dongxicatalog

a catalog of thoughts on cataloging, libraries, and librarianship

Are We Burying Our Heads In the Sand?

Are We Burying Our Heads In the Sand?

A realistic reflection on the future of the library profession

Elise Y. Wong

Since the economic recession hit in 2008, library workers around the country have been hearing devastating stories about the impact on hiring freezes, layoffs, budget cuts, furloughs. Articles such as Forbes’s “The Best and Worst Master’s Degrees for Jobs” and “Come to Library School! Just Don’t Expect a Job!” by Library Journal’s columnist Annoyed Librarian are especially disheartening to read. I started my first professional librarian position in December 2009, about six months after graduation. Based on what I have heard from fellow MLIS graduates, some of them have either stayed at their current paraprofessional jobs, or relocated after finding a librarian job out of town. Many of them are still looking for library professional jobs that are comparable to their expectations. Having been at my job for more than three years now and preparing for my academic review, I constantly reflect on the future of my career development and the outlook of the library profession. As information and library professionals in various capacities, it is imperative that we address the social and economic aspects of both librarianship and library job market trends, and share that knowledge with prospective (or current) library students and recent MLIS graduates.

Do your research: what does statistics tell us?

Most first-year library students enrolled in an MLIS program prior to 2008 had a good perception of their future career as librarians. Since librarianship is known to be “a graying profession,” many of us thought that there is no need to worry about shortage of librarians. In the mean time, the business of online MLIS programs is booming.  According to ALA Statistics report, “Summary of Changes in ALA-Accredited Programs Fall 2010 – Fall 2011,” there are 19,128 MLIS students in 63 accredited MLIS programs (American Library Association, 2012, August 14). The Digest of Education Statistics recorded that 7727 Master’s degrees in library science were conferred 2010-2011 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2012). These statistics, along with the continuing economic recession since 2008, made me wonder whether the market will soon be flooded with too many MLIS graduates and there won’t be enough jobs to go around for prospective librarians.

During the past two years I was on two search committees to hire paraprofessionals. We received over 60 applications for each opening and over 70% were MLIS candidates. My colleague on a search committee for a temporary full time reference and instruction librarian reported that the committee received over 70 applications.  These anecdotes seem to suggest that MLIS graduates have become very competitive for librarian jobs, some even going after the support positions.

One can easily compile a list of reputable statistical sources on the labor and employment of the library profession. The ALA’s Labor Trends and Statistics for Library Workers page (American Library Association, 2013) provided various statistics from Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO.  According to the latter, there were 198,000 librarians, 37,000 library technicians, and 140,000 other education, training, and library workers in 2011 (Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO, 2012). The Occupation Outlook Handbook estimated that the employment growth rate for librarians will be 7% by 2020, compared to 10% for library technicians and assistants (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012a, 2012b). The Occupational Information Network (O*NET), a program developed by the US Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration, projected that by 2020 there will be 51,400 job openings for librarians, and 59,500 to 64,100 for library technicians/assistants (O*NET OnLine, 2010a, 2010b).

Many MLIS students and prospective MLIS graduates are given the impression that librarianship is an aging profession, and there will be plenty of jobs available in the next 5 to 10 years.  Indeed, the 1999 studies conducted by ALA Office of Research and Statistics confirmed that librarianship is on the road of becoming a “graying profession” (Lynch, 2013). The 2009 ALA report, “Planning for 2015: The Recent History and Future Supply of Librarians” continued to explore the retirement wave. The report found that as of 2005, over 40 percent of 104,600 “credentialed” librarians are between the ages of 50 and 59. The report estimated that by 2015, 30,500 librarians (30%) will be above age 60, while 26,000 to 30,000 (27%) librarians will reach age 50-59. 28,200 retirements were projected among credentialed librarians between 2005 and 2015. This means that the profession may lose an average of 2,820 librarians each year to retirement (Davis, 2009). We know from Digest of Education Statistics that 7,727 Master’s degrees in Library Science were conferred 2010-2011. If we assume that the same amount of Master’s degrees in library science will be conferred each year, the supply of vacant librarian positions according to the ALA’s report (i.e. an average of 2820), will not be able to match the demand of the incoming MLIS graduates.

Reevaluate your perspective

There is no question that libraries and librarianship are undergoing economic hardship. Like other information workers, MLIS students, recent MLIS graduates, and new librarians make thoughtful considerations as we enter the library profession. Now that the economic recession has become a persistent financial variable on the library job market, it is necessary that we reevaluate our perception of the value of the degree as well as our expectations on career advancement in librarianship.

