2A: Reflection on Class #1

Can we please just be shocked for a moment that I have not done a mental warmup, or warmup of any kind really, since I was in elementary school? They were so valuable to me that I still remember walking into class, looking at the board, and starting to work in a very comfortable silence. So it isn’t surprising that I had a bit of deja vu in class last Tuesday when the warmups got past around. By five in the afternoon, my energy is on its last leg and my brain is preparing for shutdown. I am anxious about how I am going to contribute to class, let alone pay sufficient attention. In short, I am not in a learning mindset. The mental warmup allowed me a safe space to start up my brain. Skipping questions as I choose, jotting down remembered bits of information, and even adding a doodle or two. Fifteen minutes later and voila, I am a bit more ready than before.

Additionally, I believe that the mental warmup would be of benefit in a different way as well. This time not only to those of us waking up from sleeping with our eyes open, but the entire class. This is for one simple fact – the warm up sets everyone up to succeed in later discussions. It would be difficult for anyone to resent because it is not busy work. Each question ties the readings or previous discussion and leads you to develop new synthesis to share in discussion. You are no longer pressured to come up with answers to something you might have read a week ago on the spot. Taking those pressures off the student with a very simple exercise is so very valuable. And I cannot believe that it has been almost ten years since I’ve done one.

I will say (and it could have been because it was the first class) that I was a bit disappointed with how few questions we got to discuss. There were several I left almost blank and I would love to hear other’s thoughts to better develop a comprehensive understanding of the reading (in this case Zingerman’s Guide to Good Service) and how it ties in/or doesn’t to the overarching themes of the class. I am optimistic about future discussions, but I add this because I believe it is important to not lose track of what the course is about deep within a series of complex readings and assignments with many different interpretations.

On a completely different note I remember a distinction that upon reflection, whose intricacies I do not quite comprehend. The reference librarian versus the instruction librarian. Are reference librarians simply being renamed? Is there a clear or ambiguous distinction between each type’s function? Coming out of class, I felt I had a fairly firm grasp on what a reference librarian does and how the job has undergone significant change. It was unclear to me whether the morph into instruction librarian is such a change. If not, then I would like develop an understanding of what functions an instructional librarian preforms.

While I know this is a class focused on reference, I would also like to know more about the other types of librarians that exist in addition to instructional librarians. I come to this class straight out of my undergraduate institution with very little real world experience outside of being a public library patron. I hope we have the opportunity to learn about or interact with a variety of types of librarians. When everyone went around the room in class, I was frantically trying to come up with a way of saying “I have very little idea of even the vague options, let alone specific titles that belong to librarians” that made me sound a bit more like I belonged. When it got to be my turn I had succeeded, but I wonder now if I should have admitted my ignorance. If I had, I may have a better idea of my options right now and not have this specific lingering question.

Despite my unfamiliarity with specific types, I assume that they do exist. I would be very interested to see how the elements of service in the Zingerman’s guide apply to these different librarians and to find out where their duties overlap with those of the reference librarian. Is it possible that all librarians are a type of reference librarian? Thinking to the future of reference librarianship, I wonder if it is possible different functions of reference will be absorbed by these other types. Of course I have to fill in my knowledge of the different types first.

What has struck me (and struck me during class) is that the reference librarianship is a very concrete term for a very diaphanous function. One reference librarian in a small public library with few resources would have a very different job from a reference librarian at a major university. The difference is so large, that I wonder how we can apply the same title to the two at all. There is a loose connection in so far as both provide a service to users. However, it seems like the differences in function could easily outweigh this tenuous connection.






3 thoughts on “2A: Reflection on Class #1

  1. I also look forward to learning about the different types of librarians. Despite whatever specialization and area of focus a librarian may have, I think they all share the core goal of connecting people with relevant information and finding solutions to problems. Besides having different titles, do you think librarians’ functions are truly different across the board? I do see where the content would make a difference as well as availability of resources, but again, at the core I think all librarians serve a similar purpose…maybe titles are giving the impression of a bigger difference than actually exists? I agree with you when you question the difference between a reference librarian and instructional librarian because to me, they are the same thing. Hopefully, we’ll find out during class.


  2. “This is for one simple fact – the warm up sets everyone up to succeed in later discussions.” Yes – those who are slower processors have more time to gather their thoughts. We don’t always get to everything, but I always keep a mental list of the Must Discuss items so we get to those. Ask me f2f about reference vs. instructional librarian — it’s complicated. We have some time later this term to introduce you to some other kinds of librarians, and 620 (Collection Development) is another course with a lot of guest speakers.


  3. I think one of the biggest takeaways from this course for me is that job titles do little to distinguish the numerous responsibilities that librarians have. I feel whatever setting the librarians finds themselves in, whether that is a large academic library or a small public one, their function is derived from their environment. Looking at the ALA job listings a few weeks ago really solidified my understanding of this. All in all, I am really glad that UMSI focuses so much on developing skills that are universally applicable and useful, rather than setting us up for a specific job title.


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