Here we go again!  Another summer, another exciting RYSAG camp!  We are just a week and two days away from counselor orientation and then on Monday, July 19, about 60 middle and high school students from the Rochester City School District (RCSD) will descend upon SUNY Geneseo‘s campus.  This is the time of the summer when my organizational efforts really hit mach speed.

Thanks to the diligence and consciensciousness of one of our outstanding counselors, currently home for the summer and away from the hustle and bustle of confirming plans for the camp organization and storyline, I’ve been (positively) pushed to focus on finalizing schedules and google docs so that everyone involved will have the necessary information before arriving on campus.  Last night, I spent time refining the camp storyline in a google doc, adding notes from a previous meeting with the Camp Director as well as new ideas developed in a recent meeting with the camp’s faculty planning group.

Potential volunteer interviewees (faculty and staff from all different academic disciplines) have been contacted and most have responded with their availability to meet with our students to discuss personal experiences with conflict, difference and/or adaptation.  One more reminder should hopefully push the lagging interviewees along.  The hope is to have a nearly finalized interview schedule before our Monday (7/12) meeting with all camp volunteers.  At this meeting, everyone will be informed of the general camp plan, goals and expectations, putting us all on the same page.  We arranged for a similar meeting two years ago and that really helped for a smooth transition into the camp’s “theater.”

This year’s camp, whose theme focuses on peacekeeping and conflict negotiation, should be interesting with two teams consisting of brand new (to RYSAG) RCSD students entering seventh and eighth grades in the fall.  For the past two years, we’ve seen a lot of repeat students, many of whom have participated in every camp experience since the 2007 inception.  Our numbers for four-peaters are dwindling but we have still retained nine of the original RYSAG CSI candidates.  Understandable considering these students are likely to be entering the tenth grade this fall, where scholastic expectations and requirements are heightened and students are now at an age where they can begin working full-time summer jobs.

Our four-peaters, and even a handful of three-peaters, form one of our four camp teams and serve as CITs – counselors-in-training – where leadership skills and roles are stressed, placing the students in good stead for future counselor positions.  How amazing will it be if/when these students return in their pre-senior and even post-senior/college summers to assist with the running of the camp!!!!  Our first introduction to these students was when they were entering seventh grade!  How quickly time passes.

But I digress . . . the reasoning behind the title of this post refers to a recent SUNYLA conference presentation I offered.  I had two main reasons for developing the presentation.  First, to highlight the amazing RYSAG camp experience, which I’ve been wanting to boast about for a few years now.  The second reason was to encourage librarians, especially those new to the field, to identify their strengths and interests – both personal and professional – and promote them by joining campus projects and committees where librarian talents are seriously needed.

The strengths and interests I identified within myself at the presentation include:

  • organizational skills, especially where logic and scheduling are involved
  • technological knowledge and ability to make practical use of technological tools to bring people together
  • creativity
  • risk taking
  • pedagogical knowledge
  • team player, wanting to bring people together in meaningful and fun ways
  • mediator, using my contacts and knowledge among various academic departments

All of these attributes have come in handy when putting together the RYSAG camp infrastructure.  From creating rotating schedules for campers, instructors, counselors and interviewees to using a variety of social networking tools for the good of document and idea sharing (i.e., google docs, wikis, blogs), camper communication and training (i.e., gmail accounts, blogs, Truveo multimedia searching, interactive web scavenger hunt), and tracking volunteers’ availability (i.e., Doodle) to suggesting key players to the camp storyline based on a wide range of contacts in different departments due to library instruction efforts and other campus-wide committee participation.

As mentioned in the SUNYLA presentation, while I am well aware of the amazing skills and special talents librarians bring to the table, especially in campus-wide forums, I become downright giddy when I hear of stories where librarians lead the faculty/staff pack and offer a sense of unity, focus, organization, creativity and expertise.  It is these stories that remind me what a valuable service we provide to the campus community.

