Due to its proximity to the library, the laminating machine “belongs” to me. I have been forced to learn how to operate it. I am responsible for its care and maintenance. The same is true of the printer/photocopier and the microwave oven (both denizens of the library-adjacent workroom), and the two faculty restrooms in the library vestibule, although I have yet to plumb them. I have even been asked to refill coffee from the pot housed in the workroom. I don’t even drink coffee.
Faculty members seek me out when photocopy toner levels are low, or the machine is jammed. When the restroom is out of paper towel or soap I am alerted. When the microwave shorts out a plug, I am summoned. I think you get the picture. It can seem, at times, that my role as librarian has been expanded to include management of any object or area within a stone’s throw of the library.
If it sounds like I’m complaining, I’m not. I’m terribly flattered. Apparently, those at my school think I can do anything. I am Superwoman! Unfortunately, it is also an indicator that colleagues aren’t sure what it is I do all day. I’m too polite to tell them. What to do?
As counter-intuitive as it sounds, I have remedied this by taking on even more.
When I started my position four years ago, the job was somewhat undefined. My then title, Dean of Student Research and Library Resources, sounded oddly auspicious. I would teach research skills. I would manage my resources. Why the fancy title? Beyond the aforementioned tasks, my supervisors were vague about how my position should take shape. Guidance was in short supply. Not to worry. I’ve always been a firm believer that one should make the position they have, into the position they want to have.
If you find yourself in a similar position, here are a few ways I manipulated my circumstances to further define my role.
- Take opportunities to communicate on a grand scale.
When I started here I was shy. I assumed the faculty would not be interested in my collection development activities. Then I started sending out lists of recent acquisitions. The response was immediate. I now send a weekly email titled “Featured Book Review – Get it at the Upper School Library” school wide. The reviewed titles only last a few minutes before someone races in to nab them or emails a request to send them through campus mail to our other campus. Obviously, circulation has increased.
I do the same for the students, featuring a YA title or relevant reference work for a project I know is going on.
On Wednesdays I send an email to faculty called “Wednesday’s Interesting Article of Random Content”. I scour History Today, JSTOR Daily, Science News and other resources for interesting articles, alternating disciplines by the week. I often get emails in response indicating the article was perfect for the lesson of the day.
- I write blogs for our school web site.
Sometimes the blogs are about cross-curricular research projects. Sometimes they are about Summer Reading. Sometimes they are simply musing about books I’ve known and loved. All of them illustrate the integration of my role within that of the greater school community.
- I offer Professional Development Classes/Documents
The beginning of every school year means several days of professional development classes offered by fellow faculty. I have offered an Introduction to Library Resources from time to time as a way of making sure the faculty realizes the wealth of resources we have. Some come from public school settings where libraries have been phased out. Some simply haven’t had the time to figure out how to use the library gateway or don’t know they can access it remotely. It’s always a fun session with everyone learning at least one new thing (including me).
I also create documents to send to new folks that delineates the same information.
- I take on new duties that fit my wheelhouse and interests.
In the past two years I’ve added direction of our Upper School Interim Program and co-leadership of our Summer Internship Program to my duties. Why? Because I believe these programs further the concept of research through experiential learning. As a result, I asked for a change in my title. I am now the Dean of Student Research and Experiential Learning. This makes a whole lot more sense to me.
Which brings us back to the politics of laminating. Had it not been for those crazy requests to refill the restroom soap dispensers or replace colorful paper stock near the photocopier, I would never have spent so much time coming up with ways to integrate myself into everyone’s world (in more meaningful ways). I feel integral to my community and am much more satisfied with my lot. And yes, I still laminate.
So many librarians are true collaborators and team players, and I love how you play this to your strengths! I’m glad that you’ve been able to redefine your role in ways that are fulfilling to you and beneficial to your school. I have also noticed how much seemingly “serendipitous” communication has led to productive outcomes with students and faculty.