On Being a Librarian

Trends, Achievements, and Perspectives

Developing Competencies

The ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee identified 10 trends popular in library literature, at conferences, and in academic libraries for the year 2012.

Many of the identified trends resonate with me, and I am encouraged to reflect upon my experiences with those trends in the context of developing competencies to perform better in my profession and demonstrate my value to both my profession and my academic community: communicating value, technology, mobile environments, and user behaviours and expectations.

Communicating value
Academic libraries and librarians continue to be pressured to demonstrate their value to their community and globally. How are librarians going to articulate that libraries are integral to student and faculty recruitment, retention, and success? Must libraries develop and execute more rigorous assessments of services and programs to support their value? How might academic libraries better articulate all levels of services and tools currently in place and strategically planned for future development that directly and indirectly contribute to teaching and learning, research, and student success?

To prepare for a recent interview, I read a report by Megan Oakleaf, Value of Academic Libraries. Of particular interest to me are the recommendations for demonstrating value through interaction with faculty and student engagement in and beyond the classroom. Thoughts and frustrations most commonly expressed in conversations with librarians over the past three years centered on how librarians might better communicate with faculty. Some of my peers seemed reticent to contact faculty, felt discounted and devalued when efforts to present library services at departmental meetings were denied, and subsequently, rarely extended themselves outside of the library proper.

I believe that we must be persistent and change our self-perspective, self-image. We are not guest lecturers, online tutors, and online research guides and pathfinders. We must change our self-image to believe that we can participate in collaboration (course, assignment, and curriculum), resource and discovery support, and join conversations about technologies used for instruction. We already look at course descriptions and ask to view syllabi, assignments, reading lists, course wikis, and reserves. Yet, in our conversations with instructors and faculty, do we ask to integrate library resources into that material and proactively provide information about appropriate and relevant resources?

I have established several professional goals for the next calendar year. One goal pertains to participating more with faculty as an ambassador or representative of the library. One way in which I was able to work toward achieving such a goal was to participate in TRU’s Centre for Student Engagement and Learning Innovation “Teaching with Technology” Lunch & Learn Workshop.  Following the session, one participant contacted me to extend thanks and contacted my Chair to express his appreciation for the library’s involvement in the event and commented upon the level of competence demonstrated by the librarian – me. I believe that academic librarians might look for opportunities within their own campuses where connecting with faculty or students can be achieved.

The Horizon Report states that mobile app, tablet computing, game-based learning, and gesture-based technologies are already becoming the norm for our students or will be part of our teaching and learning environment within the next 5 years.

What do I do to develop competencies in the use of these technologies? I explore mobile apps and other instructional technologies. I have used clickers and SMART Boards in the classroom, continuing to hone my skills to use more of the features and leverage functionalities offered by those technologies. I now create games using Turning Point clickers within PowerPoint presentations where students can respond using their tablets or smart phones. Twitter and Poll Everywhere have become standard instructional tools I use in the classroom. Recently, I have toted my laptop to points of reference interaction where I work with a student to create a screen cast of our session using TechSmith’s Jing and email it to him/her. I believe this turns a strained or possibly failed reference interaction in to a positive and successful session. I must thank my colleague Jennifer O’Donnell for reminding me about the value of screen casting.

Gesture-based instruction and learning are not yet within my reach but I continue to read about such developments in professional literature and watch information videos on the topic.

This video presents the design and evaluation of Maestro, a gesture-based presentation system whose design was informed by observations of real-world practices. This was developed at the University of Waterloo in 2009.

This video produced by Kinetic “Teacher’s Guide to Kinect: How to Program for Kinect and Gesture-Based Learning” explains how to set up and calibrate the software to your gestures and needs. “With this software and a community of passionate educators, we can move beyond the rhetoric and create true 21st century classrooms.”

Mobile environments
Mobile devices are prevalent in our student body. More and more departments are engaging the mobile user in teaching and learning environments, specifically nursing and health care. Mobile users are searching for information or confirming facts through their handhelds. What does this mean for libraries and librarians? How can we support the mobile user?

I believe that we have to consider content. For nurses and health practitioners at the point of care, it is important to think through the scope of content, depth of coverage, authority, and linking to other resources. Are we able to work with our vendors to ensure that databases are delivered with mobile versions?

What about compatibility and platforms? The software we choose to support and the apps we develop must be compatible with iPads, iPhones, Androids, Smart Phones, and others. Will we not have to consider web-based components and free downloadable programs? Are our LibGuides mobile compatible? Though many of these decisions will be under the purview of a systems or web librarian, every librarian will be responsible for developing a suite of competencies for his/her use and demonstration of the software across various devices when interacting with students and faculty.

User behaviours and expectations
Students entering university are technologically savvy. We know this. They are expecting that we will be using Web 2.0 technologies to communicate, instruct, and share information with them. Are we? Can you?

Users are expecting immediate access to resources. Can we do that? I believe that academic libraries have been focused on providing a wide variety of resources, but that is no longer the expectation of our users. Why? Providing access to information that is convenient and seamless is the expectation. To get and keep our users’ attention, we must be convenient. We must offer various access points for users to connect with the human side of library services. We offer texting, voice calling, emailing, SKYPE’ing, chat software, instant messaging, text reference, and services at kiosks situated at events or throughout campuses. We can leverage technology to connect the library with library users wherever they are – home, café, laboratory, classroom, and on their mobile device.

Regardless if we are compelled by our employers or take initiative ourselves to develop technology competencies, academic librarians must adopt technology across services points. Not any technology. Not all the time. But we must be curious about technology and how best to leverage it in our environments.

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