In the beginning of August I took a week long module called “Oklahoma Information Environment.” It was absolutely phenomenal. For 12 hours a day for 4 days I got to do nothing but explore the amazing libraries in Oklahoma and talk to even more amazing people. We went to the expected: OU and OSU including their branch libraries, the downtown OKC library, and the Oklahoma Department of Libraries. But where I learned the most was at the not so expected locations: the Chickasaw Cultural Center, Chickasaw Regional (Public) Library, Stillwater Public Library, and the Oklahoma Library for the blind. As I spoke with people at each of these places, what seemed to be true for so many of them is that they had never imagined themselves holding the position they currently do. Many of them had switched from public to Academic, and back again. No matter where their journey had taken them however they always recognized the educational value of their past experiences. We often spend so much time dealing with our exact niche group of practitioners (You know only those who belong to “HFUS KIO committee for the promotion of inter-library loaning of material for schools with an FTE between 3000-3050.”) There are amazing people out there doing fantastic things. Get out of you building and look around. Work out of you public library for the day. Put your claim on a study room at the college down the road and allow the magic of collaboration to begin.
A few thoughts from my adventure into the wild world of Oklahoma libraries:
1. A public librarian talked about helping a student at the local college who told her they prefer to study at the public library because it offers them a place for their children. We have a huge Children’s curriculum section to resource our education majors, but if it was designed to include comfortable seating for children as well then parents could study close by while their kids entertained themselves. Over half of our students are non-traditional and many of them are parents.
2. The Tulsa County public library no longer assigns books specific branch locations. The book is shelved wherever it is returned. We have been really trying to figure out how we can better serve our students who meet at alternate campuses. I would love to experiment with the idea of starting mini collections at those campuses where students could pick up and drop off books. Material would be dropped off and collected from the campuses once a week.
3. “You don’t need a field background, just a willingness to learn” That quote came from a librarian who worked reference at a health science library. It really encouraged me because as I have been thinking about our own library’s need for departmental liaisons I have been worried about serving those departments that none of our staff have subject specialties in. Hearing her say that just made me feel relief, and encouraged me that through hard work and a bit of curiosity I will be able to provide great service to even those departments way beyond my comfort zone.