Endings & Beginnings

An image of a split fortune cookie with a fortune that reads,

June 1 marked my third year at UC Merced, and it was the same day I was offered a Reference Librarian position at Merced College. If you’ve been here long enough, I worked for Merced College before but at the small campus one hour west in Los Baños. My first day at Merced College will be August 6.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work at UC Merced. During these last three years, I learned so much from my instruction colleagues, and I have become a more confident teacher. I’m now ready to take on the challenge of leading and expanding research education at the community college where I started my professional career just a few years ago. I’m excited to pursue some of the goals my former/soon-to-be current colleagues and I could only dream about six years ago.

I’m back.

Celebrating Student Re$earch

selective focus photography of multicolored confetti lot

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

I love graduation season. I love seeing pictures of folks in caps and gowns and reading posts about gratitude and accomplishment. (If you or a loved one just graduated, congratulations!) In the spirit of celebration and reflection, I started thinking about the library award committee I have been chairing the last two years and discovered that I never blogged about the first award cycle for the Abresch-Kranich Library Award, and the UC Merced Library just finished awarding the second set of scholarships this spring.

In 2018, we had two winners, Melissa Becerra and Nathan Parmeter. Each student received a $500 scholarship thanks to our donor, Arlene Kranich. You can read more about the award and our student winners in “New Scholarship Pays Homage to Persistence and Research.”

Last spring, my former Central Valley colleague Ray Pun also interviewed me about the award for the Credo Reference blog for the HIP (high-impact practices) in Action series. You can read the interview in “HIP in Action: Undergraduate Research & Awards.” It was great exposure for our library and UC Merced, and I hope the interview helped inspire other libraries.

In 2019, we also had two student winners, Marisela Padilla Alcalá and Sarah Lee. You can read more about our student winners in “Two Students Honored for Excellence in Use of Library Resources.”

After the second award cycle, I have a better idea of when and in what specific areas I need to ask for help. I also have ideas for changes to the workflow. I’m currently on vacation, but before I left, I started drafting my process with changes I might want to make regarding the timeline. The review and reception happens during the busiest time in the instruction season, and the process will go much more smoothly if we can open and close the application earlier. Currently, it opens Nov. 1 and closes Feb. 1, but opening it on Oct. 1 and closing it in mid-January will help me get the applications out to the five-member review committee more quickly. After a quick chat with the university librarian, he agreed with the earlier deadline, and we also determined that we should hold the reception before spring break, which is always in March. There are also some other changes I want to make, and I’m very thankful that two of my colleagues who have helped with reviewing student applications are interested in helping me streamline this process, which may also involve changing the award rubric. We’ll be doing this work in June.

Does your college or university library have a research award of some kind?

Lifelong Learning, but not a Library Post

Image of black and brown metal fabric scissors resting on top of assorted swatches of fabric

Photo by Karly Santiago on Unsplash

One of my intentions is to write a little more often here, and although I tend to keep this blog as a work journal more for my own benefit, I was smart not to do any specific branding, so I feel safe straying from time to time.

My husband and I just celebrated 10 years of marriage on January 3rd. We chose to get married the first Saturday in January to mark our new start in a new year. My husband’s birthday is also the 6th, the official last day of Christmas, so we’re all about stretching the holiday season to the last drop, it seems. During the first week of January, one of our traditions is making a list of shared goals and individual goals and intentions. We just finished our kitchen remodel in December, so, this year, we have some smaller home improvement goals. We need to install a new fence, add rock to our front yard and backyard, paint some rooms, and finish personalizing our house. We’ve been homeowners for nearly six years, and I’ve really enjoyed making it ours.

In the spirit of (home)making, one of my personal goals is to learn how to use a sewing machine. I want to the freedom to make curtains, table runners, and pillow covers using fabric I actually like versus hunting forever or just settling. This is a big deal for me because I am terrible at sticking to hobbies. (I actually got motivated to do this from a HuffPost article. Number 7, which is “Learn something new,” stopped me in my tracks: “What have you always been interested in learning but felt either too busy or fearful to prioritize? That’s what you should focus on.”) I registered for a sewing class through our local community college’s community education classes. I’m really looking forward to it, though I will most likely have to miss the third class due to a conference.

