall and I’m eager to be a part of a system that embraces new technology and new means of reaching out to students.