One of the questions that we need to ask ourselves is whether we have changed our minds about becoming librarians. If the answer is no, we should prepare ourselves to face the harsh economic reality and the emotional challenges associated with it. Library Journal’s “LJ 2011 Job Satisfaction Survey,” analyzed some of the frustrations experienced by library workers across the field. According to the survey, the top three dissatisfactions were: low pay, management issues, and budget crunch. Library workers constantly struggle with job stress and low morale. Despite the complaints, 70 percent of library workers across all library types and at all levels were satisfied about their jobs and remain optimistic about the future. Over 60% of survey respondents still think that an MLIS degree is essential or very essential for library career advancement (Miller, 2011, June 1).

Library Research Service (a unit of Colorado Public Library) also conducted a survey on the perception of the value of MLIS degree among Colorado librarians. On the whole, most Colorado librarians remained optimistic of the value of their MLIS degree. 79% of survey respondents agreed that their MLIS degree is worth investing the time and money, and 63% of the respondents would indeed recommend the MLIS degree today. However, among those who have had their degree for 1-5 years, only 49% of them would recommend getting the degree, and 35% indicated that they would not recommend or actively dissuade others from pursuing an MLIS (Teglovic, Jordan-Makely, Boyd, & Hofschire, 2012, June). These lower numbers most likely showed the impact of the economic downturn on librarians’ perception of the value of their MLIS degree.

It is a tough job market for new library information workers. Library Journal’s “Placements and Salaries Survey 2012” provided an in-depth analysis on library job prospects based on its survey on recent MLIS graduates. The survey estimated the unemployment rate among MLIS graduates at 6.8%, but only 75.4% of current graduates had full time placements (Maatta, 2012, October 15).  Despite the challenges, the survey advised graduates to broaden their library experiences and open their job hunt to positions outside of the library field.  Given the current economic recession, it is reasonable to assume that it will take longer for MLIS graduates to land their first professional librarian position.

Think outside the box

Many new MLIS graduates are frustrated that they cannot find a librarian position that meets their expectations. Each of us has our own reservations and preferences regarding the pay scale, commute distance, and types of the library jobs we want to pursue. Moreover, the economy is not making job hunting easier. Two frequently asked questions among new MLIS graduates are: (1) What should I do if I cannot find a professional position in libraries after I complete my MLIS degree? (2) What can I do with my MLIS degree without becoming a librarian?

Some new MLIS graduates who are currently working in libraries choose to stay at their paraprofessional positions while they are searching for librarian jobs. In the mean time, hiring supervisors are seeing many candidates with an MLIS degree applying for library technician positions. While many supervisors are reluctant to consider MLIS candidates for such positions, some give these candidates a fair chance and interview them the same as other non-MLIS candidates. Confronted by the lack of employment in the current job market, these new graduates may have to accept jobs for which they are over-qualified. It is understandable why some new MLIS graduates may feel de-valued if they have to work as paraprofessionals.

In certain institutions, the barrier (in terms of job responsibilities) between a library professional and paraprofessional is blurring. In spite of their frustrations, MLIS graduates may find that being a paraprofessional or a paralibrarian[1] is not as devastating as they thought if their workplace provides support for paralibrarians to further their professional development. For new MLIS graduates who do not have much library work experience prior to their degree, starting their library career as a paralibrarian can be a rewarding experience in preparation of becoming a full-fledge librarian in the future. Some MLIS graduates who are in need of a job are broadening their job searches to include non-library areas of expertise. According to Breitkopf’s article, “61 Non-Librarian Jobs for LIS Grads,” MLIS graduates should not limit their job search to just libraries (Breitkopf, 2011, December 23). Although some jobs do not necessarily require an MLIS degree, an MLIS degree is marketable in many information or education fields, such as museums, archives, vendors, publishers, digital systems, government agencies, Web technologies, teaching, and researching. In light of competition among job applicants, MLIS holders need to be proactive and creative in applying for jobs, taking extra care to tailor their resumes and cover letters to match the employers’ hiring qualifications.

