Library Thinker Series: If You Had The Time

This post is a part of the Library Thinker Series where we examine some of the larger questions that we struggle with in librarianship and try to come to some insights together.

In the last LTS post there were a lot of enlightening comments. In one thread we got onto the topic of brainstorming and I wanted to carry that idea into this week’s post. In order to begin thinking about the work we do at our library, our director recently prompted us to brainstorm ideas with the question, “if time wasn’t a factor, what would you like to work on?”

Normally time is at a premium for librarians. We have to work reference shifts, teach, go to meetings, etc. But if all those things were taken out of the equation, what is it that you wish you could do?

When I thought about this question, the answer I gave was that I would spend more time learning from and about students. I wish I had time to do focus groups, or conduct usability testing, or sit and observe students’ behaviors. It would be great to ask students about how they use the library and what could be improved. I think we do a decent job paying attention to students and their needs, but I would love to be able to do it in a more thoughtful, structured way.

How about you? The sky is the limit for this question. What would you work on, create, or do if time wasn’t a factor?

Andy Burkhardt


  1. I’d love to audit some of the classes in my liaison areas. I do a lot of work with the sociology and criminal justice departments here (I work with anywhere between 8-10 different classes), but don’t have any specific background in these areas. I think I could be so much more effective in my instruction (sometimes multiple class sessions) if I had a better grasp of the content area.

    The other thing I’d love to do is teach a section of the Introduction to Research Writing or freshman seminar class. There’s been a push to have non-full time teach faculty (with master’s degrees) to work with the first year seminars. I think it would be fascinating and a great way to make that connection with what students (and faculty) really go through.

    As for projects…I’d have to think about it, but one I’m hoping to accomplish with the help of SLIS interns is organizing recent Supreme Court cases by theme/topic/issue at stake. There was a website that used to do it, but it’s been abandoned. We’ve got a minimum of 6 sections of a class doing a speech using that info every semester. Apparently if you want it done right, you’ve got to do it yourself 🙂

  2. I like the idea of teaching a full class. You’d be able to see what it would be like to build a longer term class relationship and carry lessons on into other classes. It would also be a really good way to get to know some students and be more fully integrated as a faculty member.

    Another one I just thought of today was being able to take a management seminar or classes. I thought that class was interesting in library school and I’d find it valuable to understand management more in depth. It would help me as a rank and file librarian understand the challenges of managers more, and it would be beneficial if I ever wanted to do something in more of a leadership role.

  3. I would definitely like to spend more time talking to both students and faculty about their information use and how the library fits (or doesn’t fit) into their world. I’d also like to learn more about the issues with scholarly publishing and copyright so that we could be more of a resource for faculty on this. I don’t know that anyone at my university has taken the lead here.

    I did actually have the chance to teach a one-credit “how to be a college” student class this quarter, but it was on my own, outside of my 40 hours of work, time. I learned a lot about teaching and unfortunately some of the drawbacks of that sort of class, but there are now 24 students in my general subject area who at least know me by name. I’m hoping to see some of them later in their college careers, and I’m definitely planning to teach the class again next year.

  4. On the management side, I feel like I have the benefit of working in a small but really open library. There’s a chain of command, but a lot of decisions get made by the staff as a whole or by committees (which end up being about half the 10-person staff anyway). I work so closely with my supervisor on scheduling, developing and implementing our IL program that I help write the library-wide assessment reports.

    I would like to find a way to interact with librarians who work on a IL scale and depth similar to ours. I love our other local academic libraries, but my coworker and I teach more IL sessions individually than most libraries in our state do together. I’m just not entirely sure where those people are. I think finding time to get to conferences outside the state is another thing I’d do if time and money weren’t an issue.

  5. Copyright is an issue that we’re dealing with at our college too. It would be great if someone here was a go-to person. I’m not sure if that is what I would want to focus on, but I wish our library was stronger in that area as well.

  6. How many sessions do you actually teach a semester. It seems like you do a lot more than most people I have talked to (even at ACRL Immersion). It seems like Immersion, if you could find the funds to go (scholarship?), would be perfect for you. You’d get to talk and interact with people just like you and then continue those conversations after the week is over. This year was East Coast, next year is Seattle. Maybe they’re coming to Iowa next!

  7. Last year I taught 141 IL sessions (including orientations). I’d say I probably average about 60 a semester, about 45 of which are sessions in core classes, the rest in my liaison departments.

    I’d love to do Immersion. I was enamored with the idea in grad school, and now that I’m doing it, I really see the utility.

  8. Because copyright is all litigated, I feel like it’s always changing, and I’m consistently 3 steps behind. 🙁

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