Thursday, August 29, 2013

So, You Want to be a Law Librarian?, by Janelle Beitz and Mari Cheney

Janelle and Mari are law librarians. Both work in academic law libraries but their individual academic experiences, as well as their career paths, differ.


What education does a law librarian need?

Mari: I came to law librarianship by accident. I was an English major in college and figured out early on I didn’t want to teach. So, what to do next? I applied to law school and decided on a D.C. school because my fiance (now husband) was moving there for a job. I could write an entire book on why law school was probably the wrong choice for me. However, I was lucky enough to take Advanced Legal Research during my second year of law school. It was taught by a law librarian who also oversaw my seminar paper. It was during my conversations with her that I found out about law librarianship. She encouraged me to apply to library school. It was the best decision I could have made at that point in my career. Very few library schools specialize in law librarianship - I chose the University of Washington as it has a one-year library program for people with J.D.s.

Janelle: Like Mari, I came to librarianship by accident. However, librarianship for me followed several years of legal work. My parents are both lawyers, and I went to law school a couple of years after undergrad (French major here!). I got a joint J.D. and a Master’s in Public Policy at the University of Minnesota, and then I had various and sundry lawyer jobs - I was a judicial clerk (awesome legal job, by the way, and good librarian training), an associate at a law firm, and an editor at a legal publisher. I was not, shall we say, terribly happy with my legal career.

Finally a friend suggested that I look into law librarianship. So I started a series of informational interviews with law librarians, and discovered that they were, by and large, happier with their careers than my lawyer friends. I decided to go to library school. While still in library school, I got an internship at one of the law schools in the Twin Cities. They ended up hiring me as a reference librarian, and it couldn’t have turned out better for me; I’m still here!

I do want to note, though, that not all law librarian jobs require a J.D., especially if you want to work in a law firm, or you don’t want to do reference work. That’s definitely one thing you should talk to law librarians in your area about. If you want to be a reference librarian in an academic law library, however, you pretty much do need a J.D., at least at this point.

What does a law librarian do?

Janelle: Anything her bosses ask her to do!

Seriously, though, at least in academia, that really depends on the institution. I started out mostly staffing the reference desk, answering student, faculty, and public patron questions. Now I not only do that, but I also teach, manage the library’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, work with various student groups on how the library can better serve them, assist faculty with research projects, work at promoting faculty scholarship, and am one of the library’s main point people for educational technology. I do a wide variety of different things each day and couldn’t be happier. I’m always busy and rarely bored. I’m lucky that even though the market is rather rough right now, my library is really open to hearing new ideas and willing to let people try new things (as long as what needs to get done still gets done!).

Mari: After library school, I moved to Salt Lake City to work at the Utah State Law Library. As a public law library, it was open to anyone who wanted to visit but we also served judges, law clerks, other court staff, and attorneys and their staff.

As a reference librarian in a public law library, the majority of my time was spent with public patrons. I helped them find resources like court forms and self-help books, referred them to legal clinics and guided them through the legal research process. The hardest part about working in a public law library is walking the fine line of legal research so it doesn’t cross into legal advice (which is the unauthorized practice of law!).

About a year and a half ago, I moved to Portland to work at an academic law library. I am now the Digital Resources and Reference Librarian. I work at the reference desk, teach Advanced Legal Research, maintain the law library’s website and social media presence, manage the law library’s electronic databases and work with vendors.

A Word to the Wise

Even as an academic law librarian, some of your time is spent dealing with difficult patrons. From stressed-out, highly competitive students, to impatient, arrogant faculty (we probably have more degrees than they do!), to the clueless, scary public, these patrons represent the hardest and sometimes the most rewarding part of law librarianship. (And no, not all patrons are like this.) With students, it’s about calming them down and managing expectations; for faculty, it’s learning to speak their language and communicate the way they want, whether it’s by phone, email or in person. The public patrons are often scared because they don’t know how to navigate the legal system; sometimes they’re scary because they have a mental health issue that influences their behavior and lack of bathing. This topic alone could be its own post!

What’s Next?

You may have heard how the legal job market has tanked, which has a direct effect on law schools. Enrollment is down across the country, which means there is less money for law libraries. Law librarians are expected to do more with less. Jobs are being cut and if someone leaves, their job isn’t being filled. It’s happening everywhere, from the lowest ranked schools to the highest. If you are thinking about becoming a law librarian, know that you will have to move where a job is available. While jobs are harder to find than when when we each graduated from library school, law librarian jobs are still available.