Transform options into action

MLIS graduates who want to land the library jobs they desire need to be more determined and competitive than ever. Once we have weighed our options and prepared ourselves to have the right attitude to face the future, we must come up with an action plan that will sustain the value of our MLIS degree. As we are waiting to be hired or searching for the perfect job, we need to maintain confidence and display a positive attitude during the job searching process. It is essential that we keep ourselves updated on library trends by reading library literature, magazines, and online media. We should consider extending our skills and professional experience by interning or volunteering at other information organizations. Whenever possible, we should attend local and regional library conferences and be actively involved in professional activities. We should strive to build a network of connections among mentors and colleagues, as a well-established network is a valuable resource for new MLIS graduates and librarians to reach out and help one another.

Reshape the future of librarianship

The mission of educating the current and future MLIS graduates rests on the shoulders of librarians, librarian educators, and administrators of MLIS programs. It is our responsibility to prepare new and future librarians to reflect on the strengths, challenges, and opportunities in the profession as they embark on the road to librarianship. The sustainability of library profession depends on how we can cope with the fluctuating job market and adapt to the changing perception of the value of librarianship. Library and information professionals need to maintain an on-going discussion on evaluating the dynamic career outlook of the library profession and assessing the various ways to balance the supply and demand of the library labor workforce, in order to ensure that future managers and leaders are equipped with the necessary knowledge and experience to thrive in the information age.

References

American Library Association. (2012, August 14). Statistical reporting: Summary of changes in ALA-Accredited programs fall 2010 – fall 2011. Retrieved March 13, 2013 from http://www.ala.org/accreditedprograms/sites/ala.org.accreditedprograms/files/content/standards/ss2010v2011.pdf

American Library Association. (2013). Labor trends and statistics for library workers. Retrieved March 13, 2013 from http://www.ala.org/educationcareers/careers/stats

Breitkopf, M. (2011, December 23). 61 Non-Librarian Jobs for LIS Grads. Retrieved March 13, 2013 from http://infospace.ischool.syr.edu/2011/12/23/61-non-librarian-jobs-for-librarians/

Berry, J. N. (2010, March 1). Allison Sloan: Paraprofessional of the year 2010. Retrieved March 13, 2013 from Library Journal Website: http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6719424.html

Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2012a). Librarians: Summary. Retrieved March 13, 2013 from Occupation Outlook Handbook Website: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Education-Training-and-Library/Librarians.htm

Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2012b). Library technicians and assistants: Summary. Retrieved March 13, 2013 from Occupation Outlook Handbook Website: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/library-technicians-and-assistants.htm

Davis, D. M. (2009). Planning for 2015: The recent history and future supply of librarians. Retrieved March 13, 2013 from American Library Association Office of Research and Statistics website: http://www.ala.org/research/sites/ala.org.research/files/content/librarystaffstats/recruitment/Librarians_supply_demog_analys.pdf

Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO. (2012). Library workers: Facts and figures, fact sheet 2012. Retrieved March 13, 2013 from http://dpeaflcio.org/programs-publications/issue-fact-sheets/library-workers-facts-figures/

Library Journal. (2013). Paralibrarian of the year nomination guidelines. Retrieved March 13, 2013 from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/awards/paralibrarian-of-the-year-nomination-guidelines/

Lynch, M. J. (2013). Age of librarians. Retrieved March 13, 2013 from American Library Association Office for Research and Statistics Website: http://www.ala.org/ala/research/librarystaffstats/librarystaffstudies/ageoflibrarians.cfm

Maatta, S. (2012, October 15). A job by any other name | LJ’s placements and salaries survey 2012. Retrieved March 13, 2013 from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2012/10/placements-and-salaries/2012-survey/a-job-by-any-other-name-ljs-placements-salaries-survey-2012/

Miller, R. (2011, June 1). LJ 2011 Job Satisfaction Survey | Rocked By Recession, Buoyed. Retrieved March 13, 2013 from Library Journal Website: http://www.libraryjournal.com/lj/careerscareernews/890617-300/lj_2011_job_satisfaction_survey.html.csp

National Center for Education Statistics. (2012). Table 287. Master’s degrees conferred by degree-granting institutions, by field of study: Selected years, 1970-71 through 2010-11. Retrieved March 13, 2013 from Digest of Education Statistics Website: http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d12/tables/dt12_287.asp

O*NET OnLine. (2010a). Summary report for librarians. Retrieved March 13, 2013 from http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/25-4021.00

O*NET OnLine. (2010b). Summary report for library technicians. Retrieved March 13, 2013 from http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/25-4031.00

Teglovic, J., Jordan-Makely, C., Boyd, L., & Hofschire, L. (2012, June). What is the value of an MLIS to You? Retrieved March 13, 2013 from Library Research Service Website: http://www.lrs.org/documents/closer_look/MLIS_Value_Closer_Look_Report.pdf


[1] A term endorsed by Massachusetts Library Association and American Library Association, and later adopted in Library Journal’s “Paralibrarian of the Year” award in 2011. See: Berry (2010, March 1) and Library Journal (2013).

