#hurrayoftheday: 42

Last week I traveled to Denver, Colorado to offer the keynote for a workshop hosted by the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries and the Colorado Academic Library Association.

Before the event began, I met and talked with several folks – one of them sent me a lovely note today, which in part, shared, 

 I really enjoyed your keynote and have been pondering over its substance since last week. But I keep coming back to those few minutes I had with you before the day began. I mentioned how isolated one can often feel when pushing for change (and for diversity and inclusion and representation and accessibility and so on and so forth…) in our libraries and you said that when we feel that way, that is the moment when we need to reach out. And hearing that, in a small way, reified the meaning behind making these changes. So thank you, for that…

Feeling isolated is a common concern in North American libraries, whether in the context of doing the important work of ensuring social progress or combating workplace abuse and neglect. My research shows that during times of feeling “like the only one,” succumbing to disengagement, skepticism, and other emotions that separate us from open communication only make feelings of loneliness and marginalization grow. Find an affinity group and stay involved as much as you can. 

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#Recognize: Isabel Espinal, PhD, MLIS

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Isabel Espinal is a Research Librarian at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she provides research support, research instruction, and collection development services. She is also the liaison to the Afro-American Studies, Latin American, Caribbean, and Latinx Studies, Native American & Indigenous Studies, Spanish & Portuguese, and Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies departments/disciplines. Isabel earned her Master’s of Library and Information Science degree from the University of California, Berkeley. She also earned a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. 

Complete the following sentence: “I am a librarian because….”

…it’s a profession that suits me. The decision I made a few decades ago still has validity. Being a librarian promised to allow me to do a variety of things in my job, and I craved variety and to work with Latinx communities and Latinx materials and even to use my Spanish language in my work.

Finish this sentence: “One way the LIS profession can improve or progress is…”

By paying the people of color to get their LIS Masters degrees and by moving more of the current librarians of color into management, and specifically by adopting the diversity fellowship model and approach that I have been presenting these past two years with colleagues at UMass (Pete Smith, Kate Freedman, Laura Quilter, Annie Solinger) and that I am outlining in an upcoming book chapter with Maria Rios and April Hathcock.

It’s important that each large library across the country take up this approach, not waiting for some external entity to do it or fund it. And smaller libraries can also find a way, perhaps by pooling resources. It is clear (and super frustrating) that the LIS profession has not improved or progressed in its stated goal of diversifying its ranks, as the following chart clearly shows and as we POC who’ve been in LIS a while know – check out this tweet by the Institute of Museum and Library Services:

If you are a creator/maker, what do you make, and how does that creativity help or inspire your library practice?

I’m a poet and a translator of poems. I create poems for many reasons, mostly personal. Sometimes I read or write poetry when I’m really sad or depressed and that can inform personal or even professional situations. Oftentimes, this creativity is very far from my library practice, and at other times it’s very directly tied, as when I’ve done library programming with poets.

Poetry for me is really personal, to the point that it’s something I go to when all else fails and I’ve hit an emotional bottom, it’s like prayer, sometimes it *is* prayer. Other times poetry is what comes out of the way my mind works: on one hand, my thoughts often meander, and on the other hand they oftentimes stop at things that other people might skip over. Poetry helps and inspires my library practice in that it frees up my mind, sometimes loosens my thinking, other times tightens my thinking. It’s possible that the kind of thinking I do as a poet helped me to seek out and grasp ideas before or without them being buzzwords in LIS… I’ve been a librarian with no end of ideas!

Share a useful tool or application that you use in your work or non-work life.

My tools are pretty basic. First and foremost, but with a huge word of warning: my iPad. I have used it for my work and non-work life. I have used it to listen to music and funnel the sounds to a Bluetooth speaker. I have used it to communicate by text, email and video call. I use it anywhere I can get wi-fi and when I don’t have wi-fi, I use my iPhone as a hot-spot.

When I’m offline, I read PDFs or do work offline that I upload later. Although I prefer a laptop for many tasks, when pressed I can use the iPad for writing, spreadsheets, etc. Although I prefer to read books in paper format, I often use the iPad instead just because it’s so portable. I take photos on it and use it to edit and show photos airdropped from my iPhone. I like that I can do so much with just this one device. CAVEAT: because I had been using the iPad so much, recently I have realized it has been causing me upper body pain. Currently, I am taking a wonderful yoga class geared to help me relieve the pain caused by my iPad use.

