Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Instruction and Focus Groups

My internship focuses not only on reference librarianship, but also information literacy and instruction. Accordingly, I’ve been fortunate to sit in on some library instruction classes with Clint. I think that the image of a librarian as a reference resource is pretty well established in our cultural consciousness, at least here at Gettysburg College, but the image of librarian as teacher is perhaps not as prominent. At some colleges and universities, however, librarians are considered part of the faculty.

This aspect of librarianship is vital. I look forward toward observing different librarians teach to different classes. I’m trying to take notes in case I end up giving instruction classes of my own at some point.

Another project with which I’ve been occupied is a series of focus groups. These focus groups consisted of students, faculty, and college employees. My own discipline, philosophy, generally does not engage with this sort of method, so I was excited to read about the different considerations and methodological issues involved in conducting focus groups. I sat in on a meeting where Mallory, Ronalee, and Clint decided which questions were relevant. It felt great to be included.

I also spent some time transcribing recorded videos of the focus groups so that we can analyze the discussions that took place and hopefully improve our services. The library aims to respond to the interests of its patrons. An analysis of these focus group sessions will help with this aim.

I am very excited to work on the Cupola, Musselman Library’s open-access institutional repository. I’ve been reading about open-access publishing in preparation for my work after spring break. Be prepared to hear more about that soon!

At the Desk

During the past few weeks of my internship, I've spent time providing research consultations at the Reference Desk. I initially sat with a librarian during my shift, but I’m now working independently. Since then, I have fielded questions about gender roles in high school guidance offices, the invasive nature of the lionfish species, and the causes of industrialization in early modern Spain.

These research interviews have taught me a lot. For instance, I have learned the usefulness of knowing the scientific names of plants and animals when searching for scientific articles. I have also learned when to ask for help from the librarians when I’m stumped by a student’s question. Overall, I feel much more comfortable conducting research interviews and using Musselman Library’s resources.

Besides working at the Reference Desk, I also have worked in Collection Development. I helped Kerri Odess-Harnish evaluate a set of philosophy books that had fallen out of our collection. This work requires a nuanced understanding not only our collection and its holding on the subject of the book, but also an understanding of other libraries, for example, how many other libraries have the title under consideration. I also researched our holding on county histories of Pennsylvania, both online and in the stacks.

I was particularly interested in the extent to which librarians must juggle considerations of the library’s identity and mission on campus as they evaluate items in our collection and decide whether they really fit into our library. As a library at a small liberal arts college, we have specific needs and strengths. It’s nice to know that my work is helping to satisfy those needs and bolster those strengths.