“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – Shakespeare (Romeo & Juliet)

I am currently a part-time Academic Reference Librarian.  But that has changed this week.  My title that is. I will still be doing the exact same thing that I have for five years, but what people call me, and how they find me is changed. I think it became Research Librarian. Or Research Instruction Librarian.  I just peeked over my cubicle and asked my co-worker what our title is now… Her answer: “We don’t have it yet.”  Apparently the decision is stuck in committee.

The idea is of course to make ourselves more of a presence that college students can relate to.  Do they even know what “reference” is, let alone a Reference Librarian? Is it easier for them to understand that we help with research mostly, so they should call us Research Librarians.  But we teach too (Not official Faculty, but our instruction is valid, based on pedagogy of ACRL Information Literacy standards).  We have declining use at this “Reference Desk” and want to reach more students.  We want them to come to us.  Could be our first problem.

In discussions yesterday, I thought we could try to put ourselves where the students are, and have multiple service points in the library.  The trend now is to “rove.” Ugh.  I thought my days in retail sales, and asking, “Can I help you with anything today?” were over! No thank you.  I would much rather come to a mutual agreement and go where students are, as in on every floor, and also remain passive, so students don’t feel we are pushing ourselves into their space.

In theory, this is great. But the reality that I was faced with, as the idea was semi-shut-down, was “how do we staff this?” We already have trouble getting staff on the regular desk, and what about night hours, when staff is at almost zero.  Staff with students? We thought no. So now my title is changed and I will sit at the desk and still wait for students to come to me for “research” questions.  Hmmm. I think our name matters, so changing it is a good idea, and who we are and what we do matters too.  I just think changing to make it easier for students in one way and not another, isn’t helping in the fullest way that we could.  It isn’t convenient for us to staff the desk, so we won’t.  We need to break away from what is good for us and focus on mission…to serve the students and faculty where they are. I don’t think anyone would argue with this, is just the method of the doing,  that is the question.

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