Understanding the Catholic, Lasallian, and Liberal Arts Traditions

On August 15, 2012, Brother Ron’s last annual staff day, he shared with the staff that the upcoming sesquicentennial year is an occasion not only to celebrate, but to reflect on the meaning of the College’s traditions and mission. Brother Ron’s memorable presidential reflections prompted me to reflect how my work and activities here at Saint Mary’s College of California since December 2009 have supported the traditions and mission of College. My first step is to take a closer look at the College’s three-prong (Catholic, Lasallian, and liberal arts) traditions, and how these traditions are integral parts of the College’s mission.  I believe that it is only through the perpetual effort of understanding the College’s educational philosophies and mission that my future plans and goals in the College can be properly guided and actualized throughout my spiritual journey and professional growth.

How is the Catholic tradition an integral part of the College’s mission?

The College’s Catholic tradition emphasizes the fostering of the dignity, integrity, and morality of the human person from Christian theological perspectives. The Catholic tradition manifests the divine goodness, extends the love of humankind towards one another, and embraces individuals coming from all religious and spiritual backgrounds. The longevity of the Catholic tradition is extended through a pedagogy that strives to integrate both intellectual and spiritual journeys in the quest for truth.

While the mission of the College is built on the steadfast principles of Catholic values, the College cultivates a learning environment that promotes engaging and stimulating discourses in seeking the unity of faith and reason. Even though we are not all Catholics, we all benefit from the Catholic tradition. The bond of community is strengthened in the presence of God through the immersion of diverse spiritual and religious experiences that celebrate the sacramental lives of the learned individuals who are committed to reach out and touch the hearts and souls of the others.

How is the Lasallian tradition an integral part of the College’s mission?

The College’s Lasallian tradition is defined by its five core principles:  faith in the presence of God; quality education; concern for the poor and social justice; respect for all persons; and inclusive community. As an extension of the Catholic mission and the teachings of St. John Baptist de La Salle, the Lasallian tradition is dedicated to inspire lives through educating the poor and transforming individuals to become practitioners of social justice for the society and common good.

The Lasallian principles foster a safe and an inclusive community among the Faculty, staff, and students. Mutual understanding and respect for all persons is preserved through sensitivity and inclusion of the cultural, social, and economic diversities in the campus community. Immersed in a service oriented environment where Lasallian teachings and practices are established as the core foundations, individuals equipped with the will to learn are being prepared to become the future Lasallian educators and leaders of the community. Through the education we receive, we develop leadership qualities and a sense of social responsibility within us, and contribute in whatever small ways to right social, ethical and environmental injustice. As we are learning ways to help the disadvantaged and underprivileged coming from varied social, cultural, economic backgrounds, we become aware of regional and global concerns and more determined to change the world.

How is the liberal arts tradition an integral part of the College’s mission?

Like the Catholic and Lasallian traditions, the philosophy of the liberal arts tradition is centered on the cultivation of the moral virtues within oneself and the student-centered community. In the process of becoming a learned scholar and reflective thinker, one nurtures the passion for lifelong learning and to acquire knowledge and wisdom, as well as the intellectual skills to apply that knowledge into practical learning experience.

The mission of a liberal arts college is to educate individuals to become spiritual, compassionate and responsible leaders. At the heart of the liberal arts tradition lays the core foundation of the Collegiate Seminar. Drawing from the Great Books from various ages and cultures, the liberal arts curriculum integrates branches of knowledge from arts, sciences, education, and business to inspire and lead learners to live a balanced and enriching spiritual and humanistic life.

The core curriculum is a practical adaptation of the liberal arts tradition. Combining theory and practice, the learning goals in the three categories—habits of mind, pathways to knowledge, and engaging the world, are the essential ingredients needed to foster scholarship and leadership qualities in our students, to prepare them to become the reflective thinkers, responsible citizens, and democratic leaders of the 21st century.

In what ways can I support the College’s Catholic, Lasallian, and liberal arts tradition?

