Students’ Misconceptions of Academic Librarians: Forming the Identity of Librarians as Instructors using Digital Marketing

For my class on library instruction, I worked on a small research team with Mary Clare O’Brien and Manon Van Alphen. We studied students’ misconceptions of academic librarians and how digital marketing can help change those misconceptions. We broke up the research, but I focused on best practice of social media platforms: Twitter, Instagram and Social Media. I hope to work as an outreach librarian so I found this extremely interesting.

You can view the full presentation here: Power Point Presentation. 

An elevator pitch version:

Generally speaking, students don’t know what  academic librarians do and a lot of that is because there is a lot of behind the scenes work that no one sees (cataloging, budgets, metadata, Omeka, digital repository, copyright… etc. etc.)

How can we educate our users to the true breadth of our talents and resources so that they can take advantage of them? Digital Marketing. In the form of websites and social media (Instagram, Twitter, and SnapChat). Sorry, according to my research Facebook is out for our Gen Z students. 

I made an Instruction Handout  that captures the best of the best and also has explanations about each of the platforms I researched.



(IS40370) May 4th, Reflection on Management Course

Librarians are all around you. They’re in your university, at the National Health Service, the Irish Blood Transfusion Services, or your favorite art website.  

The media paints a picture of an older lady with a cardigan that shh’s you when you’re about to solve a mystery in the stacks of the library. A poorly dressed enthusiasm squasher…. nothing could be further from the truth. We can be loud, or quiet, or like cats a little too much, or be the troll on Twitter… we are a varied group of people brought together by a value for sharing knowledge.

As an emerging librarian, the lectures in my management course have introduced me to the wide range of information professionals that exist. Where there is information or data that needs to be able to tell a story, there is a librarian, because that is what we do; we make data make sense and match it with the people who need it.

In this course, I have read about theories, principles, and techniques of contemporary
management science and got to apply those things when managing a group project to produce a case study, because let’s be real, when you’re working in a group of six, you’re all managing each other. It’s hard to appreciate until you do it, but prioritizing and coordinating six schedules and all the moving parts of a environmental scan is challenging. Even when everyone is lovely and kind, it’s a challenge.

I am now looking for jobs. Reading postings is daunting because frequently they sound like they’re written with three jobs in mind, not one. One tip, our professor gave us was to plug the job posting into a word cloud creating website and then write your cover letter to compare.

This is the posting for a reference librarian at a university:

Fordham Job 1.png

Here is my first draft cover letter:

FOrdham COver letter image1.png

I still have some work to do on this cover letter, but because of this course I am confident that I can market myself, get a job, and manage information in its various shades of beauty.


A big thank you to Jane Burns, who taught Management for the Information Professional. She arranged for the following speakers:

Aoife Lawton, National Health Service Librarian, Health Service Executive

Niamh O’Sullivan, Director of Library & Research Services Irish Blood Transfusion Services

Katherine McSharry, National Library of Ireland

Dr. John Howard, University College Dublin Librarian

Brian McMahon, Founder of Brand New Retro

Monica Crump, NUI Galway

I learned something from each speaker and I am very grateful for their time.



(IS40370) April 20th, Reflection on Guest Speakers

The visit from Katherine McSharry of the National Library of Ireland inspired my capstone project for the completion of my MLIS. Her presentation emphasized the National Library’s commitment to the people of the nation and how programming should reflect this commitment to engage citizens. The way she phrased this responsibility made me reflect on my project idea.

In the fall, my idea was to examine the shift in exhibition styles from traditional glass cases to interactive exhibits. I am really interested in cultural institution outreach as a function of memory. But, this is a BIG idea and I just didn’t know how to narrow it down- my audience (children vs. adults) or by type of institution (museums vs. library vs. special collection libraries). My main problem is that I am curious about a lot of things…

Katherine’s words re-framed my idea for me and impacted my view of library programmig greatly. The change in exhibition styles is a symptom of libraries narrowing in on reaching users–that’s why it matters. Ready to hear my new topic?

The Dissemination of Memory: The importance of user engagement in National Libraries. 

I will be comparing programming Ireland’s National Library with the British Library and Library of Congress. Surprisingly, I know the least about the Library of Congress! I am research ready and excited to embark on my capstone project. I am grateful to Katherine McSharry’s presentation because her enthusiasm and articulation of her job lit up a little light bulb in my brain. Her presentation helped me narrow down my topic and root it in real-life examples.

