Hello! I’m Robin Camille Davis, your guest blogger for September and the Emerging Technologies & Distance Services Librarian at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY), a position I’ve been in for just over a year.
I really love my job. It can be difficult sometimes to describe what an Emerging Technologies Librarian (ETL) does, partly because the vague job title can cover myriad duties. A recent study presented at IFLA breaks down ETLs by the numbers and is worth a read. I’ve written a bit recently about my thoughts on my job title, but it’s also useful to glimpse what one ETL actually does in her day-to-day. So I present my Tuesday.
Morning: Planning Projects
After scurrying through the library trying to hide my coffee cup from students (No food or drinks in the Library!), I met with our Information Systems Librarian and Systems Manager to plan out our projects this year. Here’s a selection:
- Launch digital collections site (built on Collective Access)
- Train web-devvy librarians/staff to use newly-migrated Github repository
- Build online instructional library for online-only students
- Research and implement reference chat web app
- Design and moderate usability study for new Ebsco Discovery Service
Later in the morning, I got a phone call from another faculty member who attended a Personal Information Management workshop I led last semester. He’d followed up on my recommendation to use Evernote and asked me for some advice on how to use it as an instructor. I’m a huge Evernote evangelist, so I was happy to chat.
I also met quickly with our Freshman & Instructional Services Librarian to plan our Murder Mystery Challenge (above), a new event we’re about to try this fall. In it, students will use basic library skills to track down an escaped murderer. Grisly, perhaps, but topical for a criminal justice college—and based on a real 1922 trial transcript held in our Special Collections!
Afternoon: Reference Service
I staffed the Reference Desk for an hour. It’s the second week of school, so we’ve seen a pretty incredible uptick in reference service. Over the summer, I designed and tested a simple web-based logger to track every reference interaction. When I had a moment to breathe, I compiled the stats from last month into a PDF to send around. (Tip: when asking your colleagues to contribute to a data log like this, make sure they get to see the output!) Here’s a snapshot of summer and start of school:
Confession: though I went to library school and earned a library science degree, I was actually surprised that I became a librarian. I studied data curation and digital preservation at UIUC, never registering for traditional librarianship courses like reference or instruction. (I did sit through a few sessions of cataloging class in an effort to better understand metadata, but the handouts were uniformly in Comic Sans and Jokerman, so I knew it was not the place for me.)
I was nervous at first to sit at the Reference Desk. But in fact, I really value these few hours a week. I design systems and interfaces for our students—it’s just good ethnographic practice to get as much facetime with them as possible! For example, I was stunned at how many students (and, okay, faculty) approach the ref desk with an Amazon page on their smartphone screen. That’s an information behavior I wouldn’t otherwise know about, but which informs how I design students’ user experience.
When I’ve got a spare second, I upload a photo to the library’s Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram feed. I’ve been trying to figure out how best to use Instagram for outreach, balancing Special Collections content with shots of happy students in the Library. (It’s not very popular yet. I’m clearly our library’s biggest fan. I like everything we post.)
One great example of fantastic and clever web outreach comes from the Special Collections at U. Iowa, whose photos & .gifs of foreedge paintings went viral earlier this week. Awesome and inspiring!
Evening: Taking Classes, Planning Workshops
I headed downtown to 34th St-Herald Sq. I’ve just started a Computational Linguistics MA at the CUNY Graduate Center, so I’ll be a part-time student for a couple of years. My interest in CL stems from a text mining course I took while working toward my MLIS. Though the CL cohort is small, there’s actually another trained librarian starting his MA too. What better place to mine text and explore language than in the library?
After class, I shot a handful of quick emails to the other co-chairs of the Emerging Technologies Committee at LACUNY (the Library Association of CUNY). We’re planning an Intro to Python workshop for our fellow librarians. Other workshops I hope we put on this year include:
- CMS Tours: Behind the Scenes of Drupal, Omeka, & Collective Access
- SEO beyond <meta/> tags
- Makerspace Tours
- LaTeX Introduction
- Version Control Workflows (Git, Subversion)
- Tacit Knowledge: Keyboard Shortcuts, Efficient Workarounds, and More
- WorldCat API
Overall, that’s a pretty representative day for this Em Tech Librarian—though you didn’t get a good description of me banging my head against my desk when a piece of code I’m writing doesn’t work.
In next week’s guest blog post, I’ll be looking at teaching digital literacy in the library.