Category Archives: Libraries

The Horde’s results

My interns presented their exhibits to a group of librarians, faculty, and campus colleagues today. I couldn’t be prouder of them. At least one of them is going into a library grad program following graduation, and all four of the others hope and plan to.  (They’re not all seniors, so they have time…)

My charge to them was pretty straightforward: dig through the College’s online history resources, which I linked here, and find me “interesting stuff” that could go into a timeline of the College’s history. I told them that as they researched, I was sure they were going to find a theme that was interesting to them, that they were passionate about, or curious about… and that I wanted them to follow it. And then, in addition to the files of things that are fodder for the timeline, they each made an online exhibit in Omeka, which we are just starting to use for archives exhibits.

Given that I gave them free rein to do what they wanted, did very little hands-on assistance (but offered a lot of guidance), and generally trusted them to go forth and be awesome, I’m very pleased. We’ll polish and edit some of these this summer, and probably look for places to expand and focus in others, but overall this is a great start from my small horde of undergraduate interns. We met as a group every Friday at 3, and they made every week a better at the end of it.

So please enjoy this little preview of the kind of work I intend to spend a part of my summer digging into as we prepare for our college’s bicentennial!

Alexander Dumas: Potsdam State Teacher’s College During WWII, and Potsdam State Teacher’s College During the Vietnam War

Paul Halley: Learning Liberal: A look at SUNY Potsdam’s Strong Beginnings in Liberal Arts

Natalie LoRusso: Women’s History at SUNY Potsdam

Katrina Rink: Sororities, Fraternities, and Honor Societies

Emma Trevena: Architecture on the SUNY Potsdam Campus

(And now that I’ve posted this we’re having a problem with Omeka. But the pride remains!)

Want to come work with us?

SUNY Potsdam College Libraries are pleased to announce that we’re hiring two new members of our team. The formal bits:


 

Information Literacy Librarian

SUNY Potsdam seeks a service-oriented, intellectually curious librarian to join our Information Literacy instruction team in support of the learning, research, and outreach needs of the College Libraries community. This is an ideal opportunity for a librarian interested in the blend of tradition and experimentation, and for an individual whose interests lie in joining a small academic library committed to supporting teaching and learning in a dynamic and transparent working environment.

For a full position description and required qualifications, see: https://employment.potsdam.edu/postings/2899


 

Metadata and Subscription Resources Librarian

SUNY Potsdam seeks a service-oriented and intellectually curious librarian to serve as Metadata and Subscription Resources Librarian (MSR). Reporting to the Director of Libraries, the MSR Librarian will provide leadership and vision for the Libraries’ management of licensed and subscribed content. As a part of the Collection Development team, and as supervisor to 4 FT Library Clerks, the MSR Librarian will be responsible for licensing, subscribed, and open access content, including access, discovery and maintenance of online and subscription resources. Access will include management of URL resolvers, discovery layers, and other access tools for online resources.

This is an ideal opportunity for an experienced technical services librarian interested in the blending of tradition and experimentation, and for an individual whose interests lie in joining a small academic library committed to supporting teaching and learning in a dynamic and transparent working environment. The successful candidate will be excited by our professional transition away from traditional library cataloging and toward metadata creation in support of print and digital collections, and eager to engage in new opportunities, creative applications of technology, and sustainable project implementation. The MSR Librarian will leverage a strong interest in information users’ values and needs to work with existing traditional cataloging systems in support of the teaching, research, and access needs of the College community.

For a full position description and required qualifications, see: https://employment.potsdam.edu/postings/2900


 

As a bit of context, in the last 8 months we had three early-career librarians move on to other opportunities very quickly and all unexpectedly, so we’ve been operating on a very tight staffing budget this semester. It’s been hard, but it was useful in that it showed us where our strengths and weakness really are.

So, instead of just rehiring the three previous positions when hiring was authorized, the librarian team instead sat down and debated about what we wanted and needed. That conversation wasn’t just about what we wanted and needed from new colleagues, but about what we wanted and needed from ourselves. In the end, two of our librarians reorganized their own responsibilities, and we redefined these positions, creating two where there once were three, setting aside some responsibilities done by the previous folks in anticipation of future hires, and generally charting a new path forward.

If that sounds like a place you want to work — one where we think about what we do, make adjustments when they seem smart, and adapt on the fly to our ever-changing circumstances — take a look at the ads. We’re good people who are passionate about what we do, and we hope you are, too.

But please, always: look at a map and see where Potsdam, NY really is before you apply…

What if we redefined making in libraries?

In my last post about What Ifs, I asked “What If we adopted the maker movement as part of campus movement towards creativity and innovation?”

That question has come up in two different venues for me this week, one driven by an administrative opportunity and a second originating with a faculty member. In the administrative context, a member of our campus advancement team asked me how all of this “making stuff” fits into the vision of an academic library. And in the faculty context, I’m helping a teaching colleague figure out what equipment would best meet his needs and goals around innovative educational technology, specifically for 3D printing. And then the SUNY Council of Library Directors email list yielded a discussion of 3D printing and whether or not SUNY libraries charge non-affiliated folks for use of library printers…

And so here we are.

“What If we adopted the maker movement as part of campus movement towards creativity and innovation?”

I say this.