One last additional comment, Katherine’s job title is, “Head of Outreach at the National Library of Ireland,” you can learn more about her with this fabulous video or this one (both sponsored by the National Library). I think her job is my new dream job– the combination of being a master of the collection with a budget to programme and help with exhibitions combines skills I love to use with making an impact in the community.

Photos from:

British Library-

Library of Congress-

National Library of Ireland-

Let me Librarian that for you: Cataloging (an overview)

“You need a master’s to organize books?” Complete with mouth agape..

I encounter this interaction a lot. Many MLIS students do. MLIS stand for Master’s in Library and Information Science or Studies if you’re in Europe.

Let’s unpack this common misconception about library studies.

The short answer is “YES” you do need a master’s in library and information science and part of that reason is to organize materials and information (not just books, but back to that later). This “organizing” people refer to in a vague disinterested way is properly called “cataloging.” Cataloging is what enables people to FIND materials they need. Buckland (2017) offers a pithy history lesson:

“Around the end of the seventeenth century many monasteries in Europe were closed and their libraries confiscated. In Bavaria 200 monastic libraries were sent to Munich to be added to the royal library. The librarians were unable to cope with this floor of material until librarian Martin Schrettinger (1772-1851) understood that technical systems were needed to enable readers (as well as librarians) to find what they needed by themselves quickly and easily. It was for the technical guidelines that he developed and coined the phrase Bibliothek-Wissenchaft (library science)” and with this term “his particular solution was to provide shelf arrangement in subject clusters complemented by an author catalog, a shelf-list, and later, a subject catalog” (p.5,6).

I must emphasize that cataloging is only one aspect of library science. Some librarians never catalog. But, in some ways, cataloging is the easiest for people outside the field to latch onto because of the card catalog imagery prevalent in the romanticization of libraries.

We are going to begin with this image because it is so familiar; miniature teak colored drawers filled with ivory colored cards, aged just enough to add a little gravitas to the authority of the system. Bibliographic information of the highest standard. Every book or journal or reference material is represented on a card.  All in alphabetical order, of course. This system requires librarians to have total ownership over the collection because it’s not easily searchable (i.e. the romantic tiny drawers). There are of course, rules to how the cards are labeled and worded because the cards are small. The title, author, publisher, and year published all need to fit.

Enter the computer.  The catalog drawers may be redundant. Perhaps, the records can be condensed on the machine…

But, now the records need to be machine readable which means the information on the card catalog needs to be coded for the machine. The first set of rules  for this system that became popular  are  Anglo-American Cataloging Rules (AACR2). My cataloging course in school began with this set of rules.

“Title” is field 245, so is “Statement of Responsibility.” Oh, you don’t know what that is? Not all works have authors. Some have editors. Some have compilers. Some have multiple writers… and on and on. “Statement of Responsibility” is a more generous term than “author” or “creator.” Oh, and if there are three names or less on the title page (AKA the authority), you listed them all. If there are more than three, you only use the first name and consider putting the other names in a 700 field (that’s for added entries).

Which edition is it? Field 250. How many pages and illustrations? Field 300. Part of a series? Field 800. Every field has MANY rules are designed to mimic the card catalog tradition of brevity. PEOPLE are coding this information for the millions of materials in libraries. Cataloguers are patient, meticulous, and flexible; there is always an exception to any rule.

Also, if you are a librarian reading this, go easy on the examples I have included of my own PRACTICE. The records are not perfect, just examples to highlight the type of work cataloging is.

AACR2 example

Here’s an example of the rules regarding punctuation within AACR2:

“Precede each area, other than the first area, or each occurrence of a note or standard number, etc., area, by a full stop, space, dash, space (. — ) unless the area begins a new paragraph.

Precede or enclose each occurrence of an element of an area with standard punctuation prescribed at the head of each section of this chapter.

