Hi. This is Circulating Ideas, the librarian interview podcast hosted by me, Steve Thomas. My guests today are Lauren Pressley who is the Head of Instruction and Associate Librarian at the Z. Smith Reynolds Library at Wake Forest University, and Lynda Kellam, who is the Data Services and Information Librarian at the University of North Carolina at Greensborough.
Lauren and Lynda welcome to the show.
[Lauren] Thank you.
Thank you for being on with me. You guys are amazingly, I’ve done 14 episodes, you’re the first academic librarians to be on the show, so congratulations on that [laughs]
And the reason I wanted to have you guys on together, you were, before, recently you guys were both on my list to interview, but separately, but then you guys had a little blog exchange sort of thing after you guys had lunch together and had a lot of fun conversation together, so that’s what made me think of putting you guys on here together to talk. And before we get to that conversation you guys had with that, how did the two of you meet?
Well, sorry, I have a bit of a cold, but I’ll try my best. I, we both went to graduate school together, we did our MLIS at UNCG together and graduated the same year. I don’t remember which class we met in though. It may have been through a student organization that we actually officially met.
Yeah, I think it was, I’m not sure that we took classes together really.
Yeah, yeah. It’s all a blur too, so [laughs].
So far in the past, Lynda was the president of LISSA group on campus and I was vice-president with her so we got to work together a lot through that.
Yeah. We had good parties.
How long ago was that?
That was 2005 to 2007, is that right?
Yeah, that’s right.
So yeah, we both graduated in 2007 and both in, she went to, we were both working as paraprofessionals at our institutions that we then took on professional positions at. So Lauren at Wake Forest and myself at UNCG.
Well that’s always nice, when you get to stay where you want to, where you want to stay.
Are you guys from the North Carolina area? Or, originally?
Yeah, I am actually from Raleigh, so I’ve spent pretty much my whole life within three hours of the same place.
Yeah, I’m from Greensboro, so born and bred. At some point I think I’ll leave. We’ll see.
No specific plans, but.
No, no, no.
And we’re recording this just a couple of weeks after ALA and you guys both went to that and it sounds like, from reading your wrap up kind of things that you both spent a lot of the conference in meetings.
Yes [laughs] We call, I started calling it Adults ALA, that we are now having the Adults ALA, this is the grown up version of it, so we spent, I haven’t, didn’t get to see a lot of programs unfortunately.
Which committees are you guys on?
Yeah, so I’m on ALA Council so that takes up a lot of time, doing the policy work for the organization and LITA board of directors. So, sitting in a lot of meetings, doing the business of library and integration technology association as well.
And I’m on the ACRL LPSS, which is the law and political science section. I’m their vice-pres, incoming vice-president, so I was doing a lot of steering stuff. And then also GODORD educational committee which is going to start up a webinar series so I’m excited about that. Those are my two main ones.
Yeah and Lauren, I appreciated you and other people on council that were live tweeting the sessions to help people who couldn’t be there.
Yeah. Yeah we all sit in the, all the Twitterers on council sit in the same area and it’s really helpful because we can always refer to each others tweets and find out things cause although it seems like a dry and serious meeting, there’s a lot of information being thrown out there that a lot of people are interested in hearing.
Definitely. It was cool to be able to see that while you’re sitting in the session. See what was going on.
And it helps, it helps everybody I think to be able to, cause I know that council meetings are open, but people, even if you’re at the conference, like Lynda was saying, you’re at another session or something at the same time, so it’s nice to be able to keep up with what council’s doing without having to go to the meeting itself. I mean you obviously don’t get everything out of it, but you get the highlights.
Exactly. And the highlights are really what most people want, most people don’t want all of that
The resolutions that came up, some people were, it seemed like there was some controversy going on in the room even of whether ALA should be talking about these things and the Wikipedia kind of things and.
Yeah, it’s like a continuous struggle with that. It was interesting this time because in the past the same types of resolutions have come up and they’ve spent a long time debating them and this time these types of resolutions came up and they were pretty quickly put aside. But then when we had one that was a clear-cut library issue, we had 20 minutes of people standing up saying I totally support this, I think it’s so important, because it was such a stark contrast to the other ones that had come before the group. It’s interesting though because one of the, one of the things we talked about, sort of in some small group work in council was that there is this perception that council spends a lot of time on stuff that’s not really that important. And one of the things that came out of that that was helpful for me as a newer council member was understanding that the really big important things that we all agree with are library issues. Council will decide to make a group that focuses all their energy on that and spends full time energy and the stuff that’s not that level of priority, comes through council, so therefore we get all the stuff that doesn’t seem like it’s high, it’s by design, the big stuff gets its own group and council fields the one-off issues, or the things that people want to be one-off issues, like Wikileaks sort of thing.
So the big issues come to everybody and then if it’s “important enough,” it’s spun off into a smaller group.
Right, exactly, yeah And they’ll do reports and present to council and they’ll create materials for librarians to use in their day-to-day work, but it’s not, that sort of thing becomes something where people who really specialize in that content area can serve in those capacities rather than putting it before the whole council.
And is this your first time on council? Or…
Yeah, this is my first term, so it’s, I think I’m about halfway through that. I’ve sat in the meetings a few times, but it takes a little while to figure out exactly what is going on.
Do you think you would run again next time?
So it’s been a good experience for you?
Yeah and I think it’s one of those things too that you spend so much time learning how it works and then if you also enjoy it, then it seems a shame not to use that knowledge you have about how it works. So, I feel like this is the training wheels time period, right, I’m certainly participating and I’ve gotten up and said things, but I don’t, but I’m learning it and I feel like if I could run and get elected for a second term, I could probably start to use some of that knowledge a little more effectively.