Libraries have always been about making things. Traditionally, in our information world that was based in print publications, paper indices, and reference librarians who were experts on local collections, libraries were where you “made” written academic work. You did research, and you gathered the information you needed, and you wrote a paper or a speech or  report. You typed it, you printed it, and you turned it in. And we don’t think of that as “making”; it’s just “doing academic work.” We are still doing that academic work, now, in our world of online information, searchable full text databases, and librarians who are experts on broad collections of information resources. Our students are still making things in this context, writing papers and turning them in.

At campuses like mine, though, which has a 199 year old School of Education as well as the 129 year old Crane School of Music, our students have also always made more than straight-up academic work. They make — have always made — lesson plans, classroom manipulatives, and visual teaching aids. They make music,  composing and performing. And in our School of Arts and Sciences, they make art — still, moving, dramatic, and 3D. They make scientific breakthroughs, and they make new creative written fiction and nonfiction works. They make computer programs, and they make business proposals. They make public health surveys, and they make archaeological discoveries.  The act of education, and the act of learning, are acts of creation. And we create — have always created — far more than just the written academic work that we default to in our thinking of what libraries facilitate.

Libraries, and the information access we facilitate, do more than help students write papers. We help them create those lesson plans, those musical works, that art, that science, that creative writing, that programming, those proposals, those surveys, and those discoveries. Information access underpins every tangible product to come from education, and libraries have a place of pride, centered in information access, in the heart of academia.

So why should we not also have a place of pride in more modes of making than just writing, typing, and printing? Why should we not also be facilitators and supporters of other types of making?

What if, instead of a building that contains a computer lab to facilitate online information access, research and technology support services, print information collections, and collaboration space, we were something more?

What if we were a building that contained a computer lab to facilitate online information access, research and technology support services, print information collections, collaboration space… and also a video, audio, and digital object creation lab, an arts-sciences-business-creativity fabrication lab, a GIS and data visualization lab, an IdeaPaint white box, interactive display galleries to showcase all the kinds of making going on in our communities, and … whatever else comes next?

What if?

What if?

I’m a big fan of “What if?” questions when it comes to planning and imagining. They’re my favorite way to think through both the positive and the negative about what we do, and I do it in my personal life as well as my professional one. (“What if I enrolled in a PhD program? What if we tried to have a baby?” was a recent and fruitful What If dyad, for example.)

And right now in my professional world we’re in the midst of a lot of change, both internal to the libraries and external to the College. We have a new president, and several new VPs, and several pending administrative retirements. Things are going to be changing, and I always prefer to be ready to offer options to my supervisors rather than to receive direction (though I am capable of taking direction!), because I believe you can’t declare yourself an authority on your area of expertise if you aren’t willing to share that expertise.  And so I’m doing What If thinking like crazy right now.

What If we adopted the maker movement as part of campus movement towards creativity and innovation?

What If we double down on research help and information literacy and reframe our goals around them?

What If we truly became the technology center for the campus, including all support and technology literacy?

What If we embraced the “academic social space” role for our students and folded it intentionally into the mission of the libraries?

What If…

As I have the time and the coherent thoughts, I’m going to share some of those What Ifs, workshopping my own thoughts in writing. I invite you to play along as you wish!

I’m curious: What would you ask about libraries if you were going to do a What If?

values

I am painfully careful about what I say about my place of work, about the people I work with, about the people I work for. Transparency is all well and good, but so is appropriateness. I work — I struggle — to balance both. And so the image in this post is blurred as artfully as Instagram’s filters will let me blur it, because the content of our internal discussions about values are our own business, and I have not asked for permission to share the discussions. Nor do I want to; frank conversations need to have space to happen, and that space is often private space. And we’re not done yet.

But I’m really pleased, and very proud, and I wanted to gloat a little.

Right now we’re in a deeply transitional space in our libraries. Overall, we’ve lost 30% of our staff to attrition (family crises, promotions, life changes, and new opportunities abound), and the librarian corps has been hit hardest. In our main library, we are now at 50% librarian staffing.

Half. We’re running this library on half. The hiring requests are in, and we’re aiming to have new folks to bolster our ranks and share in our work by fall semester, but for now we have to make it through this spring semester on half.

And we can do it. We will do it. We’re bloody amazing, and we’re going to do it. But we also need a clear vision of what we wish we were doing instead, and why. Because while we know this is unsustainable, there’s little I like less than saying “fix my problem! No, I don’t have a solution to suggest!” I much prefer “I need your help to fix my problem. Here’s my proposed solution.” And we need a proposed solution

So we started doing some strategic planning this week, with the core group of librarians who are are our Half. (I refer to my interns as the Horde, and I think I just accidentally coined my new librarian label. Don’t tell ’em.) We started with a discussion of lived values. What do we believe in? What beliefs do we embody in our work? What beliefs do we value most, and see as highest priorities? Which are we ambivalent about? What would we like to add as additional lived beliefs? What stops us from doing that?

Strategic planning

A photo posted by Jenica Rogers (@jenicasedai) on

And in the end, 9 priority values rose to the top. This morning I transcribed them to a clean sheet to post on the wall as we start on the next step of our planning, and as I look at the list, I am proud. Those are good values. They’re authentic to this place and these people. They are why we are going to succeed on Project: Half. They are worth being proud of as a base for a community. They describe a place I want to work.

Aren’t I lucky that I do?