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July 9, 2014 / bethan

My First Month: Marissa Saenz  Information Services Librarian, Vincennes University 

What’s the biggest learning curve been? 

The biggest learning curve for me has been managing access to our electronic resources. I joined the staff at the end of a year long transition to a new library management system and was expected to catch up with my peers’ training and be responsible for ensuring that our users would have access when we went live. A couple of months prior during the interview, I was informed of the migration, but did not fully understand what that would mean for me in the role I would later accept. What it meant was working with vendors; collaborating with our management information center; answering to my boss; educating my colleagues while teaching myself what I needed to know; and trying to learn the lingo in order to effectively communicate with all parties involved. I think of this as on the job training, for which library school cannot necessarily prepare you.

What have you had to do that you didn’t expect

Having volunteered in a public library prior to gaining employment at a university library, I prepared myself for needing to have general knowledge on all sorts of topics and patience to provide great service to patrons frequenting our establishment. In an academic environment I expected to be asked about assessments, financial aid, course materials, citations, news sources, reference works, and most likely about using the computers, printers, scanners, and software applications. What I didn’t expect was for the library to be responsible for tasks that in my experiences as a student resided with other offices on campus. The library it turns out is one of the few physical spaces that remains open past standard business hours of operation, is one of the only places on campus that has professional staff on duty after close of business, is a public area where students can congregate in study rooms, in classrooms, on the computers, at tables, whether studying or not. I soon discovered, on this campus, the library is a hub for social engagement on par with the student union. While quite pleased to see students walking through our doors feeling welcome, I found myself unprepared for managing the chaos associated with 18-20 year olds living on campus away from home hanging out in the library of all places. The noise level was something I didn’t anticipate, having found most libraries I visited while growing up to be mostly quiet. The lack of basic computer and research skills was something I did anticipate, taking into consideration the rural area where I work; however, the preference for print materials over electronic was not. I quickly adapted my expectations and have begun exploring the varying roles libraries play in their communities.

What technologies have you needed to use? 

One of the opportunities I was most excited about was to further develop coding skills, specifically for web development. While I haven’t yet had the opportunity to apply these skills I definitely have a long to do list that I hope to work through during my second year.

What new skills have you learned

I have been able able to further develop my teaching skills through classroom instruction and general reference practice. Understanding how to conduct research and teach others how to properly search multiple databases is quite a different endeavor. I believe every interaction I have is leading me to be a better researcher and a better instructor. As a result, I hope the students I work with will feel more comfortable using our services and more confident in conducting their own research.

Biggest challenge

The biggest challenge for me has been adjusting to a new career at an entry level position having worked my way up the ladder in my previous profession. I have found that open communication is fundamental to feeling valued and invested.

Most fun thing

Although I am responsible for electronic resources, the most fun thing for me about working in a library is the books! I love reading about, ordering, and seeing all those wonderful books on the carts ready to be shelved or placed on display. 

Has what you learned in library school been useful? 

I believe the theoretical foundation for librarianship developed in library school has been helpful and will continue to be so, however, I feel that my previous work experience is more predominant in shaping my approach to librarianship and the networking through involvement in professional associations has been more valuable than was ever explained to me while in school.

A few words of advice

Remember you are new to this role, you cannot accomplish everything in the first month or first year. Make a plan for yourself and your library. (I have a list that keeps getting longer by the day!) Develop relationships within the library, across the organization, and through professional associations across multiple disciplines; the people you turn to will prove invaluable. Have fun, make the most of your day, and be happy to do what you do. 

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