By Christine Anne George
It’s that time of year again. The end of the spring semester. For students it means gearing up for finals. For library staff it means that every important thing that can break and/or jam will…at least twice. For me, it’s let-me-explain-how-academic-librarians-work time. Perhaps you’ve been there too. Inevitably at least one well-meaning person—at this point most likely a student but sometimes it’s an acquaintance—will ask what my summer plans are. After hearing my typical one-word response—work—there will be some form of a gasp followed by the obvious question.
“You mean the library’s open?”
It’s enough to make one want to compose an editorial: Yes, Virginia, there are summer hours… That being said, I can somewhat understand the surprise. Back when I was a student, I didn’t think too much about how school operated when I wasn’t on campus. It wasn’t that I necessarily thought that campus life became the opposite of Toy Story with everyone engaging in the #andyscoming challenge from the moment students leave campus in May until they return in August, but I didn’t give much thought to what happened when I wasn’t there. Wow are things different on the other side. There may not be as many students in the library, but that doesn’t mean that it’s slow. That’s usually the follow up to finding out that the library’s open in the summer.
“Well it must be nice and slow for you so you can relax.”
Ha! Ask any student how fast summer flies by—it’s the same for the librarians. While the summer might not be busy in the same way during the school year (unless your law school is year round like Dean Duane Strojny described in his post last week), things are still hopping. Summer is the time for projects that you can’t tackle during the school year…or finishing up the ones that you optimistically yet ever so foolishly thought you’d be able to accomplish during the Fall/winter break/Spring.
“You mean you’re not just at the reference desk?”
The glimmer of a silver lining with let-me-explain-how-academic-librarians-work time is that it’s a teachable moment to let the greater world know about academic libraries. The average patron most likely isn’t aware of all the work that makes a library go. They see librarians and paraprofessionals at service points like the reference and circulation desks, but that’s only a fraction of the library workload. The conversation is an opportunity to mention the programming you’re planning, the collection development you’re tackling, or the course that you’re developing. It’s an opportunity to let someone outside Library Land get a glimpse at how the sausage is made. Librarians don’t just answer questions at the reference desk or check books out. We don’t just shush people either. We are professionals who went to school—so much school—to get where we are today and build up the skill set that allows us to teach and support our law school community.
Just last week a student asked me about what I was doing for the summer. Once I let him know that we’d be open, I smiled and said, “Let me tell you about the institutional repository I’m working on.”