On Relationships

Most libraries are under tremendous pressure to fulfill the expectations of a 21st-century audience. These pressures generally manifest themselves in the form of implementing new technologies. It’s all about digitization and automation these days.

These are exciting times to be a librarian, information professional, or whatever one wants to refer him/herself to. To take a special collections library like this one and find ways to make it available to anyone anywhere in the world is a fantastic dream.

However, getting there is a story we’ve all heard countless times. Most institutions don’t really have the resources to automate and digitize everything (or even some of the things) we’d like. I’m grateful for what this library has–a LOT of institutional support. Yet it is still difficult to drive even some basic projects to a point were they begin to make a difference for our audience. Thanks to my colleagues at the University of Denver, I found new hope.

I attended a community partners luncheon at DU on Friday. I met with Denise Anthony and Steve Fisher, two LIS faculty members whom I’ve known for a while. I outlined the challenges that have surfaced at the AAC Library in just the last year and a half: how to raise funds, research and complete an RFP for a new automation system, renovate part of the library, digitize photos, and manage our oral history program all while maintaining our regular services and daily operations.

In my experience, the main problem with traditional LIS practicums is that a student simply comes in, completes a project, and leaves without ever understanding the context in which that project took place. What’s worse is that the library staff and university professors rarely interact with one another except for one short meeting at the end of a student’s practicum.

Denise, Steve, and I agreed to make a change. We’re going to implement a program in which our own library staff and university faculty meet on a regular basis, whether we have a DU practicum student working on site or not. The point is to build a relationship between the two institutions so that we gain a deeper understanding of what our respective needs are. Most of our projects extend far beyond what a single student can do in a hundred contact hours. Ours would be a program in which new students would refine and build upon the work accomplished by their predecessors. It would keep long-term projects moving along.

What we want to work toward is giving the university faculty and students a more meaningful and holistic picture of what it’s like to run this kind of library. In return, they’ll help us get some stuff done.

-Gary Landeck

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