A Shadowing Post: School Librarian Walks Alongside Academic Librarian!

As an organization CMLE has a unique voice! Comprised of more than 300 members, resonating over 12 counties, as individuals and as a unified collective our members benefit! As a catalyst for library personnel, CMLE strives to encourage career development opportunities that actively engage our members.  A few months ago, CMLE launched a pilot program in which our member(s) could elect to spend a day “shadowing”  another librarian/media specialist working in a different library type. The goal of the “Shadowing Program” is to provide a platform to support continued professional growth and build awareness. Through this program, we hope participants will uncover commonalities, discover potential differences, and observe plausible approaches to current issues. 

Are you interested in a shadowing experience? Let me know at papost@stcloudstate.edu

Here is their story: School Librarian Walks Alongside Academic Librarian!
Narrative by Maria Burnham, K-12 School Media Representative at Sauk Rapids-Rice High School shadowing Amy Springer Academic Librarian, College of St. Benedict’s/St. Johns University.

Maria Burnham
Maria Burnham

Snow and Insight

Stepping onto the campus of St. John’s University was like coming home for me. And on a beautiful snowy March day, the scenery couldn’t have been any more surreal. Big, fluffy white flakes clung to the boughs of the pine trees, students bundled up in hats and scarves made their way from class to class, and the towering abby’s bell greeted me with it’s familiar ringing-the day was postcard perfect.

As a St. Ben’s grad, I was excited to spend the afternoon on campus, stepping back into a setting where my days were full of reading, writing, analyzing and debating. Walking into the Alcuin library, I was unsure of what to expect from this shadowing experience I verbally agreed to with CMLE. All I knew was that Amy Springer from CSB/SJU was expecting me at noon and I carried with me a hundred questions in my mind (only about 10 of which were written down on paper).

It turns out that my experience with academic librarians in my lifetime has been pretty limited-a quick trip to the reference desk or a book checkout at the circulation desk is about all anything every amounted to in my time at St. Ben’s. Not to brag, but I guess I’ve always been a pretty library-savvy student, even in my college days when my research needs were more than a Google search away. So when preparing for my shadowing day, I wanted to learn more about the post-secondary world and whether or not I was sending my high school students fully prepared for college in the 11 years I’ve been a high school educator both in the classroom and in the library.

From the moment I stepped in to Amy’s office, it was clear that I was in good hands. Her office, although small and practically windowless, is welcoming and friendly thanks to the fun framed pictures of famous hanging around the room. With a warm smile and a handshake, Amy began to introduce me to her world.

Our first hour together was spent at the reference desk. Amy showed me the format and options that students have in communicating with librarians. Email or chat, CSB/SJU students have options in finding research answers without even physically setting foot in the library. These remote contact options got me thinking, “When my students are stuck in their research from home, what are their options in finding answers to their questions?” At CSB/SJU, students can also utilize the librarian who is sitting at the actual reference desk, but most students access library help electronically. I watched the process of Amy responding to a few emails, and as she finished answering the students, we spent time talking about the specialty areas of the librarians on campus and how they each log any reference questions they receive in order to track frequency and types of questions that are coming in from students. Overall, I found the reference routine to be efficient and thorough, and I love the idea of tracking student questions and library responses.

Amy Springer
Amy Springer

After our time at the reference desk, Amy treated me to lunch. Over lunch, along with two of Amy’s colleagues, we discussed eBooks and their place in libraries. Considering I have yet to dabble in the eBook world, I had many questions for this group as I see this part of the library world changing every day. From what I gathered from our discussions, the eBook world continues to evolve and there is no prescribed formula for eBook success. And maybe there never will be, but it sure makes for an interesting discussion considering the varying formats and quirks in working with the publishing world.

Back at the library after lunch, Amy gave me a tour of the library where I saw some of the unique parts of the facility. I also met many of the other librarian staff in the Alcuin library including the archivist and the interlibrary loan associate. It’s clear that departmentally the library staff work together along with their student workers to meet the needs of their patrons.

Perhaps one of my favorite parts of the day was talking about Facebook and Twitter. Amy is in charge of social media marketing for the college libraries we discussed the power of Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. She uses Hoot Suite to manage her posts and to track the traffic of her clientele. Each day, she posts about a variety of topics including recent acquisitions of the collection.

At the end of my visit, I felt invigorated from the information I received and from the potential collaboration I see between high schools and post-secondary institutions. For example, St. Ben’s and St. John’s hosts a “Digital Commons” on their library site, a place where faculty and student writing and projects can be published for all to see. How powerful to be able to see the work of professors and students! As I’m talking to my senior high school students preparing to leave the cozy nest of high school this spring, I will be showing them the expectations and standards of projects at a post-secondary institution. Even Amy Springer is published in the Digital Commons with an article about using pop culture in research lessons to maintain student engagement. After all, who wouldn’t pay attention if the goal was to research the outlook of Snooki’s business dream?

At the end of my visit (which arrived in the blink of an eye, it seemed), Amy said that she learned just as much from me as I learned from her. That’s quite the compliment considering I walked away with my head spinning with information and ideas. Spending the day with another librarian-someone who understands the job, mainly its pitfalls and triumphs-was incredible. For a majority of the time, I spend my days and weeks as a department of one. But not on that snowy, March day. That day, I felt the power of collaboration.