By Judith E. Pasek, University of Wyoming
I am rapidly approaching my one-year anniversary of employment as a university librarian in research and instruction services. The time seems to have flown by quickly, perhaps too quickly. I still feel like I am learning how to do my job. This is a good time for me to reflect on where I started, what I have done so far and where I may be going as a librarian.
I am not talking about annual performance reviews or tenure and promotions reviews—where others make judgements about the quality of my work. Those occur on different schedules, with different purposes. Instead, this is a time I have chosen to think about my journey in a broader context.
Change is Constant
A theme that pervaded my MLIS program was a need to embrace change, particularly in relation to technological developments. What has struck me by reflecting on my first year is that I have already experienced multiple changes that affect my work. These changes are mostly small, incremental adjustments rather than life-altering occurrences.
The impact of small changes can be easily overlooked among the steady stream of daily activities. Upon reflection, it is apparent that my job has not been static even as I have attempted to become proficient in my new responsibilities.
When I started, becoming oriented to working on the Research Desk was a priority. I had to quickly locate answers to questions I was not yet thoroughly familiar with about library policies and procedures and available resources. The experience provided me with insights into the types of issues library users were encountering.
Our library is transitioning this summer to a consolidated desk model whereby the Research Desk has been combined with the Circulation Desk, and is regularly staffed by library assistants rather than by librarians. I no longer have regular hours on the Research Desk, but am available from my office on certain days to provide backup for more difficult research questions.
I now have more time to work on instruction and workshop preparation, consultation, and liaison services. A down-side is that I feel less connected to library users, although that could also be a result of the slower summer session. I am grateful for the experience I had in working the Research Desk, because I think it helped me become knowledgeable about the unique aspects of the library more quickly than would have occurred otherwise.
We hired two new librarians in Research and Instruction just as the desk consolidation began. I am no longer the newest librarian in the organization. I find it interesting to observe the newer librarians work through the same job orientation process that I started just a year ago, although without regular Research Desk shifts.
Work dynamics always change as some individuals leave the organization and others join. I expect additional change as we make plans to fill and refill several positions within the library organization in the coming year. And I anticipate greater involvement in selecting my new colleagues—after all, I am no longer the newest librarian in the organization.
Although I work most directly with my colleagues in Research and Instruction, the work of other library departments also impacts my work (and vice versa) in potentially big and small ways. In an effort to free up space for other purposes, the library initiated a reference “reduction” project, shifting most of the remaining print reference materials to the stacks. After my department reviewed reference materials to determine which could become circulating volumes (from a user standpoint), the work was passed on to Collection Development for electronic replacement review and to Technical Services for re-cataloging and marking, and then on to Circulation for re-shelving.
Within a week of engineering materials being relocated, I had a consultation with a graduate student who was more than pleased to be able to check out handbooks relating to his research that previously would have been restricted to library use only.
Even seemingly small changes can have cascading impacts. Several changes were made to the library website to emphasize article and catalog search boxes, de-emphasize the super search discovery tool, and replace ambiguous icons. Subsequently, library research guides and tutorial videos had to be reviewed for outdated icons and screenshots.
Similarly, purchase of new resources by Collection Development can result in a need to update library research guides to link to and highlight newer materials and types of products. As I became the point of contact to help users with certain citation management tools (i.e., EndNote and Mendeley) I needed to address software changes even as I was developing new guides. I found that working with library research guides involves not only developing resource pages, but also updating content as associated changes occur.
All these changes, in turn, can affect the content of instruction sessions and workshops. Instruction preparation similarly is not a one-time activity. Continuous improvement is the driver of quality instruction services.
Given that resources and services are continuously changing, finding ways to keep up-to-date becomes an important aspect of the job. I was fortunate to be able to participate in a number of conferences, workshops, and training sessions in my first year, addressing a range of topics in instructional design and techniques, data management services, academic librarianship trends, and scientific subject matter.
Closely related to professional development are responsibilities for scholarship and academic and professional service. These areas provide opportunities for growth in knowledge and experience. Year one involved searching for opportunities that may be a good fit for my interests and abilities, with an expectation that greater progress will be made as I become more entrenched within the profession.
I have collected ideas over the past year while continuing to keep my eyes open for interesting opportunities for greater collaboration and leadership. Reflecting on my first year, I recognize that I have already learned a lot, accomplished many goals, and am well on my way to becoming the librarian I aspire to be. And I am especially thankful to have joined a great group of supportive and encouraging fellow librarians.