Like any good librarian, my ears are piqued when I overhear discussions about libraries. I love serendipitous encounters like these. Yesterday I was invited to sit in on a symposium sponsored by my university’s humanities center. It was entitled “Space and Place in City and Suburb.” Beforehand, we read two articles (full citations at end): one involving gentrification in Brooklyn (paywall) as analyzed through storefront signs and one article on “placemaking” in Gary, Indiana.
We discussed how your home is considered your first place, work is your second place, but that most of us happen to have third places too–a place where we like to hang out; a place that (ideally) feels welcoming. At my table we shared our third places. I don’t want to get too specific to protect people’s privacy, but in general, people mentioned places like coffee shops, restaurants, gyms, parks, or places from childhood.
Now here is where libraries come into play. Almost every table of students (unprompted by me, mind you) mentioned libraries as a third place. Keeping my emotions in check, this was my “inside” demeanor:
Librarians have been talking about libraries as a third place for awhile, but it was nice to see it reflected in a wider audience.
I tend to avoid over-simplification of generations, but millennials are more likely to use a public library compared to other generations. I recognize that many of the college students now fall into the Gen Z category, but I think similarities can still be drawn.
A “genius bar” at Odegaard Undergraduate Library, U. of Washington that combines writing tutor assistance with research assistance from librarians
We discussed how places can be welcoming (or not) and the subtle messages – positive and negative – that exist just beyond a first glance. Questions to ask: Who are these places intended for? Are these places there for people who have existed in the community for a long time? Or are these places trying to attract a different clientele? It had me thinking more about libraries.
New York Public Library reading room during a 2013 visit
Who uses your library?
Who is your library’s marketing and outreach efforts geared towards? – Are public libraries catering kids’ story times to upper middle class parents with disposable income? — Who does that leave out? Is it reaching the children who might need it the most? And what stories are you using–are they diverse?
How would you describe your library’s physical space? Do you have to keep library restrooms locked because of drug use? — What message is that sending? Do you have comfortable seating? — Might that cause people to linger–is that good or bad? Can someone in a wheelchair or pushing a stroller gain easy access to the building and down aisles? What does that tell folks in those situations?
What policies do you have that may impede library use? — fines, food/drinks in the library, no sleeping. How does this impact the use of the space?
How has the lack of investment and resources in other government services impacted libraries? – Are we social workers, tax preparers, drug counselors, mental health professionals, and career advisers–in addition to being a librarian? There seems to be an expectation that libraries need to be everything to everybody, and that has both positive and negative aspects.
I also thought about my recent tours of libraries in the Seattle area and the use of “kindness audits” at libraries I have worked at. For me, a comfortable and inviting third space is open and airy, with natural light. I also want to be able to move around from spaces to collaborate, to those that offer more privacy. Sometimes I need to concentrate and focus, but at other times I like to daydream. A library generally fits the bill for my needs.
Below are a few recommended readings on libraries as third place.
Trinch, S., & Snajdr, E. (2017). What the signs say: Gentrification and the disappearance of capitalism without distinction in Brooklyn. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 21(1), 64-89. doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/josl.12212
This week I visited the local MLIS program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Information Studies. The instructor of the Academic Libraries course invited me to present about working in smaller academic libraries–a career I have thoroughly enjoyed! Below are my slides and notes.
It was a pleasure talking with the students and their instructor!
Small(er) Academic Libraries: Highlights from the Field
I’ll tell you a little bit about myself and Carroll University’s library.
We’ll do a quick comparison between a small academic library and large academic library.
Then the bulk of the presentation will discuss highlights of working in a smaller academic library.
A Little Bit About Me
BA in history from Ball State University.
Changed my major a few times.
Starting my freshman year of college, I began as a library student worker.
I saw the work that the librarians were doing. They enjoyed their jobs and by senior year I knew this was what I wanted to do.
After my bachelor’s degree I got my MLS from Indiana University.
Been working as an academic librarian for 16 years now.
During most of this time, I’ve been an information literacy and reference librarian.
Also spent time working as an instructional technologist – helping faculty integrate e-learning tools into their courses.