Precede each mark of prescribed punctuation by a space and follow it by a space, except for the comma, full stop, hyphen (see 12.3A2), and opening and closing parentheses and square brackets. The comma, full stop, hyphen, and closing parenthesis and square bracket are not preceded by a space; the hyphen and the opening parenthesis and square bracket are not followed by a space.” (RDA Toolkit)

Don’t lie. Did your eyes glaze over? Did you think, “Yes, I understand now this is very boring.” The truth is, it’s not boring at all because at the time these rules were created machine readability demanded this sort of attention to detail.  If someone made a mistake the material would not show up in search results. Even now, the implications of the entered information being correct means the difference between a material popping up when you search or not existing to users at all.

Now, I hope you are beginning to understand why organizing information is crucial and detail heavy. But, I’m not done yet, because PLOT TWIST computers are way way smarter than 1978 when the AACR2 rules were revised.

Computers don’t necessarily NEED the information for each work to be so brutally precise. Yes, you guessed it, new rules. Not that AACR2 is completely gone, but there is an attempt at phasing it out.

The second part of my cataloging course was devoted to Resource Description & Access (RDA) Rules. There’s an important change here in the attitude about materials. We’re moving away from the card catalog metaphor and towards the idea of connections.  Let’s say you have a DVD copy of Pride and Prejudice starring Kiera Knightly. In AACR2 this would be one entry. In RDA this is a more serious undertaking because this object is a manifestation (or item) of an expression of intellectual work. Meaning this DVD copy of Pride and Prejudice is just one of many manifestations of Jane Austen’s Intellectual CREATION Pride and Prejudice. RDA want’s to connect these things to provide a fuller bibliographic record. Ambitious.

RDA Example

I haven’t even touched on name authority control. Or dirty data. Or Marc. Or how records in AACR2 will be changed to RDA, if they ever will be. Or if RDA is better or not than AACR2.

Trust me, you need a master’s.



Buckland, M. (2017). Library technology in the next 20 years. Library Hi Tech, 35(1), 5-10. doi:10.1108/LHT-11-2016-0131

Chan, L. M., & Hodges, T. (2007). Cataloging and classification: An introduction (3rd ed.). Lanham, Md: Scarecrow Press.

April 2018: What I’m Reading

I get two questions when people find out I am studying to become a librarian.

  1. You need a master’s for that?
  2. What are you reading?

The first question is never not condescending and I’ll talk about that in another post. But, the second question is a fabulous question. What a great way to learn about people’s interests and passions.

My interests are diverse, but my passion is supporting women’s voices. I’m in graduate school so a lot of what I read is content that is easily read on the go and free. Ultimately, I believe that supporting women is really easy: read about women’s experiences written by women. Then support those women by reading more of their work and sharing it with people.

I don’t buy a lot of books because it’s not affordable on my budget. BUT, there is content EVERYWHERE…. and your local public library is usually happy to provide any book you want.

Here are a few women that I read every day and feel inspired by.

Leanne Woodfull, is an Irish blogger that has electrified my time in Dublin. I read her Twitter and Instagram every day. Her voice keeps me engaged with women’s issues in my adopted hometown and she’s also a dog lover and excellent writer. Twitter/Instagram: @leannewoodfull

Shannon Magee, is a writer and poet. She’s really brave too, because she writes and writes and writes. People who create constantly are warriors who labor to relate and articulate regardless of… anything, takes a lot of spirit. Also, the poem I linked too is about bras–highly recommend.

Twitter: @elephant_writes and Instagram: @shenanigans.magee

Sophie Kohne, is an ally. Your ally, my ally, the earth’s ally…. she’s there. Her advice on Instagram about how to be sustainable and treat our planet and its inhabitants with care. Her tips are easy and vary from listening to a podcast on a certain subject to trying new ways of cutting down on paper waste. She inspires me to try new things.

Roxane Gay, is an author I pre-order for… Difficult Women is short stories about women who cleave through difficult paths. Bad Feminist is a series of essays that share some of her experiences as a woman of color in the USA and sheds light on American culture’s fixation on women’s bodies… the crushing weight of that fixation too. Also, her Twitter is fantastic and I savor every rant, link to an article, and review: @rgay

Gwen Smith, the fact that she inspires me may seem obvious because I wrote a book about her. But, let me gush. She’s a columnist for Bay Area Reporter, “Transmissions,” is honest and I read them hot off the press. Reading about her life is humbling, reading her carefully honed words is a privilege. Gwen is on Twitter too: @gwenners

If you don’t know what to say, ask “What are you reading?” If you need to prod, “What about on Twitter? Or Instagram?” Everyone reads, even if they don’t buy books.