And again, I encourage all librarians to realize the unique attributes they have to offer, to get involved in campus projects and to promote the good that our librarian superpowers can foster.

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While not strictly tied to collaborative teaching efforts, a recent planning session with my Collection Development colleague for a staff retreat focused on faculty outreach has prompted me to brainstorm the many ways in which I connect with professors.  I wrote them all down so as not to forget, but at tomorrow’s retreat, all of the librarians will brainstorm their own ways of collaborating.  We are sure to generate a long and very rich list.

Following are the thoughts that I’ve come up with.  I will try to combine similar activities so that this list doesn’t become too cumbersome.

Instructional efforts

  • Successful teaching collaborations (Anthropology, First-year Writing Seminar, Foreign Languages, Political Science, Psychology, RYSAG, Sociology) have led other professors to engage in similar instructional efforts
  • Successful teaching collaborations have led to greater opportunities for myself and for those with whom I teach (i.e., RYSAG)
  • Conference presentations incorporating librarian and professor (and sometimes student representatives) have led to faculty interest in similar teaching collaborations, at SUNY Geneseo and elsewhere
  • Attendance and participation at departmental meetings helps initiate interest in what librarians can do for professors in the classroom and for students outside of the classroom (i.e., research consultations)
  • Attempts at establishing formal librarian-professor meetings or get-togethers (i.e., Librarian-Faculty Learning Community)
  • Assisting professors with their curricular material that have a focus on information literacy skills (i.e., proofreading a student survey centered on issues of plagiarism)
  • Providing introductions of what the library instruction staff can do for various campus groups (i.e., new faculty, First-Year Writing Seminar professors, teaching assistants)
  • Writing short newsletter articles for campus publications on different instructional projects in which librarians are involved
  • Engaging in campus-wide activities that focus on pedagogy (i.e., Teaching and Learning Center workshops)
  • Involvement in teaching activities that expand beyond the library (i.e., RYSAG) has allowed me to make connections across campus and outside of the academic environment (i.e., high school teachers)
  • E-mail contact with professors to suggest one-shot classroom instruction over individual research consultations for every student in a course or to clarify tricky questions that a professor has added to a research assignment
  • Working on professional development opportunities that incorporate librarians (and teachers) from all different educational settings

Collection building

  • Meetings that involve collection development librarian, subject specialty librarian, department chair and departmental representative to the library to discuss such things as budget allocations, electronic resources suitable for the subject discipline in question and subject areas covered through print resources
  • Making personal recommendations for sources to professors based on what I know of their research and curricular interests
  • Assisting with suggestions for course texts
  • Writing short newsletter articles for campus publications on issues of weeding, purchasing, new collection initiatives, etc.
  • Advertising and administering regional access cards so professors can borrow from local college/library collections
  • Inviting professors to provide input and/or train in orientations to various electronic resources

Faculty research

  • Answering reference questions for faculty, whether in person, on the phone, via e-mail, etc.
  • Offering research consultations to faculty members; not just to students
  • Meeting professors and their research assistants to provide instruction on various tools as well as strategies for tackling the necessary research question/project
  • Providing instruction for student research can many times lead to professors learning of new strategies and resources for their own research
  • Informal conversations can lead to new ideas for faculty research endeavors

Campus-wide engagement

  • Involving oneself in College Senate
  • Choosing relevant Senate subcommittees in which to participate
  • Chairing a Senate subcommittee
  • Running for/serving on other campus-wide committee participation
  • Working on library committees that demand a teaching faculty representative
  • Attending campus functions

Finally, I think that not enough can be said for informal, social interactions with faculty colleagues, on or off-campus.  These serendipitous connections can truly lead to great things, the very least being a newly formed friendship.

I am anxious to hear of other ways that my local colleagues interact with professors and would certainly like to extend the conversation to anyone else reading this blog.  How do you most frequently connect with faculty on campus/at school?