Cool. Were you able to attend any sessions, Lauren?
One of the only ones I was really able to attend were the ones that were tied to the LITA board of directors work ‘cause they were scheduled intentionally so that all of the LITA group could go to those. So the lead up President’s Program, those types of thing.
And I do appreciate the, the document that came out of talking about where ALA’s going to streamline things quite a bit for, going forward, so there’s not so much spread out at different hotels and so many, so many programs on top of each other so that people can get to the programs that they want to get to a little easier.
Yeah, I think I, Lynda if you want to jump in please do, I was just really excited about that personally. I actually have never really attended an ALA that felt program focused and so that for so many good things that go on and I think that by streamlining it a little bit. A) it will make it so much easier for people who just want to see programs and it also allows people to really select the top, top notch programs and then they’ll all be able to be streamed because by putting them all in the same place, we can build that end to the conference venue. So hopefully we can either for paid attendees or something, have the ability to get that content later.
Yeah, we were looking at it more from the collaborative aspect and how much, I mean LPSS is a tiny organization, tiny section, so who could we collaborate with and it’s going to encourage that and I think that’s a good thing cause it, some of the sessions are, some of the programs tend to overlap each other in content. We could learn from each other rather than siloing ourselves.
Yeah, and I, I would love it if they could start streaming it cause then you could have, I mean cause they have the virtual ALA conference, but it’s an entirely separate event two or three weeks later. It would be nice to, even to have another pay structure that you can pay a certain amount and do stuff on streaming and everything too.
Yeah, I mean there’s certainly lots of logistical things to work out, like speaker agreements and all of that, but that’s, that’s part of the intention behind this. This is to modernize [laughs] people’s ability to participate in the program.
Yeah and I’ve heard part of the problem sometimes with streaming is the deals that you make with the convention centers themselves even, there’s some, in the contract you have to already have made those agreements with them. Like you have to use their equipment and their people and everything, you can’t just set up your own webcam and stream it. I think Jason Griffey, tried to do that a while back and was not allowed to because of that.
Yeah, I think there was some other issues tied up in that but yeah, it’s been controversial off and on [laughs] the past couple of years.
Well hopefully we can move, hopefully our technology focused organization can.
And Lynda was there any session in particular that you got to see that you were excited about?
I was just looking through my notes to see if there was one. The Library And Wardrobe session was quite fun, I went to that one. Off of the blog Librarian Wardrobe, it got very heated apparently because I’ve never seen this show but What Not To Wear, apparently there’s quite a few people who love it and quite a few people who hate it so that was fun. But, I think the highlight for me was the GODORT Proquest breakfast because Julian Bond who is a NAACP president, recent NAACP president spoke and talked about his efforts in SNCC in the, during the civil rights movement so that for me was quite a good one and probably my favorite. But yeah, it was a lot of data stuff, I also wrote the conference reports for Against The Grain journal and, so I was going to some of the stuff for them and you’ll see the reports at some point when I actually write them. A few things.
And, Lauren, was it you that got to go see David.
Was it David Weinberger that you’re thinking about?
Yes, David Weinberger, yes.
I actually, one of my meetings was out a little early so I was able to go slip into that which was so exciting for me. I really have enjoyed his works and I’ve, I’m in the middle of his current book which is what the talk focused on. But, yeah he’s an engaging speaker and he talks about ideas that are really relevant for libraries and in this particular talk it was, it was materially interesting if you are familiar with Reddit because he spent not insignificant portion of it explaining Reddit culture as a discussion of different bubbles on the internet and the culture that shows up there, so that was quite entertaining.
Yeah he’s, he’s somebody that I’ve enjoyed for a long time, I, one of my favorite books for a while was that, it was Everything Is Miscellaneous.
Yeah that’s a fantastic book.
Yeah and I have his new one checked out from the library but I have not had a chance to read that, cause I always have that huge stack next to my bed of things that I’ve checked out.
Yeah, exactly and that’s the one I’m half way through cause I’ve worked from that stack depending on what I need, so I haven’t totally gotten through it yet.
You also went to the Mover and Shaker lunch? Can you tell me a little bit about that? Cause I heard a lot about the speaker at that.
Yeah, so that was also an amazing event. It’s something really nice that Library Journal does at annual conferences is they have this lunch where anyone who’s being recognized in the Movers and Shakers program is invited. And they do a mix and mingle which is amazing to get to interact with all the people who are there and then they serve a nice lunch and they have a speaker and they normally do a signing. So, this year, and his name just escaped my mind, but I can send it to you for the notes but it’s the Boy Who Harnessed the Wind so in Africa there’s this young man, wish I could remember his name, but he knew that his village needed water, so he self-educated and self-taught himself how to make a windmill. Which isn’t something that he could even ask anyone there how to do and he, using books and just teaching himself figured this out and ended up using it to produce electricity, which adds a whole element of potential to the community that wasn’t there before and he’s now actually in America studying in college, but his plan is to take the knowledge he has and go back and use that to help his community further. It was just one of those completely mesmerizing and amazing things. He has a TED talk that’s quite good, but he’s right there. But it was also, it was dissident to me because we were sitting at this very nice lunch and we’re all dressed up because we’re at the conference and it’s just lovely and the person who’s speaking has such absolute poverty so it’s just a, is a difficult thing to even hear about in an important message and it was amazing that they were able to get him to come in and speak at the conference.
That’s, that’s very cool. Was there anything else about your ALA experience that you guys wanted, wanted to share? It sounds like you were having a lot of fun, so.
Yeah. Yeah we should create more little games like we did for the [laughs] for the picture.
Yeah, run up some of the stuff.
Can you tell the listeners about that? I had, first of all I had asked if you guys could get a picture together to use for this podcast.
