Reuse, Recycle, Share

I usually just browse American Libraries magazine. A lot of what’s in there isn’t always relevant for me, but sometimes there are things of note. In the January/February issue, Meredith Farkas wrote a piece called “Reuse, Recycle, Share.” She writes, “We spend a lot of energy trying to create things from scratch when, frequently, another library may have already done something very similar.” As the only full-time faculty librarian on duty at my campus during the daytime, I definitely don’t have the time to come up with fantastic new ideas or create refined tools, so I am always looking for things like instructional videos or handouts college libraries have made and licensed through Creative Commons. (It took me a long time to realize that borrowing ideas didn’t mean I wasn’t creative; see Brain Pickings’ post, “Austin Kleon on 10 Things Every Creative Person Should Remember But We Often Forget.”) One of my favorite librarian groups that is generous with their ideas and templates is ACRL’s Library Marketing and Outreach interest group.

Earlier this summer, outreach librarian Stacy Taylor posted a great display she did with emojis. It is the perfect addition to my new display idea, Major Idea. Last semester, I weeded four shelves worth of reference items that were outdated, so it created a little, slightly awkward opening for display space. I needed it to more purposeful, so I came up with an idea that will highlight a topic/subject that relates to a major/degree the college offers (how about Renaissance art featuring this image, some books, print outs of some e-book covers, a database recommendation, and maybe some info on art history majors nearby…?) I will have to test it out, but I had planned to kick off with psychology, so how perfect would emoji books be as a fun addition? The old, naive me would have re-created this idea from scratch, but the starting-on-my-third year me asked if she had some kind of ready-made document, and Stacy kindly sent me her titles and emojis via Google Docs, and I downloaded that puppy. I am so grateful for the time Stacy’s document will be saving me!

My thought is that we will be switching out the Major Idea area every two weeks, but I will be asking for help from the student workers, staff, and the two part-time evening librarians to take a turn, so that we all get to be creative, contribute, and learn more about our resources while researching ideas, books, and databases. I also wrote some preliminary guidelines, which include promoting an e-book or two and subject databases, as well as an explanation about the purpose, and that asking for help is perfectly okay. I realize not everyone is as comfortable with displays as I am, but I definitely need more help to get things rolling now. I will be kicking off as an example, which is sort of not the best since I want people to feel free in their creativity, but I am the only one who will be around before school starts to get that part of the Library ready.

As I write, I’m looking at my monthly display calendar, and it’s a little overwhelming, but with help from fellow library staff and librarian friends sharing fantastic ideas, we can make it happen together.

Coloring Party and Other Ideas for Finals

During finals this year, I had coloring pages available. I only printed a few out the first day (some design I could download for free online), and the next day, one of the student assistants said I needed to print out way more because “people really like them.”

I have noticed an upswing in talk about the relaxing powers of coloring lately. Even NPR and Quartz have chimed in, and I think I remember seeing something on Huffington Post. It’s rare that I go to the local Barnes and Noble (I am a library user, after all), but I went a couple of days ago and was so surprised by all of the coloring books on display.

Long live coloring! I will still be offering coloring pages during finals, but I think in addition to my once a term game day/night, we need to have a craft and coloring party, too. I will definitely be talking to our student workers about it in August.

While I can’t remember where I downloaded the mandala image I used during this past academic year, there is a Facebook page, Coloring Pages for Adults, that offers free, downloadable pages to color. With back to school sales around the corner, now is also a good time to buy colored pencils and sharpeners. We have electric sharpeners in the library, but for a bigger event, we’d be in the Student Lounge, so we’d need little sharpeners. Right now, I can tell you for a fact that Target has a 12-pack of Crayola colored pencils for 97 cents.

I know there are some academic libraries with the big bucks and staff for massages, pet therapy, and coffee and cookies, etc., but even the smallest of libraries like mine can do something to help students de-stress during exam season. Puzzles and games are a great idea if you have the space. Our game night, for example, doesn’t happen in the Library because we are only two thousand square feet. Another option for small libraries might be to provide a crossword puzzle or word search. Origami supplies are not that expensive and don’t require a lot of room. We had Origami Yoda for Star Wars Day in May. I just put up paper and instructions by the checkout desk. I also do Starbursts “for a burst of energy” and mini Crunch Bars for “crunch time” near the doors. I do purchase those on my own because I only have a couple of hundred dollars I can use for the library from the college, and candy adds up so quickly.

