What Do Librarians Do?

This week I leave for the annual conference of the American Library Association with an expected attendance of more than 25,000 people (yep, there are that many of us, plus the vendors).  At the conference, I will do as faculty do at conferences: attend committee meetings and presentations relevant to my work and interests, meet with vendors, and network and reconnect with my peers.  Sometimes when I tell faculty that I am presenting at a conference or working on research they nod but I imagine they secretly wonder what it is we do as librarians.  So this post is for you!

The fact that there is no typical week in the life of a subject librarian is exactly what I love about my job.  Some weeks are busier than others, and our work and schedules change throughout the semester.  While the responsibilities and expectations of subject librarians may vary by subject and institution, the following reflects many of the activities we are able and expected to engage in at work.  Click on the image below to get a glimpse of one of my weeks last semester.


classesLibrarians in the classroom.  Meeting with classes allows me to offer course-specific library instruction that engages students and faculty in a conversation about information, how it is produced, and how to effectively find, evaluate and use it.  This week reflects my efforts to fully integrate myself into the core History classes required of History majors, thereby contributing to the integration of information literacy instruction throughout the curriculum.

Meetings, meetings, meetings. Subject librarians serve on a variety of library and university-wide committees. Some of us also serve on committees for local, national and international library associations.  As faculty, we have expectations for service.  I currently serve on the Faculty Research Grants Committee, the Library Professional Activities Committee (as Chair), and two national library association committees.  I was also elected as Vice-Chair/Chair Elect of the Library Faculty.

research_consultsReference and research support. We regularly assist students and faculty with research.  This week I provided in-person research consultations for 9 students in four of my five assigned liaison areas, including History, Political Science, Latin American Studies, and Anthropology.  What my calendar from this week does not show are the e-mails I am responding to before and after these appointments.

Resources, resources, resources.  An important part of being a subject librarian is staying abreast of changes to the databases and other electronic resources and systems we use (and there are many); learning about new resources that become available, and evaluating their potential value for the library collection; and finally, evaluating the usage statistics for our current collections.  This work requires attending webinars and trainings related to library products (this week I attended two), meeting with vendors on-site or at library conferences, and collaborating with the other subject librarians, as well as the librarians and staff in Collection Development. I am also currently responsible for a monographs budget of more than $30,000.

Communication.  The time I spend communicating with my liaison departments; offering research consultations and library instruction; and keeping up with and sharing news and developments related to my work, my profession, and that of my liaison departments and the university, is part of the value I add to the library and to the university.

profdevProfessional development and research. Subject librarians at my university are faculty and therefore must be productive in the areas of research and professional development.  What, might you ask, do librarians research?  It really depends on their interests, but generally it contributes to the field of library and information science.  My research directly relates to my practices as a librarian which allows me to continually improve upon my skills and contribute to the profession more broadly.  Some of my research has been published in books (see College Libraries and Student Culture and Mobile Library Services: Best Practices) and other parts of my research have been presented at conferences (see Mapping History: Toward a Curriculum-Integrated Information Literacy Program).  I will next be presenting on new models of support for professional development in libraries at the upcoming Conference for Entrepreneurial Librarians.


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