San Diego, California is home of beautiful weather, spectacular beaches- and a group of highly motivated, driven and future-ready information professionals. The SLA-San Diego Chapter is proud to join in the conversation with our SLA peers about what it means to be Future Ready. Our San Diego membership boasts a wide range of professional experience and expertise, and we hope that you find our contributions to the FutureReady365 blog to be both thought-provoking and useful!
When librarians talk about what it means to be “future ready,” the topic of conversation often turns into a discussion of the latest and greatest technology. In broader terms, though, doesn’t being “future ready” really just mean preparing your library to best serve your users in the future? At the San Diego Zoo Global Library, we’ve spent most of the last year thinking about just this—how to position ourselves in order to provide the best service possible. This has involved assessing our abilities, focusing on what we’re good at and envisioning what we want to achieve (rewriting our mission and vision statements), and, yes, adopting new technologies.
This two-part post will explore both librarians’ perspectives on their work at the San Diego Zoo. Part I comes from Talitha Matlin, Associate Director of Library Services, with Part II authored by Amy Jankowski, Assistant Librarian with responsibilities for the San Diego Zoo’s archives.
Part II — Amy Jankowski, San Diego Chapter, Museums, Arts & Humanities Division
When I graduated with my MLS degree in May 2011, I never could have guessed that within two months I would be moving cross-country for a dream job focusing on the archives collection at the San Diego Zoo Global Library. After the anticipation of relocating, starting anew, and assuming a professional title abated, the reality of my situation gradually sunk in. Like many new information professionals, everything was the “future” to me, and it seemed like quite a lot to feel ready for after going straight from graduate student to solo archivist in one gleeful leap. At the same time, I realized that the future was going to come whether I felt ready for it or not. I just needed to take a few deep breaths and simplify. Before taking on any big projects or making any major decisions, I stepped back to think about how my position fits within my organization and how I may grow to better serve my users.
In contemplating where to start, I looked at two key aspects of the archives that will be vital in remaining viable for the future: collection management and opportunities for use and outreach. First, I analyzed how the archives collections could be best housed and managed to align their organization, description, and accessibility with professional standards. Like many special libraries, the SDZG library and archives have a modest budget in comparison to larger academic and research institutions, yet there are a number of affordable ways that we could move toward optimal archives management. These include gradually setting aside money in our budget for archival quality housing, translating legacy finding aids to comply with current professional standards, and exploring implementation of popular open source archives management software. Together, all of these changes would enable me to provide better archival reference service and help potential researchers explore the contents of what are now relatively hidden collections.
Beyond basic physical and intellectual organization, I also recognize a big opportunity for expanding use of SDZG archival materials. To approach this objective, I analyzed how the archives collection fits within the organization as a whole. The majority of work at the zoo focuses on innovative, forward-thinking animal management, education, and conservation research with little focus on the past. However, the archives lends historical evidence to the organization’s development, progress, and change over time; the collection’s presence is a source of pride documenting the zoo’s legacy, which fuels nostalgia and appreciation among employees and the visiting public alike, who come together through common memories of a shared past.
Historical materials have long been a point of pride for the San Diego Zoo and a popular stop during backstage facility tours, plus they periodically serve as a reference for development and public relations department projects. However, public access to unpublished archival documents at SDZG is extremely limited. Therefore, I recognize a major opportunity to expand our user base by connecting with the public through various social media and digitization outlets. I will soon be working with the zoo’s social media guru to explore incorporating historical themes, facts, and images into regular rotation on the zoo’s Facebook and Twitter feeds. I am additionally considering creative ways by which to employ digitized archival documents on the library’s webpage—for example, creating a dynamic timeline or digital exhibit using an open source web publishing platform.
As time goes by, ideas seem to pop up faster than I can jot them down. Clearly a little momentum seems to be the best preparation I could have asked for in terms of jumping in to meet the needs of my niche position. I am gradually learning that a big part of being “future ready” in a special library means being creative, adaptable, doing the best you can with available resources, and maintaining a vision of the role you seek to play within your larger organization!
Amy Jankowski is the Assistant Librarian at the San Diego Zoo Global Library, where she focuses on managing the archives collection. Amy received her MLS with a specialization in archives and records management from Indiana University in 2011. In addition to the Special Libraries Association, Amy is a member of the Society of American Archivists and Society of California Archivists.