Sunday, February 14, 2010

Week Four - A Tower of Knowledge and Information

The photo of the Dean B. Ellis Library Tower is a good indicator of the size of the library and its collection and provides a visual explanation of why I was a bit overwhelmed at its largeness the first week of the practicum. Somewhere along the way, I have read that tall tower-like library structures are archectecturally designed as the epidomy and center of knowledge for higher education settings and campuses. This library tower is a perfect example of that theory. With eight floors, the 8th floor reserved for the Board of Regents, it is natural that the library is widely departmentalized.

The first three weeks of the practicum was spent in the cataloging department in what is referred to as the basement. It is actually the first floor, however, there is no public access on the first floor, but through the library's main lobby on the 2nd floor - ergo the basement reference. After becoming more acclamated to the towering surroundings, I felt the need to learn more about the entire library operations other than technology - a more overall view - well, seven floors' worth anyway. With the permission of my USM advisor and the library's management team, my practicum is extended to include time with reference, circulation, government documents, special collections, and periodicals. This is in addition to the scheduled time with Systems, Web Services, Acqusitions, and of course Cataloging & processing.

Week Four provided a variety of duties from the reference department. Located near the library entrance, the reference or information desk receives a bustle of questions and often requires two librarians to service the students. I am pleasantly amazed at the amount of traffic in the library with most heads directed to the computer terminals and most for research purposes. Campus-wide are several computer labs and hundreds of computers available, so the library is not necessarily targeted for personal Internet use. The campus is also WiFi connected so that eliminates many recreational computer users in the library. My point being - the twenty or more reference area computers are in constant use for research, card catalog, and/or databases.

One of the first things I noticed at the reference desk was tally sheet for types of references questions categorized by "directional," "information," and "research." I recognized this immediately from suggestions made in the textbook Introduction to Library Public Services by G. E. Evans and T. L. Carter . Another feature of the reference desk is its own email address for online questions, etc., generated from the library's homepage
. Reference duty librarians check this throughout their shift and respond. Another text related feature is that reference librarians work the desk in one to two hours shifts, of course with night and weekend shifts scheduled a bit longer.

I enjoyed sitting in on a B.I. (Bibliographic Instuction) that a psychology instructor had requested for her class. The students listened and made notes while the reference librarian overviewed Voyager (card catalog) and some pscychology-related databases.

ASU offers a one credit hour (half a semester) information literacy class. The classes are generally small, allowing for an open learning environment. References librarians conduct the courses, some using the library's LibGuides for the instruction sections and BlackBoard. The instructor asked her four students if they thought this class was beneficial. All readily agreed and suggested it be required of all incoming students......

The Reference Librarians are liaisons with faculty/departments for collection development. The Head Reference Librarian feels the liasonships could grow to the mutual benefit of all. Additionally, the Reference Librarians have access to the library website for the creation and maintenance of LibGuides for subject resources in and outside the library. The subject area responsibility for the LibGuides coincides with the department liaisons. The Government Documents LibGuide is extensive because the reference library is slowly being replaced with federal government online documents. This department, however, does house Arkansas Gov Docs as well as U.S. Gov Docs which are used mainly for statistics.

As I have mentioned in earlier posts, my past BRTC Library employment as one of two library staff, allowed me to experience to the full range of library services. I knew that I had missed working with students and faculty in reference service and that desire to be at the reference desk was confirmed, yet I love the technology department as well. Leading someone to needed information and helping them gain confidence in their own research skills, is rewarding indeed. The biggest difference in this library's reference department from that of my previous experience, is that the general collection is housed on floors 3, 4, and 5 of the tower. Many of the questions are answered with directions to the elevator. This library's truly contains a tower full of knowledge and information.