Be creative, and, as I’ve learned, don’t get down because you can’t bring puppies or kitties to campus.

Creativity at Work

Everyone Was An Artist in Kindergarten” is a nice, short reminder that “[c]reativity is as much about the ability to come up with ideas as it is about the courage to act on those ideas.”

I kind of lied about not knowing what I enjoy in librarianship, but it’s kind of hard to explain because, honestly, it’s not specific to LIS. My sister, who is majoring in child development, said what I like is “creating environments,” which is early childhood educator speak for setting up learning spaces.

Last summer, I took a class on user experience, one that I didn’t get a chance to take in graduate school, after I completed half of the Hyperlinked Library MOOC in Fall 2013. I started a brand new job, and it was too hard to complete all the modules, but they left a deep impression on me.

I hands down really believe in “thinking like a startup.” I have tried a lot of different things in the library at my campus without concern for whether they actually will work (these things don’t cost money). And trust me, I have failed a lot, but it’s through failure that you realize what will or won’t work. You just have to try, work through your ideas with others who might not really get what you’re trying to do, and have the tenacity to keep trying.

I remember one of the student assistants asking me what the goal was when I started our first campus game night in Fall 2014. “We’re just going to hangout, and get to know people.” I didn’t think lots of people would come, but, hey, we have no campus life besides one student club. What have we got to lose? As it turns out, the students I approached to plan a game night were thrilled. The first time we put one on, we had faculty and the dean attend and play games! The dean played Cards Against Humanity with students, and she had fun. Although we didn’t get any faculty the second time, people asked how it went the next day. We only have about 15 students each time, but for a campus with no campus life and one that’s located off a highway, it’s great.

Another thing I started that I worried might not work were interactive posters outside the library doors across from the open computer lab. Every two weeks, I make a banner out of butcher paper, ask a question, and then I supply Post-It notes and washable markers for students to write responses. It’s so low-tech, but, much to my delight, students participate. I did learn that the plainer the Post-Its the better, though; cool colors get stolen. I did have some people who liked to report the inappropriate responses and gather them up with a note at my desk or have a word with me, but that’s the part where you just smile and say thank you. (Inside, you get a little crazy and imagine yourself ripping the pieces into teeny tiny little pieces and flinging them like confetti…)

I also got a little bit of backlash against providing Starbursts and Crunch Bars during finals week because there were a few candy wrappers on the ground, but it was one of those moments where I just had to say it was just for the week, and it was pretty easy to just throw them away. (I can only handle so much, guys.)

For me, being able to be creative in my work is really important. I didn’t really realize how important this was, but when I look back on school assignments and projects I liked the most, it involved making something, mostly visuals or something related to art (this was before STEM and STEaM times). I also realize that why I really loved one of my first library jobs as a bilingual story time teller was the thematic planning. During Halloween one year, I put together a black and white story time that included a shadow puppet show and a chalk and construction paper craft. I only worked 14 hours a week in that position, and I prepped my little heart out for that program.

Even though I sometimes wonder about the value of the extra details I place on interactivity and participation when things don’t go right, I have to remind myself that some people do notice. Needless to say, I was thrilled when the history/political science professor approached me about setting up a Constitution Day quiz in the Library. It’s a 15-question Scantron that students put into a large glass jar at the check-out desk; those who score the highest are placed into a drawing for a Starbucks gift card. You can also bet that I put together a Constitution Day book display.

As someone who was naturally good at the school thing and who is an academic librarian, I do get nervous that my dream doesn’t necessarily include publishing scholarly literature (part of it is that I don’t have a specific research area of interest). I just don’t really see myself doing that kind of scholarly life, and I think I have been struggling with how the reconcile that in the midst of all this great work former classmates are doing in their lives.

While my spring semester was a little rough, the highlight of my fall semester was the dean indicating that my greatest asset is creativity during my second-year review. I suppose I am doing something right.