Military Libraries come in all shapes and sizes. We’re academic libraries, supporting Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral degrees. We’re public libraries, complete with children’s story hours and retiree’s financial resources. We’re also other types of special libraries: medical; history; science, technology & engineering; intelligence; and headquarters support. The Military Libraries Division brings together members from all U.S. military services, Canadian Combined Armed Forces, international military services, contractors, vendors, academic institutions and anyone with an interest in military librarianship. Check us out at http://military.sla.org/. – Gloria Miller is a Librarian at the Headquarters, U.S. Army Materiel Command, Redstone Arsenal (Huntsville), Alabama. She is currently the Chair-Elect of the Military Libraries Division.
by Rachel Kingcade, Washington, DC Chapter, Military Libraries Division
At Marine Corps University (MCU), Embedded Librarianship is called Direct Support. Within the past three years, this program has proved highly successful as evidenced in the growth of services, increase in the number of reference requests, and positive responses from both faculty and students. Essential to the program are e-initiatives to include e-resources, e-instruction, e-reference, and of course, e-content. Capitalizing on our virtual connections laid the foundation of direct library support, essentially creating our new dynamic duo.
“There you are, Norton. The people! Try and lick that!”
~Meet John Doe, 1941
Like the ending scene in Frank Capra‘s classic “Meet John Doe,” our people have spoken and our librarians have listened. At the Marine Corps Research Library (MCRL), patrons may access e-collections, e-services, e-programs, use e-readers and the list goes on. E-initiatives have outfitted our Direct Support Librarians with an e-arsenal letting us truly practice ‘in the field.’ As the practices have expanded, I have developed a list of lessons learned. Each lesson was an eye-opener in itself, but has proved invaluable in defining the Direct Support initiative. For those wishing to start their own programs, here are the top ten lessons I’ve learned through the privilege of serving the tough men and women of the Marine Corps.
“The most powerful weapon is the Marine mind.”
~EPME Course Card
Get to know your patrons…
Getting to know your patrons is critical. Too often we just listen to our patrons ask their questions and don‘t take the time to get to know them and how they think. As Direct Support Librarians this should be your first priority. Don‘t let traditional meetings take the place of actual communication. For faculty and staff, try to visit each staff member individually. Read the university catalog, the faculty bios and the faculty’s subject areas of interest. Set up additional times to survey their informational needs and requests. Create an email roster for keeping them apprised of new content within their subject areas. Highlight the resources that fit their areas of research. Let them know you are interested in them and what they teach and how you can assist. For our Marine students, this means asking what their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) is, learning the rank structure, knowing the organizational hierarchy of the Marine Corps, finding out where they have served and what they hope to do. Listen more, talk less, take copious notes, ask questions, and in the end, you will have made lots of friends and influenced many people.
“Once a Marine, Always a Marine!”
~MSgt Paul Woyshner
Speak their language…
At MCU, Direct Support is also known as good gouge. This is a great compliment which took a lot of hard work. What‘s good gouge? It‘s military slang meaning great information. Working in an all-military environment, you must learn quickly to navigate the lingo and acronyms. This builds connections and camaraderie and when you speak the jargon, you can truly demonstrate the value and effectiveness of your library resources in ways that are meaningful for them. It’s not about the intrinsic merit of the library and what you do; it’s about making your professional resources and services relevant and translatable to your community. For example, when describing our subscription databases to a Marine who‘s MOS is in artillery, I might describe them as an informational arsenal where the journals are represented as weapon types; the idea of using only Google to search for reliable resources is like using a mortar when you really need a sniper rifle.
For a Marine who’s MOS is in aviation I might describe our website as a sort of checklist he needs to run through before he can begin his campaign analysis. One of the oft-used acronyms in the Marine Corps is MAGTF, or Marine Air Ground Task Force. A MAGTF, according to the Marines, is ‘a balanced air-ground, combined arms task organization of Marine Corps forces under a single commander that is structured to accomplish a specific mission.’ When describing the Direct Support program to the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, I likened it to a MAGTF only I called it a LAGTF, or Librarian Archivist Ground Task Force. Little connections like this go a long way to achieving relevancy within an organization.
“Each Marine is required to read the CMC’s choice “First to Fight”
by LtGen (Ret) V. Krulak.