Finish the following sentence: “I am happy when I…”

…am feeling loved; when the people close to me in my life (my children, my boyfriend, my close friends, my siblings, my parents) are happy and fulfilled, when they accomplish something important to them; when I accomplish something; when I hear of a victory in some arena in which people achieved some social justice; when I hear a happy song, when I hear birds, when I feel the sun on my face; when I smell a beautiful smell in the air, like the smells created by flowers, or grass or the rain mixing with earth. There are so many kinds of happiness… I could go on and on…

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Considering: Student Outreach Liaison Model (Part 2 of 2)

Last week, I shared my idea that academic libraries should consider a concomitant liaison model focusing on student life. In particular, I shared the gaps of the traditional liaison model and (hopefully) encouraged readers to consider what that means for many academic libraries’ current outreach activities. This second part discusses how the model could look and the general implications for the model.

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A student outreach liaison model organically adds the library to the center of student and campus life more naturally.

The current (discipline-focused) liaison model posits student life outreach as add-on or optional considerations. In a student outreach liaison model, campus and student life groups would be the focus for a group of librarians – and it can be a full-time job, including the traditional elements of collection development, teaching and learning support, etc, and particularly if you parse out the numerous aspects of recruitment/admission, student affairs, student services, and student life. Those campus departments and divisions work year-round to attract, retain, and engage students – something they need our help with since academic libraries add value to their campuses in these areas, as well as student learning (Salinero & Beardsley 2009; Oakleaf, 2010; Soria, Fransen & Nackerud, 2013). Additionally, documentation of individuals making great strides to connect with these groups begs a closer look at creating and rolling out an expanded student outreach liaison model (Shuyler, 2018).

Consider: a department led by an Associate University Librarian (or similar administrative post with access to tenure or non-tenure track faculty status). That person would lead a group of faculty librarians who are assigned to a mixture of the following:

  • Greek Life (NPC and NPHC groups) 
  • Student Athletes
  • Residential Life and Counseling Services (or Counseling Services and Accessibility Services or Student Health and Counseling Services or Counseling and Career Services)
  • International Students and Study Abroad Programs
  • Honors College and Dual Enrollment (you could add TRiO Programs here, or keep it separate depending on size)
  • Academic Success and Writing Center
  • Student Government Association / Recruitment and Orientation
  • Veterans and Active Military Service
  • Adult Education/Returning Students

That’s a decent list, and consider the possibilities for your institution – even down to granular student groups. I recently queried Twitter on this topic and responses seem to support that this idea would be more useful and interesting to librarians (even librarians who currently do some of this work admit that it’d be great to have a dedicated team).

Creating this model means locating more human and fiduciary resources to adequately fund such a department – this kind of shift requires formal library and campus leaders who are visionary, innovative, resourceful, and ready to advocate for the goals of the 21st century library and the whole student – and who want to strategically position themselves as ready to support those needs in an increasingly competitive and skeptical higher education climate.  Imagine the benefits, the deeper and broader value, and the impact that such a group of invested and supported professionals could add while the discipline-specific liaison librarians continue their needed work (additionally, one could imagine how the list above could encourage collaboration with and/or rejuvenate the work of the traditional liaison librarians!). EXCITING (to me only?? I hope – and suspect – that is not the case).  Moreover, the library would be present at the tables where student-focused plans beyond and outside of instruction and curricula are being made.

If given the opportunity to be implemented and time to be honed, such a model can help significantly diminish questions of library relevance, more directly address persistent concerns about welcome and inclusion, and further solidify the library’s place as a campus’ definitive community hub focused on people, in addition to providing access to the spaces and things therein.

Oh, and if it’s not really obvious, this is an idea I’d love to help implement/establish/join – let’s talk! So far, my Twitter query has revealed one library leader who said a version of this model worked well. Conversely, if you’ve tried this as a full-on initiative and reached the Definitive Wall of “Not Feasible in Any Iteration”), share the associated barriers. 

Works Cited

Oakleaf, M. (2010). The value of academic libraries: A comprehensive research review and report. Chicago: Association of College & Research Libraries. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/1E2hzC3.

Salinero, D. & Beardsley, C. (2009). Enhancing the academic experience: The library and campus engagement. College & Research Libraries News, 70(3): 150-152. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2KydWRM.

