Last November I participated in the Great American Teach-In by visiting three kindergarten classrooms to talk about being a librarian. When I did this as a public librarian, especially when I was a children’s librarian, this was easy. I talked about a library that the children were likely familiar with, provided a story time, and passed out stickers and bookmarks. Now that I’m a community college librarian, I wanted to tell them about my current job and what I currently do. This really made me think about what it is that community college librarians do and how to demonstrate our value to our schools, administrators, and the community at large.
So what is it that we do? I’m not sure what all community college librarians do, but I can tell you a little about what I do. I am the solo full-time faculty librarian at a small campus of a very large community college. Officially I do reference, instruction, collection development, collection maintenance, and I am embedded in at least four courses each semester. I do workshops at many of our faculty in-services, new faculty orientations, and adjunct faculty trainings about the libraries. I serve on a variety of campus and college committees. Unofficially, you can find me helping students to use the computers, photocopiers, and scanner; assisting students with general college-related questions; serving as a club advisor; working at the circulation desk; serving as a sounding board for students; being a ‘friendly’ face on campus; and just about anything else that is needed to help students to succeed.
Students and other library patrons frequently tell me how much they appreciate my help – and I know that this is important. It’s important to be available, to show that you care, and to get up off your butt and actually help. While I know that is this valuable – how do we measure this? In the public library we could measure how many books were checked out, how many reference questions we answered, how many programs we had, etc. But here in the college setting – my students may never check out a book or may never ask a real “reference” question. Instead they found that the library was a welcome place on campus – where the librarian greeted them with a smile each time they walked in the door. Perhaps they participated in an online course with the embedded librarian, used the instructional materials in their course, but never interacted with the librarian – yet these materials enabled them to find the resources needed to write the essays in their course.
So what is it that I do? I help students to succeed in college. I may not help them in obvious ways – or in ways that they would be able to identify or quantify – but I know that their interactions with me help.