Today I began participating in a service program at my library – the Roaming Librarian program. [I want to make a joke about being by inclination more Byzantine than Roman (Roamin’) but can’t figure out quite where to shove it in. I suppose here is as good a place as any.] The idea of this project is to get the librarians out away from the service points, and mingling with the students in the study areas where they are actually working. Like most libraries, we have a number of ways for the students to get in touch with us, to ask for assistance. This is a new project here, but it has been talked about for some time and as I understand it, many public libraries, as well as academic libraries are doing this.
Here's a picture someone snapped of me today, as I was walking around.
(No, I'm kidding. This is Thomas James, the first Librarian of the Bodlian Library in England, 1602.)
Twice a week, I will pick up a mobile phone and a tablet computer, and casually stroll through the building, looking for student in need of help with their research. This is a new thing for me, both in the moving around, and in the use of the tablet. I’ve used keyboards & mice since the late 1980’s, but this I admit, is a new beast. It is too early to say whether I like interacting with a computer this way or not. It wants to switch on the video/camera function, which I neither need nor want.
I volunteered to do this mostly as a way to get in some exercise during my day. Too much sitting is not doing me any good, as I am not as young as I once was. With the Roaming program, I’ll cover all of the floors of the library at least once in an hour, even at a pace slower than I typically walk.
I’m not only interested in my health; I do expect and look forward to stopping and helping students. I feel the discomfort of some of my colleagues about approaching students ‘cold’ and interjecting ourselves into their conversations and projects. It will feel awkward; especially the first few times I do so. My intention is to look around as I walk and see who makes eye contact. It might help if I had something bigger than my little name tag to identify me as a librarian and not some nosy weirdo. Over time, I expect that I will become a familiar face, but with the thousands of students on our campus, that may take a long time. So, this will be a ground (or if you prefer, ice-) breaking endeavor for me and for the librarians.
From time to time, I will check in here at the blog with stories of what went right, what went wrong and what went weird as I amble about Deep in the Stacks and out into the study areas. The first tricky part will be getting anyone in the “We Mean QUIET!” areas to even look up and indicate that they would like some help. We’ll probably have to step out into the hallway to have a conversation about what they need. Ah well, all that will be ironed out in time.