Wildcard Wednesdays

First Year (Not for the First Time)

A first-year experience is a best practice for student success and retention, but it has to be an experience that works. My institution’s previous FYE – a one-credit required college success course – had an unacceptable DFW rate. (I’m of the opinion that you shouldn’t be able to fail a college success course, but I don’t know how the grading worked.) The library wasn’t involved in planning or teaching the course, but we had relationships with many of the instructors, who brought their classes in for a fifteen-minute library introduction and tour.

That course was retired a few semesters ago, and our replacement FYE is finally launching thanks to the work of our new student engagement manager. The new program consists of a series of workshops covering key college topics and skills. The library was invited to participate, so we’ll be offering several workshops: a standard library orientation, a revival of our popular spotting misinformation session (just in time for election season), and a new offering called Fun Stuff in the Library to highlight recreational reading students may not know they have access to. We’ll offer each session at multiple times and in different delivery methods to maximize attendance.

These workshops aren’t mandatory, so I don’t know how well they will create a consistent, impactful first-year experience. However, we’re willing to try, and the library definitely doesn’t want to be left out of an opportunity to make sure new students know what we have to offer.

Does your college offer a FYE? How is your library involved?

Tech Tuesdays Technology

Web Team Show & Tell

I am the lead for our library’s web improvement team. We meet once a month and at every meeting, we set aside about 10 minutes for a team member to share something they have learned about technology related to libraries. Sometimes people share an article they read or information from a webinar or workshop they attended. By calling it “show and tell,” I try to emphasize that it isn’t a formal presentation, but an informal chance to share.

Show and tell. The l of tell has teeth to look like a month and a speech bubble next to it.
Show-n-tell by Johnny Goldstein is licensed under CC By 2.0

Here are some of the sources I encourage team members to use in looking for content to share:

Do you have other sources to recommend? What types of informal information sharing do you use at your library?

Research Skills Corner

Researching as a Community College Librarian

video, recording, scientific, research” by Jennifer Strickland. CC0.

Welcome to the Research Skills Corner, a sponsored post by the ACRL CJCLS Scholarly Research Committee

We plan to be here monthly to provide:

  • Highlights of recent research articles written by community college librarians and articles written about the issues that pertain to our libraries.
  • Tools, trainings and a spotlight on ways to grow your own research capacity.
  • A place for conversation in the comments section.
  • Thoughtful and salient opinions (we hope!).

Conducting research can be difficult in a community/vocational/technical/junior college. We often do not have staff tasked with research explicitly or tied to our promotion or tenure process directly. And it is critical that this research is conducted on us and with us. Our institutions frequently have higher numbers of first gen students, diverse and historically underrepresented students as well as PELL grant recipients, veterans and more. Our students are our strengths and while there are similarities to the demographic makeup of students in R1s, our populations are not identical. How do those differences impact the applicability of student success research done at R1s to our institutions?

How can we provide service to our students and our institutions through research? How can we help each other grow our research capacities? One thing we can do is collaborate with each other across institutions on topics we are most curious about. Our committee recently hosted a network and brainstorming session around ways to collaborate around potential research interests. A few people attended and the conversation generated turned out to be very valuable for future work opportunities. Would these informal conversations and community building sessions be something that could be useful if held more frequently such as several times a year? Alternately, is LibParlor a growing channel for this discovery of collaborative opportunities? How can we tap into the work of other existing ALA committees that focus on growing research capacity? All the questions.

Please let us know if there are any topics/papers/tools that you would like to see featured in this column. Did you publish something recently? Drop us a note below!

Wildcard Wednesdays

Reading on the Job

How often have you mentioned your profession to someone and heard in response, “I wish I was a librarian. I love to read!” Librarians know that the bulk of our responsibilities isn’t curling up somewhere with a book, however much we might enjoy doing so. But you can make reading books (and having opinions on them) part of your job.

Numerous publications include or are entirely devoted to book reviews intended to help librarians select titles for their collections. At my library, we regularly read Booklist, Library Journal, Choice, and the New York Times Book Review. Many of these reviews are written by librarians. After all, who better to recommend books than someone else making the same collection development decisions?