Yeah. So we put out on Twitter. We were, we had a picture but it was right after we had just gotten there and I looked like I was about to fall asleep and we were, so we made it into a game and asking people on Twitter if they could find us at the conference and take a picture, we would get them a cup of coffee and then it became Lauren, myself and Lisa Carlucci would get a, an adult drink, but it, we had a few participants, not very many, but it was just fun to do this informal hey if you can find us together, which I, actually is really hard, I only saw Lauren I think three times.
I think so.
So I mean I just don’t, we just, our paths don’t cross that often at the conference cause we’re in our own areas, but it was pretty fun. But we should, we should come up with another one, like a little thing like that, very small. Cause they have the big game, these are the droids that you’re looking for, but it’s very complex and I, I never got quite through that one, so.
Well everybody, when you’re, when they’re listening to this, you can go to the blog and see the picture that they provided.
[laughs] The winner.
And who was the winner?
Oh, Peter Bromberg.
Yeah, he was the winner.
Okay, so after the conference, actually this was before the conference, I think actually, when I came back I was looking at Lynda’s blog and I saw that you had, when I was doing my initial research on things to talk to you guys about, your blog was called one thing and then you changed it.
Can you tell me why you decided, what the old name was, what the new name is and why you decided to change that?
Yeah, sure, so the original one was just LyndaMK and I just got, I just put it on there cause when I started the blog I had no idea what to call it and originally it was just going to be for me really. So after the conference, actually during the conference I had this idea of doing this librarianship equals and it, for me, follows with the Twitter language, like, I don’t know, I find myself doing that on Twitter all the time. Whenever I want to say, you use these signs cause you only have so many characters. But I think that it’s nice that it’s open ended, that librarianship equals whatever you have to do, you know. It’s not just this one thing, it’s not just instruction, it’s not just books, it’s not just e-books, it’s all of the things that we do and that was the philosophy behind it. But, yeah, I did, finally I decided to change it after I guess four, three or four years now that it’s been existing. So.
I’m going to get another one of Lynda’s posts later, and I already told her before we started recording which one it’s going to be, but. First we’ll go back to, like I said, the initial reason for having you guys on together was the little lunch you guys had. Do you guys get to get together for lunch together very often and have these little chats?
Not as often as I would like.
We are able to manage it a couple of times a year, right, Lynda?
Yeah, yeah. It seems like Annual that we’ve been doing a lunch at Annual, or over some beignets. And then hopefully that continues, that’s a lot of fun. And then try to get together probably once a year after that.
And how far apart are you guys?
Twenty-five minutes [laughs] 30 minutes, not very far. It’s just, it’s hard cause you get into your own work and your own life and Lauren has a child so it’s a, it’s a very different, it’s not that easy, and there’s also the psychological barrier of “oh I’ve got to drive to…”
A whole nother city.
Well when you guys got together this time, you talked about a lot of different things. It looked like the big, sort of the big overarching thing that you guys were talking about rethinking reference. Can you talk a little bit about that of what your ideas were?
Well I think the, and this was over the beignets I think we started that, but I, my position at my library, I had a couple of different ones and they bounce between reference and technology and so for me the question about reference often starts at this place that I don’t feel as confident with my reference work as I do with other things.
And that I don’t think of myself as a reference person, which I want to be very careful to say that that doesn’t mean that I don’t value reference, it’s just that that’s not, I sit out on the desk and I question everything I do and I see someone approaching and I’m “Oh no, what if I can’t do this thing that they need.” So maybe it’s a lack of confidence thing. But as I thought about it more I realized that the type of academic background I have is really well suited to a very very narrow type of research. I have a Women In Gender Studies background and a philosophy background and philosophy research just does not look like regular humanities research, or social science, or anything like that. And the type of women studies work I did was much more on the theoretical side, so more like philosophy work and when I realized this, if someone comes with a philosophy type of question, I can totally nail that in a way that the rest of the reference department might not be able to. But if it’s an English Lit question or something, that’s where I feel a little more nervous. So it made me start to rethink does it make sense to do reference by subjects? The way that we’ve been breaking it down, or through research families? Maybe there’s this theoretical thread that runs through other types of disciplines too and that any of those types of questions really should go to the person that can do that type of research. You know what I mean? So, maybe there’s a different way to group it or something, so I’ve sort of been playing with that idea a little bit along the way and that’s what we started talking about over beignets and then Lynda built on that and had some other perspectives too.
Yeah, ours were, so I do training with interns. We have ILS interns in our library and they’re graduate students and we ran into this same kind of problem because a lot of them come from an English background. Typical. Very few of them come from any other kind of, I mean there may be one a year maybe who comes from a different kind of background. And so having them not just focus on the, the resources, the databases, the catalog, those kinds of things which, try to think of how the research process would work for a researcher was really important to me. Because I think if you can think of how a researcher works, it makes it easier to be able to bring in the wide variety of resources you would have available for you. So, after this conversation with Lauren, the original one, we started rethinking the way we did our training here in, instead of just jumping into nursing resources, or business resources, we would do social science research, science research, humanities research and make sure everybody was on the same page to understand what’s important to a social scientist versus a scientist versus a humanities person and what kinds of problems are you going to see, what kinds of issues will they have when they come to the reference desk, or come to you as a, as liaison and that I think is just a, it’s, I don’t think it’s revolutionary, but I think it’s a, it’s a newer way of trying to rethink how we approach training, how we approach our own work and. And Lauren’s right, I think you can start to see these families become families of type of researchers, you can, becomes more important than just the resources themselves.
And, Lynda, you’ve written not particularly to this, but you’ve written a lot about embeddedness. How do you see being an embedded librarian as being a part of this?
