Erin Dorney

Blogging life & librarianship

Posts Tagged ‘academic libraries

Student Panel at PaLA Lehigh Valley Chapter

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lvpala

Last week I got to facilitate a really fun session for the Lehigh Valley Chapter of the Pennsylvania Library Association. For my breakout session I decided to copy a format I had seen Aaron Schmidt and Amanda Etches use back in November 2011 at the Library Journal Summit in Philadelphia.

We recruited students from four local colleges/universities and basically ran a live focus group, talking openly with them about why they use the library, how they do research, and how they use technology. I’m not going to name names to protect these innocent students who so kindly shared their honest opinions about libraries, but we had representatives from Northampton Community College, Widener University, Penn State, and Muhlenberg University. And guys, they were amazing. Everyone was professional and had great, well-articulated thoughts to share. It was really inspiring to work with them (thank you!!!).

In my introduction I shared a little bit about why I wanted to do a session like this instead of just talking to attendees about academic libraries. We talk a lot about initiating change from within (or outside of) our institutions and change-resistors. “User experience” is also a phrase that has gained traction in recent years. In my position, I’ve found that talking directly with users has provided me with the tools I need to initiate change in my library. I realized when we started our Library Student Advisory Board that when I talked with students about different projects or initiatives, they gave me actual evidence as in “yes this is a good idea” or “no, no one would use it like that” that I was able to leverage to bring about changes in the way things were done and the projects I pursued. I think it’s really important for us to talk to our users, to be open to what they have to say, and most importantly, to make changes accordingly. Sometimes it’s difficult to do this because there are so many things vying for our time but I think it’s critical in terms of designing the future for academic libraries.

I remember walking away inspired and excited from Aaron and Amanda’s session in 2011 and I hope attendees had a similar experience after participating last week. If nothing else, perhaps they learned one new thing about the life of a college student, or left feeling empowered to talk to the users at their own institution. Personally, this was one of the most fun presentations I’ve ever done.

A couple of people wanted to see my list of questions, so you can steal those here (no worries, I borrowed most of them from Aaron and Amanda and added some of my own—you have permission to steal this entire idea!). Mine are at the top—the numbers are the initial questions I started with and the indented letters are follow up questions that I asked on the spot based on student responses. If anyone has questions about how this worked, just leave a comment and I can share more details.

Sending huge thanks out to Aaron and Amanda for sharing their questions and advice for the student panel, to LVPALA for inviting me to present at the workshop, to Courtney Eger for being an excellent speaker contact and helping recruit students, to Tina Hertel and Muhlenberg College for helping recruit students, and of course to the students who volunteered their summer time to participate in what could have been a very uncomfortable experience (I hope it wasn’t too bad!). This was truly a session that couldn’t have happened with just me alone. Collaboration for the win!

I’m planning to do another post about things I thought were intriguing about the student responses but I have to transcribe the audio from the session first… stay tuned!

Written by Erin Dorney

May 28, 2013 at 10:53 AM

Future of the Academic Library Symposium

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I am super jazzed to be a part of Library Journal’s second Future of the Academic Library Symposium, coming up on November 11th at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. Co-sponsored by Temple University Libraries, this event is FREE & open to librarians and library staff from academic institutions. At this point I haven’t heard anything about the event being recorded or streamed, but I will try to find out. It would be nice if this could be shared with academic librarians who can’t be in Philly in November.

Anywho, the morning program will be focused on “Bridging the Culture Gap” with two segments – Innovation: Freedom vs Control and People: Strengthening the Culture (I’m a panelist!). Then there will be a midday panel about Discovery Services (the symposium is partially sponsored by EBSCO, after all) and the afternoon program will focus on “Bridging the User Gap” with panels of non-librarians (faculty & students) speaking about their experiences. I am pretty blown away to be sharing this event with some of my library land blogging idols, including Jenica Rogers, Courtney Young, Andy Burkhardt, Aaron Schmidt and Amanda Etches-Johnson. Fangirl much?!

Here’s the blurb from the segment I am speaking on:

“Why can’t my colleagues tolerate change?” Don’t these new librarians realize how we do things here?” “How come the deadwood always rejects my great ideas?” “Technology? That’s the new librarian’s job.” Our academic libraries can become fraught with misunderstanding and stereotypes about our colleagues, and when the gaps grow wide they lead to organizational dysfunction. To build better libraries we must confront these gaps. Doing so requires that we engage in authentic conversation focused on creating a better understanding of each other. Once we learn to appreciate our differences, and how our organizations thrive from the mix of skills we bring to it, we can begin to bridge the culture gap.”

Any readers out there who have thoughts on bridging the culture gap? Certain questions you’d like to see addressed or great answers to the ones posed above? If so, please leave a comment.

You can register and learn more about the event on the Library Journal website. Hope to see you there!

Written by Erin Dorney

October 9, 2011 at 12:56 PM

Library internships for undergrads?

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CC image courtesy of Leeni! on Flickr


By my junior year of college, I knew that I wanted to continue on to graduate school to earn my MS in Library and Information Science. Because I was pretty set with my degree requirements, I completed two library internships during my senior year (at this time I was also working part time at my undergraduate library). I knew that having experience in multiple libraries would give me a solid background to inform my graduate studies. I was also interested to see if the organizational phenomena I observed within one library was typical of all/other libraries (I have found the answer to be yes, more on that later, perhaps).

