Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Theoretical Job Description for the Librarian with a Laptop

In my last post, I mentioned the idea of a "Librarian with a Laptop," who goes out to coffeeshops and other co-working facilities and brings library services directly to patrons. Here's a pie-in-the-sky job description for such a role, too much for one person to handle but an idea of what might be:

Job Description: Digital Outreach and Training Librarian
a.k.a. "Librarian with a laptop"

Basic Function: Under direction of [an appropriate manager], to provide online and in-person training and outreach to staff and the public in the use of online library services and emerging technologies.

Typical Duties and Responsibilities:
1. Initiates, develops, plans and implements the Library's online services initiatives through personal consultations, onsite and offsite workshops, online and offline outreach, and other programs as developed.

2. Offers professional development to staff at centralized locations and at staff workplaces in emerging technologies, current databases, online outreach, and other subjects as determined by recognized need and staff surveys.

3. Trains and develops staff members to realize their potentials and use that developed potential to provide the best library service.

4. Attends public meetings around the city to present information about the library and offer tailored trainings to constituent groups (e.g., schools/PTOs, business/civic associations, cultural/immigrant organizations, etc.).

5. Maintains working relationships with educational institutions, social and community groups and businesses with regard to online library services. Facilitates cooperative efforts with these organizations to provide systematic service to larger constituent groups.

6. Writes training and promotional materials for city-wide library resources for distribution within library buildings and to promote city-wide library services in local business and organizations, including both print and online formats (blogs, RSS feeds, etc). Coordinates and encourages contributions by other staff to such publications.

7. Conducts and coordinates "Librarian Is In" sessions at local coffeeshops to reach prospective business and student patrons.

8. Travels to branch locations to provide direct training programs to the public on emerging technologies, current library resources and other subjects as determined by user surveys.

9. Recommends and/or plans changes in service and new services through the library digital portal.

10. Works with the Digital Services Manager to revise and update policy and procedural provisions affecting the delivery of online library services.

11. Responsible for oral presentations and written reports on assigned activities to senior management, trustees and other stakeholders.

12. Actively participates in system-wide committees, training and other professional activities.

13. Represents the Library on city-wide and state-wide committees, and at professional conferences.

14. Peforms other realted and/or comparable duties as assigned.

Minimum Qualifications:
1. A Bachelor's degree from a recognized college or university and an MLS from an ALA-accredited library school.

2. Five years of pertinent professional library experience.

3. Extensive knowledge of current library resources, practices and policies; substantial knowledge of library profession trends, theories and best practices; broad professional outlook.

4. Demonstrated interest in community and library work; demonstrated ability to use and teach searching via search engines and proprietary databases; demonstrated ability to work well with staff and public.

5. Demonstrated ability to assume responsibility and carry out assignments independently; proven oral and written communication skills, especially through electronic media; demonstrated knowledge of the techniques of programming and presentation; initiative, dependability, good judgment, tact and courtesy.

6. Flexibility and the willingness to learn and adapt; a commitment to professional development. Willingness to participate in professional activities and to expand on professional knowledge.

7. Proven ability to interpret and apply library policy; to analyze and solve problems; to generate new ideas; to organize and manage complex activities; and community relations.

A thoughtful return

Hello, all, and welcome back to the Eclectic Library. The very short reason for four months of silence? A lack of time and a lack of focus....I was too busy to keep up with my own professional reading and just didn't have very much to say.

Suffice it to say, with spring comes refreshed thinking. In particular, this post from Nate Hill over at Catch and Release about a Library Outpost service model stopped me short and lit a fire under me. After you've finished reading my post (;^), go and check out his.

Nate's idea was to create Library Outposts in places where people are already congregating -- near business centers, schools, apartment complexes, etc. These would be streamlined library buildings, with little to no print material but lots of space for computers and events. With this in mind, here’s another idea for you: From those library outposts, as well as traditional branches, librarians can make forays out into even more targeted areas of the community. Send a “Librarian With a Laptop” into coffeeshops and other places with free wifi to raise awareness of library resources among entrepreneurs and self-employed freelancers, researchers and writers. Set up in a corner of the space with a tabletop display promoting the library’s services, the nearest branch or Outpost location, and a few bullet points of what the library offers. The librarian can showcase database offerings and catalog functionality and help answer reference on the fly.

Think of these roving librarians as another tier on your service model, one even more focused on serving patrons as individuals rather than on the building as the primary resource. You might even use such forays as proof-of-concept for your Outposts, by sending the roving librarian in first to stimulate interest in the area you’re thinking of putting an Outpost later.

I'm not the first person to think of this, not by a long shot, but it's such an easily-implementable idea that I'm going to share my version of it with you. Also, it does seem to be an initiative coming more from academic libraries rather than publics, but we can serve so many more of our patrons remotely in this same way.

Next post, the job description for this Librarian With a Laptop, public-library style.