For our first library crawl of fall quarter we visited two UW libraries: the Foster Business Library and the Health Sciences Library. Both are going through a lot of change and serve as great examples of how
libraries are becoming places to study and collaborate.
Jessica Jerrit was our tour guide at Foster. She’s a 2011 graduate of the iSchool and has been a reference and instruction librarian for a year. Before that she worked at Foster as a library tech and a student
employee. The 520’s were her favorite courses, and as Foster’s only digital native librarian she also has put the skills she learned in LIS 560 to good use making an instructional video for the library.
Foster is one of the busiest libraries on campus and supports the business school departments of Accounting, Finance, Marketing, International Business, and Management. Its 11 group study rooms are always in use and there is also a large open collaboration area. The library has weeded a third of its collection and gone to compact shelving to make room for study space. Items that were weeded included those that had not circulated for a few years and could be found elsewhere on campus, as well as monographs that had not been checked out since the library was automated in the early 1980s. Business scholars generally are interested in current trends rather than historic research.
The library has found that monographs are not used as much as in the past, and online resources and course reserves get heavier use. They are cancelling a lot of print subscriptions in favor of digital ones, including business databases and market research reports. Print newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal are still used regularly although not heavily. Surveys of library users have revealed that people want seating and outlets for study and meeting spaces.
Business reference is a niche skill in that the research is very different from academic research. Undergraduate and MBA students tend to be very practical and not too interested in the research process. They have to look at a lot of sources including private industry, government, and trade associations and think about what they are really looking for, as they usually don’t find the answer spelled out in the same form as the question.
Terry Jankowski, who’s been at the Health Sciences Library for 33 years, hosted us there. UW has the largest medical library west of the Mississippi and north of San Francisco. It serves as the regional
medical library (RML) for the Pacific Northwest Region of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine. Like Foster, this library contains lots of computers and space for study and collaboration. It supports the
schools of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Dentistry, Public Health, and Social Work. The library is open to the public and gets non-students mainly on weekends. Any student can use the library but it’s mostly used by health sciences students.
The majority of the Health Science Library’s collection today is journal-based and electronic. Because of its location away from the central part of campus, it performs a lot of its own functions that might otherwise be centralized. Outgoing ILL requests are copied here because the library’s resources are in high demand.
Each Health Sciences librarian is the liaison for a school or for several departments, teaching and consulting with students. About half came in with a health sciences background and the rest picked it up. There are about 20 librarians in a total staff of 39, including RML staff.
After our tour Terry described some of the changes she’s seen during her career as well as current trends. Things tend to happen in cycles; for example, embedded librarians have come and gone and are now used again. Librarians mediated and charged for database searches at first, and then searching became self-service and free. Now charging for complex searches is being considered as budgets have tightened. Librarians are asked fewer questions as patrons tend to satisfice, stopping when they find just enough information. Embedded librarians are located in departments they serve, and librarians serve as liaisons for translating research into practical applications.
For those interested in medical librarianship, Terry gave us a handout on the Medical Library Association’s Competencies for Lifelong Learning and Professional Success. The library has hosted Directed Fieldwork (DFW) students and can also arrange shadowing of librarians in some of their job functions. Terry also recommended joining the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the MLA, which offers a low membership rate for students.
Thanks to everyone who came to the library crawl, and to Jessica and Terry for taking us on such informative and interesting tours!