A Long December (lessons in web service)

This blog post has been in the works for quite a while, I must say. It has been too long, though I made it my excuse that I was recharging my batteries having finished what was simultaneously the most productive and most exhausting semester of my career in higher education. Instead of boring you with a laundry list, I want to detail my 2-week practicum experience that quite broadening for my education thus far. Two weeks of public library work for an aspiring health/academic librarian was quite a feat. The point of this post, then, is to reposition myself digitally as I prepare to finish my degree and move out into the wild world of librarianship.

First, I experienced the distinct pleasure of being hosted by Meg Canada at Hennepin County Library for two weeks as part of a practicum placement. Ostensibly there to learn the ins and outs of a healthy social media presence maintained across a large public library system, I was actually allowed much more than a glimpse into their web services department, and subsequently the heartbeat of library services in Hennepin County. We did do social media, and connected with folks on Twitter and Facebook on behalf of the library, responding to blog comments as well. I had had it in my head that this was the type of thing I would like to be involved in with my work as a librarian, and was not surprised when I enjoyed this aspect of the work quite a bit.

Several librarians took some time to share stories and problems with me as I worked through my two weeks there, and the most salient take away that I gained in speaking to the other librarians (in charge of various aspects of the library’s website, like KidLinks, TeenLinks, IM reference or Bookspace) was being able to put together the pieces of the web service pie, as it were. I have spent a lot of time reading, writing and theorizing about what library service on the web, and incorporating social media can look like. It was quite a refreshing change of pace to be involved with actually carrying it out.

And in what was perhaps the most eye-opening experience, we were able to visit the Adult Corrections Facility in Plymouth, MN to conduct a “Read to Me” program with inmates. Talk about doing something. I think Read to Me is a fairly popular idea, teaching parents the importance of reading to their children, often then introducing them to library resources and services in the process. In a corrections context, the inmates would sign up for three one-hour sessions, and during the third session, they can choose a picture book, record themselves reading it, take a picture with the book and then send it all along home to their child all on the library’s dime. I will spare you all the gushing, but suffice it to say that it was certainly the most broadening work experience I’ve had, and also the most rewarding.

Other things of note: if you didn’t already slog through my directed study on social media in the academic library, I would of course suggest that you do so. It’s long, so just read the parts you like. Also, please visit danielhooker.com to see my portfolio and resume, since I just spent an afternoon updating it. There are some subtle differences. If you mention one of them to me, you’ll get a prize. Just kidding.

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