It is important to remember that the weight of the College’s mission is supported by the three-prong traditions. It seems logical to start my examination with the Catholic tradition, proceed to the Lasallian tradition, and complete the cycle with the liberal arts tradition. The College’s Website provided many resources that helped me explore the three traditions. I came across three sources that have inspired and guided my will to put the traditions into practice.

“Love and knowledge: the Heart of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition” by Dale Lauderville is an essay about the challenges of the Catholic intellectual tradition in shaping the changing trends of society and higher education today. Father Lauderville observed that Catholic thinkers are entrusted with the mission to use love and knowledge as driving forces to reconcile the tension between faith and reason.  In a Catholic higher education environment sustained by the three aspects of love (agape, eros, and philia), the pursuit of knowledge and the shared concern for the common good are conveyed through dialogue and communication. Students as embodied thinkers are guided to explore the metaphysical mysteries of human existence as well as the dynamic social relations of being in the world through critical or methodical inquiry.

Sharing the Lasallian Mission: six orientation/Lasallian formation seminars for faculty, staff, students, parents is a series of oral interviews with the Saint Mary’s College Professors of the Year 1992-2004. Saint Mary’s College provides a passionate and diverse environment for the lifelong learners coming from various religious traditions. The campus is a safe zone for interfaith dialogues, intellectual partnership, and every other form of engagement within the grounds of peace, tolerance, and mutual respect.  In this student-centered learning community, faculty, staff, and students work collectively towards promoting the Lasallian pedagogy of social justice and fostering responsible leaders  who are committed to make a difference in the world.

Brother Mel’s memoir, Years of Yearning, enables me to gain insights into an important time in Saint Mary’s history. I was struck by how much of the College’s strengths and challenges were shaped by the mission to defend its liberal arts tradition. The 60s was the best and worst of times. During his 28 years of reign, Brother Mel not only successfully contended with the external climates affecting the College’s stability, he managed to reconcile the various voices within the College regarding administrative matters. Under his leadership, the 4-1-4 calendar was implemented. Women were admitted for the first time to Saint Mary’s College. Despite the financial challenges, Brother Mel raised funds for new facilities and residence halls. New programs were introduced. As the President of College, Brother Mel demonstrated tremendous wisdom and courage as he overcame the never-ending challenges by leading the College through several WASC accreditation visits. His everlasting legacy will continue to be reflected in the College’s mission and its spiritual transformation in the years to come.

The campus offers many opportunities for staff to participate in activities that support the Catholic, Lasallian, and liberal arts traditions. Among the events sponsored by Office of Mission, Mission and Ministry Center, CILSA, Intercultural Center, and Human Resources, my favorites are the annual De La Salle week, the Soup and Substance meetings, and the professional development workshops.

For the library staff, the 2012 De La Salle week was particularly exciting due to our participation in the post-it project. The library invited the community to contribute their thoughts and reflections on “What ‘Together and by Association’ means to us” on a post-it board that constituted a colorful image of a Lasallian five point star. Meeting the Brothers and attending the Soup and Substance special presentation were the highlights for me.  It was eye-opening to meet with the Brothers who dedicated themselves to teaching disadvantaged youth and to listen to their stories and first-hand experiences at the St. Mary’s Boys’ School in Nyeri, Kenya.

The annual staff in-service day is an important themed event that marks the beginning of the new academic year with anticipations of continuing and new directions as indicated in the State of the College Address given in the previous year. The staff day is also an occasion for the staff to remember their role as Lasallian educators. I always appreciate the community time we share at the staff appreciation luncheons. The special short films presentations on Catholic involvement in social and environmental issues always leave the staff something to reflect on.   As always, I look forward to the Soup and Substance gatherings and sharing my thoughts on the new readings of the year.

The Campus of Difference workshop was the first order of business on my list within six months of my arrival at Saint Mary’s as a new staff. It was my first encounter of getting to know the cultural and social climate of the College. I was so impressed with the training that I continued to participate in several follow-up workshops sponsored by GSA (Gay Straight Alliance), Intercultural Center, Human Resources, CCIE (College Committee of Inclusive Excellence), and Staff Council, such as, the safe-zone workshops, and a series of staff workshops on cultural diversity, communication skills, and leadership development. The participants who attended these workshops with genuine openness and friendship bonded with one another. After we left the workshops, our positive learning experiences enable us to appreciate the fact that we as a group of dedicated individuals love working in the College together.

