Innovation in Librarianship Award
The role of librarians has evolved so much over the years. Maybe they used to just shelve and help student’s find books, but these days a librarian needs to be involved with everything that goes into, and out of a library.
Cambridge University Press has decided to reward that work with a new award on innovation by an early career librarian and Rose Reynolds, of Smith College is our first recipient.
Rose Reynolds received her MS in Library and Information Science from Simmons College in 2014. While still a Simmons student, Rose worked half-time as Electronic Resources Associate in the Smith College Libraries; her graduation from Simmons coincided with the retirement of the full-time paraprofessional heading Smith’s Serials & Electronic Resources unit. Given the complex nature of electronic resources work—and Rose’s capabilities—the paraprofessional position was upgraded to a new professional position, and Rose now serves as Electronic Resources Librarian for the Smith College Libraries.
In the short time Rose has worked as Electronic Resources Librarian, she has taken a leadership role across the Libraries. Among her many accomplishments, Rose:
- Took the lead on the creation of a totally new library orientation for first year students, using Twine to develop a fun, welcoming self-guided tour that received kudos from our students; Rose also presented the virtual tour at several conferences.
- Played a key role in the development of the bento box overlay for the Libraries’ discovery layer, helping shape the display and functionality: https://smith.edu/libraries/discover/
- Created a Google site for electronic resources that showed out-of-the box thinking and creativity, prior to the implementation of an Electronic Resources Management system (ERM).
- Worked with the Director of Discovery & Access on the 2014 implementation of the Libraries’ first ERM, CORAL; due to her efforts, Smith College was the first library in the Five Colleges Consortium to adopt CORAL, and Rose also serves as a resource for the other four campuses.
- Served as a team member on the redesign of the library website .
- Provided leadership on data migration, when the Smith College Libraries moved the institutional repository from dspace to bpress.
We asked Rose to answer a series of questions to help get to know her better…
Question: You’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to make sure first year students fully engage with the library system at Smith. Can you talk about your strategies for getting them to the library and keeping them there?
Rose: I think it is all about making sure that the library is a welcoming open environment. We try to get the word out that the library is here for the students, through orientation sessions, teaching library instruction and even tabling at the campus center during lunch. Our staff make an effort to engage with the whole student. So, when they come to us panicking to finish a paper that they left to the last minute, we are providing research help as well as calming reassurance that this is not the end of the world.
Question: Discovery and discovery systems are of vital importance to librarians. Can you detail some of the work you’ve done to make sure students can find all of the content you’ve acquired?
Rose: I’m not sure they can find all the content we’ve acquire yet, but that is definitely the goal. Smith has invested a lot of time in revamping the online experience for our students. We launched a new website last year, that involved a lot of user testing and input. Even now, a year after the launch, we continue to do user experience testing to make sure that people understand where they are on the site and how to get what they need. We’ve also created a new interface that overlays our discovery layer to break down search results into digestable chunks, which can be helpful when users are first exploring a topic. This also has involved a lot of user testing and tweaking along the way. We’ve also recently started doing some outreach work about the more leisure oriented resources that we make available to our campus. At the library open house we hosted a library database “petting zoo” that featured some of our streaming video and music services, along with language learning tools like Rosetta Stone and Mango. Student’s really enjoyed the hands-on opportunity to see some databases up close and explore them in a setting where they could ask questions, before using them on their own.
Question: How/why did you begin thinking about being a librarian?
Rose: I really love solving problems, even as a kid I always gravitated towards puzzle type games and mysteries. Librarianship is kind of like one big puzzle. As you may know serials and continuing resources are all unique and lead very tangled lives, title changes, platform changes, reconfigurations to name a few, which require some good detective skills. Even research questions that come in are like puzzles; so often I am not an expert in the patrons area of interest, but rather in the tools to find the information. It is fun to dip into someone else’s research, get really caught up in finding some good resources and then not having to write the corresponding paper.
Question: What continuing education are you currently participating in/taking?
Rose: I recently took a data science course here at Smith which has helped me really understand the sorts of data that we are gathering and how best to leverage them to convey the story of our collection. From usage statistics to determine what our more heavily used resources are to analysis of our print collections as we get ready to move back into the new building and data inventory and clean up as we migrate to FOLIO, understanding how data is structured and what I can do with it has been really helpful in my work. I’ve now got a bunch of colleagues interested and we are taking the ACRL Introduction to R for librarians webinar series as a group.
Question: What is the greatest reward of being a librarian?
Rose: The greatest reward?…I guess having an idea, bringing it to life and then seeing that it was something people wanted/needed. That it filled a gap in the infrastructure. I really enjoy working on user experiencing testing here at Smith. Interacting with the users in a proactive way to help them avoid the stumbling blocks of navigating such a wealth of knowledge and resources is great. I like putting on my student perspective cap, using the knowledge we’ve gained to look at our tools with fresh eyes. It is so satisfying when you’ve worked on something so long and intimately, to jump out of yourself and see it through a new users lens. I learn something new every time I interact with our patrons and store it away to see if that tidbit will inform a later decision. I love rolling a scenario through many different angles and perspectives to see how it might be received on the other side.
Question: What is your philosophy towards your work?
Rose: I am always striving for something better, whether it is a more efficient way to complete a task or a more positive experience for end users I think that things can always be refined. I really like collaborating with others, finding out what the need or use case is, brainstorming a lot of harebrained and not so harebrained ideas, and then diving in to making it happen. I think the most valuable asset at an institution is the people and getting them together to work harmoniously towards a common end, and feeling supported in the process, is really the ideal.
Question: You’re very involved in the use of technology in your library with current systems and the implementation of new technology and workflows. How do you motivate others to similarly engage?
Rose: I’ve realized that everyone has their own unique comfort level with both change and technology…and those may not be the same. When I was a teen I volunteered at my local library teaching introduction to computing and word processing lessons one on one to patrons. That experience taught me a lot. I generally try to find where people are comfortable and then try to frame the new technology into practical benefits. As people become increasing comfortable with the changes and implementations, I’ve found they also gain a sense of agency and their own motivation to pursue things further.
Question: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three things would you have and why?
Rose: Water filtration because potable water is essential to survival. A good knife, likely a machete, for cutting down vegetation for shelter, preparing food and firewood, and other general things and if it is shiny I could use it as a signaling device with solar reflections. Finally, in a stroke of whimsy, perhaps I could bring along the New York Public Library, so I’d have lots of resources to learn about survival, books to read to occupy my time and kind librarians to help me when I need it.
Question: What is your favorite palindrome?
Rose: I asked a lot of people what their favorite palindrome was because I couldn’t imagine that people had that in their arsenal of favorites, and found only a few people to have one. As I gathered palindromes from others, I think the two I like the most are: “Taco cat.” It’s a fun image and it contains two of my favorite things; and “A man, a plan, a canal. Panama.” because it tells a story, it has a nod to infrastructure and history, and it has a nice lilt to it. Close third would be “Sit on a potato pan, Otis!” because that would never be said if it weren’t for palindromes.
Question: What are the titles of the last three books you have read?
Rose: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, and Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan or… do cookbooks count? I’ve just been all over Dining In by Alison Roman.
****Photo by Jim Gipe