Shuyler, K.S. (2018). Organic outreach for academic libraries: Collaborating with student affairs units to reach college students. Libraries. 139. Retrieved from https://commons.lib.jmu.edu/letfspubs/139/

Soria, K.M., Fransen, J., & Nackerud, S. (2013). Library use and undergraduate student outcomes: New evidence for retention and academic success. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 13(2): 147-164. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2Xqchnf.

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Considering: Student Outreach Liaison Model (Part 1 of 2)

For as long as I’ve been an academic librarian, I’ve been directly involved in student life. My first academic librarian position was as a Learning Commons Librarian at Georgia State University. When I arrived on campus, our Learning Commons space had not yet been completed, and it wasn’t until around 2007 or so  – when we got a an energetic, visionary, and supportive department supervisor – that these efforts really began to gel. By the time I left the campus, we’d forged strong relationships with the campus’ summer bridge programs and international student office, hosted movie screenings, created exhibits to support the campus’ community reading program, and more. 

When I arrived at USC Aiken, I continued my work with student life, connecting with the campus’ office of international students, the accessibility services office, the advisory committee for the campus’ FYRE (First Year Reading Experience), and collaborating with a student organization called the Guild of Poetic Intent, which continues to hold spoken word performances and poetry readings in that library.  Before I left, I’d also spearheaded the library’s first student-centered “final exam” social event. When I moved on to USC Lancaster, I kept going, immediately establishing relationships with the Office of Student Life, TRiO Programs, Academic Success Center, Career Services Center, and more recently, Counseling Services and the USCL Research Club. These collaborations have been very successful and have propelled the library to the preferred study and social space on campus.

This short retrospective, combined with my current observations on commentary about the role of the library on campus (and library value), lead me to consider a liaison model that focuses on groups in addition to the current one that many libraries employ for disciplines.  Why? Well, generally:

  • Discipline-oriented liaison work often centers the research needs of established students (“upper-division” undergraduates and graduate students) and faculty members seeking support for their promotion and tenure-focused research and scholarship. 
  • Non-liaison reference and instruction librarians take the bulk of interfacing with “lower-division” students, teaching  information-literacy courses (ILI) and helping them acclimate and navigate the library’s online and sometimes, physical spaces. Sometimes, they also have added duties on campus outreach, and such duties are often secondary and/or add-ons as identified/needed. Alternatively, this group also provides traditional liaison support to several disciplines, leaving scant time to focus on lower-division students beyond ILI, consultations, and reference desk support.
  • Libraries that do offer student-focused liaison librarians tend to center freshman groups, academically at-risk traditional groups, or broad educational goals (e.g., First-Year Experience Librarian, Student Success Librarian).

In their study on metrics of library engagement, Gibson and Dixon provisionally define academic library engagement as 

Sustained, strategic positioning of the academic library to create collaborative, reciprocal relationships with identified partners in order to advance institutional, community, and societal goals; to solve institutional-level and community-level problems; to create new knowledge, new products and services; and to effect qualitatively different roles for academic libraries themselves through impact, integration, and outreach to their varied constituencies (342, 2011).

A student outreach liaison model could more deeply address every aspect of this definition. Discipline-focused liaison models highlight a gap: swaths of students are missed (e.g., lower-division transfer students, student athletes who miss lots of classes due to game days, “non-traditional” students [who are quickly becoming the new traditional student], etc.). Additionally, many student-focused community and campus partners remain untouched in the traditional liaison model, which often emphasizes collaborations with faculty and in the assigned disciplines. 

As a result, when it comes to students’ whole lives (where they are really living and still learning, natch), libraries are in reaction-mode. You’ve been there, haven’t you? You’ve seen the [insert Student Life Organization event notice] and thought “Oh! We could have done X with them!” You’ve seen the campus news outlets where coverage of the library’s events are hit-or-miss or not mentioned at all. You’ve attended the faculty organization or committee meeting where *another* faculty member or staff person says they didn’t know the library had/did/ provided X for students. You’ve heard students say the same thing during a random reference interaction. In their final semester.

So, what could a student outreach liaison department look like, and what are the implications for such a model? I’ll summarize that part next week – look forward to it!