We’ll never be rolling in money as a law librarian, but the job has many perks that make up for that! Interactions with patrons make this job absolutely worthwhile, especially when a student comes up to the desk asking, “Is this the Emergency Desk?” and after I help him he exclaims, “You’re the Master of Everything!”

If you’re trying to decide whether law librarianship is for you, I (Janelle) would highly recommend engaging in some informational interviews. Talk to law librarians about what it is they do all day. Find out if they’re feeling fulfilled, career-wise. See what’s good and frustrating about their experiences. Talk not just to academic law librarians, but public and firm librarians. Honestly, all of the librarians I met with before I made the plunge were more than happy to talk with me. And it’s the start of networking to find a job, too.

Additionally, we would recommend joining a local association - either a local branch of AALL or SLA. If you have time, volunteer for a committee. Before I (Janelle) had even started library school officially, I joined my local AALL section and volunteered to be an editor of their newsletter (I still work on it!). Not only is it a great way to start meeting people in your hopefully-soon-to-be profession, but you can get the inside scoop on the local scene (especially by working on something like the group’s newsletter), which can be invaluable as you look for a job.

Mari Cheney is Digital Resources & Reference Librarian at Boley Law Library, Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon. She tweets @maricheney.

Janelle Beitz is a Research and Instructional Librarian at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota. She tweets as herself @jkbeitz and as her library @BurgerLibrary, and blogs sporadically at

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My Adventures in Readers' Advisory


For the public librarians and library science graduate students out there, this may be a surprise, but: academic librarians don't do a lot of readers' advisory (RA). At least the ones I know, and with whom I've discussed this, don't. I know I definitely don't. The people in our (academic librarians') communities come to us for help with in depth research problems and for a quiet place to study and work and for assistance teaching critical thinking skills, not for advice about which book to read next for pleasure.

So, no, it's not a regular part of any job I've had as a professional librarian, with one exception. Truth is, how this all came about was rather odd, but it was such a successful little thing that I wanted to tell you about it.

It all started one summer when I made an off-handed comment about liking the book that the son of a faculty member* was checking out at my last job. It turned out that this check out was a reread of the book, and the professor in question jumped on my comment to ask me to recommend other books for his son. I asked the few RA questions I've learned from public librarian friends ("What is it about the book you liked? The main character? The [fill in the blank] nature of the story? Something else?") and made an appropriate suggestion. And my suggestion was a huge success. That professor told another professor*, who brought her step-daughter in. And so on. And so on. Pretty soon, I had a little cottage RA industry going on with faculty children.

So why am I telling you this? Because it's another example of me taking a moment to connect with members of my community and finding a way to build good will and further my relationships with some of the most important constituents (if the faculty don't like you, they can get in your way, but if they DO like you, they can aid your cause immensely).

Community building can happen at the least likely moments, so you've got to seize those unexpected opportunities. Any of you have similar stories, either about RA or about community building, to share?

*These instances are actually amalgams of specific interactions.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What I Learned Working Part-Time, by Jennifer Snoek-Brown


Two years ago, I was an out-of-work librarian. By choice. Let me tell you why -- and how that decision turned out the best one I could have ever made.

First, a little context. I’m a second-generation librarian, and I’ve been a professional librarian for over a decade. From 2008 to 2011, I worked overseas in the UAE as an academic librarian, and my husband, an English professor, and I decided to return to the United States when our contracts were up for renewal. Why? For the first time in our lives, we realized that we had the opportunity to choose where we wanted to live. Rather than following the job, we wanted to commit to a place first before the job-hunting merry-go-round. It would be like starting over, but this time, we had skills. So we picked Portland, Oregon, and moved.

It was a scary move. Exhilarating, but scary. Fortunately, we fell in love with our city. Unfortunately, we were not as well prepared as we thought for how competitive the job market is in this area, particularly for librarians and fellow academics.

I set to work on job-hunting by signing up for local library job list-servs and even Craigslist. I kept an open mind about related fields, even considering becoming a paralegal at one point! I wanted to keep my head clear and open for possibilities. After all, that’s what had gotten us here in the first place.