I was incredibly lucky to find a mentor* at RIT Libraries who has truly been one of the most influential in my life. I spent my time learning about the importance of marketing in libraries, honing my design skills, learning about the inner workings of an academic library (my work space was within the Director’s Suite), working collaboratively and more. That internship helped me make connections with professional librarians, many of whom I am still in touch with through personal friendships and professional endeavors. My internship at RIT helped me to land a part-time staff position there following my undergraduate graduation, a position I held throughout the two years it took me to earn my MLIS online from Syracuse University. My staff position led to a whole new level of learning, and I was able to participate on faculty/staff committees, take the lead on some projects, complete a graduate-level internship working on a digital collection, and offer my opinions as a student and soon-to-be-librarian. Most importantly, my experiences at RIT continued to motivate me to become a librarian. I wanted to be able to contribute and improve on an institution which had offered me (and so many others) opportunities to live a more creative, fun, and intellectually stimulating life.

If I had not sought out this internship opportunity as an undergrad (which was not a requirement, by the way), I highly doubt that I would have achieved the same level of professional success as I have today. So you can probably imagine my excitement when I was approached by a Millersville University student who was interested in doing the same. During the spring of 2008 (only about six months into my tenure-track position here) I supervised my first Outreach Support Library Intern. Amy was in her senior year and planned to apply to library school right after graduating with her BA in English. She stuck to that plan and will graduate this December from Clarion University. I have tried my hardest to remain a mentor to this new librarian and help her along the way just as my mentors have helped me. We’ll be presenting together at the 2010 PaLA Annual Conference this fall, talk weekly about library-related topics, and share professional development opportunities with each other when we find them.

This fall, I am excited to have another intern. Also in his senior year, Mike is considering graduate school as a post-graduation option. One of the things I’m working on with him is a collaborative research project which we hope to have published in a peer-reviewed journal. I think that having such a publication on his resume will benefit him regardless of what graduate program he might end up pursuing. I also just talked to another student who is interested in doing an internship with me in the spring of 2011 and who says he has been planning to go to library school for a few years now.

All of my interns have been student workers in the library, so they have some extra institutional-history. I have created an internship plan of work for each of them, based on the same ideas. I go over the document with the intern and then we both sign and get a copy. I am really making this up as I go, folks… no one ever taught me how to run an internship. One thing that I think is important is that they shadow me both in instruction sessions and during research consultations at the reference desk. I hope that with enough experience, my interns will eventually be able to step in and teach a portion of the session (run a group activity or something) or answer a question at the desk. Having a little bit of experience in those two areas will a) give them something to base their graduate-level discussions on and b) might be the deciding factor for a job (student, GA, staff, etc) where the other candidate has never worked in a library. I also have them do some informational interviews in order to learn about other librarian positions and start recognizing the importance of networking.

But like I said… I am really making this up as I go, trying to remember what was helpful to me and what knowledge I should give them before they go to graduate school. A few questions for the blogosphere:

  1. There has been a lot of discussion lately on making potential/new LIS graduate students aware of the difficulties of job searching & myths about the graying of the profession. Is this our responsibility? My responsibility as an intern supervisor? The schools’ responsibility (although that seems highly unlikely)? I have tried to be candid with my interns about the job market and outlook… at the same time they’re getting rhetoric from the graduate programs. I am always honest about library-related issues with them, but do I need to actually warn them or attempt to steer them away from the field? It would just be heartbreaking to have to do that to a student who is excited and passionate about getting into librarianship… at the same time, I don’t want them to end up unemployed. What do you think?
  2. Do you have any feedback on my internship plan of work? I am interested in improving it – for my first intern, I just kind of threw it together, because time was an issue. Now that it looks like this might be a more regular occurrence, I want to make this experience as rewarding for the student as possible. Are there things I’m forgetting or things that have worked for you (as either an intern yourself or an internship supervisor)?

What do we think about undergraduate library internships in general? Are other people doing this at their institutions, either systematically or ad-hoc? Are there resources out there that I should be looking at? Please feel free to share!

* This post is dedicated to Bob Chandler, my first (& favorite) library mentor.

Written by Erin Dorney

September 13, 2010 at 9:00 AM

2010 PaLA Academy of Leadership Studies: Apply today!

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2009 PALS Attendees

I’m currently the Treasurer of the College & Research Division of the Pennsylvania Library Association. Being involved with the group last year as a member-at-large really helped me learn more about Pennsylvania, meet other academic librarians, and get involved with PaLA in a number of ways. One new initiative from our state association is the PaLA Academy of Leadership Studies (PALS). After a blog post last May regarding surprises from my first year as a librarian, I was honored to be invited to speak to the inaugural PALS class of 2009 about “Achieving your Potential” where I discussed my freshman year on the job. I have become good friends with many of the librarians who attended PALS and consider them among my most valuable colleagues. It was probably one of the best professional development opportunities I have seen geared towards supporting leadership of new librarians.

This year, the CRD is again sponsoring two attendees to PALS. The workshop will be held June 6-9, 2010 at the Radisson Penn Harris, Camp Hill, PA. We invite nominations and applications from academic librarians who have less than six years of experience and who have the potential to become the next generation of library leaders in the state of Pennsylvania. The CRD will pay for Academy registration for the two librarians chosen (alert – free! free! free!) and will work closely with them as they continue to enhance their careers. Further information about the Leadership Academy can be found at: http://www.palibraries.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=102

If you are interested in applying or in nominating someone to be sponsored by the CRD, please send the following by April 1, 2010 to Tina Hertel at tina.hertel(at)lehigh.edu:

• A letter of interest
• A letter of nomination from your supervisor
• Current resume of the nominee
• Statement indicating PaLA membership or intention to join at the end of the program

Nominees will be informed of the CRD’s decision by April 16, 2010. Any questions or concerns about the process can be directed to me or to Tina. I can’t stress enough how important and valuable this opportunity is for potential library leaders. Please consider sending in a nomination and don’t forget, you can nominate yourself!

Written by Erin Dorney

March 16, 2010 at 11:53 AM

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