Oh, it is late, but I feel that if I don’t write something down, I will fall into the abyss of laziness, making excuses for never having the time to write. My most current thoughts are of the Brazilian Bash that was held in honor of Dr. Kintz, Department Chair of Anthropology, and devoted professor, fundraiser, caregiver, and friend to many for the past 29 years! 29 years! I’m only about a third of the way there. The idea of the Bash was devised through a collaborative brainstorming session before the beginning of the spring semester. After witnessing ANTH 235 students reading their original poems on the Maya view of the universe, Ellen and I knew we had to create another activity for this semester’s students that could be just as fun and rewarding. Sometimes, the best laid plans go unfinished, however. The initial thought was to have students separate into groups throughout the semester and create party planning committees. One would focus on Brazilian food. Another on Brazilian music. And others on decorations, costumes, dancing, etc. The research would be done in small chunks month by month and students would be responsible for coordinating vendors, pricing, schedules, etc. Not only would a Brazilian-themed retirement party be constructed for Ellen’s last few weeks as an official full-time professor, her students would immerse themselves in Brazilian life and culture. Unfortunately, since I miss so many of the ANTH class sessions (a librarian can only be in so many places at one time), I wasn’t able to stay abreast of the progress or push Ellen and the students had I known they were falling behind. It was in my “books” session with the students, while Ellen was away on business, that I encouraged party-specific research. But after that, the planning went nowhere. I know that Ellen is just as swamped with work as I am, if not more so, so I certainly don’t fault her. The students have learned enormous amounts of information on Brazil as it is, and my guess is that they were already bogged down with reading assignments, wiki posts, powerpoint presentation development, etc. Ellen asks a lot of her students but they always rise to the challenge and come out a better student – a better person – for it.

Despite a hectic week of throwing the party together, I think it went fabulously. Ellen must have worked her butt off to create six different powerpoints, each with its own focus on issues affecting Brazil. She read numerous quotes from Brazilian authors, sharing with her audience a glimpse of the good and bad of the largest country within South America. Cake and punch were served and the coup de gras was the amazing Buddhahood. What a terrific group of guys, and so talented. They whole-heartedly entertained Ellen’s family, friends, co-workers and students with their drums, horns and dancing. I am so pleased that I was able to book them with such late notice and without too much to offer in the way of financial gain. I do hope that our little business venture (in the way of Geneseo connections) will lead to even further librarian-faculty-student collaboration on campus. Already, a COMN professor has suggested a possible student project that could benefit her students as well as The Buddhahood. Isn’t networking a wonderful thing?

I just attended a database demonstration for one of our newest purchases. Lots of science faculty there, which was wonderful to see. Apparently, our teaching faculty can be lured in with free food. 🙂 I was able to talk summer camp stuff with our Chemistry partner. Eric has fantastic ideas when it comes to teaching the middle school students in the sciences. They loved him last year and were even asking for him this past weekend. He and our resident Archaeologist will make a tremendous teaching team. It’s interesting to work with professors beyond the typical one-shot library sessions. I think in a more collaborative and teaching-intensive environment, professors can truly see what librarians are capable of in the classroom. Research skills become merely the means for students to learn the content. Once students are empowered with research abilities, their world of knowledge opens up. I have definitely seen this in cooperative classes with Dr. Kintz, Anthropology. But it’s essential that librarians and faculty teach together beyond that one-shot session.

The database demo becomes a perfect opportunity to connect with faculty who we typically don’t work with. It’s important to see where their needs and interests lie. It’s essential to get a conversation started, whether it’s over a shameless “carrot” of free food and technology or before/after a campus-centered meeting. Librarians must become increasingly involved in campus activities so that they can get their face out there and become a recognizable member of the college community. Even to this day, I find it difficult to leave the library when there is so much work to be done at my desk. But without “outside” visits, friendly lunches, cooperative volunteer/service work, no one on campus will be aware of all that the library has to offer. Professors and students know to a certain extent, but they are always amazed when you can keep wowing them with new discoveries. I heard that very level of excitement from Eric who was just discovering the power of Scopus.