I met one of my most trusted professional collaborators and dear friends at an orchestra camp when I was 16 years old. I hated high school and was generally dour, a surprise to those who know me post-college. Trying to make sense of my identity in a community that was not accepting of difference didn’t give me much to smile or laugh about. Playing classical music was my outlet and I met wonderful, supportive friends through that venture. But no one made me laugh quite like Carla Martin did between rehearsals in the middle of Maine in 1998.
We lost touch when we went to college, but thanks to a Mark Zuckerberg production called Facebook, we reconnected when we were both working in Cambridge in 2008. We talked a lot about teaching and higher education since we were both in graduate school, me in library school, Carla in a ph.d program at Harvard. As our responsibilities shifted towards classroom work, we both noticed on Twitter that we were experimenting at the intersection of humanities, social science, and technology. We started talking more about what works in classrooms and what doesn’t, what types of tools are available and how to recast products in an academic context. Talking about our work in the context of the digital humanities community has only put the uniqueness of our relationship into focus.
Last week, we presented a flipped session about faculty-librarian collaboration at Digital Humanities: The Next Generation. As Lindsay Whitacre noted in her presentation on Saturday, “DH is not just a new set of tools and methods, it’s a new set of relationships.” I and many others have said before that Digital Humanities is a team sport, a collaborative venture that cannot be sustained by lone wolves or solitary geniuses. Digital Humanists must be as serious about building and sustaining relationships as they are about building tools.
My relationship with Carla is one of those important ones. I am a better librarian for knowing her, for listening to her talk about the logistics of scaling up digital projects to larger classes, for asking questions about how to support first generation students with skillfully crafted assignments and syllabi, and for helping me better understand how librarians can support junior faculty with their institutional knowledge. She’s forthcoming with examples of assignments that work, for thinking about new ways of marketing courses, and for hands-on activities in classes that I can talk about in my local community. We don’t work for the same institution, so our conversations are casual collaborations, but we can practice communication strategies we can bring home and use in our local contexts.
Our presentation dealt with miscommunications between librarians and faculty. It’s an elephant in the room when we talk about how to thoughtfully incorporate technology into classrooms. Some faculty may have an expectation that librarians and technologists passively will enact whatever they want. Other librarians may have a fear that faculty don’t value them professionally. Some faculty may feel like librarians can be passive aggressive with them when talking about workloads. Other faculty may feel like librarians can be dismissive of their technology skills. Bad communication patterns are also reinforced by higher education hierarchies that put faculty at the top and librarians towards the bottom. In my experience, librarians and faculty have excellent, complementary skills that when put in service of students, learning and research can be a powerful force for good. Librarians are masters of process; the research process, increasingly in many cases, how to manage technology projects or experimenting with technology in their practice. Faculty are masters of the content, experts in their field. I read a quote on the Feral Librarian’s blog this week from Deborah Jakubs:
“…librarians are learned and talented and bring skills and attitudes and services to the university that most regular faculty both admire and need. So rather than constantly trying to compare ourselves to faculty, and often coming up short, let’s celebrate the differences and complementarity.”
Why not leverage these complementary skill sets to build a relationship to enable digital humanities, whether it be in a research or classroom setting?
In addition to providing tangible benefits to our students and to our faculty, I think individual faculty and librarians themselves can benefit from working in teams and from participating in engaged professional relationships. Beyond doing my job better, my relationship with Carla and other faculty members enrich my life and work generally, especially since we still laugh as hard together as we did in 1998.
I – and what felt like everyone and their mother – have read the Ithaka S & R Report about historians. After reading it, I had some back and forth with librarians and archivists on Twitter as well as a few face to face conversations. The findings were not controversial or surprising to me; I think Sharon Leon put it best when she wrote on her blog that “The report characterizes history as a discipline in transition, and it is-both in human and institutional senses. Historians, graduate students, archivists, and librarians are each in their own way coping with the “problem of abundance” created by the digital turn.” I think that is fair for all parties. Historians are trying to make sense of how to best utilize a wealth of new digital materials, and librarians and archivists are trying to make sense of how to make those assets more accessible and what they need to do to provide effective outreach and research support. I am no longer a practicing historian, so I won’t comment on that aspect of the report, but as a librarian who supports historians and as a trained archivist, there are some things I want to say.
