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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Have You Dated Your Faculty Lately?

I just got off of a conference call which served as my interview for the EdD Program at UTC. While I hope (and think) it went pretty well *crossed fingers*, it left me pondering some things libraryish.


When we got on the topic of how change tends to impact libraries first since we're on the cutting (or bleeding) edge of technology use, once of the committee members identified with the changes, telling me that he had taken some library science classes, and had been great at Dewey, but now he felt lost in the Library. I asked if the committee remembered having to go to a librarian to have a DIALOG search done for them, and they all laughed and chimed in "Yes!"


The conversation leaves me thinking this: to me, the mission of academic libraries is inextricably tied to the needs of the institution's students and faculty (at least, if you're doing it right). We may have done our patrons (or users, or client base, whichever term you prefer) a great disservice if they are feeling as though they missed the boat from between where they are and where we are. How are we bridging that gap? Are we offering programming highlighting that we welcome them to come learn how things work now? Are we making it a non-judgmental thing, so they don't feel it's their fault for somehow missing the massive change libraries went through? It sounds silly, but what about a "We Don't Dewey: Finding a Book in the Library Without Getting Lost" session? Yes, it sounds simplistic, but with good exposure and treating it as fun, I bet you'd get more than zero faculty members to attend.


More than zero is one more faculty member who appreciates the library. More than zero is not a negligible number when it comes to this, whether it is two or twenty. "Go big or go home" is not a strategy libraries should marry. Faculty who have fallen away from using us as much for themselves and for training their students in research are like old beaus. "Ah, I remember when the library...", or "I used to go to the library and X, mmm, good times." But you know what? We're not dead. Neither are they (since I am advocating interacting with live faculty). So why are we pining for each other from afar?


Those of us who work in libraries experience all of this *massive* change firsthand and then deal with it daily, and so to us it is both second nature and taken for granted. I am afraid we also take for granted that "yes, well, it's different, but you can learn the new way so just do it." That is not helpful. There really needs to be an outreach effort associated with trying to reconnect with faculty we may have lost along the way. What are you doing to make sure your faculty are comfortable using the resources you spend so much on for them? How many different ways can you count that you are connected to the various academic departments and programs? Are you actively engaged in conversation with your teaching and research faculty - even the ones who think they don't need you? Those are often the folks who are most surprised at the sort of resources we've developed or purchased.


Not for nothing, but for those of us wishing faculty would take greater advantage of us, I bet they miss us as much as we miss them. Maybe we should ask them on a date and get to know each other again.

1 comment:

Amanda Clay Powers said...

I have been obsessed with this topic lately. I've gone so far as to solicit opinions about how people are doing research when I'm out socially with faculty. Over and over again I find them alienated. My approach is to tell them I'm trying to find out how people who don't need us are working. Most of the time it turns out I can tell them something that would be incredibly useful. Sometimes just a tidbit--but sometimes a lot more. I've started collecting faculty that are willing to talk to me about this--I'm calling them my "Super Users" and considering buying t-shirts or mugs, lol. They have begun to report to me _everything_ that is wrong in the library. It's not just about research, it's about Christmas garland on the handrails creating a hazard. Anything. Sometimes I can help--sometimes I'm as frustrated as they are. But I'm always able to pass the feedback along at least.

Yay Colleen for a fantastic post.