The University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) in Winston-Salem, NC, is a Films On Demand subscriber. We recently talked with Susan Keely, reference and bibliographic instruction librarian at UNCSA’s Semans Library, about how her library handles technophobes, her favorite part of being a librarian, and what she thinks the library’s most important responsibility is.
Tell us one way you’re helping users who may be hesitant to embrace technology to take advantage of your library’s online resources.
We promote our webpage in classes, we provide easy-to-use handouts, and we spend a lot of time working individually with patrons at the public computers to ensure they can use our online resources easily. We also work with patrons on their own devices, plus we have an in-house technical staff who work with patrons.
What is your favorite part of being a librarian?
I love research and working with students to find that elusive piece of information or an obscure detail. Here at UNCSA, we have high school, college, and graduate students studying music, film, dance, design, and production and drama. We do a lot of period research for costume and set design, and I love spending time looking through old periodicals and pattern books to help a student designer find just the right sleeve or a specific room setting for a play.
What do you think is the library’s most important responsibility at your institution?
I think our greatest responsibility is to teach students to think critically and to evaluate the mountain of information that bombards them every day. It’s also important that we provide a place for reflection and contemplation; learning is impossible without that.
What have you done that has most impacted usage at your college?
I think our instruction program and our outreach to faculty have had the most impact. We have a new building, so we have spent a lot of time creating floor plans, conducting tours, and in general introducing the campus to our new facility.
How do you alert faculty to the new resources your library acquires?
We send out emails, we promote new materials in classes, and we use person-to-person interaction, in addition to a prominent new bookshelf near the front door.
Tell us how you are making the most out of your library budget in these uncertain economic times.
We are stretched thin, so we make as much use as possible of free online resources, we negotiate deals with vendors, we repair materials and machines, and we constantly make collection development decisions based on money. We compile wish lists and prioritize purchases; student and faculty requests come first, then we fill in as we have money.
How do you make sure students and faculty with disabilities or language barriers can easily access your library’s resources?
We have an accessibility reader, large-print materials, and work closely with the school’s learning specialist to identify materials that may assist students with special needs. We have a faculty member who is a trained ESL program leader with whom we work closely to ensure students feel they can use the library and its resources even though English may not be their first language. We have also conducted library instruction workshops for ESL students and staff.
Be aware of emerging trends in the marketplace, negotiate with vendors (plus make friends with them), work closely with your faculty and administration to ensure the library is front and center in their decisions, and listen to your students. They will tell you much more than library literature and experts.