- Librarians and archivists need to better articulate what types of services they offer. Librarians and archivists have tremendous value far beyond ‘I have access to this cool stuff, come find me.’ Last week, I went to a NISO webinar on Libraries and Start-Up culture. The biggest takeaway for me is that libraries and librarians need to stop thinking about themselves as content collectors, but as agents of content creation and publication. This report is a call to arms to librarians and archivists to move from the model of ‘we have those documents and these books’ to ‘I want to partner with you to publish this open access article’ or ‘Let me circle the wagons so we can create this digital project’ or ‘yeah, I can help you work up a data management plan.’ We understand the research process and we can be really helpful sherpas to our faculty as well as our students. In order to do that, we must shift how we conduct outreach and position ourselves as collaborators as opposed to just support people. Easier said than done, I know, but it’s possible. I live that reality.
- Scholarly Communication is changing. This report reinforced to me that librarians are poised to help faculty get from monograph publishing to a new place where digital projects and new types of output reign. Of course, this is easier said than done since the tenure and promotion process is not to the point where DH and alternative forms of publishing reap the same rewards as traditional monograph publication. But as research sherpas, we can help guide the process; librarians can create a new publishing environment, for instance by using collection development money to support open access publishing or creating collaborative creation/hacker/maker spaces in our libraries can push the issue forward.
- If we [librarians, archivists] can be replaced by a computer screen, we should be! Cathy Davidson’s blog post frames much of how I think about my work these days. If the work I do can be replaced by a computer, then it should be. It can free me up to do other, new things in my practice to the benefit of my students, colleagues, and faculty. It’s creative destruction, but in 2013, our year of community engagement in libraries, we need to be mindful about how we allocate our valuable human capital in libraries. If we can automate aspects of our work that is better left to computers, then we should. For me, automation frees me up to teach more classes, develop meaningful content for our research education program, provide better service to my school, do technology, and have the headspace to think about what is on the horizon in libraries, archives, and higher education. Not only will this help ensure the survival of academic libraries and librarians, but it also makes us more accountable to our students who pay increasingly steep tuition and fees to attend college in the United States. By leading with the idea that we are going to do more, make decisions to meet our users’ needs then we can be more sure of our success.
Naysayers might suggest that I want to kill off some of the artisanal aspects of librarianship, that my goal is to rise in the ranks to shut the lights off in my colleagues’ offices and usher them out the door. That is not the case. If higher education is going to continue to be meaningful, if we want to see a profession of smart, dedicated librarians in the future, we have to make sure that the work we are doing resonates with the academic curriculums we support. We want to prepare today’s students to earn living wages and hopefully to foster their lifelong learning. My call to my fellow librarians and archivists is not to take everything the Ithaka report suggests and implement it to the letter, but to think of it as a call to action. Let’s make ourselves relevant by working with faculty and researchers to become valuable collaborators in the research process and guides them through a rapidly changing technology environment. Let’s work towards educating our users about data management, open access, and copyright so they can create new types work, as the report advises us to do. Let’s use this opportunity forge a new path for libraries and archives for the twenty-first century. While many people would point to the contrary, I believe our future is bright, if we are courageous enough to carve a new path to get us there.
It was the end of the semester and the library was filled with sleepy students stumbling towards project and paper deadlines. For as many students as I’ve emailed and met with this year, I wondered about students who need my help, but who, for whatever reason, don’t know that I’m available to support their research. It made me wonder – who did I miss?
Earlier this winter, I had the opportunity to co-lead an ISIS seminar with my friend and collaborator Carla Martin. Together, we talked about how faculty, librarians, technologists, and administrators can effectively support first generation college students. Cultivating and sustaining diversity in higher education is a passion of mine. As librarians collaborate with various constituencies across campus to foster student success, I am very interested in looking to see how librarians and technologists can act in solidarity with all of our students, not just the ones who know we are there to help them.
The question of how librarians can best help first generation students began to percolate when I heard Susan Gibbons talk about her seminal work with the Rochester Study, her brilliant collaboration with anthropologist Nancy Foster Fried. In it, Gibbons and Fried studied library users at the University of Rochester and then made recommendations on how to improve services and spaces in libraries that better reflect the needs and behaviors of students. One of their findings was that when many students come to a roadblock with their academic work or research, they go to their parents for help. This development was not something librarians at Rochester expected, but was one that made sense given the rise of the ‘helicopter parent’ generation. Librarians at Rochester responded to this shift by holding library orientations at the beginning of the year for *parents* as opposed to orientations for entering students. Their message: “when you kid calls for help, refer him/her to a *librarian*.” For many students at Rochester, this message was effective. Students called parents, who sent them to librarians. Other institutions have followed suit, prioritizing orienting parents at the start of the year rather than entering students.
