This morning I have meetings with key faculty members in the Yale academic departments that I serve as library liaison. I feel it is important to try and meet with the Chairs, Directors of Undergraduate Studies, and Directors of Graduate Studies at least once each year to discuss to what extent they see the need for a program of research education for their students. Each humanities department thinks about this question differently, and their opinions change over time and because different faculty members rotate into these positions every so often. Some departments barely want any input from a librarian at all. Others eagerly take advantage of the opportunity to get their students up to speed with using the library, and will work with me to schedule a number of one-hour to ninety –minute sessions for majors or incoming graduate students. Some even have a mandatory session on the books for their majors and grad students. And still others are content to have me introduce myself to their students, whether virtually or face-to-face, and let them know I am here to help should they need me.
Taking the time to meet with these faculty members always pays off in at least three ways. First, it shows them the library cares about their and their students’ needs and that the librarians seek to be consistently proactive partners in the school’s educational mission. Second, it reminds them that there is someone knowledgeable about their discipline who works in the library and to whom they can refer students and fellow faculty members who have research or other questions and concerns. The PhD and a record of publication comes in handy for me here as a mark of credibility. And third, it is a way for me to expand my network of faculty contacts on campus. There is nothing like the personal touch when it comes to getting faculty to support and encourage their students’ library use. If you are interested in my further thoughts on this subject, here is an opinion piece I wrote for The Chronicle of Higher Education some years back about students’ need for research education.
I spend the afternoon updating and fixing broken links in my various online research tutorials known by their commercial name, LibGuides. LibGuides are a handy tool (developed by a company called Springshare) that librarians can use to create electronic research guides for the various topics, subjects, and courses they support at colleges and universities. They are easy to set up and to edit so you don’t have to be a computer whiz to create one. Some librarians complain that they tend to be too static and to pre-package information for students in a way that undercuts students’ need or desire to explore and discover library resources on their own. They think that presenting what a librarian says you should be using in your research is off-putting because it assumes student ignorance and librarian superiority. Some librarians also complain that it’s too easy for LibGuides to become unwieldy — with too many tabs, too much librarian jargon, and so on. I can certainly see the reasoning behind these objections. And I would add one of my own: that once you commit to a LibGuide you feel obligated to keep it current. So any time there is a change of URL for any resource, be it fee-based or free, you wind up with a broken link that you don’t know is broken unless you set out to check every link every so many months. With 13 LibGuides to my name, that is not going to happen so often, even if it is happening today!