Innovation, learning, and partnership are the hallmarks of Brian Gray’s work at the Kelvin Smith Library at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. One of 50 staff members in the main campus library, Brian draws on a variety of skills to serve—and keep ahead of—the library’s users, which include almost 10,000 students in over 60 degree programs, faculty and staff, and the university’s community.
"I work in an organization that supports strategic risk-taking. The reference staff has shown a great ability to adapt and improve every step of the patron interaction."
The patrons for whom Brian and his colleagues provide reference services, collection management and instruction might be located anywhere in the world, just around the corner, or sitting next to them. “The users drive our services,” observes Brian. “We use tools and styles that best meet the individual’s needs.”
“Patrons can now access us through instant messaging, we use blogs to promote programming and resources tools, and we converted our subject guides to a wiki environment to promote discussion and currency of materials.”
Teaching and learning go hand-in-hand with innovation. “As we build a digital depository of the intellectual output of faculty and students, we are educating faculty about scholarly communication. We are also educating ourselves: I am creating a self-paced training for library staff on Web 2.0 tools and techniques. Later in 2008, we are going to implement it for the entire campus to use.”
Ultimately, success depends on partnership. “Nothing I do is in a vacuum,” says Brian. “Everything that I do represents the benefits of teamwork.”
The library’s patrons are part of the team. “Our users are eager to provide feedback by in-person, phone, or email. They participate in focus groups and retreats.”
In just three years at KSL, Brian has already seen changes in the research process and the librarian’s role as the Internet becomes increasingly incorporated into both research and daily life. “We provide more direction to sources, instruction in determining authority or accuracy and citing e-resources, and we help students and faculty with more complex research questions.”
“Technology allows us to reach more people, provide faster and more complete responses, and collaborate with more information professionals to provide top-notch service.”
As more and more materials are digitized, Brian still sees a significant role for print resources “Print resources are gaining value as those that use them will be able to distinguish themselves from all the others that rely only on the same e-sources as their competition.”
Brian notes constant concerns, however: “Who is maintaining archival versions of data? How? Will the format change faster than libraries can implement it? What data has been lost as formats have changed? How do we keep library staff trained and comfortable with changes in technology?”
“Libraries should be more central to the development of information technologies,” he suggests. “While it is nice that people create tools for libraries, I wish we saw more of those trained in librarianship working closely with producers of search engines, databases, and other web tools.”
Brian sees creative partnerships becoming increasingly important: “The libraries that innovate will be the ones keeping pace with the online information revolution. We will see more non-librarians joining library staffs to increase the skill sets available to meet our patrons’ expanding needs..”
Brian Gray works for Case Western Reserve University, a private research university in Cleveland, Ohio. An adjunct faculty member of the Kent State University School of Library & Information Science and a member of the ALA, he founded and moderates the LAMA Dialog with Director’s Discussion Group; is LAMA’s web coordinator and NMRT’s LAMA liaison; and is on the LAMA website advisory board. He serves on the annual conference planning committee and is an at-large board member of the Academic Library Association of Ohio.
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