This strategy works with many students – here at Hampshire, we did a very successful parent orientation in the library this fall. However, it left me wondering about first generation students, many of whom do not go to their parents when they are in academic distress, many of whose parents might not have even attended orientation themselves. Who did we miss? Who do we continue to miss?
During orientations, libraries can partner with student life programs aimed at underrepresented students who might already be on campus early for their own pre-orientations programs before the general ones for all entering students begins. Maybe that’s an opportunity to do some targeted programming?
I also think that there are ways that we can amend our practices to be more inclusive generally. During our ISIS session, Carla talked about creating inclusive guidelines for her courses that depended less on outside knowledge or cultural capital and primarily on knowledge acquired and gained in the class itself. As librarians, we should not make assumptions about what our students know or don’t know. When we teach research education sessions, we must teach to everyone. When we meet with students one on one, we should try to ask holistic questions that help students move beyond screen issues to get to the heart of their obstacles. It might not be about sources for a paper, but about something else entirely. We must be able to refer them to support services across campus to address their concerns.
First generation students contribute mightily to their campuses. They bring a unique perspective; some are international students, others at many elite colleges might hail from underrepresented parts of the United States, others might be veterans who served their country prior to enrolling in college. Colleges and universities are rich, dynamic communities that can provide all students with unique learning communities in their dorms, in their classrooms, and over meals. But first generation students sit at many intersections and cross many demographics in colleges and universities. We know they’re there, but we don’t always know how best to reach them. That’s why sessions like the ISIS one Carla and I co-facilitated are important: better serving our first generation students should be a priority in all higher education libraries, at big public universities and small liberal arts colleges. How can we make inclusive policies and procedures that incorporate and include all the students we serve? How can we design programming to reach students who go to their parents – or don’t – or utilize other campus constituencies to help them along during their college years?
Email is a burden we all share. Profhacker publishes frequently on quick productivity hacks to enhance management of the daily e-mail deluge, from productivity hacks to text expansion. In the Library with a Lead Pipe has also penned an excellent email management post.
Like many front line Research & Instruction librarians, I’m busy. I am always looking for ways to save time on all tasks from the mundane to the complicated. Scheduling meetings is an example of a mundane time suck. Last year I realized that I could cut down on my number of e-mail exchanges by implementing some way for students to schedule meetings with me without having to EMAIL me.
One evening, while doing some research on digital curation, I came across a link to tungle.me, a neat calendaring tool that allows people to make appointments over the internet. AWESOME. At first, I was worried this was a pipe dream in the land of unicorns, but tungle.me was the real deal. I signed up, added that neat site to a QR code on my door and began saving loads of time by sending links to tungle.me rather than enduring long electronic negations about Wednesday versus Friday meetings versus Monday meetings.
I was rolling along until I received a sad email from tungle.me announcing that they were sunsetting this service to turn their attention to other matters at Research in Motion. Dejected, I began investigating other options. I put out a few cries for help on Twitter, and vendors responded with helpful links to a variety of services. Today, I found my new calendar solution: Lizi.
Lizi is my new personal assistant. And below I will break down why I hired Lizi to manage my calendar.
1. I was able to import my tungle.me account right into Lizi and keep my user name, caropinto.
2. It jives with Google calendar, Twitter, G+, & Facebook to get to know my contacts.
3. It saves locations for possible meetings, including my office at Hampshire College and my favorite off-campus coffee shop.
4. It’s easy to set preferred times that fall outside of the normative 9-5 Monday through Friday window. I love being able to instruct Lizi to not schedule meetings on days when I need additional prep time to teach or do committee work off campus.
5. Lizi also provides users with the option to schedule a call as opposed to setting up a meeting. Often, with off campus collaborators, I won’t necessarily want to schedule an in person conversation, but instead a phone call or virtual meeting. I appreciate that those folks can just go ahead and schedule a call with me.
Using a service like Lizi is more than a timesaver; it’s also a wonderful outreach tool. I love being able to meet my users’ needs by providing them with a direct link to my calendar. It reinforces the message I send when I teach research education sessions that I am available to meet. Lizi provides my students and faculty with an easy and direct connection to my calendar, saving time for everyone involved. It’s a win-win!