I recently saw a notice in Library Journal seeking reviewers for science fiction and fantasy titles. I have a soft spot for SFF (my holds list at the public library is always full of new releases) so I applied, a process that involved sharing some personal and professional information along with two sample reviews. I was accepted and am looking forward to reviewing my first title for an upcoming issue!

Interested in reviewing? Visit the Review for Library Journal page to learn more about their expectations and fill out the online application. I signed up to review genre fiction, but I noticed the most recent LJ issue solicited reviewers in several non-fiction subject areas. A few tips, if you’re interested:

  • Needless to say, consulting some existing reviews in the publication you’re applying to will help ensure your sample reviews are on target.
  • In the case of Library Journal, I’ve been told to expect to write one review per month. I imagine other magazines have a similar workload.
  • Worried about your bookshelf getting cluttered with ARCs? Don’t be – many reviewers now work from digital copies or DRCs. If you don’t already have a NetGalley or Edelweiss account, you may want to set one up to streamline the requesting process. 

I’m looking forward to this new way of contributing to the profession (and getting to officially make reading part of my job!) Now if only the publisher for my first assignment would approve my DRC request…

Tech Tuesdays

Crowdsourcing a List of Regional Groups of Community College Librarians

A few years ago, I gave a lightning talk at our local Michigan Academic Library Association annual conference as part of a panel of community college librarians. The panel was organized by our Michigan Community College Libraries Interest Group. I enjoyed sharing ideas with other community college librarians in Michigan and that experience inspired me to join CJCLS. As a CJCLS member, I have had the opportunity to meet community college librarians from many different states. You can read about some of these librarians in the Member of the Month feature on  the CJCLS Blog.

As I have become more involved in CJCLS, I was curious to find out how many states have regional groups focused on community colleges like we do in Michigan. So, last month, I shared an empty Google Sheet in our CJCLS ALA Connect group to crowdsource a list of regional community college groups. So far, librarians have added groups from Arkansas, California, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa, and Washington. 

Do you have a group to add to the list? What do you find valuable about being a member CJCLS or of a regional group community college librarians?

Thursday Thoughts

Is hybrid our future?

View from the Blue Water, Amtrak

I’m sitting on an Amtrak train writing this post and pondering the future of remote work at my college. While a global pandemic would never be my preferred way to have forced the world to allow workers to work remotely, I have certainly appreciated the opportunities it has opened up, particularly once restrictions on travel were eased. In the early days, I was grateful for the safety it provided by not exposing us unnecessarily to COVID-19. As the months progressed, I saw my mental health improve as I had more freedom to structure my work day to allow for things like a short afternoon nap, breaks to pet dogs or walk outside, and a 9 am-6 pm work day. I’ve heard the same thing from many colleagues around the country.

These days, I’m gradually spending more time on campus in my library office and while it is nice to see people in person, I’m also feeling some sadness about giving up the ability to work from anywhere. I fear that the balance I’ve developed between work and personal life is about to be disrupted again and I’m pondering how to keep that from happening…or at least how to keep work from taking over my entire life, as it had pre-pandemic. Many managers work under an unspoken, but all too real, rule that we must always be accessible and available to our employees and our workplaces. That’s exhausting!

My college hasn’t decided how it will handle hybrid work yet. Employees have had a chance to provide feedback and there is a higher percentage of those who would prefer a hybrid option going forward. I think we all realize that there are parts of our jobs that must happen on campus because many of our students are eager to return in person. We know that not all students learn well in online environments and when it comes to the library, many of our students need to use our services in person. They also need our spaces like the computer lab and our study rooms. We have to be there for that.

But not everything has to happen on campus either. I am more productive on projects that require more concentration when I can work at home. There are fewer interruptions and distractions. I also trust my employees to be productive when they work from home. Stuff still gets done how it should and when it should. I’d like to be able to continue to offer hybrid work as an option and a benefit if that’s what they choose for themselves.