Well, embeddedness for me, it’s two things. One is partly in my subject area, so I’m a political scientist by training and then I’m an embedded in the political science program. The other is in the living and learning community. And I really do value embeddedness because I think it, it can create these meaningful relationships. I mean the whole point of embeddedness is to create a deeper relationship with the user, to understand how they’re doing their research, to understand where you can fit into that process, rather than just responding to what they, it’s a more proactive approach rather than a reactive approach and I like that a lot. And I think that, but I think there’s a tension there and this has come up a lot actually since we’ve talked recently about, you know, do you have to be a subject specialist to do a liaison, to be a liaison, do you have to be a subject specialist to be embedded? And there’s a, this is a huge debate right now it seems like in the academic library world of do liaisons need a second masters, right. And I think this alternate model that we have where you look at it, research as a process, and you look at families of research might be a way to get around the issue of there’s no way you can have subject specialists who have second masters in every single field in your, in your user area, in your library. It’s just, it’s, you have limited resources. So I think embeddedness works very well, but it’s a scalability issue when it comes to actually doing embeddedness through, in the same level throughout all the different programs. And I’m talking embeddedness, not just for dual blackboard embeddedness, I mean embeddedness in the wide variety of things that we see.
Does that, that includes the physically going to the classroom and things like that.
Yeah, or even teaching in the, in the, I mean I teach in the department classes actually, of political science class and I’m seeing more and more of librarians are taking on actual content of that subject classes and not just doing one shot instruction for the class, or not just doing the information literacy component, they’re actually teaching content too and so that embeddedness, because of that relationship I started it in the fall of 2011, my user stats for consultations in political science have just doubled and it’s really interesting. It would be interesting to see what happens this next year when I keep doing it. Will they keep going up? Can I sustain that? I don’t know, you know that’s an issue, but it really has created a relationship where the students feel like I’m an authority, I’m a person who’s in the department, I’m someone they can come to, I’m not just someone sitting over in the library which is helpful.
Yeah, I mean that’s good to be, to be out there, to be a, like you said, to put a face to the library.
Definitely, yeah. And there was a, I was just so, we are really behind in our library journals that we pass them around in the library and yesterday I was just reading this thing from June 15th 2011, you can see how far we are behind in this, but it’s from Michael Stevens and he was saying that we need to move from source focus to research process based instruction and we should find ways to do it at the point of need for students because they are not coming to ask the librarians waiting for them in the library and his, and I was like, when I read that, I was, “Oh my god, this is Lauren.” This is our discussion. But just figuring out how to do that, that’s the interesting part. That’s what we’ve been trying to do.
And I think tied to that, understanding the different disciplines, families or whatever, understanding what the research actually looks like for the person doing it helps you understand how to target that point of need a little more effectively, you know. Because, for example, there are some disciplines where you might come up with your argument and as you develop your paper start looking for resources to support your argument, right, so you would look for the resources later in the process. When I talk about the philosophy research, often what happens there is you find a source to start with and then you build your argument from there. So it’s important to target the reference help at the very, very beginning, but not necessarily toward the end. So I think having a really good understanding of subject matter, even if you’re not an expert, can help you understand how to target it, and embedding it is a really good way to get that eye to the discipline and how it’s really done in the field.
Right, and so, embeddedness is obviously what, is it really an important part of the 21st Century librarian and as a general concept and I know you guys talked about that a little bit. I like the one tweet that you even said you’re plotting your future library, the perfect library and I think Lynda said she’s going to be the head of undergrad research.
[laughs] I have to make up that position.
That came from some of this other conversation about where people’s strengths really are and idea personas, I don’t know Lynda if you want to explain that a little.
So, we had this idea for personas which we’ve had a lot of fun with and I’m really excited about this and it came from a book that was written by a woman named Linda, Laura Vandercam. It’s called 168 Hours You Have More Time Than You Think. And it, it’s a time management book that talks about this idea of 168 hours and the, the key thing that we thought was interesting is this idea of core competencies which is borrowed from the business literature and it’s really coming up from the idea of comparative advantage in that you have opportunity costs for every task which you decide to take on. So if you decide to create a tutorial, there are other things that you are giving up to create that tutorial, you’re giving up time on collection management, you’re giving up time you could spend to teaching to create that tutorial and that sometimes you, you’re better at creating that tutorial than you are at collection management, or you may be better at collection management than creating that tutorial. So deciding which is your core competency and where should you focus your time is a really important thing when you’re thinking of time management. And so we started, came up with this idea in how we could relate it both at a macro level in the library to job positions, or duties, or tasks, or things that need to be done, as well as the micro level for a person who has to figure out what they have to do day-to-day. And Lauren, the conversation that Lauren and I have on our blog is really more the macro level and that’s where the whole idea of the fantasy library came from. Fantasy Library League I think is what Lauren said it came from, was this idea that if you, your perfect library you would have people who are, you’ve identified their core competencies and are able to place them into those particular situations, you can pick up here Lauren.
Yeah, so, so for example with my reference story I was telling earlier, reference is definitely something I can do, but I don’t think of that as my core competency, I think of my core competency as being more around teaching and strategic planning type work. So every time I, every hour I sit at the desk that’s not an hour I spend doing strategic planning type work, or working on instruction issues for my library. So Lynda, however, when I talk to her I can tell she has this thing in her that is so amazing that is just so connected to students and I completely care about the students and I, that is why I do my job, but that day-to-day interaction isn’t the driving thing that gets me out of bed in the morning. Whereas for Lynda, correct me if I’m wrong but you were talking about how you see them evolve over time.