What’s something you’ve always wanted to learn how to do? I’d love to hear.

Read If Organizing Work Things Sparks Joy

Image of assorted color markers in a glass jar next to a blank notebookPhoto by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

I couldn’t help the Marie Kondo reference. (I really enjoyed Season 1 of “Tidying Up.” I go through purging periods every so often, so I am here for it.)

The longer I am at my job, the better I am getting at figuring out a system to keep track of what I work on. Who knew that some simple templates and a planner could help me feel better during those moments of one-shot instruction fatigue? As I’m not involved with meaningful assessment, it’s challenging for me to see the long-term effects of the work I do, so documenting my activities helps keep me motivated.

After I received the final documentation for my first review, I created a template in Google Docs for the documentation that I am responsible for turning in (visit “UC Librarian Review Process“), and I’ll be in much better shape for my next review in January 2020 as I have been filling it out with more significant projects and partnerships as I go along.

For instruction, I typically put all of my classes into Outlook because our research appointment calendar syncs with Outlook, but I learned that it is miserable to go back into your calendar to figure out how many classes and workshops you taught during a particular semester. Our research instruction request forms are also connected to the system we use for submitting post-class statistics. The library’s programmer was able to enhance our system so that we can see which classes have not had statistics submitted, but once you submit, it’s clunky to run a query.

I created yet another template to help me out in Google Sheets: bit.ly/class_stats_template It has a tab for classes and a tab for workshops. The Guide column is the URL to the class LibGuide. Students refers to the number of students. The Stats Recorded column is just a note for myself as I submit statistics into our system because I sometimes let it pile up. The Google Folder column is the key to what I actually did in class, as it links to a folder in Google Drive that contains the class syllabus, research assignment, and my lesson plan. In Google Drive, I have a 2018-2019 folder with subfolders for Fall 2018 and Spring 2019. My basic folder structure looks like the following: Semester > Instructor Name > Course. It’s now super simple for me to find all the corresponding documentation for each class I taught. If you’re interested, I also started using a new lesson plan template that I adapted from another librarian: bit.ly/lesson_plan_template I’m bummed to say that I don’t remember who shared it, but I need to comb through some librarian listserv archives to find out because I really need to thank them!

Seeing some of my work reflected in my Classes & Workshops spreadsheet this past semester has made me feel a lot better.

When I worked at the community college, one of my librarian mentors suggested that I get a paper planner that has both a monthly and weekly format, so that I take brief notes about what I work on within the planner. This semester, I’m going to utilize a planner to reflect on my teaching. While I print my lesson plans and write on them during class, they can look pretty cruddy. I need to do a better job about writing down what worked, what didn’t, observations, etc. (On that note, I do plan to finally finish reading char booth’s Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning: Instructional Literature for Library Educators, though I think char is working on a new edition.)

I also feel like this could be a fun workshop at conference–sharing instructional planning materials and tools and methods for keeping track of work. Like New Year library programming but for academic librarians.

2019 Reading Challenge

Happy 2019!

I took two weeks off, and, I, unfortunately, ended my staycation with a gnarly head cold, which threw a wrench in the plans I had leading up to going back to work, but I’m thankful that I’m finally feeling better. I was actually supposed to go back today, but NyQuil did me in.

I have lots of plans for the new year, and not all are work-related  (yasss!), one of which includes reading more books. I read a ton of articles, but books are more challenging for me to get through. I actually read 13 books last year, which is one more than my goal of 12. To check out what I read, visit my 2018 Reading Challenge. I couldn’t have done it without my reading marathon during my break.

Image of 13 book covers with a caption that reads "2018 Reading Challenge: You have read 13 of 12 books in 2018."

This year, my aim is to read 18, and I’ve already read two. What was your favorite read of 2018? Do you have any book-reading goals?

If you’re on Goodreads, find me at goodreads.com/LindsayLib.