I applied for several part-time librarian positions, prepared for interviews, and was turned down multiple times. Those rejections did sting -- no way to sugar-coat that feeling. But with every interview, I was also networking. Finally, a few months after our move, I secured a part-time reference and instruction librarian position at a local community college. Unlike how some might feel about such a position, I didn’t feel it was beneath me in any way; on the contrary, I felt very lucky! I buckled down and went to work.

And throughout that year -- my first part-time job after almost a decade of full-time work as a librarian -- I really focused on what I was learning through this experience. I wanted another full-time position in the long-term, of course, but I didn’t want to get ahead of myself. I also didn’t want to take my job for granted, as I had been close to doing in the not-so-distant past.

So what did I learn as a part-time librarian?

  • Because of the schedule and scope of responsibilities, I did not have a lot of time while on duty to prepare for work duties like library instruction sessions. I had to be able to go in, get it done, and go home. I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist -- my worst trait -- but there was NO time for that on a part-timer’s schedule. That helped me trust my instincts, and the experience that came with those instincts.
  • Because of that re-discovered personal trust, I was mentally free to experiment. Do different things. Push my own boundaries and preconceived limitations. This included experimenting in the classroom, as well as outside the job. For example, I started a couple of library-related blogs during this period. [Editor’s Note: Both are linked below in Jennifer’s bio.]
  • When off duty, I also had more time to think about the core of what it meant to be a librarian. What unites us as a profession? What linked ME to this profession, after all these years? And I asked these questions of my fellow part-timers, as well, some of whom who (still) work additional part-time jobs to make ends meet. Why were we putting ourselves through this uncertain job market and professional turmoil? Through this reflection, I came to believe one thing that connects us all is a curiosity, an internal drive that pushes each of us forward, to ask questions, to adjust our attitude/thinking/keywords/starting point, to be flexible enough to respond to change when circumstance demands it of us. I think all librarians do this naturally, internally, perhaps without realizing it ourselves. I hadn’t realized it until, as a part-time librarian, I questioned myself.

And that led me to realize that I had truly chosen my profession. I was re-energized and re-committed. All because I took a step back, slowed down, and was open to new experiences, including part-time work. Best of all, as luck (and experience?) would have it, I secured a full-time, faculty librarian position a year later at the same institution. I do not take this for granted -- being part-time has helped in that regard, as well. When opportunities come along, you take them, and be happy for the chance.

I realize that not every librarian gets to choose, or feels that part-time is a choice; rather, it is an all-too-real necessity for too many. My own husband is currently teaching part-time at two different colleges! But working part-time in this profession has helped me in so many ways. It has kept me grounded, connecting on a very personal level with the multitude of part-time librarians and academic adjuncts in related fields. It has helped me focus on mentoring and encouraging librarians new to the field. Ultimately, it has helped me recognize that common, internal drive in fellow librarians that I want to work with, the ones who are open to new experiences, the ones who live that common saying that the journey can also be the destination.

Jennifer Snoek-Brown is a faculty librarian and coordinator of library instruction at a community college library. She has two library-related blogs, Reel Librarians and Librarian for Life.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Connecting Flights (of Fancy?)

I presented a lot this past Spring. And when I say a lot, I mean three conference presentations in four weeks. The weekend following the third of the three conferences, I went to Indiana to be in my friend's wedding. I managed to drive for one of the conferences since it was just up in Massachusetts, but I still ended up flying more in the space of five weeks than I had in the three years prior. This gave me multiple opportunities to experience airports in close proximity, and there's something I noticed this time that never quite stuck out to me before.

The thing that stood out? The fact the board just outside my arrival gate always had information about the gates for the connecting flights of the people on that plane. Sure, all the flights that are coming into and leaving from an airport have their times and gates and everything else listed on the big boards along the corridors of the airport, but the board beside your gate is just your connecting flights. It's not like that particular board specifically says, "Jessica Olin, connecting to BWI, go to gate B24," but it's clear that they have a way to see who on an incoming flight is making a connection and automatically updating the board beside the gate to reflect those individuals.

I must have heard and seen this particular nicety at work many times before and never noticed. I have no idea why it stuck out to me this time, but it did. Since my brain was already in Library Thinking Mode with the conference schedule, something clicked: I started thinking about how we could facilitate connections for our communities. (There was some mention of an idea that could possibly be an answer to my question in the course text and the MOOC itself that Lankes ran (and that I admittedly dropped out of) recently, but I'm imagining something far less serendipitous and far more specific.)