Learn their content/curriculum…
This means spending time reviewing course material, required reading lists, professional journals, highlighting terminology, and becoming familiar with names, dates, concepts, operational terms, and acronyms. Need a crash course to catch up quickly? Ask the faculty if they might provide some of their lecture notes. I read the faculty handbooks so I understand the assignment and the learning objectives of the course director. Again, this gives you a huge advantage in assisting your students and faculty members as well as being able to anticipate their reference needs. When you have learned what the topics are and understand some of the history, relevant terms, keywords, etc., you can apply the necessary taxonomy or subject heading and open the door to more information on that topic. For example, a course card for a class on Warfighting highlights specific WWII campaigns within the Pacific theater of operations. To prepare for the students taking this class, I research the appropriate subject headings of these campaigns, possibly the call number range and the multiple names by which the campaign was known by the different services of the military to allow rapid information retrieval. You don‘t want to have your ‘weapon jam’ when you get the reference question, so arm yourself ahead of time by reading the curriculum!
“Retreat Hell! We’re just attacking in another direction.”
~Attributed to Major General Oliver P. Smith, USMC
Translate your skills with real life examples…
With all this under your belt, you can easily begin to translate your skill set into the language they speak; relevant to the material they instruct or study. Have examples ready which demonstrate the relevancy of your information to their courses or interests. Too often we have witnessed briefings from librarians showing the standard catalog or database search with no topical relevancy for the intended audience. What could be more disastrous! Match your brief to a topic under study, e.g., if the class is studying nuclear deterrent, use S.A.L.T. as your search example. If the topic is Afghanistan and humanitarian assistance, use nation-building, humanitarian intervention or military operations other than war (MOOTW). If you have a group of Marines who’ve not used a library in years, try something unconventional. Marines know combat and martial arts so it’s a safe bet they are familiar with Chuck Norris or Bruce Lee films. Relate the library resources to round house kicks and the databases as digital kung fu. Take it further by demonstrating access via your BlackBerry or iPhone. The results will be rewarding every time.
“You don’t hurt ‘em if you don’t hit ‘em.”
~Lieutenant General Lewis B. Puller, USMC
Keep it relevant and concise…
Librarians love to talk about information literacy. We want the whole world to know what we have! Frankly, I’d hire a band and fly a banner 24/7 – 365 if I could; however, there is a time and place for this. Introducing library research is not the best time to veer off into metrics and metadata; you will have glazed looks and Marines who never come back. You have to keep it tight and relevancy is always key. In other words get to the point! Marines call this squared away, the opposite being a ‘soup sandwich’ which paints quite a picture. Now, should they require more, that’s easily accommodated, but until that happens, rein it in. You want to win friends and influence people, not destroy them via death by PowerPoint. Use your e-platforms to have instructional material available for them to use at their convenience like online tutorials, instructional videos or discussion boards. This meets a variety of user needs quickly and succinctly.
“Being ready is not what matters. What matters is winning after you get there.”
~Lieutenant General Victor H. Krulak, USMC
Meet them where they are; don’t wait for them to come to you!
Meeting them where they are is critical. Depending on your patrons’ comfort level in the library, you may have to be very proactive. For Marines, they respect action so take your laptop and set up shop like the proverbial Lucy with your ‘Dr. Is In’ sign and greet them with a smile and a clear, confident look in the eye. Knock on doors; stick your head in a meeting if you need to. Let them know your intent is serious; it’s not a waste of their time and it costs them nothing. This is the part that will be hard for those of us who are not really social. Imagine a room full of Marines and it’s doubly hard! You must force yourself out of your comfort zone and be available. After all, how else will your build your support? This is easier nowadays with e-initiatives to support all type of requests for information via email, IM or text. However, nothing can replace the value of personal interaction. It shows you are willing to make the time and put in the effort.
“I have just returned from visiting the Marines at the front, and there is not a finer fighting organization in the world.”
~General Douglas MacArthur
Stop talking at them; let them do it!
