Last week, the staff of the Microsoft library generously opened their lovely space to a passel of students. They greeted us with excellent snacks, told us about their work, and gave us the run of the place. Here’s some of what we learned:
Microsoft has approximately 110,000 full-time employees and a similar number of contractors; the services of the library and archives division are available to all of them. The library in Redmond has six full-time employees who approach the library’s work from a strategic perspective. Day-to-day operations and research are conducted by contractors; the whole team is about 25 to 30 people. The librarians also noted that there are many people with an MLIS who work in other roles at Microsoft, such as content management, user experience, and information architecture.
Along with the library at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, there are physical branches in Beijing, China; Redding, England; and Hyderabad, India.
The physical collection includes 8,000 books that are shipped around the world for use. The collection is unusual among special libraries in that it exists not just to support job-related research, but also as a resource employees can use to learn and grow. In that way, the librarians said, they’re more akin to an academic library, which supports both the research needs of faculty and the interests of the general campus population. The library also has a Maker Garage with a 3-D printer and spaces for sewing, soldering, printing, and a variety of other tinkering.
Microsoft’s archivist assists executive groups with research: she can provide company history, photos, information for points in a speech, and more. The archives also contain every piece of software the company has made, most of the company’s advertising, and hardware needed to run that old software and play advertising in obsolete formats (notably, a Betamax).
Part of the appeal of working in the Microsoft library is that positions come with a lot of variety and autonomy; the librarians said they’re never bored. They also said a key way to succeed at Microsoft is to volunteer for things — to see something that looks interesting and jump in.
In terms of assessment, the library staff relies not only on data it’s collecting using Microsoft’s own tools, but also on understanding and conveying the library’s impact on employees and on the company. They pointed out that it’s impossible to quantify what it means for people to have knowledge, and that the ability to tell a story that demonstrates the library’s value to its users is as important as data. (On a related note, Philippe, who leads marketing and outreach efforts, said his job is “evangelizing the hell out of the library,” and he recommended a book: “Blueprint for Your Library Marketing Plan.”)
The library plans to review its online portal and the way it’s organized, and to research how it’s being used. Nicole Partridge, who manages the portal, made a point that stuck with me: Librarians think in terms of content types, but people who need the library think in terms of the questions they have.
Two job-hunting tips: Keep your LinkedIn profile updated not only with what you’ve done, but what you want to do; make one-on-one connections with librarians whenever possible (via informational interviews or informal discussion) to learn about the work and how to be successful in it.
Many thanks to Merrill, Nicole, Kimberly, and Philippe for their time, expertise, and good humor.
The Pacific Northwest chapter of SLA is holding its annual Career Night on Wednesday, May 6 (next week!). The event will be a great chance to meet people working in special libraries and learn more about special librarianship, as well as to hear from SLA president-elect Tom Rink, who will be speaking. Plus, your SLA-UW officers will be raffling off several SLA memberships for students who attend. The deadline to register is April 30, so head over to Survey Monkey to sign up: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/T3P6KV3.
Cost: $20 for students
Location: UW Waterfront Activities Center, 3701 Montlake Blvd NE Seattle, WA 98195
6:00 – 7:30 p.m. Networking and heavy hors d’oeuvres buffet
7:30 – 8:30 p.m. Program with Guest Speaker Tom Rink, SLA President-Elect
8:30 – 9:00 p.m. Networking
Can’t make it to the evening events?
Tom Rink will meet with students in Red C at the UW Research Commons for informal conversation and questions from 3:30-4:30 p.m. May 6.
Hope to see you there!
On Thursday, March 5, SLA-UW got insight into the world of medical librarianship! Acquisitions librarian Doug Shane led a tour of the Arnold Library at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The Arnold Library has a physical presence in the Fred Hutch facility in South Lake Union, and the space is open 24 hours a day to support the round the clock research being done in the Center!
Although the Library tracks subscriptions to 32,000 journals, in 2008 they decided to cease all print subscriptions and now only purchase digital journals. The library retains the older printed journals and has a small popular science collection, but lot of the space has been converted to a small computer lab and study spaces, as well as a small area that can be used for filming interviews or other audiovisual purposes. The computers have a lot of software that researchers use but might not necessarily have on their own computers.
Given that more and more resources are online, the librarians at the Arnold Digital Library are working on more ways to support the researchers at the Center. They complete book and other ILL requests, as well as training on software like Endnote and databases like PubMed. They also provide help for formatting research papers and preparing grant applications, which is a very popular resource amongst the researchers!
Like many special libraries, many of the librarians do not have a background in medical knowledge and learned a lot of the terminology on the job. If you are interested in medical librarianship, the Arnold Library occasionally has internships available, and is happy to work with you to create a DFW. Reach out to SLA-UW if you are interested!
If you’re interested in special libraries or information management in pretty much any form, please consider nominating yourself for an officer position in the UW chapter of the Special Libraries Association (SLA) for 2015-2016.
SLA leaders have the chance to network with librarians and information professionals to plan library crawls, information sessions, and panel talks. We partner closely with the regional SLA chapter, allowing us to form relationships with many librarians in the Seattle area. We enjoy close ties to other student organizations and have the invaluable support of our faculty advisor, Laura Dushkes.
Positions include: Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, Publicity Officer, and Distance Representative. Nominate yourself or someone else at https://catalyst.uw.edu/webq/survey/aliss/260910 through February 21.
See below for descriptions of the officer positions, and feel free to reach out to any member of SLA-UW if you have any questions!