Gaelebration events were prepared campus-wide to kick off the Year of the Gael. In the spirit of celebrating the College’s sesquicentennial year in 2013, the library was proud to host a current faculty scholarship exhibit (along with their citations and bibliographies) that showcased faculty’s distinguished publications and artistic accomplishments. Out of the many spectacular events throughout the Year of the Gael, the great(est) conversations symposia series are definitely not to be missed. As part of the audience, I am confident to state that the crowd never ceases to be in awe of these scholars who share their passion in the Catholic intellectual tradition, Lasallian education, and the liberal arts commitment in promoting the common good. It is indeed a great honor for me to be part of the Saint Mary’s College history during this special year. Happy 150th Birthday Saint Mary’s and many more to come!

Resources

Anderson, FSC, Mel. (2011). Years of yearning: Memoir of Brother Mel Anderson, FSC, President 1969-1997. Moraga, Calif.: Brother Mel Anderson, FSC.

Lauderville, OSB, Dale. (2009). Love and knowledge: The Heart of the Catholic intellectual tradition. Retrieved November 1, 2012 from http://www1.csbsju.edu/catholicidentity/values/love_know.htm

Saint Mary’s College of California. (2005). Sharing the Lasallian mission: Six orientation/Lasallian formation seminars for faculty, staff, students, parents [DVD].  

Saint Mary’s College of California. (n.d.). Living Lasallian. Retrieved November 1, 2012 from http://www.stmarys-ca.edu/living-lasallian

Getting to know the profession, better

Whether you are an experienced librarian or someone new to the profession, networking plays an important role in career development. Mentoring is a component of professional networking. If used effectively, mentoring can be an eye-opening and productive experience for library novice and expert alike.

In the context of this article, I use the term “library novice” to refer to someone who is new to the library profession, for example, a library volunteer, a student who is enrolled in library technology or MLIS programs, or a newbie librarian who has less than five years of professional experience; a “library expert” is someone who has considerable amount of library work experience and skills in areas of his or her expertise. This someone can be a library novice and expert at the same time but in different respects, for example, a librarian can be an expert in instruction, but a novice in budget management.  Hence, it is a misconception that mentoring is only beneficial for a library novice, and not a library expert. Mentoring programs are not only simply established to help those who are not familiar with the nuts and bolts of the library profession. Mentoring is also designed to help professional librarians and experienced library staff members to get to know the profession better.

Finding the right mentoring program

The unique aspect of a mentoring program is that it focuses on one-on-one interaction between a mentor and a mentee. Mentoring could take the form of informally unstructured or formally structured. Before I decided to participate in mentoring programs, I thought through the logistics of my involvement. Why am I doing this? Who are my potential mentors and mentees? How much time am I willing to commit to this? What do I hope to get out of this mentorship? I am a new librarian who has only been to a handful of conferences. I did not know many library professionals outside of my institution. I was quiet and did not feel comfortable expressing myself in a group. I was attracted to Baynet mentoring program when I attended their annual meeting in May 2012. Although I previously came across mentoring programs offered by other library associations, the timing was not right and I was not ready at that time. I want a mentoring program which allows me to communicate electronically most of the time but still offers the option of meeting with my mentor and mentee in person.

Preparing for becoming a mentor/mentee

Based on similar interests and skills, the coordinators of Baynet mentoring program matched up the mentor/mentee pairs very quickly. During the one year mentoring relationships, we get to know our mentor/mentee. The mentoring tip sheet and worksheet are great resources especially for first-time participants. In order to maintain a cordial and professional interaction, it is crucial for the mentor and mentee to communicate their expectations and ground rules at the start of the mentorship. We agreed on how we should communicate and how often to check in with each other. Together, we defined our mentoring goals, objectives, priorities, and timeline, intending to take advantage of the opportunity to create a productive mentoring experience.

Providing an insider’s look into the library world

As a newbie librarian working at my first professional job, my views on librarianship are no doubt limited. I have wonderful colleagues to guide me through surviving and thriving at work but I often feel the need to have a second opinion of what librarianship outside my institution looks like. Every library and its parent institution have a different educational philosophy and organizational culture. My mentor and I exchanged our perspectives on academic librarianship, explored ways to stimulate career growth, discussed challenges that libraries and librarians face during the economic downturn, and shared the ups and downs of our work experience.