Bottom line is, there are benefits and drawbacks to both being entirely back on campus and entirely remote. It seems the future for work in higher education is developing some sort of hybrid model that allows for the good in both.

For more reading on hybrid work:

Why your boss might fire people rather than allow remote work

The Future Of Work: How Much Flexibility Is Good For Employees?

How the Rest of the World Is Doing RTO

Member of the Month

June Member of the Month

Meet our June 2022 Member of the Month:

Jill Sodt (she/her) is the Director of Library Services at Mott Community College in Flint, MI.

She has been a CJCLS member for the last ten years. She has this to say about why she stays involved: “There are so many intelligent, thoughtful, and creative community college librarians out there and I’ve learned so much from them. I enjoy hearing about how other people meet challenges and I get inspiration and ideas to bring back to my library. I’m a better community college librarian because of my involvement with CJCLS.”

When she’s not managing a library and serving the profession in CJCLS, she enjoys camping and fiber arts. “Last summer, I bought a new travel trailer and am getting back into camping again. I also like to travel to new places with my camera in hand. You’ll often find me with a knitting or crochet project whether I’m on the go or relaxing at home. During the pandemic shut down, I got into needle felting and rug hooking. Like many librarians, I also enjoy reading or listening to an eclectic choice of books from psychological thrillers to classics to modern literature. Lately, I’ve also been dabbling in vlogging about my life, travel, and other random stuff.”

She counts two rescue dogs as family members, including a retired therapy dog.

What are your favorite things about being a community college librarian?

“We have such a diverse student body in all sorts of ways, from the first-generation college student, students who are just out of high school, dual-enrolled students, and those older adults looking to change careers or get more education. I’m honored when they are willing to share their unique experiences, perspectives, and challenges with me. They make me want to continue working to improve our library, so they have the resources and spaces needed to meet their individual goals.”

Catch up with Jill on Facebook: or LinkedIn:  or reach out by email: .

Her college has an on-campus coffee shop, if you’re in the neighborhood, stop by.

Wildcard Wednesdays

Summer in the Stacks

Temperatures are rising. Graduates have walked across the stage at commencement. The fiscal year is winding down. It’s summer, but depending on our contracts, many librarians are still at work. The summer months are often characterized by fewer classes, fewer students, and a slower pace to campus life. This lull offers opportunities to dig into projects we couldn’t get around to during the rush of fall and spring.   

I use summers as a chance to work on new projects and annual tasks like updating our libguides and handouts. Although this is my fourth summer at my current position, it’s only the second I’ve spent on campus. The last two were remote during the first years of the COVID-19 pandemic, a time characterized more by scrambling to create new workarounds than engaging with leisurely projects. But our library is open again for regular summer hours, and that means summer tasks are back. 

Now that I have access to the stacks, a summer project I’m hoping to sink my teeth into is a collection review. The departure of key staff members involved in acquisitions opened an opportunity to reimagine our collection development process. In the past, all librarians in our reference department participated in suggesting titles from periodicals like Choice and Booklist. Two staff members made the final decisions without consulting collection or circulation data. Over time, this led to a lopsided collection reflecting librarians’ interests and impressions.  

Our new approach involves dividing up our collection by classification ranges and reviewing each range with an eye toward the college’s programs. We also recently gained access to Innovative Interface’s Decision Center, which we can use to detect circulation patterns. I hope that this more methodical strategy will help us update our collection and better align it with the needs of our users. Along the way, we may catch books in need of weeding, like some computing guides from the early 2000s we discovered this spring! 

Are you working this summer? What projects will your library be tackling during these quieter months? 

Tech Tuesdays

Website Usability Testing

One of the most useful tools I’ve found for creating usable Library website content is website usability testing. At first, I was intimidated by the prospect of doing usability testing. Then I learned more by reading Steve Krug’s Rocket Surgery Made Easy, observing usability testing facilitated by Matthew Reidsma at Grand Valley State University, and taking an online course with Rebecca Blakiston.

