An Evening with LIS Students

As the editor of a peer-reviewed scholarly journal, I interact with many people. I work closely with potential authors during the review and publication process, and often keep in touch with some of them after their papers have been published. This was the case with Dr. Keren Dali, whose paper I accepted for publication (see Keren Dali and Leah K. Brochu, “The Right to Listen: A Not So Simple Matter of Audiobooks,” Library Resources and Technical Services volume 64, no. 3 [2020]). Keren and I bonded over some mutual interests. She recently invited me to speak to the students in her Collection Management Course, which is offered by the Research Methods and Information Science Department of the Morgridge College of Education at the University of Denver. In her email invitation to me, Keren wrote, “This is a class on the selection and weeding of library materials, as well as related policies and HR procedures. It would be great if students could hear from a high-level manager in one of the top research academic libraries in the country.” Resource description and technical services work, particularly weeding and transfer projects, are important aspects of collection development and management and I was flattered to have been asked to discuss my work. When I was in graduate school, I found it beneficial to hear firsthand from practitioners about their work and experiences.

I’ve spoken to LIS classes before, and this was the first time I did it via Zoom. Pre-pandemic, I would’ve still needed to use videconferencing to speak to a class in Denver. The difference this time is that everyone participated via Zoom. I’ve become used to participating in meetings, conferences and webinars remotely. Keren’s class was small (14 students) and was a good size for discussion.

The evening was an informal, freely flowing discussion instead of a lecture. I was asked about my personal trajectory into librarianship, specifically academic librarianship. I discussed how I chose technical services librarianship (which actually wasn’t my first choice) and my experience managing a busy department in a large academic library. I truly enjoy the complexities of resource description and like that my work provides the infrastructure to enable my public services colleagues to successfully deliver reference service and to teach courses. It also gives our users the ability to find and select the resources they need.

Not surprisingly, the conversation touched on how our normal operations have changed due to COVID-19 and what implications it has had for collections and organizational processes. I described the challenges and successes of transitioning our cataloging operation to function remotely. That included making sure everyone had the equipment and access to the necessary technology to do their work. Fortunately, the cataloging resources we use (Classification Web, RDA Toolkit, Connexion) are all available remotely, and Alma is cloud based. Using WebEx for meetings was new for some of my staff, as was accessing files via Box. We developed a work plan before we began working remotely that specified who would do what work, which helped immensely with the transition to remote. Additionally, I noted that Rutgers, like many other research libraries, is using HathiTrust’s Emergency Temporary Access Services (ETAS), and also offering services like Click and Collect and home delivery to meet the needs of our users.

Questions that I was asked included how my work at Rutgers informs my work as the editor of Library Resources and Technical Services (great question!). The two are closely related, and my professional experience and knowledge come into play when I provide authors with feedback on their manuscripts. I’m aware of trends, past and present, that have a bearing on technical services work.

The importance of belonging to a professional organization (very important) was another question posed to me. I emphasized the benefits of sharing your expertise, as well as acquiring new expertise and gaining professional contacts. Although many conferences this year were virtual and a trend that may likely continue due to the benefits such as holding down costs and reducing time out of the office, I encouraged the students to attend them to find an organization that aligns with their interests and needs.

Librarianship has evolved so much since I was in graduate school. Remote classes weren’t even offered then. Technology is now such an important part of technical services work. Shared databases make it easier to obtain copy for the resources we catalog. Discussion lists and Facebook communities allow us to share information and resolve our problems. Speaking to a class of future library professionals was an uplifting experience. I was impressed by their enthusiasm and perceptive questions.

Mary Beth Weber