As Rachel alluded to in her post on Friday, I spent the past week on a bus. The university where I work has a new faculty tour of the state. Librarians are considered faculty (though we're not on the tenure track), so I was able to attend. I saw the diversity of economic opportunity in Georgia and how the university is trying to build relationships between its faculty and the people of the state. Over the course of five days, we visited farms and factories and everything in between.
As much as I was on the tour to learn about the state of Georgia, I was there to represent the Libraries to my new faculty cohort. And in that way, I was in a unique position from anyone else on the tour. I should be clear that this role wasn't as a result of some directive from my library's leadership. It was because the new faculty had questions and they saw me as someone who had answers. As ridiculous as it might sound, I regretted not spending more time studying my library's website and making a cheat sheet of answers that I anticipated that my colleagues might ask.
I fielded questions about course reserves, ILL, article databases, and data sets. I talked to scientists about how the Libraries could help them design data management plans to support their grant-funded research. I talked to humanists about how the Libraries was trying to balance their need for a browse-able collection with a desire for collaborative student spaces. I did my best to tailor my conversations to match the interests and pressing needs of my audience as I understood them. And I tried to speak without using jargon that might be off-putting.
The phrase I said more than anything else on the tour was: Feel free to contact me after the tour and I'll connect you with someone who can help you.
Regardless of where in the library we work, we all need to be prepared to have these conversations with our user groups. I think that informal conversations are at least as useful in getting academic faculty to buy-in to the mission of the academic library as the official speech given as new faculty orientation. These conversations allow you to sell your library resources in the context of what matters to the people who use them. Your students need help understanding how to search for the literature in your field? We can help you with that! You're the first person in 50 years at the University in a particular research niche? The library can help you obtain the resources you need to succeed!
So, what would you say about your library if you were trapped on a bus for a week with your users? How would you tell them about the services and collections you offer? Drop me a line in the comments!
Thoughts from the crew:
I, too, was recently oriented to a new faculty. I wasn't very excited about it. I've been through it a few times (different jobs, transferred schools in undergrad, etc.) And I've been working at my new job since February. I almost skipped it. I had things to do, and to be perfectly honest, I was bored.
Until I started talking to the other new faculty about the library. Suddenly I was all about what courses are they teaching, did you know about all of the technology we have, let me tell you about the curriculum library, let me tell you how great your liaison is. Turns out, I'm pretty excited about the library and what we're doing. Sometimes I forget. New faculty orientation was a great reminder.