Chairperson – duties include, but are not restricted to, acting as the official liaison person with the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Special Libraries Association, making contact with local special librarians, acting as a team leader for the officers and leading meetings and function, being responsible for ensuring open communication between organization members, officers, and faculty, and ensuring awareness of local and/or national events, conferences, scholarships, stipend or travel opportunities.
Vice-Chairperson – duties include, but are not limited to, assisting Chairperson in arranging meetings and contacts with special librarians, planning on campus events related to special librarianship (work with the Treasurer to ensure proper funds are available for planned events); and participating in meetings and functions in support of Chairperson and the organization.
Treasurer – duties include, but are not limited to, taking responsibility for organization funds, planning the annual budget, recording expenditures throughout the year, investigating and selecting fundraising opportunities, and acting as liaison with Student Activities Office as required.
Distance Representative – duties include, but are not limited to, acting as the primary liaison between SLA-UW and students in the online MLIS program and providing access to programs that meet the needs and interests of online students when possible.
Secretary – duties include, but are not limited to, keeping the organization’s records; taking minutes at meetings; and making such resources available online for officers in an online repository. Duties also include renewing the SLA-UW email and reregistering SLA-UW as a Registered Student Organization (RSO) every fall.
Publicity Officer – duties include, but are not limited to, producing and posting publicity of SLA-UW activities and maintaining the organization’s visibility within the iSchool community, responding to inquiries to the SLA-UW email account; and coordinating the social media presence for SLA-UW. Duties also include tasks related to maintaining, designing, and developing, and renewing the organizational website, and maintaining the “SLA-UW” and “SLA-UW officers” mailing lists.
On Thursday, Feburary 12, SLA-UW worked with UW iSchool Student Services to host a SLA Professional Development Panel! The panel was a very informative discussion of what makes special libraries special, what kinds of roles and responsibilities special librarians fill, and what we as students can do to enter this field.
Mary Whittaker, Boeing Library; Vicki Valleroy, Boeing Library; Nancy Gershenfeld, UW iSchool and Microsoft; and Dylan Flesch, KEXP.
- We have the panel in full here: https://ischool.adobeconnect.com/p6r7nfjew16/ ! But panel highlights include:
Special librarianship is a broad field with many opportunities; you can act as a specialist in a discipline, focus on a specific user community, and be a solo librarian/information professional.
- Its essential to prove your value as an information professional to your organization, both anecdotally and quantitatively. Advocating for your services, working directly with management, and consistently report out how the services you provide assist with productivity, workflow, etc. is crucial!
- Your job title may not always “librarian.” For example, Dylan is a Licensing and Podcasting Coordinator at KEXP. Vicki noted an SLA report stating that there are over 200 job titles in special librarianship. Your duties vary from that of a traditional librarianship role, so your title may too.
- Special librarianship sometimes necessitates breaking the rules of traditional library practice. For example, certain cataloging standards may not be applicable for your user group or information needs in a special library. Be flexible!
- Its important to advocate for yourself and your services. Work across departments, connect with people, hear their stories, and share yours. These connections can lead to awareness about the help you can provide.
- Our panelists recommended taking courses centered around technical skills, such as data analytics and data visualization. They also mentioned the importance of classes in copyright, statistics, and government documents. These skills will help you succeed in non-traditional environments.
- Here are some ways to get involved in special librarianship or to learn more about available opportunities: read job postings often (iCareers!), volunteer (and if volunteer opportunities are not advertised, reach out to the organization you are interested in and create them for yourself!) subscribe to newsletters or listservs, and join professional organizations. Some of these include SLA (Special Library Association), AALL (American Association of Law Librarians), LLOPS (Law Librarians of Puget Sound), and ASIS&T (Association for Information Science & Technology).
We also discussed the upcoming annual SLA Conference taking place this June in Boston. SLA has several specialized divisions (yes– specialized special librarians!), so researching/joining groups that may be of interest to you can help you build connections and job search. Please also note that a stipend opportunity is currently available through the Engineering Division of SLA. Our panelist Mary noted how great it would be if someone from UW won this award, and we agree! See here for more information.
By Amy Trost
Last Saturday, around 20 MLIS students and library professionals attended a tour sponsored by the SLA Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Wing Luke Museum Library in Seattle’s Chinatown-International district. An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, the museum documents and celebrates the experience of American immigrants from all parts of Asia with a rotating collection of exhibits.
Library coordinator Jordan Wong shared with us with a history of both the museum and its library, named after former Washington governor Gary Locke. At 18,000 volumes, the small library strives to maintain a collection that documents the experience of all Asian immigrants with a mix of archival and current holdings. Most of the library’s new volumes are obtained through donations from individuals and partner organizations, such as the Korean American Historical Society.
Within the library, Jordan also manages the Wing’s collection of oral history records. Members of the community regularly visit the library (typically with a parent or grandparent) to create an audio recording that documents on a personal level, the story of immigrants here in Seattle. The mix of recordings from both ordinary and prominent citizens provides materials for a number of exhibits in the museum proper.
We enjoyed some quiet time browsing the library’s collection and chatting with Jordan about the challenges of librarianship in a small museum: the collection budget can be quite literally nonexistent, and librarians can struggle to find their place in the larger context of the museum’s work. Despite these constraints, the Wing’s library is succeeding in its mission, with a beautifully displayed collection, thriving oral history project, and nascent children’s programming.
The library (located at 719 South King Street) is open to the public from 11 AM to 3 PM from Tuesday through Saturday. Head downtown for a visit sometime!