In the Spirit of Ben Franklin: 13 Virtues of Next Gen Librarians

benjamin franklin statue

image by Michael Parker on wikimedia commons

The ACRL national conference is upon us once again. If you’re going to the city of brotherly love, I’d like to invite you to come check out a panel that I am on with two amazing librarians. Carissa Tomlinson is an emerging technologies librarian at Towson University, and Catherine Johnson is an instruction and reference librarian at the University of Baltimore.

WhatIn the Spirit of Ben Franklin: 13 Virtues of Next Gen Librarians

Where: Philadelphia Convention Center, room 201 B/C

When: Thursday, March 31st at 10:30am

We’ll be talking about what a next-gen librarian is and what sort of virtues they should aspire to. But we won’t have the last word. In this interactive (hopefully really fun) session, we’re going to ask for your feedback and come up with other virtues together. Folks can participate in the conversation by using the Twitter hashtag #libvirtues. Here are just a couple example of virtues that we will be discussing:

Flexibility: Librarians can’t afford to be myopic or stubborn in this current environment. Things are constantly changing — not just technology but also things like publishing models. The Harper Collins fiasco is just one example. In order to be well positioned in the future and avoid becoming obsolete, next-gen librarians will need to have the ability to quickly adapt to all the changes going on around us.

Courage: Next-gen librarians are going to be folks who need to take risks. Inventing the future of librarianship won’t always be easy, and sometimes it may be scary. But in order to best serve our users, we are going to have to work on getting over the fear of failure and doing awesome things in spite of that fear.

Hopefully this peaks your interest and gets the wheels turning in your brain about what sort of qualities are necessary in the current era of librarianship. We’ll be asking audience members to propose their own virtues, so get thinking. See you in Philadelphia!


The Many Hats of Librarians

Sherlock Holmes statue with deerstalker cap

Photo cc by gregwake of Flickr

One of my favorite aspects of being a librarian is the variety of the work. I am never doing the same thing day in and day out, and I’m constantly challenged in new ways. This may be because I work at a small institution with a fairly small number of librarians, so we all have to do a bit of everything. But I think in general, as librarians, we often have to wear so many different hats.

We are teachers. We experiment with new pedagogical methods and attempt to design effective, engaging curriculum. We are scholars. We publish research and present at conferences about the interesting things we’re doing. We are technologists. We experiment with and implement new tools in order to improve the delivery of services to users. We are detectives. We are able to solve mysteries and pull together a case from a mishmash of clues. We are oracles. We are able to give thorough and satisfying answers to questions that at first glance seem impossible and stultifying (it only seems like magic).

We are marketers. We to promote our resources and events and sell the idea of “the library” by being vocal advocates in our community. We are analysts. We attempt to improve our services by assessing learning and collecting data on things like reference interactions, classes taught, and usage of our resources. We are managers. We are either directors, department heads or simply leaders in meetings or committees, trying to help others reach their full potential. We are customer service representatives. We try to provide the best experience possible for our users and get them exactly what they need to ensure they come back and tell their friends. We are event planners. We plan great programs that pack the library and bring the community together.

There are plenty of other hats and they’re not all positive (copy machine repairman, janitor), but the wide variety of the work that we do is one of the things that really makes me love this job.

What hats do you wear?


A-ha Moments In Librarianship

One of the chief joys of being a teacher is when you see a light come on in a student’s head — when they have an a-ha moment. Maybe you just explained something differently and got the student to slightly shift their thinking, but that shift makes all the difference in the world. When your perspective changes the whole world changes.

Librarians don’t always get to see these a-ha moments in the classroom but every once in a while we get lucky. I recently had two of these at the reference desk and they both came via chat. One student was trying to find primary source documents from around the time of the Battle of Vienna and John III Sobieski. The only problem was he wanted translated ones since he didn’t read Polish or German.  After we both did a little searching I found some translated documents linked from the Wikipedia entry on the Battle of Vienna. When I mentioned that I found them in the Wikipedia references he or she said “oh I never thought to look in the references!”

The other student was working on a research project having to do with customs or folkways within a specific community. The student’s main problem though, was defining her topic. We chatted for probably 15-20 minutes talking about what she was interested in. Most of the conversation on my end was asking a lot of questions, clarifying and making some suggestions. The student was interested in the community of modern Egypt (and the revolution stuff going on). We eventually got her question focused down to the political and power customs in contemporary Egypt. At the end of our conversation she said “that was exactly what was in my head but I didn’t know how to say it!” I replied that sometimes it’s helpful to simply have someone to bounce ideas off of and ask questions. Sometimes a good reference answer is actually a bunch of questions.

These were definitely moments that make it all worth it. Being able to see people change and learn is one of the great joys of librarianship. Do you have any memorable student a-ha moments? Please share them in the comments.