Library Services, Spring 2014: Users, Staff, and Technology
My report on library services for Spring 2014 takes as its theme the intersection between library users, library staff members, and information technologies, and as in the past I’ve raided the wonderful Historical Photographs of Teachers College collection in PocketKnowledge to provide illustrations of users in the past engaging with technologies of the past (and present), i.e., books (still considered a major advance in human technology) and microform readers, and staff members of the past involved in preparing books to go to the shelves and circulate, and interacting with the books themselves in the stacks. Clearly the role of technology in the library, and indeed the nature of the library itself, is developing and changing at a rate and to an extent in all likelihood unimaginable to the users and staff members in the photographs, but the interchange between users and librarians–facilitated by, focusing on, mediated by information technologies and other technologies–remains at the core of what library service is about; and we in services see assisting and supporting our patrons in all ways as central to our role, and indeed foundational to it.
In other words (in my view), we are here to serve our users, we can’t do without them, and we succeed in our jobs only to the extent that we connect them with the information and resources they need, increasingly by means of technologies of some sort, but possibly just as importantly that we connect with them (our users), in the interests of providing the best personal human service we can offer.
And so, without further ado, some basic statistics on research and information services delivered to students, faculty, and researchers during Spring 2014:
- Services librarians fielded 1,101 in-person and telephone reference queries, with significant important additional service interactions of all kinds by front-line Services Associates serving at the Services Desk.
- Library Services librarians received and responded to 784 queries of various kinds submitted via the library’s email Support Request service, in addition to a growing number of queries handled by Services Associates.
- Research and information services librarians provided 51 research consultations to individuals or small groups during the Spring.
- Library Services presented six course-specific library information sessions, either in the classroom or in library spaces, for a total of 104 students.
To suggest the range of research and information quests about which our users have requested our help, the following is a sampling of the topics of one-on-one consultations we provided this Spring:
- Thesis research on equity pedagogy/culturally responsive teaching relating to ELA, ELL, ESL contexts;
- Ongoing service requests for help with the fine points of Blackboard courses;
- Thesis research on the effects of anxiety and depression on adolescent children’s school performance;
- Resources for a content analysis of public high school textbooks (specifically history and social studies) on how they present world religions
in the classroom, comparing New York and Texas;
- Research on self-awareness training, mindfulness meditation, and school leadership;
- Research on effective teacher’s feedback in a large ESL/EFL classrooms;
- Search for the most representative papers of online learning;
- Questions concerning PubMed searching;
- The search for information on an Orthodox Christian religious educator who came to TC on a Rockefeller Foundation scholarship to study in 1926-7;
- Research on proportional reasoning in mathematics education, grades 6-8, with reference to Common Core standards;
- Research on adult literacy programs in correctional institutions, particularly in and around the New York City region;
- Research on maker spaces and their role in science and technology education;
- Searching for studies on international adult literacy initiatives and how trust affects team learning and performance;
- Searching for dissertations (from other top education schools, e. g., Stanford, Vanderbilt) concerning the teaching of solid or plane geometry;
- Research on non-profit arts education organizations in New York City (specifically Free Arts NYC, LeAp, SASFny, Urban Arts Partnership, & ArtsConnection), specifically on how they develop their curricula so that it is feasible for low-income public schools to participate in;
- Research on the impacts of states prohibiting 4-year institutions from offering any remedial/development courses;
- Research on identity development of biethnic adolescence, preferably in art education’s influence in the identity formation of ethnic and biethnic minorities.
To return (in closing) to the place of technology in librarian-user interactions: a significant number of email support requests, along with very many in-person and phone queries, have to do with issues relating to online search strategy, with online retrieval of full-text documents, with e-reserves, with Blackboard, and with various other connectivity and linkage issues. As has often been stated, technology often creates as many problems as it addresses or solves, and though the ultimate hope is for seamless, intuitive, straightforward systems, the reality for now is that we are frequently called upon for help with bad links, glitches, outages, unnavigable websites, and undecipherable messages, and we’re glad to be able to help and more than happy, always, to get users to what they need by whatever means we can provide.