Perhaps something along the lines of the "Other shoppers who bought [product x] also looked at [product y]" that you get with ecommerce sites, but in a library-y way. I don't have any answers and I'm not sure I'll ever have them, but here are some ideas/questions that I've had:

  • Is there a way to connect people in the community (scholars, amateurs, lawyers) without breaking privacy conventions and laws? (I don't think we can do this electronically without exposing ourselves and/or our patrons to certain risks, but doing it in real life might be too cumbersome at larger communities.)
  • What about the uncommon connections that we help our patrons make when we talk to them in person? An example of this is the time I realized the person who was looking for the New York Time Index was really looking for the text of a speech that Bill Clinton gave when he was running for president.
  • Since the kind of connections we, as librarians, make aren't as uniform in nature as connecting flights, am I just getting lost in a flight of fancy?

It's been a while since I've left you with more questions than answers, but there you are. I'd really love to hear what you all think about this? Should I even keep playing with the idea?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Letter to a Young Collection Development Librarian, by Rachel Fleming

Source: Wikimedia Commons

You got the job! Well done, my friend. You will move to a quaint college town and be thrown into the deep end of the library. Collection development is the most fun job you can have in a library, and that is why they didn't even teach you it exists in library school.

Based on my time in collection development, my three bits of advice: be cool, be nice, be magic.

Be Cool:

In many cases, it's a lot of money, sure. You can handle it. Don't freak out. It's just a matter of scale. You'll be all over it in no time. Also, you might think that being responsible for all of that money at work will help you lead a disciplined budgetary life at home. You are wrong. But you will get scary good at managing an amount of money that you did not have a method of comprehending.

I recommend scheduling freak outs. You’re in charge of these budgets, so you need to freak out every now and then about the money, at least for show. January and July are the required times, but if you enjoy those, go ahead and do it once a quarter. Freak out time of year is a good time to run some giant lists (what you’ve purchased, what you want to purchase, etc.) and make some huge spreadsheets (how much money you’ve spent on which parts of the collection is a fun one). If that doesn’t get you excited, I take back what I said about having the most fun job. Loving spreadsheets and not feeling bad about it is part and parcel of being a collection development librarian. Owning your love of spreadsheets is the definition of cool. Be cool.

Be Nice:

You might feel like you're just some awkward kid, and you may well be (I’ll admit I feel that way at times), but if you remember to be nice to people, it will work out.

Be nice to vendors. It is part of their job to be nice to you, and that will improve your day, but returning the favor is good, too. You may be adversaries in business, but that isn't any reason to be mean or dismissive. The more you know about each other’s needs, the more likely you are to be able to reach a mutually beneficial outcomes. Answer the phone, have a conversation, get to know each other. [Editor’s Note: But don’t be nice to the vendors in a way that ends up being a disservice to you or your community.] Plus, vendors know the best restaurants and bars.

Be nice to faculty all of the time, even if they treat you terribly. It will happen, and it will suck. Most of the time faculty will be pretty great. Ask faculty about their research, their classes, their majors, and their curriculum. The truth is that they want to talk about all of that and it will help you collect better. Don't ask about the library; they don't think about the library that much. Thinking about their students, classes, and research is their job. Your job is to worry about how the library supports all that. Give and give to the faculty expecting nothing in return. Returns will come.

Make friends with secretaries and other support staff. The earth would spin wildly out of orbit and be flung to the cold depths of the universe without secretaries. You should be nice to secretaries because they are usually great and don't ever get paid nearly enough. If you ask a beleaguered secretary how she is doing today with genuine concern and interest, your kindness may be rewarded with useful information. You should by no means inquire about her well-being in order to obtain information and be careful to use this information wisely. When you are consistently courteous and thoughtful when interacting with the executive secretary of a top administrator, it may pay off when you need something done urgently. You should not be nice because you may need something urgently done in the future, you should be nice because it makes the world a more hospitable place.

Be Magic:

Your job is to make things happen. Books appear; you get more resources with less money; policies are revised; and outdated books disappear. As far as your community should be concerned, all of this happens by magic!

The mechanics of the way these things happen are foreign to those you serve, and honestly, they can be pretty boring. Don't get me wrong: YOU will love it. (I know I do.) It is a good policy to answer the question at hand and provide additional details upon request. When someone needs a rush book, take their order and say “I’ll see what I can do;” that faculty member is not interested in the rush order process, they are interested in finishing writing their syllabus on time.

