June 22, 2010

Trial by fire

Yesterday wound up being my first foray into library instruction. An instructor accidentally mixed up the times given for bringing his class in, so shortly before they would be arriving, my supervisor approached me at the reference desk with, "Guess what... you will be teaching today!" She was already scheduled to teach a class in the classroom, so I had to cover the other class on the computers by the entrance area. Part of my position is instruction, but it wasn't going to be for about another month until I would start.

Nothing like trial by fire as a few colleagues had mentioned to me later on. I had a slight case of terror, but at least previously sat in on a few of my supervisor's instruction sessions to be somewhat familiar with the material. I also figured there was no point in being nervous, because I didn't really have time. I was given the handouts the students get and was able to use those as my lesson plan; they also would serve as visuals since I didn't have the use of a computer/projector.

We went over what I would cover, and I was able to do a very quick run through until the class came in. I definitely had the jitters at first while passing out the handouts, but I think it was one of those things only you notice. As Olivia Mitchell said in regards to anxiety in public speaking,
Just like we don’t see the energetic paddling as a swan glides across the water, you don’t look as nervous as you feel.
Overall, I would say it went well. One of the biggest challenges was going at a pace that would keep the students who had already done similar exercises for other classes engaged, while also not going so fast that the students having more trouble would fall behind. I did end exactly on time, which was great, but I could tell about a third of the class was bored. I did find out later that a lot of that class was from our early college, so I had many high school students on the fast track. That helped me feel a little better about hearing a giggle or two, and I'm sure once I have more practice that wouldn't phase me.

Using analogies, such as going to different databases is like going to different stores when shopping, seemed to help the students who were struggling more to understand better. I would have liked to use more examples like that, but was more focused on getting across the correct information first.

Working in more humor is another goal I have for next time. I did see via the information literacy instruction discussion list (I believe) that someone is working on collecting information about using humor in library instruction, so I'd like to see the results of that when they are available. What I did do that my supervisor suggested was review how to get to the appropriate databases when the students would not be in the library: the scenario of being at home, waking up in the middle of the night, and just being so excited to do some research, what would you do to get to where we just went?

I think these improvements will come in time, but I am keeping notes of what I did well and what I'd like to work on so I can see progress as I teach more classes.

June 5, 2010

Library Day in the Life

During my span of searching for work, I would come across various librarians' blogs describing their Day in the Life (of a librarian). I found this project, started by Bobbi Newman, so useful in having a better idea of what individuals in the profession really do on a day-to-day basis. Now that I'm a little over a month into my new position as a librarian for an urban community college in a big city (doing reference, instruction, and collection development), I thought it would be great to share what my day is like, especially for other recent or soon-to-be grads about to start their career.

No day is exactly the same, and as I progress things will be even more varied, but for the rest of the summer, most of my days will follow a general routine.


8:00 - 9:00 am - Work in my office for an hour while my supervisor starts off at the reference desk; there are only two reference librarians at a time at our branch (we rotate between our main campus downtown and a smaller satellite branch a little further west), so we just switch off back and forth for a total of about 4hs/day per person. What I do during this hour varies between:
  • Continuing to get familiar with the website, OPAC, subject guides, and course assignments involving the library
  • Learning the LCSH layout, even mapping out where everything is using Gliffy; once I finish the upstairs, we might have these diagrams posted to the website to help students find their way
  • Professional development activities: we're not required to publish (most community college librarians are not), so if I want to write something, I think about that at home; but at work I'll look at blogs, Twitter feeds, suggested books on instruction from my supervisor, and attend an occasional, free webinar
  • Read over library policies and strategic planning committee documentation I should be familiar with, as well as check district emails
  • And more recently, I've been getting more involved with my subject areas for collection development

9:00-11:00 am - On the reference desk. As I'm switching with my supervisor, I'll ask any questions I had from the previous day (if applicable), as well as go over some reference interactions I had, asking if I could have done anything better. This helps immensely.
  • Since I started during Maymester and Summer terms are approaching, it will be a little slower while at the desk; if no one has questions, I lately have been working on getting my share of LibGuides together since our library has just started to implement them. Each librarian is responsible for certain subject areas. If you've read New Librarian, New Job, our positions in my department fit the chapter on being a Liaison very closely
  • Our library has a close relationship with many faculty, so they will work with us on course assignments and using the library. Because of this, it's helpful to know the details of assignments so we know what the instructor is after to best help the students; this is part of the reason I look over the assignments binder we keep as well as course textbooks if I have time
  • A lot of time at the desk is also spent on monitoring internet activity because people will look at porn, try to do illegal downloads, or get around any of our other restrictions by using proxy sites. Because of this, we have software to restrict links and take control of a user's screen in real time; we can't violate copyright, nor do we want viruses taking over the computers, so I try to check the Net Support regularly, depending on how busy we are

11:00 am - 1:00 pm - Back in my office to continue with activities I mentioned earlier. Sometimes I will stay at the desk longer if my supervisor has meetings, or other times I will accompany her to the library classroom to sit in on library orientations/instruction sessions. I am fairly new to instruction, so I will get to sit in on a few more classes before going off on my own. Reading Char Booth's recent article in American Libraries really made me feel better about not being fully prepared yet (and she has good tips about instructional design, too).


1:00 - 2:00 pm - Lunchtime! We get an hour, so I'll usually spend a half hour eating in my office, catching up on personal stuff, then go for a walk for the other half but it's getting too hot outside so I'll need another plan.


2:00 - 4:30 pm - Back on the desk, same as before. I'm so lucky my supervisor is open to new ideas: she agreed to let me bring zines into the library to see if students are interested in them. We now have them on a display shelf/cart in magazine binders, and I'm hoping once the summer sessions start more people will start picking them up. Fingers crossed! If they prove successful (we have a tally sheet set up to keep track), there might be a chance to work zines into our budget (this first batch was acquired with my own money).

Then it's time to go home. During the summer, I have to go to our other campus 2x/week and work 11:30-8pm, and once Fall semester starts, it will be about that same rotation, plus one weekend day every other week or every two weeks. We're still short staffed even after hiring me, so hours are going to vary more. Once Fall starts, lunches might vary more too since during some months, we will have instruction sessions throughout close to an entire day.

But that's basically how an "average" day goes for me. My first few weeks were much heavier on shadowing at the desk, where I'd be out there nearly the entire day with my supervisor or a senior employee, watching them help students and then having them watch me a bit.

I hope to share more once I get into instruction because from my perspective right now, I'd like to hear about how a new librarian also new to instruction got started and got comfortable.