Works Cited

Gibson, C. & Dixon, C. (2011). New metrics of engagement for academic libraries. Proceedings of the Association of College & Research Libraries Conference. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2Xo2KNu.

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#Recognize: Nikhat Ghouse, MLIS, MSOD

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Nikhat Ghouse (pronunciation: Nik-Khaath GAWS – last name rhymes with floss) is Associate Librarian for the Social Sciences and Coordinator of the Diversity Alliance Residency Program at American University. She also is an Organization Development Consultant. She earned her Masters of Library Science from the University of Pittsburgh and completed a second master’s degree in Organization Development at American University. In her current roles at American University, Nikhat works with students and faculty in Anthropology, Economics, Health Studies, Sociology, and Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies disciplines. She also helps Diversity Alliance resident librarians as they navigate learning more about academic librarians and prepare for their careers in the field. As an Organization Development consultant, Nikhat specializes in working with libraries and other organizations in areas of change management, leadership training, equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and more.

Describe a current project or idea that you’re working on or have recently completed.

I have an ambitious summer projects list that I have already begun tackling. The most important would be my writing projects. I have not found writing to be an enjoyable task and I still struggle with finding my process. Over this summer, my mentor from my second graduate school is supporting me through this process. I am hopeful that by summer’s end, I will understand and identify not just my own writing process, but an article or two as well.

What music/artist/song are you currently into?

I listen to a little bit of everything, Bollywood soundtracks or audiobooks when I am at home, cleaning, and cooking. When I am on long drives, I listen to the radio, and when I need to concentrate at work [I listen to] classical music. I am only just getting to podcasts as a part of my work commute.

Share a career decision. What did you learn about yourself in terms of your career?

Earlier in my career, I thought about leaving librarianship to go back to graduate school full-time. My timing was off and I ended up in Washington, D.C. After I finished my second master’s, the choice came back up again to leave the field and go into organization development. It was an intentional choice for me to continue to work at the intersection of libraries and organization development. I want to help libraries function effectively from the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion as a forethought to change management and organizational effectiveness.

Share a book that you’re currently reading, have recently read, or would like to read.

I always have more books than time for reading. I am currently reading the summer 2019 issue of The Organization Development Journal. I recently volunteered at AU’s Inaugural Antiracist Book Festival where I was able to buy a copy of Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America by Martha J. Jones. I’ve also been slowly reading Rose L. Chou & Annie Pho’s edited book, Pushing the Margins: Women of Color & Intersectionality in LIS. Every chapter of this book is a real gem that speaks to so many of my own experiences and my continued hope for working within libraries. My current fiction read is Your Duck is My Duck by Deborah Eisenberg.

Finish the following sentence: “I am happy when I…”

Whether I am teaching information literacy to an undergraduate class or giving a workshop to the staff of a library on diversity, equity, and inclusion, I am happiest when I can make a positive and visible impact with my work as a librarian and OD consultant.

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#hurrayoftheday: 41

Today I received this kind and encouraging note about the impact of my low morale research: 

I believe [your article, “The Low-Morale Experience of Academic Librarians: A Phenomenological Study”] is one of the most important articles I’ve read in the last five years, and I wanted to thank you specifically for conducting the research… As a manager, I am going to try to use this to make things better for my people.

Outside of the importance the writer places on the article, I am very moved by their desire to answer the study’s call to action.

#hurrayoftheday: 40

Today I received a note from a student who was enrolled the May 2019 session of my Library Juice Academy course (“Deconstructing the Low-Morale Experience in Academic Libraries”). In part, the person shared,

I want to let you know that I think the work you are doing is some of the most important work happening in our field. I am in awe of your courage, and the quality is spectacular… [E]verything that I encountered in your course resonates strongly with my experience in public libraries… The way you are naming these experiences and behaviors is revolutionary…I already plan to add your article to my resources and to promote your workshop… I really believe in what you are doing and am so grateful to you for being willing to do it. In less formal speech….you are a badass!

Incidentally, a few hours ago I received some very disappointing news relating to the same research topic. This lovely note really underscores the idea that if you have something nice or kind to say to someone, please say it – for them, it may be the only bright spot in a dark day.

I will keep going.

 

#hurrayoftheday: 39

An article I’ve produced with Dr. J. Brenton Stewart has been accepted for publication. The title of the work is “Hard to Find: Information Barriers among LGBT College Students.”