Don’t withhold information willfully, be transparent in all of your decisions, but understand that there are aspects about what you do that people are simply not interested in. Your gigantic spreadsheets, for instance. People probably are not interested in the brilliant mnemonic color-coding scheme you employed. Have the data that influenced your decision on hand and in an understandable format. You did the work, do yourself a solid and write a position memo to share with the world, or at least the library. But the nitty gritty stuff isn’t important to your community.

This is how I do the job, but I know there are other ways to be successful as a collection development librarian. Regardless, know this: you’ll be okay, kid.

Rachel Fleming is the Head of Serials at Hunter Library at Western Carolina University in Collowhee, North Carolina. She tweets at @RachelMFleming.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I'm Not Your Sweetheart

Before I get started, I know some of you are going to say I'm overreacting. Maybe I am, but I only have so much tolerance in these cases, and I've reached and exceeded my limit.

I actually tweeted about the moment that pushed me to my breaking point:

The guy who'd called me "sweetheart" was visibly flustered by my rebuff and tried to explain himself a bit. "I don't mean anything by it. I've got a fiance and she's beautiful. I don't mean anything by it." My response was to go back to the initial question he'd asked (I think it was about reading our newspapers or some such), and then I went back to the work I'd been doing prior to the incident. I had a hard time getting my concentration back, though, since I was feeling very...


This interaction also brought to mind all the times I've been called "Miss Jessica" recently. No, I don't have a ring around my wedding finger, but I'm 40 years old and a midlevel administrator at this institution and "Ms." has been in common parlance for a long time, so "Miss" just isn't appropriate anymore. I'm actually okay with "ma'am" when it comes from someone younger than I am, but all of the "Miss Jessica" has come from people who are older than me. When it comes from someone who is clearly old enough to be my parent, especially when that person is male, "Miss" feels dismissive and vaguely disrespectful.

In most of the cases I've experienced, I know these men didn't mean anything by it. Although a male friend to whom I vented about this was right when he said, "sometimes disrespect is meant." I also know that it's a bit of a Southernism (don't let the fact that Delaware was on the northern side of the Mason-Dixon line fool you, we have a lot of southern culture - both good bits and bad - in this state). But I also know "sweetheart," and "sweetie," and "Miss Jessica" and so on, make me incredibly uncomfortable. I shouldn't have to put up with it.

For the record, if this was a child addressing me that way, I wouldn't be so upset. It's when it comes from another adult, especially an older male (and this is almost exclusively an older male phenomenon), that it raises my ire. I waited until I was in a calm moment and just this week told one of the "Miss Jessica" people to please stop calling me that and to just call me "Jessica." He looked vaguely apologetic and has since honored my wishes.

Above and beyond everything else, "Miss Jessica" makes me sound like an olden times school marm. That is not me at all.

This is more like me:


You know Barbara Gordon wouldn't put up with "sweetheart" or "sweetie" or "Miss," so why should I?

(Caveat: I don't expect everyone to be bothered by these addresses. I'm just telling you to advocate for yourself when something makes you uncomfortable.)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

E-Bow the Cover Letter, by Anne Heidemann


Having recently spent a few months searching for a new job, I've lately devoted a lot of time to crafting cover letters. I'm happy to say that I am now a little over a month into my new job and I'm getting settled in. Since I spent a lot of time working on cover letters, though, I thought I could share my experience and some tips for those who are writing them.

This is one of the most time- and energy-intensive parts of applying for jobs, because for each application you submit, you should really be starting the cover letter over almost from scratch. Every job is different, as is every organization, as is every hiring committee. It's tempting to just write a standard letter and then change the position title and name of the institution to which you're applying, but from the hiring committee's perspective, it's pretty easy to tell when someone has done this. And they're not looking for someone who's applying to any and every opportunity, sending the same letter to everyone; they want someone who is interested specifically in them, so every cover letter needs to be tailored specifically to the job for which you're applying.

That's not encouraging, is it? Well, there are ways to make it easier on yourself, which you can do by looking for the similarities and constants. You'll probably be applying for more than one job in a particular type of position. You are the same individual with the same qualities, skills, and talents. You are probably looking at jobs within a particular field, in this case we'll say librarianship (which, yes, can be pretty broadly defined, but still). Theoretically you know the ins and outs of your field and can speak the language of the industry comfortably.

