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You did that too? Odd ball jobs in the career college library

July 27, 2012

I remember taking a class as a MLS student that discussed briefly what different libraries are like.  I took a whole course on the “academic library”.  There was recently a discussion on LinkedIn that looked at what class load would prepare a future librarian for a career in a particular setting.  It makes you wonder how much libraries resemble each other.  Is the library at the University of Wisconsin really the same as the library at MIT?  How similar is the Wake County Public Library to the New York Public Library?  I believe I mentioned that I tend to group stuff up by similarity rather than separate out by difference; so what are the similarities in the career college library?

I think to answer that a person has to have an understanding of what a career college is first.  I’m sure there are many interpretations.  Run a quick Google news search for “career college” and you’ll find stories of inflated tuition, misleading information to students and legislation from D.C. on how to monitor our sector of higher education.  What you might be harder pressed to find are the positive changes that career colleges have made in students lives.  I work for one – I’ve seen the success.

Rather than stand on a soap box and shout our positives to the world I would instead like to take the opportunity to talk about the library in that environment.  In the article For-profit colleges respond to increased scrutiny the author, Alan Scher Zagier, states:

Now, the industry will see if it can still make healthy profits from its challenging demographic __ low income workers, older students and those with spotty academic backgrounds— while being much more accountable for its results. – ALAN SCHER ZAGIER, Associated Press – Aug 6, 2011

That generally sums up the demographic background for the majority of my patron base.  I’ll go a step further and say that many of our students (at the college I work for specifically) are also single mothers looking for a way to make life better for their children.  Sounds similar to a public library huh?  Add to that, many of the students are only looking to obtain a certificate or diploma (as opposed to an Associate Degree) and you get an idea of what kind of research is done in our library.  That isn’t to say that it should be different.  What we are expected to give are skills for entry-level employment, not theoretical work, and that is what the students get.  What can happen in an environment like that is a library, and by extension the librarians working in them, are often called upon to do unusual tasks.

I myself have entered attendance for classes once or twice and handed out report cards.  Maybe the library is your side gig and you actually teach a class full-time, like maybe English 101.  Transcripts, working in the print room, handing out schedules, I heard of that all getting handed to the library.   In my own case I’ve sort of fallen into working with PR for our campus because of my interest in (and maybe even knowledge of) social media.  Truly a jack of all trades.  I joke with my administrators that the librarian is sort of the bartender of the school – we hear things no one else does and see from a perspective no one else has.   I also believe wearing these many hats gives the library, and certainly the librarian, an opportunity to really be the “heart beat” of the school and creates great teaching moments.  Librarians as teacher – in the for-profit college every interaction has the opportunity to be a teachable moment, especially in terms of information literacy or critical thinking.  Every single one.

What about you?  What interesting duties and/or responsibilities have you been asked to over see with sitting behind “the reference” desk?  Do you think those additional opportunities can bring value to the library?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Suzanne permalink
    August 14, 2012 9:18 pm

    Librarian as bartender. I so completely agree with that! I do hear TONS from the students, things that I don’t think anyone else hears.

    I help students fill out FAFSAs, set up their campus emails and portals, proctor tests, and often give the “heads up” to an instructor that certain students are struggling mightily. I spend a lot of time helping students figure out how to use Word, or grasp what plagiarism even is, and listening to their problems.

    Sadly, many career college students are vastly unprepared for college and need way more help than I can often give them.

    • August 15, 2012 1:02 pm

      Thanks for the comment Suzanne. You’re right many students are unprepared for college level courses. There are many times when I wish I had more and better resources (mainly time) to help them with that. It sounds like you are really getting it done though and that is great! Don’t forget that is a valuable asset to your college! You help them retain students and ultimately help the student secure a better career for themselves. Awesome!!!

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