Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Say Farewell to the Roaming Librarian

 This will be the last entry in my series on the Roaming Librarian. The project will be closed out at the end of this semester. My feelings about this are mixed. 

First, the reasons for the change.  There have been just a few meetings of the librarians who participated in the Roaming project, and the feedback we've given each other is for the most part negative. I've mentioned the drawbacks already, such as librarians being by temperament more inclined to introversion. This means it takes a lot more social energy for us to initiate a reference interview with a patron, than having them come to us. 

There was an even more significant negative. We have comment cards, like most libraries, where patrons can tell us what they think. From the comment cards, we got the understanding that students felt that the librarians were monitoring students' behavior; a few commenters even used the word 'spying'. Obviously this is not the impression we were hoping to make. 

Advertising for this project was all but non-existent, so the students did not know ahead of time why we were walking around and looking at what we were doing. I had a sign that I hung on the tablet computer that gave an invitation to ask me questions, but in retrospect, I could have worded it more clearly; something like "Roaming Librarians - on the spot assistance. We'll come to you."  Anyway, the sign was fun but it could have been better. 

Our student workers were asked to get student feedback in a survey, and to do so were walking through the library with a clipboard and randomly asking students questions. All of the workers that I spoke to expressed great distress with having to take this approach. They felt as though they were intruding upon the patrons, and many said the patrons let them know they didn't like the intrusion. 

Many days while I was Roaming around, I found it uncommon for students who were seated and going about their work to even make eye contact with me. If they're not looking up or looking around, they are probably intent enough on their work that I would be an unpleasant intrusion. I chat with student workers at our service points, which is all good. This has had an unexpected side effect - I have become the librarian of choice when the student workers have to transfer a phone question. Because I've taken just a few minutes twice a week to stop and chat with them, we've developed a relationship, and so they think of me as someone who, as advertised, "knows stuff". 

While the Roaming Librarian is coming to an end, I'll still be here, taking phone calls, emails, chats and even questions in person. It is sometimes difficult to accept the essentially passive nature of our profession. Maybe there are ways to be more active, but it seems that Roaming wasn't it. Well, librarians are an adaptable lot; if this didn't work out, we'll surely find something else that will.
I'll be back, folks.

photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/peterharding/410096070/">peterharding</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

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