As campus readies itself for the influx of new students, it seems only appropriate that this installment focuses on partnerships with student affairs. Librarians are talking about ways to demonstrate their value, both in terms of maintaining and growing collections and providing important services to their institutions. In our new higher education landscape, there is a push toward more accountability and I agree that demonstrating value is a part of that. But as Barbara Fisher suggested yesterday in Inside Higher Ed, “Libraries are suddenly obsessed with demonstrating value, but measures of value that become unanchored from philosophical values can be destructive. (This is an issue for all of higher education. In the rush to prove our value, leaders sometimes toss our values overboard.)” Well said, I say. Beyond supporting research and knowledge creation, I also believe that librarians play a role in supporting our students’ success in other areas of their life on campus beyond the classroom. For me, supporting student success across campus in collaboration with student affairs is in line with librarianship’s values around community.
Fully supporting students requires different departments and individuals to work together in and out of the classroom. At Hampshire, one great example of this are the partnerships librarians forge with our office of First Year Programs. Last year, an amazing woman took on First Year programming and met with us during the summer to talk about possible collaborations. In exchange for some food budgets and free advertising, we put together programming for research lunches and late night research consultations in the library at peak times. These programs were great for two reasons:
1. We learned more about how student affairs worked and more on challenges First Years face.
2. Students met us in different contexts, discovered that we are friendly and helpful, and become repeat customers.
3. First Year Programs had successful sessions, we had support to market ourselves, and thus everyone involved came out as winners.
While these collaborations really embody our library’s mission to support student research and development, partnering with student affairs and first year programs allows us to put names with faces in different parts of campus that can guide students through other roadblocks they encounter. So often, a student will come to me with a research question that is actually a screen for another crisis. By making connections with folks across campus that can help with any variety of student distress, I know who to call on to refer a student towards a successful outcome. That’s huge. I am not suggesting that librarians are an extension of student affairs – or that we should be in the business of fixing our students’ problems – but we can and often do play a role in supporting our students’ emotional lives. And often times, one caring adult at college can be the difference between a student staying and leaving. Retention is a huge metric of success in higher education, and I want to suggest that librarians can and do contribute to students staying, thriving, and graduating.
Librarianship is as much about service as it is about collections. Measuring service can be tricky and imperfect, but I believe that we can tie our services into the actions colleges and universities take retain students. In a landscape where higher education is faced with making tough decisions that force us to confront compromises in our values, librarians can feel secure that working at the intersection of student affairs and academic services can provide our campus communities with tremendous value, and value we as librarians can be proud of.
In our age of embedded librarianship, librarians are forging collaborative relationships with faculty in their classrooms and in the planning of their syllabi. However, it seems like there is a limited discussion about how librarians can invite faculty to collaborate with them in the library. Rachel Beckwith (the Arts Librarian at Hampshire College) and I explored these issues during our presentation at ACRL-New England this spring some examples of how we at Hampshire aim to invite faculty into library to work with us to develop collections and resources to benefit our students. We encourage faculty to help us build our collections through conversations and through the creation of Amazon Wish Lists, and we invite faculty to collaborate with us on developing LibGuides.
Hampshire College’s Library recently revised its collections statements to affirm that our mission is to support our unique curriculum; we rely on our consortial partners to support faculty research through our borrowing agreements in the Five Colleges. We selectors keep abreast of course developments and buy resources that best support them. Naturally, as faculty revise courses and develop new ones we expect to buy new items as they are needed. I set aside 25% of my budget for faculty driven acquisitions to support their coursework. Some of my other colleagues have set up Amazon Wish Lists to track faculty requests. This is not to say we green light every suggestion, but we do take faculty input seriously as we manage and grow our collection.
By the same token, I am always trying to improve our research guides, adding links to new resources purchase by the library, working towards integrating successful examples of work for students to emulate, and also including links to websites on the open web like successful digital humanities projects, or interesting news sites that students would not ordinarily think about on their own. While I have broad subject knowledge and a master’s degree in history, I realize that my faculty are the subject experts and have a wealth of knowledge about their areas of expertise I will never have. So why not invite faculty to participate in the creation of subject guides? I had a particularly successful experience with my Africana studies LibGuide last spring. A faculty member and I met and discussed his curricular needs and we shared our best resources with each other. He felt empowered in having a a voice in how we shape our resources and market ourselves, and I learned more about African diasporas that will benefit community members in and beyond his class.