Yeah, yeah, for me that’s the best thing, is to be able to, I’m now in my fifth year so I’ve seen people as freshmen come in and then graduate and that’s so exciting, that’s why I went into education was to be able to see people develop and that’s why I come to work every day, is really to work with these students and make sure they’re getting the education they need, they have the skills they need to leave. Which doesn’t mean that I don’t care about the library of the future [laughs] but.
And like you had said that you think about e-books personally, but it’s not like first thing out of bed for work, but for me it’s where are e-books going and what role our students need in 20 years and how can we be ready for that. Those are all the very exciting issues that make me excited to be in the field and do my job, so. So, we’re talking about how you can capitalize on the things that you’re particularly good at and particularly passionate about and that there are ways that you can maximize that in the library which is where that tweet that you were referring to, about the dream library came from.
[cough] Excuse me, I’m sorry. And you guys have also talked about, in terms of the 21st Century library, of, and this is sort of blending the things we’ve just talked about, of libraries, librarians turning more into collaborators, not just being, I guess in the past it was we were sitting there waiting for people to come to us and say oh I need, I’m doing research on this topic, tell me how to find research. And now we want to get more involved.
Yeah, so I certainly want to do more research on this cause I think there’s actually a real article and not just a blog post on this. But I, it’s pretty clear from the literature and the history of library classes and things like that libraries for a while were much, sort of about collecting things, right, so we could have them, preserve them, serving people, but not the service-orientated that we think of today, that setting it in writing. And there’s been this huge push about being really proactive and friendly and focusing on the user, or the customer, or however you want to say it and trying to be more of a service provider. And at my institution I’ve witnessed a shift, we certainly still are in that service focus place, but we also are moving towards a collaborative space too and part of that is cause we had an administration that really supported that. We had a provost, I say had because of the provost who was talking about this has recently left, but she really challenged us to see ourselves more of an equal player in a lot of discussions on campus, and not just a secondary class of people. And all of a sudden she, and it opened the door to help us proceed toward the status which is something that we had voted on and wanted to do.
And as part of that we serve on a lot of committees as pretty standard, university committees, but we also in many cases get to actually collaborate with faculty on projects so it’s not that we are the librarians for reference handing out that perspective and offering service, but more like from an information professional perspective, this is something you should consider, so there’s that, where I’m a partner with you in this process and I think that it’s another way of looking at embeddedness because you’re embedded in the business of being a university really, in all sorts of different capacities. And it’s something that we’re still playing out and figuring out what our role exactly is, but I think that there’s a lot of potential within the field for that because in this environment where the information, we have access to changes so quickly and the different modes of getting information change so quickly, having an information professional be a collaborator is a pretty good idea because we can help, help with all sorts of issues that people might not even know are issues because they don’t even know certain things exist. So, so I have a real focus on that and do a lot of speaking around that issue of moving us towards this collaborator space, but it certainly, different institutions have different cultural situations so for some places it might take longer, for some places it might not make sense, but I think that in a lot of cases it does make good sense
Especially the academic, I mean this is, the academic library just seems like it, we have to be on this path in some ways. But yeah, it definitely and it definitely fits in with it, like you said the embeddedness aspect of it. I actually was, I think it was about two years ago I was working with a faculty member who was applying for a grant and she was required on that grant to actually have a library collaborator. I forget how it was actually worded on the grant, but they asked her to have somebody who could be a library contact to be able to help with finding data and I got to be that. It was really cool, it didn’t mean much except me doing my day-to-day work of helping them find the data they needed, but, but to see that starting this idea that what, when you are doing this kind of research there are experts, there are people who do this every day who can provide, not just provide but also work with you to develop the research that you’re doing.
Yeah, what I think is great is that I think there’s actually, you guys were saying this is good for academic libraries, I think this is good for all libraries because it really is, I mean it, you have to get involved in your community, whatever your community is.
Cause I was thinking as you were describing everything, I was thinking that’s exactly how things work in public libraries where I work because you have to let the, especially the stakeholders know, I mean the people who are funding you understand what you, what your importance is to the community. But you have to let the community know how you’re, you know, if we’re not letting the community know what we’ve got available to them, then we’re not doing, then they’re not going to see the value in us and it’s the same thing I think I’ve heard a lot of school librarians talk about, that the teachers don’t understand what they can offer to them. So I think that’s a good overall lesson for the whole profession.
And I think there’s just so many, so many ways that we can collaborate that it’s hard for even us to wrap our heads around cause we’re so busy with the day-to-day existing duties. But when you talk about data, someone who’s new, who’s newer to the field, like a faculty member who’s newer to the field thinking about how the structure data, they could talk to a librarian for some perspective on that.
Oh yeah, definitely and that’s a, I think that’s the big growth area for this is going to be the data management issues. Especially the research institutions if people have, NSF now has a mandate that you have to have a data management plan for your research data.
Similarly to that people who are considering different avenues for publishing and for open access, they can partner with a librarian to understand what those avenues are. So not a partner in the writing, but a partner in the getting the thing published which is similar that there’s governmental regulations about certain types of research needing the open access. I’ve done a lot of collaborative work with teaching because I mean teaching is really about conveying information and as an information professional I have a good sense of information, so I just think that there’s a lot of different realms where we can be really good collaborators. But it’s hard to either think of ourselves that way sometimes, or to carve out the time to do it.
Well I think it’s hard to highlight, this is what I wrote about more. It’s hard to highlight what you’re doing and we’ve had this huge issue in our library because we, we spend a lot of time on assignment creation when working with our faculty members to help them create assignments. That’s different from what you traditionally think of as a librarian’s duty. And, but how do you then track that? How do you prove that? How do you show that to your, to the administration? That’s the hard part and so we’ve been thinking okay, when do we track this kind of collaborative work that we’re doing? How do we do it in a way that’s meaningful and it, my supervisors hit on the idea of more using narratives and stories and things like that to help track, but for, because I’m a numeric data person [laughs] I want numbers, but it’s harder.
