My Response to ALA Annual 2011: Panel Calls on ALA To Do More To Promote Diversity: Diversity is a huge issue, and we may always need to address it. My personal experience with librarianship has been positive. My race or cultural differences have never stopped my colleagues from embracing me. It has never prevented my supervisors from mentoring, and supporting my library career. I went from an even less diverse field into librarianship. We have a lot of work to do, but we are much farther than other professions. Yes, give scholarships, but when I sat in the classroom last year I was often the only minority student. We need to recruit minorities. I think the issue is teaching minority youth that librarianship is an option. It is not just sitting at the reference desk at your local public library. We work in the corporate sector, federal government, colleges, and universities just to name a few. Some of us are entrepreneurs providing a variety of services. We speak to each other, librarian to librarian, but we need to reach farther. Talk to the minority youth around you and let them know how cool it is to be a librarian.
Last week, a student came to me looking for an article in the New York Times. He needed to use the microfilm. I told him to look at the index and identify the reels he needed. Then, when he found the reels he should come back to me, and I will show him how to load the microfilm reader. Maybe 20 minutes or so went by, and I went to check on the student. He was gone!
Yesterday, he returned to the library. I asked him a series of questions. He said yes to everything I asked him. He was ready to use the reels. He picked the reel, and I helped him load the microfilm reader. I was having some technical problems so I enlisted some help from my kind colleagues. Turns out he never looked at the index, and used Wikipedia. I asked him if he used the index, and he said he did not know he needed to use it. It was amazing. A few people told me I was an “authority figure” and he did not want to tell me he needed help. This left me baffled. You come to a librarian for help. Why not tell me you did not do something or you do not understand? I work very hard at being approachable. He came back a few hours later looking for something else. I learned a little bit about him, and asked my questions differently. Image from: http://www.microfiche-microfilm-scanning.co.uk/microfiche-reader.html
Last Monday, I heard on the radio Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’ presentation on the house floor of how the iPad was eliminating paper related jobs. When he said, “…librarians and all the jobs associated with paper…Well, in not too distant future such jobs will not exist.” (“Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Says Apple’s iPad Kills American Jobs,” http://tinyurl.com/44uukrv) I said, “What!” People really have no idea what librarians do, and the skills associated with librarianship. A lot of us provide services completely online. We use databases, e-books, and other electronic resources to do research and reference. We change along with technology. If books were no longer available in print we would focus on making them available electronically. Something many librarians are already working on. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. probably just remembers the librarians that helped him when he was a college student.
Several of the skills we have can be applied to other industries and businesses. Librarians work in the for-profit and non-profit sectors. The stereotypical librarian sitting at the reference and standing in the stacks re-shelving books does not apply to all of us. I love the diversity in librarianship, and the creative ways so many librarians use their skills. How do we let lawmakers and those outside the library world know what we do? This is a question we will continue to answer. Image from: http://librarianlistsandletters.blogspot.com/
Yesterday, a student that attended my research workshop insisted I come see her. She offered me coffee and treats on my next visit to the cafeteria. I know the students are relieved to get help. Especially, when I clarify an assignment and they begin to understand how to do research. I like to help them. I don’t know if they realize I get paid too. I have received thank you cards, email, and letters. I wonder if any other librarians have experienced their patrons offering them free services or goods. Image from: http://barterintheboro.com/tag/barter/
This is the first time in years that I have worked with tattle taped books. The textbooks we get from the bookstore cannot leave the library. The sensors go off, and I run over to search the person’s belongings. Of course, some people try to run downstairs to the open computer lab with the textbooks. I ran after one student, but I lost him somewhere on the first floor. A few hours later he returned to the library. The second time I ran after a student down the steps to the open computer lab. I made him come back upstairs to the library. Not only am a librarian, but I am also security.
I love helping the students. Some of them just want to get the minimum amount of info and run. Of course, some students flourish their faithful librarians with a thousand thank yous! They make it all worthwhile.
Yesterday, I began to help this student with research on the Coqui (frog) of Puerto Rico for her Speech class. She showered me with thank yous. Then a few minutes she returned worried she was disturbing me. Of course, I was happy to get a question at the reference desk. She was having trouble with her PowerPoint. She wanted to embed a YouTube video. Librarian to the rescue! She commented how I was so good at everything. I told her I was a student, and just graduated from Dominican U. in River Forest. She wants to go to school there, but was concerned about paying for tuition. I told her not to let that be an obstacle, and apply for scholarships. I suggested she call Dominican U. Again she showered me with more thank yous.
Since student goals for success have been incorporated into the Presidents’ of the City Colleges of Chicago job description I am always thinking about the students. I got the go ahead with the workshops. Now, I want to hold a workshop about financial and scholarship resources at the end of the semester. Also, get together a list of local 4-year colleges and the programs they offer to distribute.
Image from: aloveheart.com
The recent news of the national search for new Presidents for six of the City Colleges of Chicago has led me to think about many issues. Four goals for student success have been injected into the new job description of the Presidents of the City Colleges of Chicago. Those four goals are:
- “Increasing the number of students who earn college credentials of value.”
- “Increasing the rate of transfer to bachelor’s degree programs following CCC graduation.”
- “Significantly improving outcomes for students requiring remediation.”
- “Increasing the number and share of ABE/GED/ESL students who advance to and succeed in college-level courses.”
After receiving this news in my inbox I began to think about how I could improve student success. As a librarian and an Adjunct faculty member of the City Colleges of Chicago it is my responsibility to make sure our students succeed as well.
I interact with students ever time I come to work. I help them with their assignments, teach them how to use library resources such as databases, and try to motivate them. I am beginning to think I can do more. I sit at the reference desk and I do classroom instruction when requested by faculty members. Why don’t we do workshops? Workshops about writing citations and bibliographies, teaching students how to use new technologies such as social media, how to do research on the internet, or use Microsoft Office. I help students on an individual basis, but making it known to all students I am here to help.
Okay, just spoke to Head of Reference and it is on. The workshop idea has been well received. I am thinking workshops at the end of my shift would be more beneficial students. Students will be getting off of work, or out of class.
My second instruction session went fine. It did not go as well as the first. The instructor was sitting in the back of the room on a computer. Some the students were talking. We were in the computer lab. So, I walked up and down the aisles to make sure they were following me. We searched the library catalog, I showed them subject headings, and we searched the Literature Resource Center database. The class was English 101. I created a blog, and discussed the more relevant databases we subscribe to at Wright. Here is the blog I created http://libraryorientation.wordpress.com/recommended-databases/. We discussed e-books, and how to search the library catalog for them. I showed them how to find full-text and scholarly journal articles in the databases. I gave them a library tour. They were really into the New York Times on microfilm dating back to 1851. One student wanted to take a look. They have an assignment where they have to print out a page from our set.
What made this session strange is the instructor’s insistence that I show the students reference books. Of course, I kept publicize our electronic databases which contain encyclopedias such as Gale Virtual Reference Library. She did not like this. So, I pulled books of the shelf. I showed them encyclopedias about religion, Chicago history, you name it! She wanted the students to make a list of 25 random reference books. I asked if she wanted me to help them search the library catalog to find item in the computer lab. She said she wanted them to walk up and down the aisles. I really lost the students when I started to pull books off the shelf.
During this instruction session the students were talking to their neighbors. So, I have decided to break the students into groups. They will search for books and articles. I created a library exercise on my library orientation blog. Hopefully, this works out the next time. I will let you know how it goes.
Image from: http://callitaweasel.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/bored-students.jpg?w=280&h=210