Faculty and librarians collaborate together to support student learning. In order to work effectively together, we need to invite each other into our own spheres to be successful. Such collaborations can’t rest on faculty inviting us into their classrooms, but librarians inviting faculty into our libraries, too.
Welcome to part two of my series about outreach in academic libraries. Today’s topic – New Presentism. For me, the idea of new presentism means that librarians should insert themselves during moments of transition. What better time to showcase services than when staff and faculty move into different roles?
Not to beat a dead horse, but, dear readers, did you know that the higher education landscape is changing? Changing rapidly? Between this recent Forbes opinion piece about how humanities departments need to be gutted to the recent firing (and rehiring) of UVA’s president, there is much to be said about the myriad changes facing higher education. For some change is crisis, a time to scale back, hide, and hope that the budget axes don’t come for you because your reference statistics are just fine. But lately for me and for Hampshire College, change has allowed for opportunity.
So often in libraryland, outreach and service are thought about in terms of meeting existing needs, but not necessarily anticipating and meeting new ones. Service is often framed in terms of responding to emails in a timely fashion or having a smile on one’s face during reference transactions. But I firmly believe that in this shifting landscape, we need to be proactive about service, proactive about taking advantage of change.
The digital humanities present significant opportunities to embrace change during moments of transition in higher education generally and in libraries in particular. Digital humanities is not just a discipline or a a new take on a discipline, but in the words of Barbara Rockenbach, a new service orientation for libraries. Moreover, it’s not simply a new service model for libraries, but a culture shift in higher education around open access publishing as well as new types of scholarly production and products. At Hampshire, my colleagues and I in the library wrote a a grant application to get funding to host learning communities in the Five Colleges during the 2012 academic year. Sure, we collaborated with faculty, but we took the lead in project management, in the writing of the grant, in the facilitation of the meetings, and the vision to move our project forward. Out of this experience, I found that librarians have an important role to play in the management of new forms of scholarly production. We began managing this transition, leading it, and guiding it, as opposed to just reacting to it.
And that’s the key inserting oneself in a moment of transition: embracing change as an opportunity as opposed to something to fear. Librarians at times have been asked to know their place and serve their faculty, but the seismic changes in higher education demand that we question “our place” as service points. We must acknowledge and embrace that we are active agents in our students lives. After all, with the rise of contingent (adjunct) faculty, we are some of the only constants on campus. So let’s take advantage of our presence and take an active role in navigating higher education’s changes and challenges.
Two weeks ago, I attended the annual Association of College and Research Libraries, New England Chapter meeting at the College of Holy Cross in Worcester. I was fortunate enough to co-present with my fabulous colleague, Rachel Beckwith. Together, we shared some of our outreach strategies and experience in a talk entitled: “Hey, Great to Run into You! Embedded Librarians Forging Partnerships Across Campus.” We divided up our time between our presentation and a facilitated conversation with the librarians in the room, a model for conference presentations I really prefer over the standard talk followed by question and answers. The talk can be captured in six points which represents our spectrum of embedded librarianship ranging from causal encounters to formalized curricular realtionships:
- Informal Encounters: the fine line between outreach and stalking
- New Presentism: inserting yourself at a moment of transition
- High Threshold teaching: a semester with Omeka
- Consortial Change Agents: 5 College Mellon Digital Humanties Grant
- Reciprocity: Amazon Wish Lists, collaborating with faculty to create LibGuides
- Partners in Retention: Pouncing on fresh blood in Student Affairs.
Outreach is a key piece of my work that I invest time and energy investigating in my research and writing. I truly believe that the most effective librarians do not wait for students to show up to the reference desk or the office, but librarians who actively seek out their students, faculty, and other constituents. In addition to bringing visibility to the library on campus, it’s more fun for the librarian too. I’ve really enjoyed my serendipitous conversations and reference interviews with students and faculty at Northampton Cafes, campus events, and on the Five College Bus System. It’s organic, and reinforces how seamlessly we exist in the campus community. That presence makes it possible for our academic stakeholders to trust us with more challenging endeavors like partnering to retain students and high threshold teaching and learning experiences. Above all, it is so satisfying to have a student smile back you and say, ‘wow, it’s great that you were here right when I was about to email you to make an appointment! Here you ARE!’