Worked at 5 different universities and have been at Carroll University now for 5+ years.
While at Carroll, I decided to go back to school and completed my master’s degree in education.
It wasn’t a job requirement. Did it for professional development.
For me, my MLS was all about library content (books, journals, databases).
But to me, libraries are all about people!
The master’s in education was a good connection between people and content.
Did my research on makerspaces in academic libraries.
I hate the question: “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” because I’m not a person who plots out a career trajectory–it’s just not me. I’ve always been more interested in making sure I like what I do and feel supported and valued at work instead of wanting to hold a particular job.
Being library director is still new (less than 2 years) and something I never intended or thought of.
Especially when you work in a smaller library, you have to be prepared to step up.
When our previous director left, none of the other librarians wanted to serve as interim director, so I agreed to.
Eventually I interviewed and became permanent library director.
A Little Bit About Carroll University
We are Wisconsin’s oldest university. Founded in 1846.
Still primarily a residential campus. Around 3,400 students.
Focus is on undergraduate education, but growing graduate programs: Doctor of Physical Therapy, MBA, masters in education, masters in occupational therapy, masters in nursing, masters in exercise science, masters in physician assistant studies, masters in athletic training.
About 60% of our students major in the health sciences or life sciences. Popular majors are: Exercise Science, Business, Nursing, Biology, and Psychology.
Library by the Numbers
Above are some statistics about Carroll University’s library.
Small Academic Library vs. Big Academic Library: A Comparison
A comparison between Carroll University’s library and UW-Milwaukee’s library.
What is a Small Academic Library?
No straightforward definition.
Generally less than 5,000 students.
Overall, I would say a total staff of less than 15 to 20.
Comparing resources (like number of books, databases) is harder because it depends if the university is part of a system or consortium.
So I primarily look at the number of students and number of library staff members. But your mileage may vary.
Flat Organizational Structure
Smaller academic libraries generally have a flat organizational structure.
Not a lot of hierarchy–simply because there’s less staff.
As a smaller library, communication is fairly informal as we see everybody almost every day.
The library staff meets formally as a group every other week to share what’s going on.
The librarians meet formally as a group when needed.
I meet formally with each of my direct reports once a month. It’s a chance to get updated on projects and to share things one-on-one.
We generally don’t handle library business by committee unless it’s for a job search.
We currently only have one committee: marketing and outreach.
Carroll University Library Organizational Structure
Each of our librarians coordinates a specific area of the library.
Public/Technical Services Librarian & Archivist: technical services and archives.
Teaching & Learning Librarian: research assistance and information literacy.
Life & Health Sciences Librarian: serves our life/health sciences students because we have so many. Needed a dedicated position.
And I coordinate access services (Circ, ILL, reserves) in addition to being library director.
I report to the Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs. I meet with him formally every other week and then all of the deans/directors in Academic Affairs meet together formally once a month.
Most smaller and a lot of larger academic library directors report to the Academic Affairs side of the university. The exceptions are some academic libraries, both large and small, that work under a merged Library/Information Technology structure and then the library reports to a person who often holds a title like Vice President and Chief Information Officer.
Regardless of your job title, every library staff person at a small institution is public facing. We have direct contact and interactions with students, faculty, and staff everyday.
No one sits in a “back room” — and that’s not a criticism of larger institutions. It’s just daily work life at a smaller institution.
For example, our technical services librarian and our electronic resources librarian – job titles that are often considered “back of the house” – participate in teaching information literacy sessions, provide research assistance, and other library liaison duties.
At a smaller residential campus, face-to-face is key. That’s why students choose to go college there.
You Wear a Lot of Hats
For me, one of things I’ve loved about working in smaller academic libraries is that there is never a chance to get bored.
Because our staff is small, we do a lot of different things.
I’m the library director, but all of us do a lot of things.
I oversees access services. Each of our librarians coordinates a specific area of the library.
I’m also a liaison to several academic departments on campus. Each of our librarians is assigned to departments to liaise with.
I teach in the information literacy program and provide research assistance.
Generally, Library Directors at larger institutions wouldn’t do much information literacy or research assistance.