Yeah, I was going to say that has to be very appealing to you that I think the profession overall really does have to be more focused on data and, cause we’re having people wanting to know how are you useful to us so we have to be able to provide it in a concrete way and numbers can do that.
Yeah and it’s been, it’s been a bit of, I think a shift in our mentality here because we’ve had to do a little bit of proof, proof of worth and some people haven’t necessarily kept great statistics. And it’s not, it’s hard if you, that’s not your tendency. I tend to just keep statistics like crazy, it’s like, “Oh here I’ll count that.” But, other people, they may have a great conversation at coffee with someone about their assignment and then that just goes away as if it didn’t exist. But that’s, that’s incredible collaborative work and that needs to be documented somehow.
Right, the two of you have lunch together and we get six good blog posts out of it, so.
Do you have any other thoughts on the 21st Century library or librarians that you wanted to share that you didn’t already?
I think that generally the themes on that for me are to have a real sense of the importance of self-educating and continuing to learn because, I mean, right we graduated in 2007 and there are already things that are part of my day-to-day work that I didn’t take any classes on in library school, so a real drive to self-educate. Whether that’s from reading or workshops or developing a personal learning network through Twitter, or whatever it is. I think that there is an importance for having a good sense of design, both in actual products that you create, whether it’s learning object, or a handout, or something, but also a sense of design as a process for planning how spaces work, or how an instruction unit is developed, or how to design a website to be an interactive useful experience, I think a sense of flexibility is really important because things do change so much. It will change day-to-day as most of us know so that’s where a sense of flexibility definitely becomes important. And then things that have an entrepreneurial spirit is always a good thing leading to the future because we know all that change is coming, so the ability to look at the environment and take some risks on different ideas, you can only help but field as a whole and help the individual community as well. Lynda?
Sounds great [laughs]
Lynda says “Ditto.”
Ditto, yeah, no the flexibility, I mean with the interns that we have in, I think they’re starting to realize that the traditional understanding of a library is not true and that it, you have to modify the, any ideas or preconceptions you have about what the library means. Because what that library means is going to depend on any institution you work in too, I mean you go to some institutions they have a really quiet reference desk or they only have a reference desk any more, you come to ours and it’s hopping at certain times of the day. I mean it’s, from 1pm to 5pm it’s a madhouse out there and that’s a very different kind of institution than you would see at some other places, so flexibility for me is the key. When I’m hiring an intern, I definitely want to try and figure how flexible they are, how adaptable they are, how patient they are, those kinds of things are more important than whether or not they can name some reference books that they like.
So that’s, that’s sort of the future of the profession and I did want to ask about the beginning of the profession. Not a history lesson, but Lauren you wrote the book So You Want To Be A Librarian? What made you want to tackle that topic for a book? Or were you asked to do that? Or how did that come about?
Well I was really not working then, I was asked to do that by Rory Litman who’s the publisher and he asked me to write the book right as I was finishing up library school cause he was specifically looking for someone who had that newer perspective of the graduate program, but also someone who was in the field and I just wanted to mention the library. So I was hopefully a good pick for that and I was excited to write it cause even though I wasn’t in a place to do good mentoring at that point, I felt I had good information and I guess mentoring people who weren’t in the, even down the path yet, I was in a place maybe for that. So mentoring is something that’s important in me and the future of the field and getting the right people into the field, that’s a really important thing to me. I felt it would be a fun challenge to do. And not to mention that not to be stereotypical but I’ve always like the idea of writing a book [laughs] so it sort of nice opportunity. Yeah, I was able to do that and it’s been fun to get the feedback because people who are in college trying to decide what to do read it. People who are thinking about changing careers read it, I’ve talked to a few colleagues who are in the guild who have read it, who said it was kind of fun to get that big picture perspective, which I kind of like to reread it for that now that I’m further in and more specialized at this point. So, yeah it was a really fun project to do and it’s been neat to hear from people who actually have taken the time to read it.
And, and Lynda you work a lot with people who are going, who are in the library school program, is that right?
Yeah, I, we have about seven interns every year who come through.
And do you see a lot of, I guess I shouldn’t ask that publicly, but do you see a lot of promise in the [laughs].
[laughs] Yeah, we have.
No I don’t, they’re horrible.
No, not all all, no, of course, we have had a great class this, our big push has been to get them into instruction, to get them to teach and that has been our placement has been wonderful. I think one person has some interviews, but out of the class that just graduated there are four of them, all three, three of them have jobs now and one of them is in the interview process still. So, we’ve been very, very happy with our placement rate and I think a lot of it’s just the, their own self motivation, are they going to the, coming of the classes, are they observing us? Are they trying to teach? Are the looking for those kinds of opportunities and the students we’ve chosen have been really motivated. I think the economy helps when it’s harder to find a job, you get scared. So.
Well you can always, I mean you can tell when you’re in library school or basically in any school I guess, you can tell which of your classmates are going to be successful because they’re the ones that are, like you said, motivated to do these things and people are just gonna sit in there and not doing much, but.
I don’t, I think, you see that last probably in grad school than in undergrads and it’s a lot more of an effort to go to grad school.
Yeah, I mean with ours it’s, we, our institution tends to be focused more on school media so we tend to get the students who want to be academic and so they, although we have some public librarians school media specialists who are in our program, but the, the ones who are academic really know that they’ve got to get out there, they’ve got to learn how to teach, they.
