Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Success as a Librarian

My two favorite blogs are The Pegasus Librarian and Meredith Farkas's Information Wants to Be Free. Meredith wrote a recent post about success as a fairly newbie librarian. Now that I am finishing my second year as a professional librarian, I have been thinking a lot about expanding my horizons. I want to be "more successful," though I am proud of what I have accomplished so far.

Two things that go beyond my college's walls include my Reference Portal featuring Reference Universe and our redesign of our classic OPAC. Reference Universe chose our library to be the first four-year college profile for their Web site because of my Reference Portal, which strove to combine print and electronic resources, which is what their product tries to do. I haven't heard that they have officially published this profile yet, so I can't link to it. But she was very impressed with the page I had created. The reason I am proud of the redesign of our classic OPAC is that TLC, the vendor we get our OPAC from, decided to base the next version of their standard OPAC on my design. When I saw them at Midwinter she looked at my name and institution and said "oh, you're the one who did the design!" And that was something I had done (with some help from a coworker) after two months of professional experience.

This year has been a big year of transition for me. I have started my annual reflection for the past year, though I keep stopping. As far as successes, my reputation with faculty is great, I taught almost 70 classes this year, my Harry Potter Night back in October was an enormous success, and I believe my efforts to improve traffic to the reference desk paid off better than I could have hoped for (unfortunately we weren't keeping the right kind of stats to prove that). I restructured the library's Web site and moved it into the new college format, instituted Meebo IM reference, had positive feedback on my roll as discussion leader for our college's Scholar's Program, am a valued member of at least one campus committee, and created several signs that seemed to have greatly improved students' ability to navigate the library. I have also worked with two evaluation projects that have provided a lot of useful data and hope to work with a statistics professor this summer to get more information out of that data.

When I say it was a year of transition, I feel I have spent a lot of time on and off the clock transitioning into a more technical-minded librarian. I started this blog saying I was a techie-impostor. I'm still shy about calling myself a true techie. But I am very comfortable with HTML, Photoshop, Illustrator, Moodle, basic Flash, I am addicted to iGoogle, Shelfari, Flickr, widgets, writing blogs, reading blogs, RSS, growing warmer on facebook and MySpace, fascinated with library videos on YouTube (though I do have to learn to focus...). I am teaching myself JavaScript and ActionScript. I was completely in my element at Computers in Libraries and nothing that was presented to me was completely new (though I don't know anything about mashups and still don't understand Twitter). I played around with Second Life two years ago but haven't seen any evidence our students use it.

I'm now finding that as I attend this online class and think about attending local workshops on Web 2.0, I know more than the instructors. The five-part online class I am currently taking this month is turning out to be a waste of time. I even jumped in at one point because he was telling everyone the wrong information about Reference Universe. I feel bad that my library paid $160 for this class when I know I could have taught it much better.

In comparison with people like Meredith Farkas, my knowledge might not be all that impressive. But I don't think that's what's normal. The other librarians at my library are not all that into any of these technology things. Some of these make your life so much easier and have a lot of potential to enhance reference and instruction. Knowing how these things work and how students use them is critical to our effectiveness and relevance.

I think after such a long post, I am a librarian who is truly passionate about what I do. I don't want to be a "celebrity" in the library profession, but I want to help others. I have a hard time seeing the niche that needs filled because I'm having a hard time figuring out what others don't know. I would love to create resources to help librarians who did not have training in the things I know to transition to a tech-minded librarian. Then they can contribute their ideas and creativity so I can use their ideas where I am and be inspired to yet new things.

Okay. I'd better get off my soapbox now. I'm not normally a self-promoter. I think I need to learn to be one because I think it would make people more interested in the things I could show them. There are so many great things out there that have endless possibilities with just a dash of creativity and patience.

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