A day in the life of a librarian
In the centrally located office, the hidden gatekeepers of the library are hard at work in their individual lairs until they are called away by faculty, students and administrators.
Kerry Creelman, the Coordinator of Undergraduate Instruction and Outreach, is one of a team of 17 people working in liaison services, the front line of student outreach and education. Creelman is dedicated to finding ways to better serve students and improve grades and, in turn, student success.
“I really like working with students,” Creelman said. “Whether it’s teaching them, working one-on-one with them, helping them find their research or helping them use the library in a way that they didn’t know before that all of a sudden saves them time — that, to me, is very rewarding.”
With the advent of technology and aggregator sites like Google, Yahoo! and Bing, some students at UH have never met their section librarians, who specialize in specific subjects, like English, math, music, law or science.
“I think you’ll hear people say, ‘With the Web, why do we need libraries or why do we need librarians,’ and I actually think you need us more. Some of the basic needs that people went to the library for in the past are gone. That opens the way for far more complex needs,” Creelman said.
“There’s so much information out there. When you have an abundance or an overabundance of information, how do you sift through that? So we are here to provide access to quality search tools — to provide instruction on searching well and how to navigate the information landscape, which is ever becoming more complex.”
Her top priority is educating students on information literacy. It’s all about properly using the approximately 400 different search tools for the behemoth amounts of data stored in the University’s collections and systems. Whether it’s scientific research or a term paper for English literature, Creelman works relentlessly to help students find their way in the ever-growing information age.
“A lot of our students will make appointments for a consultation. I flip my monitor around, give them the keyboard, the mouse, and we sit here and we look for information on their topic. We talk about whatever information literacy concepts come up,” Creelman said.
“As we’re searching, whatever questions they have, we try and answer.”
Creelman moved from Canada four years ago to work at UH, first as an English subject librarian before her promotion, which came after her graduation from the University of Western Ontario in Library and Information Science. Though it was a drastic change of weather and scenery, she was excited about being a part of an ambitious university and a library that was part of the Association of Research Libraries, which she described as an “elite group.”
“To be able to work with the English faculty, who were so diverse, and so dynamic, and very prolific and very engaged with the library … It was really exciting,” Creelman said. “I figured I landed my dream job fresh out of library school. It’s been so exciting and I haven’t wanted to leave.”
For Shawn Vaillancourt, an education subject librarian who also works in liaison services, Creelman is a natural leader who is very sensitive to students and the impact she can have on their education.
“She is very mindful of the pedagogical impact of her interactions with students,” Vaillancourt said. “(She’s) always very conscientious about what impact her approaches, even at the smallest level, are going to have with students.”
Though Vaillancourt appreciates that Creelman is invested in working with students, he said that she doesn’t receive much visibility.
“I think this is a perennial problem amongst all librarians. But I think fewer students get the deeper relationship with her that they did when she was a liaison,” Vaillancourt said.
“Because she does a lot of behind-the-scenes work that helps all librarians working with undergraduate students, they don’t get to see her in her role as directly as they do the librarian in the classroom.”
Creelman and her colleagues in liaison services have a wealth of knowledge that they’re ready to divulge to students, but sometimes students don’t know where to go to begin their journey.
“Sometimes the students don’t even know they need us, and that’s the great part,” Creelman said. “We don’t want to be a hidden gem; we want to be right out front, shining bright — glittery, sparkly gems that you can’t hide.”
Creelman has been invaluable in helping freshman Sarah Hinds navigate the library for her first time. Hinds and her classmates from ENGL 1302 participated in an instructional session with Creelman. Hinds plans on carrying her newfound information literacy skills throughout her college career.
“I think she just helped me make all my papers better. Now I just have to learn how to write,” Hinds said.