Yeah I do think, I do think that message is out there so anyone, anyone who’s spending any information scanning who’s in library school understands that the market is a little bit rough, hopefully, if they’ve been reading at all. And so I think there is a real drive to get experience and Lynda I’m so excited to hear you guys are giving them instructional experience cause that’s one of the hardest things to get. To get an instruction job you have to have done it, but it’s lovely that you are setting students up with that.
Yeah it’s been, and it’s been good too for our first year instruction co-ordinator because she’s overwhelmed. I think she taught, I always inflate the number, she fusses at me for this, but I think it was almost 200 classes in one year so that’s, it’s just a huge amount for one person to teach and we’ve been trying to think of innovative ways, mostly here, she’s been doing most of this, trying to think of other ways to accommodate this load with people who really want to teach, who are excited about it and who need it. So, it’s been good, it’s been a really good thing.
That’s great. I did want to, I mentioned earlier that I was gonna ask Lynda about one of her posts and it’s the, you can go back and read it, it’s on from July 1st, the title is Katy Perry’s Case For Information Literacy.
Katy Perry was featured in Parade magazine that day and she, she mentioned about how she was using Google to find out about this thing called Fleet Week, which is when, I never knew about this but it’s when the large carriers around big cities will come in for a week and they basically have shore leave for a week and she was going to play, I guess, a USO concert at that and so she’s talked about Googling it, or Wikipediaing it and my, my first reaction was, “Oh dear god, Wikipedia, please.” But when it really comes down to it that’s a pretty good source for finding information about this and so it made me think about my own biases, but it also made me think about this issue that we’ve run, been running into in the library quite a bit is that how, what, how do our students get access to information when they leave our institutions. We are training our students, we’re teaching our students to think about information I think in a good way, to evaluate information. We’re definitely doing that in our information literacy efforts, but when it comes to the finding things part, I’m not sure that we’re really filling in that gap. Are they making the connection that they can go to their public library to do these kinds of, this kind of work, or will they just give up and use Google?
And I would say beyond that, we often teach very specific resources and, which might not be available at a public library. And maybe, or it might not be, so I think that there is, that’s something that I really focus on in my classes. Not just the stuff we have, but how this might look in the real world once you’ve left us.
Yeah and I think with ya’ll, you have the perfect venue to do that, because they have an information literacy credit course. You have a couple of different things they could take, right?
So I mean it, it gives you that forum for doing a little bit more with students. Unfortunately, we don’t have that and I do mostly upper level instruction where I’m mostly doing the harder, more difficult resources. I have to teach things like Simply Map and the American Fact Finder, the American Community Survey which, those things, I mean American Community Survey you could use outside of the school, but still you have to, in some ways you have to teach the resource at some point because it’s just a difficult resource to understand. But then, then how are we making that jump into what does this mean for when you get out of here.
Right, you have to teach them to be able to identify a good source in and of themselves when they are out in the real world.
Yeah, yeah. But if they, if they aren’t making that connection, I guess I, the big thing, and this is where our, I want to start thinking about it, is how do you, in a classroom when you have one shot instruction section, how do you make a connection to the public library for when they get out of here.
And also how do you help them realize that there are times that Wikipedia’s totally appropriate as other times you probably should consider going an extra step.
Right, right and I mean we try to do that. I think we do that pretty well in our first year instruction program as far as, we definitely use Wikipedia in the classroom and talk about how Wikipedia, or get the students to talk about how Wikipedia can be useful, but yeah, I just, it would be interesting to see, do a survey of the students who have just graduated and those who graduated maybe five years ago to see where they’re getting their information from. Especially ones who have gone through our programs, where we know that they, we had them in our hands at one point.
Lynda craves data.
I picked up on that!
Our world craves data and that’s what the whole value of the library stuff is really about, is proving our worth and the best way to prove worth is to show them proof, is to have some kind of numbers in front of you I think. And it’s not just quality, there’s also qualitative information that’s useful. Definitely.
Yeah, I, when, a few years back I used to be very, one of the very anti-Wikipedia kind of people, but then I realized, this is before I was actually working in libraries, but then I realized at a certain point that even if you can’t necessarily trust what you read in the Wikipedia entry, those links at the bottom are very useful I think.
Like the reference links. Cause those are usually, a lot of those are to authoritative sources a lot of times.
Yeah and we use it for keyword creation, or question creation so in the beginning of the class we’ll have them pick a topic that they all want to just talk about real quickly and we’ll look at Wikipedia entry just to find words and it really helps students because they have a usually a hump that they can’t get over of okay, I’ve, my example that I use for local science is war. They want to talk about war and it’s like well there’s other kinds of terms you could use, it may not just be war that you’re looking at. You could be looking at conflict, you could be looking at revolutions, you could be looking at all these other terms as well. Trying to encourage them to think broadly about their ideas and I think Wikipedia does that pretty good, or is a tool that could be used to do that pretty well.
Right, and at the public library, at least, we do get a lot of, I mean we get pop culture questions and that’s a lot of times the only place you can get pop culture answers is Wikipedia. I mean if somebody wants to know about some obscure comic book character or something, I mean it’s not going to be in an Encyclopedia Britannica, so.
I think that the thing is… Have you seen that thing, that’s so funny when they compare Star Wars things to the real, so like Jedi Knight versus real knight or something like that and Jedi Knight is way, way longer, so for pop culture you just can’t beat it. The obsessive fans can go and put all that information in.
Lynda, I wanted to ask about the webinar series, the Help I’m An Accidental Librarian series. How did you get that started?
So the group, I work with the North Carolina Library Association’s government resources section and we are very small section of that organization and the members one day were sitting around talking about doing a workshop that would be on this idea of accidental government information librarian because we had heard more and more people talk about how their library had gotten rid of, or their government inform, more often, their government documents librarian has retired.