So when I began applying for jobs, before I started writing an actual cover letter, I started to write about myself. There are so many clich├ęs now when it comes to this - I'm a proactive detail-oriented team player! - so I brainstormed words and phrases that describe me as a person and as a professional. I tried to stay away from things that could probably describe any applicant and focused on crafting language that specifically describes me. Part of being a professional that I think is often under-emphasized is knowing yourself: what motivates you? At what type of work do you excel? What kind of manager/team/work environment brings out your best? What are your professional goals and how will this job help you achieve them? I asked myself these questions and more as I thought about how I wanted to describe myself. I also re-took the online freebie version of the MBTI (got the same results as previous times, no surprise) and a few other personality type tests and looked through the descriptions for words, phrases, or concepts that seemed to apply to me especially well. I ended up with some stock sentences and paragraphs that I could use in my cover letters, from which I could pick and choose according to what fit the position and organization.

When I started applying for jobs, I also looked for sample cover letters to use as inspiration. I called on people I knew who had recently gotten new jobs and asked to see the cover letters they'd submitted. I looked to the folks in my personal learning network to see if anyone had tweeted or posted to Facebook about writing cover letters. I searched my favorite library job sites for posts about writing cover letters. I looked through all of these and tried to identify the important bits. I looked at the format, the style, how the letter was constructed, and formed opinions about what I thought would work best for me.

Having previously been in positions where I reviewed applications for hundreds of candidates, I also had a little bit of a head start. When hiring, I always saw the cover letter as the candidate's time to shine. Here's your chance to show me your personality - who are you beyond the degrees you've earned and jobs you've held? Resumes are pretty standard, but you can wow me in your cover letter. So I set out to wow each hiring committee with mine.

For each job, I would highlight the key words and phrases in the position posting and try to incorporate those into my cover letter. I would also look up as much information as I could find about the institution and gather key words and phrases from their strategic plan, About Us page, mission, vision, and whatever other useful info I could locate. Generally I had already looked through this info (I used Evernote, but there are other ways to keep this information stored and organized.) when I was deciding whether or not it was a position I wanted to apply for in the first place, but I went through it all again as I wrote the cover letter to be sure that I was hitting on the things about the institution/job that appealed to me.

Finally I would put it all together. When I had a draft ready, I'd read through it a few times in my head, editing and fixing along the way. When I felt like it was pretty solid, I'd read through it out loud to make sure it felt like it was really in my voice. Did I stumble over any phrasing? Anything sound like it came out of a textbook and not my mouth? My goal was to make sure that my voice came through as much as possible, so reading it out loud and having it sound natural was a key step. After I felt like the letter was done, I'd usually walk away from it for an hour or so and then re-read it one more time to make sure no issues jumped out at me. 

And that's it! Having written several dozen cover letters over the span of a couple months, I felt like I got to a pretty good place with it. I also felt that the process of writing them helped me to improve my writing and editing skills (I believe in the one-page cover letter, which sometimes required editing down to make things fit), which was a nice side bonus. One last thing: I strongly encourage you to let your natural awesomeness shine through in your cover letter. Be yourself - any organization worth working for will appreciate that you are a human being with a personality.

Bio: Anne Heidemann is the librarian at the Valparaiso campus of Ivy Tech Community College as well as a knitter, gardener, sometime punk rocker, adopter of Boston Terriers, naturally curious person, and all-around nerd. You can find her on  Twitter @anneheathen and at her blog, LibrariAnne.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Librarians as College Recruiters

I've written before about how student retention is part of the responsibility of academic librarians, that it takes a whole college to graduate a student, but the truth is that it also takes a whole college to recruit the student in the first place. That's why I've spent time, a lot of it recently, building a relationship with the office of admissions at my new institution. It was long overdue, but I finally attended an admissions department meeting recently and I'm so glad I did,

I'm not 100% sure what they were expecting, but when I said, "I want to know how I can help you," they were obviously, and pleasantly, surprised. (Well, everyone but the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Enrollment, with whom I'm friends because we bonded over our shared love of Doctor Who shortly after I came to campus.)

After that general offer of assistance, I talked to the members of the admissions department about why I want to help them. Not everyone realizes it, but prospective students and their parents do take the library into account when making a decision about colleges. You won't be shocked to hear that the ACRL has a guide for prospective students to use when evaluating university and college libraries, but it might surprise you to hear that US News & World Report has something similar. In fact, at my previous institution, we created a page on the library's website that linked to those two documents as well as to the admissions department's web presence.