Establishing connection within the information profession

Mentoring is one way of being involved in professional organizations for new library workers who do not yet know many experienced information professionals in the library field. A mentor is often a mentee’s first connection to a national or regional library association. An experienced mentor could unveil many committee opportunities available within an association to the mentee. With a mentor’s help, the mentee could join the right library association and get introduced to collaboration with other library professionals who share the same career goals and interests. Having a network of library colleagues is a valuable asset for a librarian to prosper in the information profession. In addition to emails and face-to-face meetings, I am now connected to my mentor and mentee via LinkedIn to ensure that we stay in touch throughout and after the end of the mentoring program.

Putting things in perspective

During times in transition, whether there are jobs changing, work reorganization, or morale issues, a mentor can be an excellent confidant. A mentor often fills the role of a therapist who can help the mentee to see and analyze the situations in a different light. A mentor who is an outsider and has no conflict of interest with the mentee’s struggles can offer constructive and rational advice on managing difficult situations. In an effective mentorship, trust and respect must be established prior to the sharing of sensitive work issues. Professionalism needs to be maintained throughout the communication between mentors and mentees at all times.

Promoting the positive aspects of librarianship

Mentorship is an excellent vehicle for promoting the mission, vision, and value of librarianship. Librarians realize that a lot of new library workers do not sufficiently understand the inner workings of the library profession. Many newcomers are unclear about the different types of library operations and responsibilities. Librarians are information experts who provide service to users in need of research assistance. Academic librarians are champions of research, scholarship, and teaching excellence. We are advocates of information literacy and lifelong learning in age of emerging technology. For those who are new to the profession (especially MLIS students and those currently enrolled in library technology certificate programs), mentors could use this valuable educational opportunity to impart their work enriching experience and wisdom to future librarians.

Enhancing professional development

Professional development is an integral part of a librarian’s career. Librarians are encouraged to participate in various professional activities to gain experience and insights beyond their work routine. Librarians are eager to collaborate with others, to develop new skills, and to explore innovative trends in information services. Through mentoring and coaching others, librarians share expertise and strengthen their leadership skills in building a sustainable community support system to overcome challenges and contribute service to the profession.

Rekindling library passion

Job burnout may not be very common among librarians. However, for librarians who have worked in the profession for a long time, mentoring young or prospective librarians could be rejuvenating and bring a breath of satisfaction into their career. Working with mentees can be an inspiring and rewarding experience. By relating their success stories, mentors once again feel the same excitement and passion as when they first became librarians. Their mentoring effort in effect renews their dedication and commitment to the profession.

Reflecting on the mentoring experience

One of the positive outcomes of a successful mentorship is that both library novice and library expert have something valuable to learn from their experience and each other. The library profession is constantly evolving. Every mentoring experience is unique. The more mentors and mentees communicate with each other regarding their expectations the more they will benefit from the mentorship. When the assessment of an individual’s strengths and weaknesses are evaluated without prejudice, mentors and mentees can come out of the mentorship knowing better about the library profession as well as themselves.

Mad about social media

Mad about social media: putting libraries on the (digital) map

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is social media?

Built on Web 2.0 technology, social media applications connect groups of users and promote network sharing of user-generated content in the forms of interactive media (images, Web links, audio, and video). Among the dozens of social media applications, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest might be some of the popular ones that you have heard of.

Who has time to play with social media?

Like staff of other academic libraries, Saint Mary’s College of California (SMC) Library staff is constantly busy serving the needs of faculty, staff, and students. We are also in the midst of getting funding for a new building. In addition to the regular library operations (campus committees, reference, instruction, and collection development), we have very little time to do professional development, not to mention energy to invest in using social media.

Libraries generally recognize that social media can be a useful tool to feature and promote library news, information, and services to library users who are digitally savvy. However, library staff members are often too overwhelmed and unable to go beyond our daily responsibilities.

Libraries are user-centered institutions

A librarian is charged with being sharp and sensitive of what is happening around the information world. There are signs that show if something is a worthy venture for the libraries. If you read about popular technology tools in literature and hear Internet users mentioning them, it is time for your library to explore these new tools. If you see other libraries promoting new social media tools on their homepage, you better hurry up and catch the train. Social media is a new and friendly way to connect with users. Your online presence in their favorite social media pages makes it easier and more convenient for your users to reach out to your institutions.

The niche of a new librarian

I am a new librarian with no administrative or supervisory duties. My primary job is cataloging and reference. I am involved in collection development activities and instruction. In the profession, I am considered “too young” to take charge of other major responsibilities. Fearful of becoming invisible, I have been desperately searching for some place to exercise my strengths and I found my answer in social media. Granted, I am not a power user in these applications. I don’t know all the hips and hooplas, but one thing I do know is that social media is not a fad going away anytime soon. I would like to share with you our library’s involvement in Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and Pinterest.