I do. I want to see the issues that our students and faculty are experiencing first-hand. And frankly, if I didn’t participate in research assistance and teaching information literacy sessions, it would be too burdensome for the rest of the staff.
Other Duties as Assigned?
The next thing I pulled here is a job description so you can see the examples of wearing many hats.
Last summer, we hired for our Teaching & Learning Librarian position–what a lot of academic libraries refer to as a..
I was asked to give a presentation for university faculty and staff on marketing and advocating for the library. Below are slides and my notes. This presentation was geared towards an external (non-librarian) audience.
I have been asked to speak about marketing and advocating for the academic library.
We will walk through how I define marketing and advocacy along with their similarities and differences.
I’ll also provide examples of how marketing and advocacy can and should be applied in an academic library context.
I’ll wrap up with how marketing and advocacy fits into some trends I’m seeing with libraries and higher education.
Before we get into it, I want to share my working definitions of marketing and advocacy. The two go hand-in-hand, but there are some differences.
Marketing focuses on the library’s current users and also our potential users. For us here at the university, that’s primarily going to be our students, but also faculty and staff, and community users.
It’s also important to recognize different segments our community. For students: it could be undergraduates, graduate students, international students, athletes, a particular major, etc.
For faculty: It could be marketing to their needs or using them as a channel to market library services to students.
For staff: It could be marketing library services like our leisure reading collection or curriculum materials collection. Something that adds value to their university employment.
The goal: Aligning the needs of the our students, faculty, and staff to the library’s services and resources.
Advocating is different. It’s all about the influencers and how the library reaches out to them. It’s focused on the individuals or groups that can influence the environment to benefit the library.
In our case, this would naturally include the Provost and senior leadership, possibly the Board too. With all the changes at the university, the library needs to communicate the value we provide to the University.
Influencers are not just top leadership of a university, but it could also be student organizations like Student Senate. The people here may not even use the library (like senior leadership), but they are the ones to make decisions. That’s why we need to advocate using the data and stories we collect to prove our case for the library.
Marketing & Advocacy
So how do marketing and advocacy go hand in hand to create a better library?
Increase the number of users of library services and resources
Shape services to meet the needs and wants of users
Ensure the understanding of the role of the library within the institution
Help users to understand the unique value of the library (Google paywall vs. library databases)
Increase decision-makers’ understanding of the library
Increase decision-makers’ understanding of the benefits to the institution of a strong sustainable library
Support changes in policy that will add to the library’s success
So before I talk about why marketing and advocacy are an essential part of a library staff’s work, I want to do a little activity.
Close your eyes. Think about a library.
What’s in there? What do you see? Who do you see?
Open your eyes. Use the scrap paper to write down FIRST 5 things you think of when you hear the word “LIBRARY.”
I did a similar activity like this, but a very different audience. Last year, I was asked to give a presentation to a group of high school students who were in a pre-college program. As potential university students I thought it might be interesting to get their take on libraries. So I asked them:
When you hear the word librarian, list five things you think of.
So what did we get? Some of the usual stereotypes: books, old lady, mean, shhhh, and glasses.
Then I switched the question to:
List five things you think a librarian does.
Here I got: read, shelving books, checking in books, help people find materials, and doing programs for the community.
We have a perception issue in terms of what librarians do. It’s very book-centric and focused on a lot of clerical tasks. Above is one of my favorite slides:
What our parents think we do, What our friends think we do, What students think we do, WHAT WE ACTUALLY DO
Now I’m not going to draw conclusions based on working with one high school group, but it’s a little anecdote that I think is worth sharing.
To me, libraries ARE NOT ABOUT THE BOOKS, THEY ARE ABOUT THE PEOPLE – and that’s what we need to market & advocate to.
Marketing & Advocacy
So marketing and advocacy are an essential part of an academic library staff’s work. As we’ve seen, many people have a stereotyped image of libraries based on outdated experiences. We need to update the image of libraries, librarians, and all library staff. We have a responsibility to promote our professionalism and value to everyone. This is particularly necessary in the current environment of technological change.
Decision makers routinely deal with issues like funding cuts and accountability questions and so much more that impact library services. We need to provide a quick response so that their opinions can be informed by professional advice.