(IS40370) February 26, Lib Guide- Medicine

As anyone who visits this blog could infer, I love Lib Guides. I am passionate about the idea of subject information having a highlights page for a student feeling overwhelmed. I really appreciated lib guides as a college student and used them as tools to accelerate my research process.

At my undergraduate university, I had insight into the use of lib guides while working at the library after I graduated. The most popular lib guide was for Political Science and that had largely to do with the personality of the librarian who created the lib guide; she worked very closely with professors in the department to have resources that matched the assignments each semester. The lib guides also had a very useful feature- they have a “book me” feature for students to book a research session with the librarian for that subject right on the lib guide page.

With this very positive experience with lib guides and their usefulness, I reviewed the UCD Medicine Lib Guide organized by Diarmuid Stokes. I know nothing about this field so I believe I approached the guide much like a brand new student would. There is a picture of the librarian with an “email me button” which encourages students to reach out to their subject specialist. I also really liked the “related guides” list: Nursing, Midwifery and Health systems, Physiotherapy, and Public Health. This allows me as a novice to see interrelated fields.

The sections of the guide could have a softer touch; I believe it benefits students to know how they can use the different resources. Below I have in italics my idea for the “soft touch” to help lost students beside the bold title of the section.

Books and eBooks: These reference titles are a good place to start when beginning research on a specific disease or bodily function. 

-Journal Articles and Databases: These resources can help you make informed opinions and decisions about patient care. 

Key websites: These sites are trusted and acknowledged experts in the medical field, search here first!

Government and EU information: Government information and statistics document trends and implement policy. 

Datasets and Statistics: This software can help you create data sets for papers and projects. 

Citing information and avoiding plagiarism: Harvard Style and Vancouver Style unless your professor says otherwise. Helpful PDF’s for download!



(IS40370) February 19th, Organizational Culture

This week’s readings were about organizational culture. I found this topic very interesting to read about because of my work experience in the communications department at  Healthways, a healthcare solution company in Nashville, TN, USA. The company provided exercise classes on site (I did a yoga class everyday at 11 am) and insisted that the dress code was “athleisure“. I wore yoga pants and flip flops to work unless we had a meeting with clients. The work culture was FUN and I felt relaxed and at ease with my colleagues– a perfect example of “Companies operating in countries with low levels of uncertainty avoidance … place a greater emphasis on learning, purpose, and enjoyment” (Harvard Business Review, 2018, p.56). Collaboration was easy and there was a lot of fun in the office. The purpose of the exercise classes and low stress work environment was to “practice what we preach” and encourage well-being. A purpose driven for-profit was a very unique experience and did accentuate “differentiation” among competitors (Harvard Business Review, 2018, p.56).

I loved going to work because of this very intentional workplace culture, but I did not love my job because my supervisor and I did not get along.  Even though the organizational culture was a great fit for me, I still had a classic experience of learning how to manage up to connect with my supervisor. By “managing up,” I mean that I hustled to learn how to connect with my supervisor and perform to their unique (and unclear) set of expectations.

My next work experience was in a university library for one year, the Z. Smith Reynolds Library at Wake Forest University. The organizational culture wasn’t as extreme as Healthways, but I had a supervisor who I had weekly meetings with and a mentor who I met with to get advice from. This structure allowed me to gain confidence in my abilities because I received constant feedback. In addition, the more time I spent at the library the more I appreciated the culture the library cultivated. The Harvard Business Review article from January/February 2018 helped me articulate what made the ZSR such a great place to grow as a professional. The library was purpose driven (helping learners succeed!) and focused on learning for our own staff too; every one was encouraged to step outside their lane and learn something new. The library also focused on caring and results. The best part of this combination was that every person, no matter what department, cared that you were succeeding in your role. Enjoyment was also crucial and highlighted by Friday wellness snacks and staff development days.

What I have learned is that I need structure and a purpose driven organization to feel engaged and successful.



Context, conditions and culture (2018, January-February) Harvard Business Review.Retrieved from

How to shape your culture (2018, January-February) Harvard Business Review.Retrieved from

What’s Your Organization’s Cultural Profile? (2018, January-February) Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from