After I talked the admissions department up, I made my big move and revealed the reason I had wanted to connect with them in the first place. And that was this: I offered to come up with a list of talking points about the library for the admissions counselors and the student tour guides. I have overheard some wonky things being said by people leading these tours in my six months here, and I wanted to correct them, but I didn't want to overstep my bounds and offend the very people from whom I want help. I've worked at colleges where admissions got a bit huffy about how tours were conducted and, while the library was encouraged to correct mistakes that were made, we weren't really supposed to tell student tour guides what to say. Those admissions departments had their reasons for wanting the content to come from the tour guides instead of the library. Since I'm still learning the culture of my new institution, I tread very carefully as I tried to further my agenda.

I'm pleased to say that my offer was very warmly received. Huzzah! A major librarian win over which I'm still smiling a couple of weeks later.

If you're curious, here are the points I sent:

  • Close to 40 computers available exclusively for students;
  • Access to/delivery of the materials of almost 50 libraries in the state of Delaware through the Delaware Library Consortium (if we don’t have it, we can usually get it for you in 3-5 days);
  • On campus access to some of the best electronic subscription based resources available, even from the dorms, and the library is close to making it so that anyone who is part of the Wesley College community will have access to these resources from anywhere with an internet connection;
  • Open 90 hours per week during the school year, including being open until midnight Sunday through Thursday;
  • In person assistance is available whenever the library is open, but we will soon be providing 24/7/365 online research assistance through the library’s website.

Since then, I've been doing some judicious eavesdropping. Some of what I've asked them to say was already in their repertoire, but most of those things weren't really on admissions' radar. I've heard them using the new talking points (yay!) and only had to pass along one correction to the assistant director. I want a consistent message going out to prospective students and their parents, so I'm going to have to keep vigilant. At the same time, I want to be sure to keep the admissions people happy, so I don't want to ride them too hard about it. The whole thing will be a balancing act of sorts, but it will be worth it.

Besides, when all else fails, I can interact with tour groups myself. Seeing the director when they come through lets parents know that we aren't kidding about the personal attention students get in a small college setting and it lets prospective students know that I'm approachable. That way we all win.

How about you all? Those of you who are (or who want to be) academic librarians, how much do you work with your college/university admissions department? Any tips to pass along?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

First Thursday's Just For Fun: Vinyl is Fine By Me

Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m a bit obsessed with vinyl lately. My mother gave me her collection a while ago, and then I finally got a record player shortly after moving to Delaware for this job. Since then, I’ve been slowly working my way through the items I got from her, the handful of discs I owned prior to that largess, along with the couple of albums I’ve picked up at flea markets recently. Fantastic stuff, really. Well, for the most part. We won't discuss the couple of items that were so cringe-worthy that I haven't yet been able to bring myself to listen to them *cough* "Hava Naglia" *cough*. 

Anyway, I thought I’d share some of my favorites from my collection with you.

There is so much to love about this album. Between the R. Crumb cover art and the fantastic music, it kind of blows my mind to realize I own it. With amazing songs like "Summertime" and "Piece of My Heart," what's not to love?

Even though we don't have identical music tastes, I suspect I inherited the "eclectic" gene from my mother, because this wasn't one I owned; it's from the albums my mother gave me. Listening to Color by Numbers was a bit of a journey in time, flashing back to junior high dances and such. With songs like "Karma Chameleon" and "Miss Me Blind," it wasn't a problem for me.

This is one of the discs I owned prior to getting my mother's substantial collection. The soundtrack for the movie Jonathan Livingston Seagull... I know it's kind of corny, but don't you dare make fun of me for owning this. It was a gift I received as a teenager, and it meant a lot to me at that time and still does. I am not ashamed to admit I love both the book on which it was based and Neil Diamond's music. I saw ND in concert last summer and loved every single moment of it. 

This is another one of the highlights of my collection, and I've listened to it more times than anything else I own with the exception of one of my Beatles' albums. Time Out is a case where the difference in sound quality between vinyl and a CD is obvious, even to me. Trust me when I say if you don't own this on vinyl, you should be jealous of me getting to listen to "Blue Rondo a la Turk" and "Take Five" in a manner that is the next best thing to traveling in time and hearing it performed live.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not someone who is a vinyl purist. There are some that sound better this way to my ears, but for the most part I’m happy listening to music in whatever medium is at hand. However, with all these albums sitting here, why not?