Private Academic Library: A Day in the Life

picture of CarrieHi! I’m Carrie Dunham-LaGree, the Librarian for Digital Literacy and General Education at Cowles Library at Drake University. The primary focus of my job is information literacy instruction. I teach one course a semester, and I love the opportunity to work closely with students for an entire semester. In the fall, I teach a First Year Seminar. In the spring I teach a two-credit Information Literacy course. I’m developing a new information literacy course on documentary films for Drake’s first J-term in January 2013. I also coordinate all of the library instruction for the First Year Seminar program and serve as the liaison to the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. How does that all fit into a typical day?

8:30-9:00 a.m. I usually arrive at 8:30, and I like to start my day reading email. Most days, I come in to quite a few emails from colleagues and students. I also subscribe to the digest versions of several American Library Association listservs. The digests arrive in my inbox overnight, and I put them into a folder to read later. I also check Twitter for any overnight tweets from students or faculty. Drake is very social media friendly, and I get reference questions on Twitter at least once a day.

9:00-11:00 a.m. Two days a week I work the reference desk. Our reference desk is typically pretty quiet, particularly in the morning. We offer numerous ways to contact a librarian, so in addition to helping patrons in person, I’m also answering the phone, checking the reference email account, chatting with patrons via text or instant message, and answering questions from our question dropbox. When I’m not helping patrons, I often use this time to catch up on reading professional journals. We use an intra-library circulation system for many library periodicals, and it’s important to keep them moving swiftly so everyone has a chance to read library news in a timely manor. Our library is also a hub on campus. We have one of two on-campus coffee shops and are a popular meeting location for students, faculty and administration. Consequently, our reference desk is very social and faculty and administrators stop by to say hi when they’re in the building.

11-12:00 p.m. No matter how well prepared I am in advance, I always spend time the day of instruction sessions running through any planned searches. This afternoon I’m doing instruction for a Magazine Writing course. I’ve adapted complex search questions inspired by this infographic on how to use Google more effectively. When I do instruction, I almost always make a course page in the Journalism Research Guide so students can refer to the resources covered after class. I double-checked my links in the Magazine Writing course page I created for last fall’s class.

12-1:00 p.m. It’s lunchtime! I usually bring my lunch. Many days during the semester, I eat at my desk while catching up on the listserv digest emails and my favorite library and higher education blogs.

1-2:15 p.m. As the liaison to the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, I do a lot of library one-time sessions for them. Because they’ve all selected different topics for their feature stories, I focus on search skills that can be used across a variety of databases as well as the web. I begin by polling the students about how strong they think their Google skills are. Next we worked through some advanced Google search tips. Because the students are also working on producing an infographic for their stories, I spent some time demonstrating how to use our Statistical Datasets database. I save thirty minutes at the end to work with all of the students individually on their topics. Their topics are so varied, I recommend a variety of databases and web resources to them.

2:15-3:00 p.m. Drake’s campus is pretty small, but I still think I spend too much time in the library itself. I try to get out on campus at least once a day and visit with professors. Because I was already at the journalism school, I stopped to chat with a few faculty members with offices in the building.

3-4:00 p.m. I hold both traditional drop-in office hours and virtual office hours. Students can stop in to see me or use the meebo chat widget I’ve installed in Moodle, our learning management system. Office hours get busier as the semester goes on, but I always set aside this time to grade papers or prep for class.

4-5:00 p.m. Email and loose ends. I check email periodically through the day, but I typically devote the last hour to getting as close as possible to inbox zero. Once I’ve finished all of my email, I’ll finish looking through listserv digests. I also use this time to check our popular fiction browsing books, which I oversee. I check for new or returned titles and pull them to display more prominently. Before I leave, I always double-check my calendar for the next day, make a to do list to start my day and leave.

5:00 p.m. It’s time to head home, but I’ll be back soon!


One thought on “Private Academic Library: A Day in the Life

  1. Pingback: Chasing Reference: One Year Later | Chasing Reference

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