In the beginning: Twitter and Tumblr

Twitter is widely used on mobile devices. We use Twitter to send timely announcements to our “followers” (https://twitter.com/#!/smclibrary). It is very handy to tweet our basketball games highlights, scores, cool links, special hours when the timing is important. We also use Tumblr mainly to post interesting images and book covers to showcase Saint Mary’s College Library’s newest resources (http://smclib.tumblr.com/).

   Addicted to Facebook

Our library has accounts on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook but they were not very active. A few months ago I volunteered to be one of the Facebook  administrators. I became addicted to Facebook initially because of its networking component with my friends. I figured since I am on Facebook most of the time I should do something useful with it. I am a faithful reader of AL Connect, the American Libraries Online Newsletters. Every week I post interesting links on the library’s Facebook page along with taglines and questions to attract viewers’ attentions. It has become part of the routine for me to post the library’s new announcements on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/SMCLib).

Going berserk with Pinterest

My coworker is one of the first staff members who discovered Pinterest and how it could be used in the library. Pinterest is an application that allows users to post, organize images on the Web and share images with other users. I was not familiar with Pinterest and found it clunky to use initially. It was difficult and cumbersome to get the right images to post. However, we discovered that Pinterest can be an excellent navigation tool to showcase our library’s collections in self-assigned categories, and to help users to discover the hidden treasures in the catalog. I joined my coworkers to become a contributor for our Pinterest page. Together, we developed a consistent method to post images and descriptions that link users to our catalog. As of this writing, there are 48 categories on Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/smclibrary/), and 223 followers. Both numbers are growing.

Social media apps all in one place

The social media application icons (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest) are featured on our library homepage. We configure the app settings so that posts from Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest can be shared with one another. We promote our social media pages whenever we can: at the service desks, during library instruction sessions, or orientations with visitors and perspective students. We are happy to support and connect to other libraries, library users, and information organizations through social media. Although some library users may not be active in social media, they can still visit our pages and stay in touch with library news, latest resources, and development.

Three things libraries need to thrive in social media

A library that wants to get its feet wet with social media apps needs to do a bit of planning, reflection, and conviction to carry out its mission. SMC library is supportive of using social media to promote library services and resources. We have a number of enthusiastic staff members who love to take on new projects. We have had very encouraging feedback with our social media tools since we started to follow the social media trends two years ago. Before libraries embark on any social media projects, they need to be convinced of the need, significance, and effectiveness of social media on library advocacy. There are three ingredients libraries need to possess: passion, devotion, and collaboration.

  • Passion

SMC library staff members are always eager to look for new ways to promote our services and resources, and to connect with our faculty, staff, and students. We want to be strong advocates for any technology tool that enhances educational effectiveness. We are not blind followers of the social media fad, we know what we want to do with these apps and we develop strategies to carry out our plans.

  • Devotion

It is indeed difficult for library staff to squeeze anymore time and energy from their busy workload to play and experiment with new social media apps. However, there are always one or two self-starters who are willing to go one step beyond the call of duty; someone who is bold enough to take the lead and just do it. Here at our library, we have staff members just like that.  They do the groundwork from scratch, smooth out the kinks, and set a great example for other interested staff members to follow their footsteps.

  • Collaboration

Sustaining the activity and currency of library social media pages is a challenging project. The project is a work in progress and it should not rest on the shoulders of one or two staff members alone. The more staff members are involved, the less burdensome it is to keep these library pages running, and these pages will have more interesting and diverse content.

Playing with social media is not a waste of time. On the contrary, it has become one of the channels to connect ourselves with library users on their level. According to Pew Internet report (2010) on social media and young adults, 73% of online teens and 72% of young adults use social network sites. 40% of adults ages 30 and older use social networking tools. These numbers are not negligible. Libraries need to realize that while the goal to connect and communicate with our users has not changed, there are more nontraditional ways out there we need to explore in order to reclaim our positions on the digital map.

SMC Pinterest featured in Chronicle

Last week, one of my coworkers at SMC  got contacted by someone at the Chronicle of Higher
Education who wanted to ask about what we are doing with Pinterest. She spoke to the person and ta da…

http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/3-ways-college-libraries-are-exploring-pinterest/36195

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