Thursday, June 2, 2011

Two worlds

I am starting a new position managing two college libraries on campuses twenty minutes apart from one another.  One is in a residential neighborhood in a sizable industrial city, surrounded by other colleges and similar institutions.  The other is about twenty minutes away in a rural community, up a hill, in something of a town square.  Interestingly, the future may point toward the latter, even though it is an old building with no air-conditioning and certainly not ADA-compliant.  Yet maybe the expansion is headed that way or did I misread the press releases.  I'm thinking a lot about library buildings and a larger conversation about technology. The libraries are equipped with computers, certainly not new and not numerous and the staff tell me when they are occupied the students walk away.  So I'm thinking of spaces where faculty can teach a class, where librarians can give instruction, where students can collaborate on creative work.  It may not be like many other colleges, I'm told, as many students come to school without their own computers.  Maybe they have smartphones and we should be looking at mobile services. 

My heart feels a little heavy.  In my previous position, my predecessor left me detailed notes, and I followed some of her suggestions (like creating current awareness alerts for the scientists,) while disregarding some others.  Nevertheless, she was very thorough.  My predecessor for where I am now, nothing, no trace, an empty office, only a few tabs on folders to indicate what went on before.  Old policies that I have yet to read that may not have been followed and that will need to be looked at anew. When I say old I mean a few years and everything's changed, libraries' use of metrics, constituents' use of the library, social media, smart phones, ebooks, data, the question of what a library and librarians are for. 

I know this.  I've inherited a superb staff who know as much as if not more about libraries than I do.  They don't want to make lattes, they want to deliver solutions and do meaningful work with students and faculty and others in their communities.  I want to help them make it possible.  I want it so badly, for all of us, not only for our sake, but for the best in each of us, why we do this work, to serve and connect with people and connect people with information and other people and tools that will help them achieve their objectives.

The collections are out of date. Thinking of the post from yesterday that mentioned PDA (Patron Driven Acquisition, and not public display of affection or personal digital assistant,) the libraries evidently have been doing that, but not anticipating needs. I believe the librarians are ready, and at the same time we need a broad knowledge of the teaching activities at the college and where things are headed to plan collections.  What's in the stacks is so out of date it makes one want to level the whole thing and start over.  There will be time, but not much. 

I think of the missed opportunities in my past.  Don't F it up, I say to myself.  I will make mistakes but I don't to make ones I've already made and create misery by not making decisions.  I've learned many things the hard way in my career.  What's the worst that can happen?  I go home.

Tomorrow I'm headed to a meeting at another institution to which I've never been to hear about trends in library instruction. It's been a long time.  At other campuses of this institution I heard about instruction tools and techniques but that was years ago, before libguides, before networked databases really, and yet librarians will still trying to get the attention of students and faculty.  Mostly it will be fun to be at a meeting with a role, and new colleagues and a smile.  I'm having fun and the days are flying by. 

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