Why a librarian is like Q

As some of you might know, I’m up for review in January/February – my second review and the last one before I go up for tenure. It’s a little surprising that it’s already time for this review – it feels like just last week that I started my job. I should make it clear – I’m not really worried about getting a contract renewal – I am doing the things I need to be doing, I’m reasonably good at my job, and I haven’t had anyone share concerns with me. But it’s still a bit nerve wracking – presenting everything I’ve done over the past two years to my peers, and then to a group of outside faculty.

Right now I’m attending a seminar offered by our Faculty Teaching and Learning Center designed to help us develop our “integrative statement”. This statement is supposed to present our work and our philosophy as a sort of a story and show how we contribute to the university and to our students. As a librarian, the process is very different than my colleagues in other departments. I don’t have my own students or my own classes – I teach when I’m invited in or when a student needs individual help. Part of my job is what I would call administrative. I’m responsible for the depository collection and managing my purchasing fund budgets. I work 9-5 Monday-Friday 12 months a year, unlike faculty who have a very different schedule. (Note: I’m not saying they work less than I do. Just that we have different schedules.)

What I’m finding most useful about this seminar is that I’m challenged to describe what I do to people who aren’t familiar with librarianship. I think this is something we as a profession don’t do enough – challenge our own views of ourselves and try to make what we do make sense to faculty colleagues. My group’s mentor is big on the idea of metaphors and I decided to describe myself as Q to the university’s secret agents (aka the faculty and students). It’s my job to provide them with the tools and gadgets (research skills and databases/books) they need to successfully complete assignments. I don’t have control over whether or not those tools are used in the field, and I don’t always get to see what comes of my (and the student’s) work, but when it’s all over I go back to the drawing board and see what else I can provide to make their work easier. Sometimes I get exasperated (like Q) when my gadgets don’t seem to be of use (or when they come back in pieces), but mostly it’s fun to be able to play a supporting role to students and faculty and help them be successful.

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