Let’s face it: There is intense competition for funding and we must continue to ensure that the value of the library is well-understood and appreciated so that there is a good reason to continue funding it.
To do that, we need to back up our marketing and advocacy with data and stories. And now I’m going to talk about a few of those examples.
In January I attended the American Library Association midwinter meeting in Seattle. One thing I had rarely done before at library conferences is to actually tour other libraries. Weird I know…so it was time to rectify that!
I saw that LLAMA was sponsoring visits to the library at Seattle University and the Undergraduate Library at the University of Washington–both spaces that have undergone recent renovations. Then on my own, I toured Suzzallo Library at the University of Washington and also the Seattle Public Library.
Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons, Seattle University
Seattle University, a private university located just east of downtown, enrolls approximately 7,000 students. Lemieux Library was built in 1966. In 2010, the firm of Pfeiffer was hired to renovate the 80,000 square feet building plus add an additional 40,000 square feet to create a new “front door.”
Owing to the rain and cloudiness of Seattle (I would start to see this as an architectural theme!), the new front part of the library building features a lot of glass and natural light.
Lemieux Library, Seattle University
The space includes (from an information sheet given to visitors):
Library and learning commons with physical and digital information resource access
Active learning classrooms
Group study rooms
Individual study carrels and consultation cubicles
Learning Assistance Programs for tutoring
Media Production Center
A few highlights:
Computer area with space for students to collaborate and spread out.
Computer area, Lemieux Library, Seattle University
Group study rooms that can be reserved.
Group Study Room, Lemieux Library, Seattle University
Group Study Room, Lemieux Library, Seattle University
Research assistance from librarians and Writing Center tutors available on the same floor (two separate reporting structures, but co-located).
Research Consultations, Lemieux Library, Seattle University
Writing Center consultations, Lemieux Library, Seattle University
If you would have told me just over a year ago that I would be a library director, hysterical laughter would be my response:
But here I am. I keep calling myself the “accidental” library director. That’s how I introduced myself with a group of new college library director peers. My husband told me to stop saying that. “You’re devaluing your worth!” or something to that effect. I can’t help it. Midwestern self-deprecation is my coping mechanism. No one should seem too self-important.
There was never a desire for a career in library leadership. Up until now, my entire 15+ year stretch as an academic librarian has been focused on information literacy, research assistance, and outreach. I got to do “fun” things like 3D printing, managing a children’s/young adult literature collection, teaching a podcasting course, and designing active learning exercises. I had the freedom to be as creative as I wanted to be.
Conversely, being library director sounded like a creativity killer: budgets, human resources, management.
But truth be told, I was inching toward leadership: I had plenty of programmatic leadership experience, and in the past few years also managed staff.
In October 2017, the interim library director at our small-ish academic library (approx. 3,400 students) resigned. We did not have a back up plan. That’s not a criticism–we just all had too many other things to do. Succession planning was not at the top of the list.
After realizing that none of the other librarians wanted to step up, I offered to. I also told the Provost that I was not interested in the job permanently. Well, you can see where that went: Accidental Library Director.
I filled the interim role for 6 months before applying for the permanent position. Even though an internal applicant, I still had to go through the full interview process: resume/cover letter, phone interview, in-person interview. And I’m glad I did: it made the process transparent and worthwhile. In May 2018, I was appointed permanent library director.
Why Didn’t I Want to Do It (at first)?
I like being a front line librarian and the interactions and energy with students, faculty, and staff.
We had no one trained as a #2 person who could step up to the top role.
At our small-ish academic library, the library director also oversees access services (circulation, interlibrary loan, reserves) and I had absolutely no interest in that.
I really enjoyed my coordination area of info lit and research assistance. My office in the Information Commons was a hub for student activity. I would miss that.
I wasn’t sure I was the right person to be an effective advocate for the library with senior administration (cue imposter syndrome).
Why Did I Change My Mind?
As director, I’m still a front line librarian! At a smaller institution, all of the librarians are front line. I may not be doing as much info lit as I did previously, but I have plenty of interactions. I just worked with a senior capstone English class and their outstanding research topics have energized me as reference librarian this semester.
