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Librarian-Student Connections

January 25, 2023

It can be uncomfortable when pausing for questions during an information literacy session and all you hear are crickets. Every time I hear the silence, I worry that I’m not doing my job well, that the students aren’t learning anything new, and I’m not helping.

But maybe I’m looking in the wrong place for confirmation. Maybe it’s not the questions asked or silence that indicates that they are “getting it.” Maybe it’s more than an outward confirmation and maybe it’s sometimes intangible.

Recently as part of our library’s Information Literacy Committee, we read the article “The Power of Presence: One-Shots, Relational Teaching, and Instruction Librarianship” written by Veronica Arellano Douglas and Joanna Gadsby. In this article, they suggest that it’s not the length of time spent together in a teaching session, but rather “openness to relationship and connection.” As I’ve continued to teach information literacy classes, I’ve thought if they forget everything I’ve told them today, at least they’ll remember that I’m here to help in a variety of ways.

Instruction librarians know how hard it is to cram everything we want to cover in one class. It can be daunting and leave you feeling drained. The authors state that “the quality of our presence in the classroom becomes greater than the duration of the encounter.” This also suggests that it may not always be the tangible question and answer format that indicates students are connecting with the content, but rather students knowing that you can support them; That you’ve showed up and will continue to show up. Not every student interaction will be one of connection, but if we’re open to connection, we can demonstrate our willingness to help, support, and engage with our students.

I enjoyed reading this article and thinking more of genuine connection with students when possible as a success. Even if I can’t find the book or article they are looking for, which in the past has made me feel like it was a failed interaction, I can now reframe it as a success because I demonstrated interest, willingness to help, and effort, all of which can positively impact the student. It’s still a meaningful, positive connection that will “make the students more willing to seek out help in the future and increase their sense of agency.” After reading this article, I realized this was always my goal when helping students. I want them to know and remember I’m in their corner ready and willing to help.


Arellano Douglas, V., & Gadsby, J. (2022). The power of presence: One-shots, relational teaching, and instruction librarianship. College & Research Libraries, 83(5), 807-818.

Call for Presenters – Share Your Ideas, Knowledge & Experience at the Pennsylvania Library Association 2023 Conference!

January 23, 2023
The 2023 Pennsylvania Library Association Conference, Rising to the Challenge! is scheduled to take place October 1 – 4, 2023 at Kalahari Resort in the Poconos.

The 2023 Program Committee is currently accepting proposals for sessions to take place during the conference, which will include more than sixty educational sessions on topics of interest for the library community. Some suggested topics

If you are, or know, an expert on a topic that you feel will be of interest to this group, we invite you to submit a session proposal!

The deadline for submissions is Sunday, March 5, 2023

JSTOR and Open Access

January 19, 2023

Researchers are typically very familiar with the JSTOR database. It has been an invaluable way for many years to get journal articles if your institution provides access. Staying true to its preservation commitment, JSTOR now includes a great deal of library-contributed Open Access material in their Open Community Collections.

JSTOR Community Collections include some that are very large, such as the Catholic News Archive from the Catholic Research Resources Alliance, and the South Asia Open Archives (SAOA).

Photographic collections include the nearly 20,000 photographs by one of Hip Hop’s most prolific and prominent photographers in the Ernie Paniccioli Photo Archive, and the early twentieth-century photographic survey of child labor in the Lewis Hine Collection.

It also has some highly specialized collections, like The Muhlenberg Family Papers, the Sports Research Center Collection from the Cleveland Public Library, and Civil Rights in a Northern City, which has digitized archival resources detailing the history of the modern civil rights movement in Philadelphia.

JSTOR’s commitment to openness extends to Independent Voices, a collection of alternative press newspapers, magazines, and journals published by Reveal Digital now openly available on JSTOR. A good example from this collection is American Prison Newspapers, 1800-2020: Voices from the Inside.

Thousands of Open Access ebooks from top scholarly publishers are available in JSTOR, as well as some in Spanish via a collaboration with El Colegio de México and a partnership with the Latin American Council of Social Sciences.

Articles in the public domain are accessible in JSTOR’s Early Journal Content collection.

More articles from nearly 2,000 journals also become available to you on a limited basis when you register for a personal account with JSTOR. 

Chat with a Librarian

January 9, 2023

During the pandemic my library experimented with online reference chat. While it was nice to offer this for students, with our limited staff we ran into issues keeping regular chat hours, which in turn led to low usage. Because of all this we ended up discontinuing our chat service as classes returned to campus and we returned to the library. We had given up on the idea of a chat service when we were approached about joining the Power Library service Chat with a Librarian. Chat with a Librarian is maintained by Power Library and HSLC, it brings librarians from different institutions together to collectively staff their chat service 24 hours a day. Each library must commit to providing a set number of hours each week that their staff will answer questions on chat. This lets you provide significant hours of chat coverage to your students without have to be on chat constantly. As part of this you may have to help patrons at other institutions and librarians at other institutions may help your students. This is made possible by each library filling out detailed documentation about their library that other librarians can reference to enable them to help patrons. Chat with a Librarian integrates into your website using a simple popup icon similar to most chat software. My library is rolling this service out to our students this Spring and I’m hopeful the increased coverage will lead to great usage by students. If you are interested in Chat with a Librarian you can get more details here.

Stress Relief for All

December 27, 2022

The end of the fall term is always a stressful time in my library, as students hustle to get in their final papers and projects on time. Staff is also a bit frazzled by this time of the year, as well. While our public printer on the first floor is the most used on campus, it’s surely showing its age and routinely breaks down at the most inopportune times. By December, everyone on campus is ready for winter break, battling against time to wrap up finals, papers, and projects. 

Earlier this semester, a group of volunteers with Canine Partners for Life brought several dogs in their service training program to campus to offer some socialization opportunities. These dogs currently live with inmates who participate in the training program at two nearby prisons and will go on to receive further training to complete their service dog certification. The volunteers take the dogs out regularly to expose them to real-life situations and scenarios, including them on doctor’s visits, shopping trips, eating at restaurants, and other similar ventures out in the community. When the dogs visited the library, they got to enjoy interacting with new people and places, and also offered some much-appreciated cuddles to the students, and staff as well. It was a win-win for everyone!

Their visit to the library in October was so well attended that it made sense to schedule the group back in December, just before Finals Week. I shared the December visit on social media and through posters on campus, and to my surprise, students started arriving about ten minutes before the dogs were even scheduled to arrive! After planning programs earlier in the term that had not garnered much interest on campus, it was nice to see students in the library who rarely, if ever visit. If dogs can initially get them into the library, maybe the next time they need research help, they will come back for assistance. At any rate, both therapy dog events this semester were successful for all involved and we hope to continue this program next term.

Has your library had success with therapy dogs or other stress relief programs? We also put out puzzles, coloring sheets, squishy animal toys and mini-Rubic cubes, and other creative outlets for students around finals. Sometimes students just need a break. Hopefully, they realize the library is not just a great place to study, but also a place to relax as well.