Our friend Steph Klein is guest-curating the Squeezebox KC Instagram this week, featuring women in the workplace. (Yay!) Squeezebox is a rad organization that tells the stories of people and places in our fair city. As part of Steph’s project she asked us to tell her what’s important to us about librarianship. We think and talk about that all the time but nothing had ever forced us to define our philosophy. Now we have, and thought you might like to read it.
The Jess and Dani Brand of Librarianship
- Making connections
I recently stole a colleague’s customer service philosophy: be a good listener. In four words it encompasses so much about what’s important to being a good customer service provider, a good teacher, and a good librarian. We have to listen to what students are saying they need or we can’t help them, and we also have to listen to what they’re not saying or don’t know how to say. That’s the sneaky-detective part of being a librarian. Figuring out a person’s unconscious, unknown, or unarticulated needs. Some librarians just give a student exactly what they ask for without “going the extra mile” to figure out what could really help the student that they don’t know to ask for.
A lot of librarians are really good at imparting knowledge…even when it’s unsolicited. It can be much harder to listen well and then to follow the lead of the student so we don’t waste their time “librarian-ing” the heck out of them. Listen carefully and ask questions. The best way a librarian can answer a question is to help the student make a connection. We connect students to information resources, to experts, to organizations, to other students, to tools they can use to make their lives easier and their work more productive. It’s easy to dispense advice; it’s harder to teach a student how to define their own information needs, devise ways to meet those needs, and then to step back and watch it happen. Provide expertise, but let students make their own decisions.
We know about so. much. stuff. That’s the result of the curiosity thing. I mean, what other motivation could there be for the sheer amount of reading we do? But satisfying our curiosity is all in the service of being prepared to make those connections for students. We don’t have to tell every student everything we know, but we are ready with so many possible answers if we just stop to listen.
Jessica Williams @jesswill and Dani Wellemeyer @dwellemeyer are librarians at University of Missouri Kansas City's Miller Nichols Library. These #womenintheworkplace are not your stereotypical librarians. Outgoing, innovative and bubbly, they pride themselves in working as a team, using their complimentary strengths to accomplish the most they can on behalf of students. I asked them to share why they love working with students as much as they do. "We love that UMKC is in the middle of a city in the middle of the map! Students come from all over the world, and they have personal motivations for college and their careers that aren’t always present at other types of universities. Kansas City is central and connected and entrepreneurial, and we see so much of that in the students we work with. They have big dreams for making a difference with their future careers and they’re exploring those opportunities in the research projects we help them with. It’s exciting to work with students who are open to making connections and one of our favorite challenges is to put them in contact with experts and organizations and the people who are making things happen in our city." If you enjoyed reading this, you can read more on their blog, which–pssst–they write together! www.theroughlyrightway.com