Tonight is my first night as a Library Commissioner for the City of Burlington. I am really looking forward to getting to know another side of our local library, the Fletcher Free, and to dip my feet into the murky waters of public librarianshhip.
So Steve Bell's post in my Feevy about being lucky to be an academic librarian seemed perfectly timed to the day ahead. I agree with Steve that academic libraries are fortunate in that we have an immediate audience: students and faculty. However, I think Steve has been fortunate to work at institutions where the library is imbedded in the intellectual and academic culture of the college. I think that community college librarians might know what I mean. At small, growing institutions like mine, the library is trying with all of its might to not stay relevant but become relevant to our professionally focused students and faculty in the first place. So our outreach is extensive, creative, and constant.
One of the methods of outreach I rely on most is getting out on campus. I go to stuff. I introduce myself to new folks. I always chipper that "come up to the library to find that," or "I just saw a book about that at the library," or someother such quip. Getting out around campus is a way for people to put a face with the library, to feel like there is someone there that they know and can approach, either virtually or physically. It seems that librarians are so often chained to our facility, only getting out when we are invited to class sessions or for necessary meetings. But if we showed our smiling faces, or our thoughtfulness and intellectual curiousity (which seems a prerequisite for our jobs in many ways), our standing among faculty will rise, thereby bringing them to our lecture series, our brown bag lunches, our introductions to new databases, our meet and greets...and then our website, our stacks, our instruction sessions. Wouldn't that be something?!?
I chose to be an academic librarian because I wanted to work with a specific audience and because I wanted to know I always had a budget line, even if less than I wish it were. I applaud public librarians for their open-mindedness, their courage, their creativity, and their problem solving. But let's not give away the store. We all have issues with audience. As I pointed out last post, even in an article about how cool librarians are, we still are rivaling Google.
I will keep you posted, loyal readers (?), about how the Library Commission goes and my first foray into public service. And I hope that those of you that are sitting at a desk, working hard but browsing the blog, will head out to the cafeteria, the student union, wherever to say hi and put a face with your library.