The Personal Librarian: Enhancing the Student Experience.
If you are looking for an easy-to-read book to catch you up on the concepts of personal librarianship, this is definitely the book for you. The Personal Librarian: Enhancing the Student Experience seeks to give readers a broad survey of the relevant perspectives and current practices in personal librarianship. It is well organized with each chapter following a natural line of inquiry that suits anyone working in the field of academic library reference and instruction.
The book opens with an origin story and definition of personal librarianship written by contributing editor Richard Moniz. This chapter focuses on the development and progression of different library services that made personal librarian programs the natural next step. As Moniz defines it, the purpose of these programs is to "build long-term, one-on-one connections that allow students to have the confidence and resources to be successful" (pp. 8-9). The second chapter is "Development and Implementation of the Personal Librarian Concept" written by contributing editor Jean Moats. If you're in need of a quick run down of successful personal librarian programs, look to this chapter. It chronologically lists real-life examples of such programs along with how and why they got started, and assessment indicating success. Readers will find especially helpful Moats' use of National Center for Education Statistics to give an idea of the scale of these programs.
As stressed in the opening chapter, the focus of personal librarian programs is to achieve a deeper connection between students and the library so that students can be more successful in library research. If you are as new to the idea of personal librarians as I am, this may trigger some important questions, such as, how is this any different than what we are already trying to do? Is this just another buzz-concept or is this really a different type of service? The central chapters in the book relate personal librarian programs to existing library services and library instruction tenets. Contributing authors explain how information literacy, embedded librarianship, and library liaisons inform personal librarianship. As Joe Eshleman states in his chapter, "Information Literacy and the Personal Librarian," personal librarian programs are anchored to instruction (p. 32). Eshleman focuses his argument on the anxieties that students have about library research and approaching a librarian. He (and several other authors of this book) cites Johnson & Wales University's personal librarian program to prove that personal librarians are a great way for librarians to be recognizable and less intimidating to get in touch with. In turn, students will become more information literate. In her chapter, "Embedded Librarianship and the Personal Librarian," Valerie Freeman succinctly explains the purpose and goals of embedded librarians, which in definition sounds an awful lot like personal librarians.
She gets to the meat of the issue by explaining that embedded librarians are frequently involved with a course directly and can say, "I understand the assignments so I can help you now," whereas personal librarian programs focus on knowing the student themselves and helping based on familiarity and connections that students can rely on even outside of a particular course (p. 47).
The service model that is most closely related to personal librarianship is the model of academic liaisons. Liaisons work on creating a partnership and relationship with the academic departments assigned to them. In "Academic Liaisons as Personal Librarians," Jo Henry explains that a personal librarianship initiative could be seen as an extension of liaison responsibilities and writes, "Personal librarianship asks the liaison to develop a more meaningful, long-term relationship with students and faculty" (pp. 58-59). Henry explains the different supports necessary for such programs to take off and addresses the idea of a personal brand.
Looking to start your own personal librarian initiative at your institution? Richard Moniz includes a helpful little chapter called, "Best Practices and a Checklist for Personal Librarians." Perhaps the most practical chapter in the book, it summarizes the many experiences and advice from different personal librarian programs in six pages. Some may find the checklist to be just what they need to get going.
All in all, I think this is a worthy read and a much-needed addition to the literature surrounding personal librarianship. If you're like me and hadn't considered such a program in any serious way, you might just find yourself being motivated to try it!
Reviewed by Natalie Bennett, Assistant Professor
Online Services Librarian
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
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|Publication:||Journal of Library Innovation|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2015|
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