Friday, March 18, 2011

What Do Reference Librarians Do? Meetings

The popular comic strip Dilbert has given the work meeting a bad rap. I have had corporate friends tell me that Dilbert depicts the spirit of their meetings very well, but I have never felt librarians' meetings to be absurd and pointless contests between the power hungry and the drones. I have been to a few unproductive meetings, but even then librarians are usually well behaved. Most meetings that I attend are informative and help us organize our work and support our causes. That is good, for in some seasons, I attend many meetings. It seems to happen every fall and spring.

On Wednesday, March 9, I attended three meetings and was invited to a fourth. Two of these were within my library and one was outside.

My morning began early with a meeting that I had myself called. The librarians of the Adult Services Department at Thomas Ford gathered an hour before opening to discuss the qualities that we would like in the next reference librarian that we hire and plan for the adult summer reading program. It was a practical meeting at which we also reassigned some duties for the period during which we are short a librarian and compared our experiences helping clients learn the new downloadable ebooks and audiobooks service that we joined in late February. For the afternoon meeting of department heads, I gathered thoughts about our website privacy policy and the proposal that we shift book and magazine collections.

The second meeting I attended was the Metropolitan Library System Zones 1-4 Reference Librarians meeting at the North Riverside Public Library. I was a bit late because of my first meeting and arrived to find a room filled with librarians discussing the Harper Collins ebook limitation issue. A report on census data workshops had just ended, so heard most of the discussion on how libraries can adjust to the new reality and serve the public in developing digital materials service. In the room were 24 professionals representing libraries in two Overdrive contracting consortia as well as from libraries still grappling with how to offer downloadable books. Of course, we were unable to chart a clear course at this meeting, but many of us left better understanding the challenges and more resolved to proceed. We also discussed the use and management of volunteers in our libraries and the services that we provide to job seekers.

The topic that I missed at the beginning of the meeting was the latest news about our library system. The library systems in Illinois are merging in an effort to keep them alive. They have already cut most of their services and laid off most of their employees. Our group may soon be librarians from zones that have lost their definition. We need to discover new ways to network in support of each other, which will be a topic for future meetings.

Back at the library in the afternoon, I attended a productive department heads meeting. As alluded to in the paragraph above about the first meeting, we discussed website privacy policy and the proposal that we shift book and magazine collections. I took comments from the group and revised the wording, which the director will now consider. Several of us are counting shelves and planning how the future shifting of materials will proceed. We also discussed the latest news from the Illinois systems merger, our policies about library user behavior, our closing procedures, services to the homebound, and Illinois Snapshot Day. Brainstorming for Snapshot Day was the most lively of our discussion, as we are going to set new world records as part of the fun. We will firm up the plans at next month's meeting.

Now I must get ready to attend the next meeting of the library's board of trustees to demonstrate the new downloadable books service.


Citizen Reader said...

Wow, I'm so glad you've had good experiences with meetings. When I was a public librarian 90% of all meetings were useless and pointlessly long, and when I was an academic librarian they ALL were. I still remember the debate over what color our bib instruction handouts should be taking half an hour--or should I say I still have anxiety nightmares over it.

ricklibrarian said...

Perhaps, CR, I am your worst nightmare - a librarian who would call a meeting.

Citizen Reader said...

Not at all, Rick--I have no problem with meetings that need to be called and/or are run efficiently. Ironically, we always wanted more meetings at our branch library to actually learn some ref stuff or get on the same page with circ procedures--but mgmt. never called or let us have those kinds of useful meetings.

ricklibrarian said...

Learning and getting on the same page are the best reasons for meetings. Most of us want to do our jobs well. I remember working at a branch in Austin, Texas years ago. We were somewhat adrift. A meeting or two might have given us common purpose with the main library. Away from the center, it is easy to be forgotten.