And instead of filling that position with a new person, they, the duties of that position have been distributed amongst all of the librarians, or distributed to the business librarian, or, so whatever. And so how do you train those people who work, I mean government documents is a hard area, I mean it’s definitely requires some kind of knowledge about how the government does its publishing and how do you train people to understand all the variety of things that could be involved with being a government information librarian. And we originally thought about doing a, a workshop in person but we’re just just too small, so we decided to do workshops online using our UNCG’s version of what’s now called Blackboard Collaborate and it started out with one and the person who did the first one was just, it was called The Basics and so it just went through the real basics of government information and being a government information librarian. Like the SuDoc and all those kinds of things. And that first person said that she would agree to do it only if we agreed to do another one. And so then it snowballed after that and we’re at, we have one Thursday which I believe, I don’t even know what number it is at this point. I think it’s number 19. So that’s number, no it’s 18, so since April 2011 we’ve done 18 of these sessions which is a bit much, but they’ve been really great and people have, a wide variety of people, it’s not just government information librarians, we’ve had a lot of students, a lot of people who are in maybe state libraries, but aren’t specifically government information librarians, just a huge variety of people have come in and attended and they’re always well attended too. So, if you’re listening, you should attend.
Everybody go sign up right now.
Yeah. The next one’s on the US Department of Agriculture’s data which I’m really excited about because I know nothing about USDA.
Yeah, I mean the whole, the whole government documents thing, I mean that’s, it’s really complex, but really important. [laughs]
Yeah and I mean it, it’s, there’s so much of it that is available online, but it requires a certain, it goes back to our research process thing, I mean that’s another place where in the government information session that I do with our interns, we talk more about the process of finding government information and not just here’s this SuDoc, here’s the monthly catalog, we go through and think about who would care about information because the government collects a whole lot of information and unless you can think about that question of who cares, you’re not going to be able to do it well beyond knowing that all these sources exist. I mean I can’t keep in my hand all of the tonnes of sources the government has, but I can think through okay, what kind of question is this and where do I think I could go next to be able to find the answer to it.
Yeah, USA.gov is a good little, is a good point for a lot of basic things and there’s, but as you said there’s so much that you can’t. Yeah.
So much stuff that you don’t even realize what all the government has kept records of.
Yeah, I know, I know, So there was a thread on ILI recently about somebody was going to teach a government information session and what kind of cool things and there was all this, there was zombie page, I think it was the CDC did a page where they talked about the zombie apocalypse and how we could be ready for it. And it was meant to be a joke, but it was also talking about, thinking about the idea of pandemics and how do you deal with any kind of pandemic problem and a zombie apocalypse is a great practice scenario for thinking through that.
I also wanted to ask Lauren, you’re in the middle of writing a very long series on your blog on teaching strategies. I know you’re very interested in that technical, the theoretical, the theory behind teaching. Is there anything in particular that you, made you want to write this series?
Yeah, I am in a new position at my library, I was the instructional land librarian and now I’m the head of instruction and, and in my old position I would run these weekly workshops on improving teaching which were really well attended and people enjoyed and one of which was this teaching strategies that the blog post is built on and I did that once and then we did some other stuff and then people wanted it again, that sort of one of our pressures and I did it again and then we did some other stuff. And now we’re reaching that point where we’re really having to carefully evaluate every free hour of time we have cause we’re all getting so busy. So I’m gonna try to revamp how we do our professional development so it doesn’t hit people every week like that. But I did not want to lose that content because I found that useful here as my colleagues indicated. So on the, that’s how the document really evolved so I’m going through and making a blog post for every single session of that class, the content recovered and the way that we did it so that people who are interested in instruction can follow along and what you might see if you look at it is that it’s not necessarily walk in a room and do this thing, it’s much more the theoretical, as you said, concepts behind education because a lot of use have figured out, or have been forced to figure out how to do the technical work of teaching, but to really level up in it and do it a little more effectively, it’s helpful to have some of that education perspective, so learning more about how people learn, how the brain works when you learn, or how learning styles, or teaching styles sometimes learning, or various taxonomies you can use to understand how the library can fit in. And I’m trying to be very intentional in this series to not just write it for teachers, but to write it for anyone who wants to embed in a significant way. So, for example, I think the one that I got up right before the conference was on various taxonomies that talk about student development and for example, there’s one Blooms, which has some controversy around it, but it’s still pretty good framework and it talks about how as freshmen generally students tend to see things as black and white and trust the instructor as an authority and see the world a certain way and then toward junior year they get through a period of doubt and seeing gray and thinking people, if you just have a strong enough opinion, maybe that’s good enough and then by senior year, oh boy. They get to a point where they see the things aren’t gray, but again you approach things rationally and critically think through things, you’ll be able to come to a solution. So, if you understand that arc, that can help you understand how to plug into the student’s experience at a given time.
Maybe a freshman just needs to be told this is how you find the best source, here are the stops and they’ll learn that, whereas maybe a senior will want a little bit more pushback and interact, some discussion about why that’s the best source or thinking critically about why that process might make them understand. So I’m trying to write it both self-instructor, but also to help people think about the student experience as a whole.
Right, it’s, it’s very interesting, it’s much more in depth than I had ever thought about teaching, so.
So I’m learning things even though you’re on I think part 3.2 or something like that.
Right, yeah that one got too long, it had to be two posts.
Okay, Lauren and Lynda, thank you again so much for talking to me for the show. It was very instructive.
Oh, thank you for having us.
Yeah, thank you for having us.
Which I’m glad I, I guess it’s good that it was instructive since you’re instructors [laughs].
[laughs] Otherwise we’ve failed. [laughs]
Well thanks a bunch it was a lot of fun.
Yes, thank you.
I’ll talk to you guys later.
All right, Bye.