At my college, we’ve done usability testing in a variety of ways. We started out doing formal testing where a group of staff were in one room to observe testing in another room via online conferencing software. More recently, we moved to more informal testing. Members of our web team go out on campus in pairs to find a few students, staff, or faculty to test. One staff member is note taker and the other is the facilitator. We don’t record the tests, just take notes. Then we meet up as a group and discuss what we observed and decide what changes to make. During the pandemic, we did testing completely online via web conferencing. 

Last semester, I started doing short usability tests to onboard new circulation staff members. I used to meet new staff for 30 minutes to introduce them to the website by walking them through the website page by page. After doing this twice, I decided instead to do a short usability test as part of the onboarding. I explain what usability tests are and that we do them each semester to get feedback on our website. Then after the test, we discuss any challenges the staff member faced completing the tasks. Each time, I have found at least one small change I can make to improve the website. The best part is that later in the semester, these staff members have contacted me to share additional problems users were having with the website.

In the future, we’ll continue with informal, in person usability testing, as well as some online testing. It is not a huge time commitment, and it helps staff who create web content see that less is more on the web. Doing tests with around 5 participants can yield helpful results. It also is an opportunity to reach out to people who use the website (or even those who haven’t used the website) to get feedback. You can learn more about usability testing on my college’s Usability Testing LibGuide. It includes templates for notetakers, sample testing scenarios, and materials to train facilitators.

Friday Finds

Today’s Library… and Tomorrow’s Library

I recently came across a fantastic Pinterest board with library design ideas assembled ten years ago by the Inver Hills Community College Library as they planned a remodel. Wouldn’t it be inspiring, I thought, to create an updated version of this?

Next year, my library building celebrates its 30th anniversary. From the outside, it still looks contemporary and appealing. This plot of land has come a long way since it was home to a Bob’s Big Boy restaurant!

The PCC Shatford Library at Pasadena City College

Much has changed, though, since the library was built in 1993. The year of our grand opening, a student might have walked out the door of our sparkling new edifice with a backpack full of books, a ream of photocopies, or a stack of printed articles accessed via CD-ROM databases. Today, students can access sources and get online research assistance without ever setting foot in the building, but the many who do come in expect a robust WiFi connection, power for their devices, easy access to help, and spaces for both quiet study and group work. (Yes, and books, too.)

Birthday cake celebrating Shatford Library 20th Year in 2013
Our 20th anniversary cake in 2013.
Next year, another photo cake?

How has our building kept up with the times? Some areas have been successfully repurposed over the years. For example, the Periodicals room gave way to our “Research Zone” computer lab. The copy room is no more – in fact, our photocopiers have all made way for book scanners and networked printers. We have plenty of computers for students, the WiFi is generally stable, and we’ve installed a phone locker that sanitizes devices with ultraviolet light while they’re charging.

However, our wish list is growing. We need more outlets throughout the building to accommodate students’ needs, but that wasn’t foreseen in 1993, and we’d have to dig into the concrete floor to run more power. Shelving that once housed a massive and aging reference collection and a wide range of print periodicals now begs to make way for collaborative space for students, but the only lighting in that area was built directly into the top of the shelving itself. Oops.

Hey, let’s build all the lighting into the shelves!

Our faithful Reference Desk is an island set apart from the imposingly large Circulation Desk – the pinnacle of 1993 library services planning. We’d love to see a combined services desk giving us more flexibility, and students less consternation. Now we’re talking demolition and construction.

You may approach.

We librarians are a scrappy bunch, and we’re always dreaming/devising/proposing ways to update our 30-year old building. When infrastructure isn’t adequate, we find a workaround when we can. But the wish list, it keeps growing. And planning is made even more challenging as we wonder whether pandemic-era changes have made a lasting impact on library use.

How old is your library building? Has it kept up with changes in use? What were the best changes made over the years, and what do you want or wonder about for the future? Maybe you’ll stir a colleague reading from across the miles to propose something new. May today’s Friday Finds lead us to find some inspiration!