I grew up before the internet was widespread. My sources of information were the morning and afternoon newspapers, along with my Saturday morning weekly trip to the Arlington Heights Memorial Library with my dad. We’d go there and he’d head over to the adult nonfiction section to see what new books came in that week. Then he’d head to his favorite area – the art and architecture books. He could spend hours there if he wouldn’t have had a list of things he wanted to get accomplished. Need to wire the basement? Go find a book in the library. Building a patio? Off to the library, he’d go. I would head to the children’s section. Sometimes I would ask questions of the librarians and often, I’d just sit on a stool in the middle of the rows of books, looking for the most recent Nancy Drew mystery, or looking for a biography of a woman such as Clara Barton or Harriet Tubman.
The Arlington Heights Memorial Library transformed my life. It brought a world of knowledge to me that I could have never imagined. Though I can’t say that I knew right then and there that I wanted to be a librarian, I have always felt proud of my career choice because I know the work that we do can transform the lives of our students, our faculty, and ourselves.
This week, we held a successful Dean’s Cabinet kickoff meeting. We have a wonderful array of advocates from all walks of life that have pledged to help me to raise funds so that we can continue to keep this library on an upward trajectory. As I’ve been thinking about why libraries are transformative, I’d like to share with you some of the important activities on which our library staff are collaborating with our faculty to help students have a successful experience here at the University of Houston. These are just a few of the many ongoing initiatives:
- We partner with the Office of Student Housing & Residential Life to provide library services in the campus residence halls. We offer workshops and individualized assignment support in the Cougar Village computer lab.
- We work with UH student athletes and their tutors in the Athletics Academic Center for Excellence.
- Our business librarians are embedded into the first course taken by students newly admitted to the Bauer College of Business to set the groundwork for good information-seeking behavior and analysis. They also work with students in the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship, including the capstone project of developing their own businesses.
- One of our archivists works with classes that teach feminist research methods using materials in the Carey Shuart Women’s Research Collection, and supports a student project on 20th century elections using the Houston and Texas History Research Collection.
We create opportunities in support of the Houston community by hosting various events such as LinkedIn @ the Library, which paired librarians and career services staff with students to improve their LinkedIn profiles and learn best practices for networking while they’re job hunting; and a workshop for grad students and post docs that featured publishers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, along with senior faculty, who gave guidance about best practices in publishing. Our Music Library teamed up with the UH Office of Sustainability to host a meetup on upcycle crafting. Students created their own repurposed book bag using recycled plastic bags, unusable music scores, and recycled clothing.
The innovation that our librarians and staff bring to creating community activities blows me away. The work they do every day – teaching our students, acquiring, cataloging, circulating, and digitizing resources, and developing archives and creating new services – is so meaningful and worthwhile to the more than two million annual visitors to our libraries, and to those who met with our librarians for 33,439 reference consultations last year.
We truly are a community nurtured by curiosity and creativity that drives lifelong learning and scholarship. Our library employees truly embody this vision each and every day.