I got over my “I hate access services” feeling. We all have job duties that are not our “favorite.” You sometimes just have to suck it up. I’m backed up by an incredible circulation manager who handles a lot of day-to-day access services issues.
Yeah, I did enjoy info lit over the years (and I still happily participate as library director–I just don’t have to do as much). But secretly, I was getting to the point where I could potentially see myself getting burnt out. It was time for a change. I got to re-write my “old” position description and hire a new Teaching & Learning Librarian who is off to an outstanding start!
It took some non-library people to convince me to apply: a professor, a senior administrator, and a staff member to say: “Joe: You could TOTALLY do this job!” For me, I gradually realized that all of my experiences prepared me for this. My feelings transitioned from “I could do the job” to “I want to do this job.”
In the interim role, I started making small changes. Then I wanted to see those changes develop. Library administration is not boring. I love collaborating with colleagues from inside and outside the library. I’m proud of the exciting things that library staff are doing. I want to promote that and work with stakeholders on carrying out the library’s mission of student success.
With that said, there is so much to learn and you can be pulled in a million different directions. It’s a big switch for me. For the first year, I’ve been doing a lot of listening: amongst library staff, students, and faculty on campus. I’ve been energized in interactions with the College Library Director Mentoring Program and some of my professional associations and by great colleagues on Twitter.
In a few months, I’ll run a follow-up post on what I’m learning. Lately, it’s been mostly HVAC issues, hah!
At the university where I work, all students are required to participate in a cross-cultural experience. Some students go away for a semester abroad–often through a partner institution. Some professors here take students to a different country for anywhere from 1-3 weeks. But it doesn’t have to be international either–we also offer domestic trips to different cities, rural locations, the US/Mexico borderland, and Native American reservations. They key is to create an immersive experience. You must go beyond simply being a “tourist.” I’ve chaperoned two trips to Italy and it’s a rewarding experience for students.
As part of the preparation, the library collection often comes into play. A lot of the cross-cultural experiences require students to read a novel set in the locale/country they are visiting, written by an author from that locale/country. The librarians see a lot of research questions like:
“I need to find a book set in Peru and written by a Peruvian author.”
…And that’s when we found our library collection was not too diverse. A lot of the fiction was 1) white and 2) US or Eurocentric. We needed to diversify.
This is where student workers come into play. One of our excellent circulation student workers happens to be an English and Global Studies major. Besides having her do regular circ desk work, why not use her skills from English and Global Studies? It’s a chance for her to use her course experiences and apply them. After talking with her, this is the project we devised:
Get a list of countries/regions/locales where students can complete their cross-cultural experience requirement.
Using Novelist, Amazon, Worldcat, and other tools, research books set in some of the areas where students will be studying, written by authors from those areas.
Check our library catalog to make sure we don’t already own the items.
Organize the list by area, followed by titles/authors.
Using her English/Global Studies background knowledge, prioritize novels by areas with greatest need.
The student worker was able to make recommendations using knowledge from the courses she had taken and then used the tools to find more books. She was passionate about the project and it gave her the opportunity to see how the library is directly connected to student success and support. It was also a project she could put on her resume. It’s important to mention that we always need to be mindful that we are not exploiting students for their labor (and the student worker was paid for this work), but if we can find worthwhile projects that match student interests and career goals, then go for it!
I then was able to order the novels using the library’s “diversity” fund line in our materials budget. Several years ago we had carved out this fund line from the “big” materials budget explicitly for diversifying the collection. We use a broad definition for diversity, and this project fit the bill.
Now when a student says, “I’m studying in Morocco and I need a novel by a Moroccan author”…we have it!
In 2018, with all the technology and communication available, people can still slip off the radar. There seems to be this insistence that everyone is online; everyone has a smartphone. Of course, that’s overly simplistic. It ignores the digital divide and people who simply, for whatever reason, choose not to engage online. That’s the case with my Uncle Dan.
My mom texted me the other day saying she’s been trying to get ahold of Dan, her brother-in-law, but found that his phone number was disconnected. I hadn’t thought of my Uncle Dan in quite awhile. He was my dad’s older brother–by quite a few years–and the sole surviving sibling after my dad passed away in 2012.
