Friday, September 29, 2017

For every invention made, how much time did we save?

Hey, hi, hello, Friends of the Unified Library Scene!

The last couple of months have been busy ones. In August, I started graduate school as a part-time, first-year PhD student. I was nervous to start but everything I've done so far has made it clear that following this path was the right one for me. Then in September, I started a new job at my library. I'm now my library's Special Collections Cataloging Librarian. It's been a fun month of learning new things and working with really awesome material. I feel really fortunate to have both of these opportunities, even if they leave me time for little else.

On my run last night (oh yeah, I'm also training for a half-marathon), I was thinking about blogging again for the first time in a long time. I was thinking about how I could describe the experiences of the last few months and about what they've taught me about the librarian I want to be. And I was thinking about all of the pain points I've experiences as a student and how it feels to not know what you need to know. So I want to talk about the view from my place as a new student.

In the months preceding the start of school, I learned a lot about pain points for people trying to accomplish things as an incoming student. I spent most of the spring and summer trying to figure out how to get the various holds removed from my account so I could register for classes. The most difficult thing I had to do was to track down my immunization records. This quest culminated in my ending up getting reimmunized in the month that school started. I learned how frustrating it is when you know what you want the end result to be, but you have no idea how to get from where you are to where you need to be. In my case, a very nice receptionist in one of the health center offices was able to tell me who I needed to talk to and what I needed to do, even though she couldn't help me until I'd done about five other things. I was so grateful that she didn't just dismiss me with a 'sorry, but that's not my job' or a 'sorry, I can't help you.' Instead, she went out of her way to help connect me with the resources I needed to get the immunization hold taken off my account.

In recent days, I've learned a lot about the pain points our library users feel. I've started to use databases to gather articles for a paper I'm writing and I've had a heck of a time figuring out the exact combination of search terms to get the kind of research I want. One combination of terms gives me too broad a set of results. If I use a different combination of terms, my results set is too narrow. I am, I fear, the embodiment of "searching is strategic exploration" from the ACRL Framework. One thing I find myself thinking is that I wish that the Framework was most explicit in its conversation about affective dimensions. I am willing to persist because I know how hard this process is. But I wonder how many of my classmates are as stubborn as I am.

In the end, being a student has shown me how it feels to not know the thing that other people know. And that not knowing, and the feelings that accompany it, have made me certain that it is my job as a librarian to be empathetic to the situations in which our users find themselves and to respond in a way that acknowledges how stressful it is not know the answers. As a cataloger, it makes me want to be clear and purposeful in the language that I use to describe the resources I'm tasked with cataloging. As someone who is beginning to work at a service point for the first time in a long time, it makes me want to listen a little more before I speak.

Stay positive,

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