This blog post was written by Faith Weis, a second-year graduate student in the University of Michigan School of Information.
I work at the library both as a User Information Services Assistant, staffing the Ask a Librarian service, as well as the Shapiro Collections Intern in Shapiro Library Reference Services. These two roles allow me to put into practice much of what I learn in the classroom as a master’s student at the School of Information. I can happily say that working at U-M Libraries has been the best, most rewarding part of graduate school these past two years.
The top three reasons why I like working at the library:
- Interacting with students and participating in events like Party for Your Mind
- Working with experienced, thoughtful, and supportive colleagues
- Helping people and supporting the library’s mission in a variety of ways
(1) Interacting with students and participating in events like Party for Your Mind
I’m not the most extroverted person, but I love helping people one-on-one through the Ask a Librarian service - this includes both answering questions via our instant messaging service, and answering questions in person and over the phone while at the reference desks in Hatcher and Shapiro. It’s not unusual when working at one of the desks to have a couple people, or even a whole group who all have the same question!
I answer questions about everything from where a book is, to where to find a good study space and how to reserve it, to complex, in-depth research questions. Sometimes there are questions from students studying abroad through our instant messaging service, or sheepish undergraduates who tell me that this is the first time they’ve ventured into the library since coming to Michigan, or professors who’ve been at the university for years.
I enjoy helping all of these patrons and connecting them with the information they need. The variety of people I help and questions I tackle on a daily basis make every shift engaging and interesting.
I also like getting to be a part of larger activities the library organizes. At the beginning of September, I participated in the Party for Your Mind, a Welcome Week event in the Shapiro Library. I ran an activity with two colleagues where we asked students to write what they read this summer on a post it note, and put it up on a wall to share with other students. We encouraged them to write down not just books, but also magazines, comics, plays, poetry, and websites. I talked to students about the reading they had done over the summer, either to help them brainstorm or hear about their new favorite read.
I also appreciated seeing students excitedly talking to someone they’d never met before when they realized they’d read the same thing. Many students wrote down Spare Parts and $2.00 a Day, which were required books for the Engineering and the Honors Program, respectively. That was fun too, because it was an immediate commonality that the mostly first year students could use to connect with each other.
It was also fun to see the creativity in people’s answers as some told us they read the LSA Course Guide, a math textbook, or text messages. Later this month, I’ll be putting up a post on the Lost in the Stacks blog detailing the titles students shared so everyone in the community can see the wide range of summer reads and maybe get some ideas for their own reading.
(2) Working with experienced, thoughtful, and supportive colleagues
The second best part of working at the library is collaborating with my colleagues. My colleagues include other UMSI graduate students, full time librarians, students in other graduate programs, and other library employees. Everyone has a different perspective on the library, reference services, and the library profession. As a librarian-in-training, I benefit from being exposed to different styles of doing the same work. I also greatly benefit from the support of my supervisors in the Learning & Teaching division of the library. They work with me to make sure that I am learning as much as possible while also feeling prepared for the tasks and projects I participate in and lead.
(3) Helping people and supporting the library’s mission in a variety of ways
The third best part about working at the library is the variety of work I do. I get to help people in a variety of ways at the library. Not only do I directly help patrons through reference, but as the Shapiro Collections Intern, I help people by improving the library’s collections, including:
- I download circulation information, clean data, calculate circulation statistics, and explore usage trends.
- I research user suggestions of new materials.
- I coordinate a group of other student employees who review and test potential new online resources for the library, and review many sources myself.
- I weed materials in the Shapiro library, meaning I make sure that our texts are up-to-date and contain current information that undergraduate students need.
- I promote the library and its resources.
I find this work meaningful because I know that it all goes toward improving patron’s research experiences and their ability to find and use information. Even if only in a small way, this work comes together to make the library a better resource for its users.
Through my experience at the library, I've been able to make connections with colleagues and mentors who have been instrumental in my learning. My jobs at the library have provided me with the support and resources to apply the skills I'm learning at the School of Information. This has been essential to building confidence in my abilities to adapt theoretical knowledge for practical applications. I’m thrilled to be at the beginning of my second year at working at the libraries, and I look forward to continuing my professional development through my coursework, work in the libraries, and interaction with other librarians through conference participation.