Meeting Uncle Dan The first time I met Dan was about 1980…but I don’t remember it; I was only around two years old. My mom and I had flown out to California to attend a wedding on her side of the family, but it was Dan–my dad’s brother–that graciously offered to pick us up at LAX.
The second time I met Dan was in 1989…and this I remember. My mom, dad, and I had flown out to California to see family and do the Disneyland thing. We visited with Dan in Long Beach where he lived. I remember him taking us to his favorite breakfast joint, Eggs, Etc. We also ventured down with him to Mission San Juan Capistrano, Dana Point, and Laguna Beach.
The following year in 1990, he came out to Indiana by train (he didn’t like to fly) to visit with us and his mom (my grandma) who wasn’t always the easiest person to get along with.
That was the last time I saw him in person. He and my dad weren’t close. They loved each other, but a phone call on Christmas and birthdays usually sufficed. After my dad passed away, we lost touch. That’s on me.
About Uncle Dan
So here’s what I know (or think I know) about Dan. His full name is Daniel Alan Hardenbrook. He is around 83 years old as of 2018. He is a U.S. military veteran, having served in Korea. I’m not sure which branch of the military. I believe he also spent time in Greenland during his military service.
After the military, he ended up settling in Long Beach, CA where I think he worked as a pipe fitter. When we saw him in 1989, he was working at a hardware store. I remember him being down-to-earth with a fierce independent streak.
He lived in an apartment and his longtime address was 1121 Stanley Avenue, Long Beach, CA, 90804.
After my dad died and my mom moved own of town, she disconnected her landline phone number of 30+ years. That’s the number that Dan would have known. She had given him her mobile number, but we’re not sure if he wrote it down or saved it.
I had given him my mobile number a few years back, but I’ve since changed it. Dan didn’t have a mobile number. He also wasn’t on social media.
Dan wasn’t in touch with any immediate family members that we are aware of.
Librarian Sleuthing and Court Records Search
I tried doing some librarian sleuthing. His name hasn’t popped up in the Long Beach newspaper. However, I did find something unsettling. After doing a California court records search, apparently he was evicted from his apartment–his longtime address–in November 2017.
Where does an 83-year old man go? He had friends, but we can’t recall names nor how to get in contact with them. Do I start looking for neighbors? Check homeless shelters? Maybe VA facilities since he was a veteran?
This is our fault for not staying in touch. Despite living in a world of constant communication and technology that seems to be increasingly invading our private lives, some people are off the grid.
About the Teaching & Learning Librarian The Teaching & Learning Librarian oversees all aspects of the library’s research assistance and General Education information literacy initiatives. This position also maintains the Information Commons and Library Classroom, coordinates the library’s Curriculum Materials Collection, serves as the library’s liaison to the Education department and other assigned subject areas, and oversees the library’s 3D printing service. This position also co-supervises the Information Commons & Acquisitions Manager and one student worker. The library is known for its strong liaison program (“MyLibrarian”) and integration into the first-year curriculum.
Formerly titled Reference & Instruction Librarian, the Teaching & Learning Librarian was my position before I moved over to the Library Director role. I took the opportunity to update the title to reflect current practices in the profession and to emphasize the teaching and learning initiatives that the job entails (e.g., research assistance, info lit coordination, information commons management, liaison work, 3D printing). I like to characterize this as a “fun” job…there is a lot of room for growth, creativity, and autonomy.
Todd Wehr Memorial Library, Carroll University
About Carroll University
Carroll University has approximately 3,400 students in undergraduate and graduate programs. The university has a strong focus in health & life science programs, but with a grounding in the liberal arts. The library employs 5 professional librarians, 3 support staff members, 5 part-time staff, and approximately 50 student workers. The library prides itself on a team environment.
Carroll University, Waukesha, WI
About Waukesha, Wisconsin Waukesha (pop. 70,000+) was recently named most livable city in Wisconsin. It is located 20 minutes from downtown Milwaukee (with a metro pop. of 1.5 million), one hour from Madison, and two hours from Chicago.