U of G librarian awarded for innovative vision

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

  • U of G's user services librarian, Jim Brett (courtesy)

    U of G's user services librarian, Jim Brett (courtesy)

Written by Abigel Lemak

The University of Guelph library staff have been working hard to provide a space that caters to student and staff needs. 

This year, U of G’s service librarian, Jim Brett, will be presented with one of the Confederation of University Faculty Associations’ (OCUFA) Teaching and Academic Librarianship Awards, distinguished for his outstanding work at the university library these past ten years. 

Jim Brett and the U of G library staff have worked over the summer to transform the first floor of the library in order to accommodate for more seating and enhance user experience with the reorganization of the circulation and reserve desks, as well as the new addition of the Ask Us help desk. 

“What we’ve done with the Ask Us desk is we may refer you to a twenty minute appointment to try and get you started, or if you’re a grad student and you’re really sitting there and struggling to get together [material for your thesis], we can set up a one hour consultation with a librarian for you and really get you started,” said Brett.

Incorporating a face-to-face service right at the entrance of the library allows students to get the help they need by directing them to the proper resource or service they require.

“Things like the Ask Us Desk and reorganizing the first floor, that was done to make things easier around here,” said Brett.

Beyond the actual remodeling of the first floor, Brett and his team look for feedback from students to better understand their needs and find out in what capacity they’re meeting them. This encouraged dialogue between library staff and students is what seems to take the project from a space, to a user experience upgrade. 

“If it’s not working for you, you need to let us know,” said Brett.

Brett stresses the importance of students voicing their needs as a key way in helping shape their own library experience. 

“There is a dialogue happening, where it hasn't happened perhaps as much as we would like is with things like Primo,” said Brett. “If you look at the product right now you can post a link of Facebook, you can text in it, you can create your own environment thats very slotted to the individual.”

This sort of student feedback is also valuable for getting an idea of how different groups of students utilize the same resource.

“We need to start doing more of that outreach that says, well as a student here in first year how are you going to use something like [Primo], and that’s probably different than how a second or third or graduate student would use it,” said Brett. “A real challenge for us is keeping in touch with all of those user groups, and trying to figure out what’s the best thing for them, and how do we meet that broad base of needs of student faculty and staff.”

With the challenging structure of the library, the upgrades had to take into consideration the limitations of space. 

“This building, the time it was built, the original intent of the building is much different from how we’re using it right now,” said Brett. “That limits us on how we can expand.”

Working with such a difficult concrete structure requires planning and anticipation of what students and staff will need in the years to come.

“We’ve got a building-wide space planning initiative going on,” said Brett. “With a building that’s this age, where are we going to be ten years from now and what’s it going to look like as far as space goes.”

Awards such as the Teaching and Academic Librarianship Award are based on nominations and colleague support. The library team at U of G bring a special dynamic to the McLaughlin library in their ability to encourage and inspire one another to continue to better student and staff experience with innovative answers to their questions and concerns. 

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