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What is a career college library for?

July 9, 2012

It is so important to stay positive.  Really, it is.  People have a different perspective of you when you consistently maintain a positive and upbeat attitude.  I should know, I do it.  I would be willing to bet that the people I interact with the most would tell you first about my enthusiasm and upbeat manner before anything else.  But let’s face it, everyone gets a little down right?

Well lately I’ve been feeling a little down.  I’ve been quick to get frustrated and it was upsetting to me.  I did some thinking.  Do you know what question I kept coming back to?  “What am I doing??”  That is what I kept asking myself over and over again.  What am I doing?  What is the library doing?  And most important of all “why”.  Then I looked through my posts and realized and hadn’t really given my $.02 on what the career college library is really there for.  I mean what are we really doing and why are we doing it?

I’m sure you have heard the term “over educated”.  The concept is pretty simple and basically boils done to more and more people getting college educations and college educations are worth less and less and at the same time we are losing trade occupations in this country.  I mean, people don’t go to college to learn to be a plumber but you know what – we need plumbers.

The term comes up a lot in a career college.  And lately I’ve been wondering how often the term gets brought up in librarianship.  If you ask 7 different people what a library is there for I bet you would get 7 slightly different answers.  Some people believe that libraries are there to archive our history.  Others believe it is a community service.  Others believe that it is advocating for free information and by extension, knowledge.  What trips some people up is that a library can be all three, depending on its focus.  Not every library mission statement has the same focus and as long as the library is fulfilling its mission then it is successful, right?  🙂

Well – what’s your libraries mission?  Do you have one?  We do, and a vision statement and it is very lofty.  Something along the lines of inspiring knowledge discovery and creating enthusiasm for the learning process.  Yeah, very lofty.  I realized the other day what I really do – what I really do is answer each individual’s information need at the level they want and expect it to be answered.  You know what else I realized, I can try to shove unwanted knowledge down someones throat.  And of course when I do that I haven’t really been helpful and actually I’ve just caused harm to that relationship.  That person might not come with another question – ever.  Sometimes people just want a simple answer and don’t care about my profession’s ideas on reference interviewing.

Here is the best part y’all, if you give ’em what they want you enjoy your job more because you’re not so frustrated about how much people aren’t utilizing you.  🙂  It’s glorious!!!  I am not ashamed to say that I skipped to work the day after that realization and my mood is much improved when I remember.

It isn’t my job (and it never ever will be) to tell people what I think they ought to know.  It is my job to provide informational services to those that need them at the level they want it.

So what is the career college library for?  Well MY library is a place where users can find the information they need which will better their lives, be that an “A” on their next paper or “exploring knowledge” in an area of their field they find interesting.  And I am grateful to serve.  What is YOUR library for?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Heather Russell permalink
    July 9, 2012 5:57 pm

    I didn’t even know you had a blog! Great post!! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!!!

    • July 9, 2012 8:28 pm

      Glad you liked it Heather! 🙂 Keep coming back.

  2. Librarienne permalink
    July 9, 2012 8:38 pm

    I like the idea of meeting the patron on the level of their information need. However, I also have am expected to impart “information literacy” in classrooms, and justify and quantify that I have done so, and more often than not, that is very much unwanted knowledge on the part of the patron. Many of them don’t want to learn how to search for something or evaluate it, they just want to know the answer to a particular question on their homework assignment, and I can’t just tell them “The answer is 42.” I sometimes find it challenging to balance the patrons’ need for information with my mission to teach them something in the finding of it. How do you walk that line?

    • July 10, 2012 12:40 am

      Great post, Jennifer!

      Librarienne, I also am required to impart “information literacy” in the classroom. Instead of doing blanket sessions on how-to use the online collection or what’s in the library, I tailor it to meet the needs of their class. For example, tonight I did a session for a Composition I course. They are 1st or 2nd quarter students with relatively little experience with research. The instructor gave me an assignment sheet beforehand, so I selected databases and topics that might be of interest to them. I find that this holds their interest more, and if you include more interactive parts to your class students are more engaged.

      • July 11, 2012 2:44 pm

        Thanks thebibliothecary! I’m really glad you liked it.

        I typically structure my orientations the same as you and do find that student find them much more informative. In fact I have even done a few where I have chosen a student at random and pretty much conducted a reference interview with them right in the class to demonstrate what the students can be asking themselves. Fun times! 🙂

    • July 11, 2012 2:41 pm

      Librarienne, I really wanted to take my time with my response to your comment because I think you make a really good point. You’re right. As with many other things, this falls on a gray scale. While our library isn’t formally teaching information literacy I believe I have a professional (and maybe ethical) responsibility to share that knowledge with others, student or otherwise. My main point in this post was really reflecting on my frustration with users not taking advantage of the rich resources our library has for them.

      Even when talking about IL with students though, and showing them library resources and research skills via orientations and workshops, I don’t need to show them EVERYTHING. I have a tendency to ask lots of questions, even working with a group, about what they want and what they find interesting (good reference interview stuff) so they can help with setting the limits. And when I get black stares and shrugging shoulders I know they are really not that into what I’m saying, so I dial back. It’s a constant reading of the user, again good reference interview stuff. What this post is about is not getting upset by the blank stares and shoulder shrugs. I can’t MAKE them retain the info or be interested in what they are studying so I remind myself that I am grateful to serve at the level of their need.

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