Thankful

Thankful

“Thankful note on tree” by Jessica Castro on Unsplash

The day before Thanksgiving, I got an email from the Chancellor’s Office letting me know that a student who graduated in the spring (AKA my worst semester) indicated in an exit survey that I was one of three staff or faculty members who made a memorable impact during their time at UC Merced.

This recognition means a great deal to me.

As a non-faculty librarian (we’re academic appointees at the University of California) who teaches one-shot research lessons, the only student feedback I receive, besides formative assessment, is through post-lesson satisfaction surveys. While the librarians have been involved with projects to assess student learning, I, personally, haven’t yet had opportunities to see the impact of my and my colleagues’ work over time. (I am hopeful through liaison work and some other contacts I’ve made this fall that this can change somewhat, and we might be in a good position due to campus growth, a new general education curriculum, and a new department structure.) Outside of classes and workshops, my other source of student engagement is through research consultations.

I sometimes feel disconnected from my purpose in this kind of library environment. In my previous position, if I wasn’t teaching, I was at the desk, which proved to have its own challenges, but I really enjoyed knowing students’ names and about their lives. I may not feel as connected to students as I did before, but I’m very thankful to know that I really am helping students on their path to earn a degree and accomplish their life goals.

This is something I needed to hear. I go back to work tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to the two research consultations I have scheduled in the afternoon.

Language

I’m a member of the California chapter of ACRL, CARL, but I’m not very active, mostly because I got involved with National first. I’ve really been impressed with Talitha Matlin‘s leadership. The Fall CARL Newsletter was just released, and her presidential message really hit home with me.

In the message, she asks:

What are some words or phrases you’ve been trying to change in your vocabulary?

As a large state with almost 400 institutes of higher education, we play a large role in shaping the discourse surrounding libraries and library work. I realize that some people may roll their eyes at the idea of spending so much time agonizing over language choice. However, using words that demonstrate confidence and do not diminish the important roles we play in our institutions is one step we can all take. We may not all arrive at the same words, but I hope we are all able to speak about our work in ways that feel authentic and affirming.

Her message left me with my mouth hanging open.

I have been doing this lately when it comes to my work as an instruction librarian. It really started with the day a well-meaning writing instructor commented, in reference to my handwriting, that I should have been a teacher as I was writing the URL to the class research guide and the learning outcomes! Ever since then, when someone says presentation, I offer lesson. I don’t correct people outright, but, rather, I use the adjusted language somewhere in my response. When accepting research instruction requests, I’ll write or say, “Let’s meet to discuss learning outcomes…” or “What learning outcomes would you like for me to design my lesson around? In looking at the assignment…[offer my two cents].”

Sometimes instructors also realize the inherent problem of calling research instruction “presentations” or “lectures” on their own. Recently, I was discussing a class with an instructor over the phone, and she hesitated using the word presentation.

Anytime I find myself wanting to write or say library instruction session, I revise it to research instruction or research lesson.

Now that I’m also more organized–and I admit that I mostly got my act together to prove a point–I have been sending a Google Doc with the lesson plan, titled as such, in advance. (It’s not that I didn’t have plans before; I just rarely shared them after getting in touch with instructors about their upcoming classes.) I don’t actually think folks take a look at my plans, but, if they do, it shows evidence that I plan for checks for understanding and learning activities. Even if things change up in the classroom, it shows that I have been thinking about how to teach both concepts and procedures in a way that maximizes the tiny amount of time I have with students.

Making these changes with language and involving the instructor into my process (it’s not always as collaborative as one might like) has helped my confidence. I am more honest about what can and can’t be done in a single lesson, and I’m a bit more bold in offering suggestions. It’s as though I believe that I’m a real educator now!

I haven’t implemented this yet, but, in September, there was a post on JoVE’s librarian blog called “How Librarians Can Really Explain What Their Jobs Are Like” that advises that when you are asked what you do for a living, resist the urge to use the word librarian at the beginning of your response. Brandy King writes:

These days, instead of starting with “I’m a librarian,” I first talk about the difference my work makes and then end by saying “I’m a librarian.”

How smart is this? This has forever changed how I will be addressing this question.