There is an old Chinese proverb that states, “Tell me, I forget. Show me, I remember. Involve me, I understand.” Once you have successfully launched your Direct Support efforts, let your patrons work through some scenarios. No one likes to be briefed to death; instead try finding ways to get them involved. For Marines, this is essential as they are all about action; let them lock-n-load! Having them perform allows for the ‘aha’ moment of understanding especially when you need them to make connections and remember essential information. Consequently, I have shortened my presentation time to include instructional examples our Marines can work through via our guidance the first time they visit the library for their introduction. The goal is to have them familiar with the best of our website and resources during this intro by having them navigate through it. I liken this exercise to what Marines call LandNav or ‘land navigation’ only in this instance, the landnav instruction guides them through the library resources.
“If I had one more division like this First Marine Division I could win this war.”
~General Douglas MacArthur in Korea
Share, share and share some more…
Once you have this underway, your task is to share with the rest of the library world and shout it out loud! We are the collective brain of our profession and we are only as good as the knowledge we share with one another. How many of us have lamented working long hours on something only to find out it’s been done and hey, they have an app for that. Let’s help each other out and share our hard earned knowledge. Hopefully, your patrons will help with this process too. I know Marines have a good gouge network and word of mouth within a small organization can take you far. Encourage the sharing with your patrons and within your communities. We can all benefit.
“I am convinced that there is no smarter, handier, or more adaptable body of troops in the world.”
~Prime Minister of Britain, Sir Winston Churchill
Don’t be afraid to try new tricks…
Ah yes, trying new tricks. This makes everyone shudder. You mean I have to do what? How? When? Get over yourself! I’m not suggesting anyone form ‘circles of trust’ or join the martial arts training with Marines. But reaching your patrons does mean trying new stuff. We have all these new e-tools at the ready. Add them into your bag of tricks and make them work for you and your patrons. Also, consider lightening up. It’s ok to laugh at yourself. Our stereotype can be used for good here! Often, I start my opening briefs with Marines by highlighting that we are not the typical ‘shushing’ librarians but we will give the WWF smack down to Marines who talk on their cell phones while in the Reference area. This always draws smiles, lets them relax and the connection is made. Exploit, recreate and reconnect! It should be fun for all, after all, everyone has a job to do but not everyone looks for the fun in it.
“A ship without Marines is like a garment without buttons.”
~Admiral David D. Porter
Have back up for your back up…
Finally, you must have backup. For Marines this means having a COA, military jargon for a course of action, and Marines always have three options. Technology is great and e-readers are phenomenal but when it fails, don‘t be left with egg on your face. Have a COA and continue the work demonstrating the capability and flexibility you have. Remember that dynamic duo of Direct Support and e-initiatives? Well here’s a real-life COA in action for the online bibliographic tool Refworks. First, I decided to have three presentation types as my COA’s: One that was in PowerPoint format, one a live demonstration, and one in print in case the first two were not an option due to technical difficulties. The first COA, the PowerPoint brief, was my backup for the live demo and had all my notes, tips and tricks plus had the necessary screen shots should I have technical difficulties. The second COA, the live demo, was my preference as it lets student follow along and we practice together; plus, I could answer questions on the spot by illustrating how to perform certain actions. Additionally, I practiced on a mobile device to demonstrate another e-platform of value and capture the Marines who prefer the less traditional approach to Refworks. The third COA, the print version was an official Refworks 101 brochure that offered step-by-step instructions on getting started. This is ideal for Marines who could not attend, or preferred printed materials. What were the results? I had a few technical issues with the live demo, which allowed me to use the canned version to illustrate with a screen shot. Then I had several questions concerning access and mobile devices which was perfect as I had already prepped for this by using the mobile e-platform in practice. Additionally, the brochures served as backup for my backup, as I discovered more than half the Marines wanted those for further assistance. Consequently, I had more requests for the RefWorks tutorial that year than ever before.
Lessons Learned: Be ready for anything, and most importantly be ready to say, “Yes, I’d be happy to help with that.” An informal motto of the Marines is to improvise, adapt and overcome. Marines do it every day and so can you. They will respect you for it and remember you walked the walk.
Rachel S. Kingcade is the Chief Reference and Command and Staff College (CSC) Direct Support Librarian for Marine Corps University, Quantico VA and has held that position since August 2008. As CSC Direct Support Librarian, Rachel works with over two hundred CSC students instructing on information literacy through multiple briefings, workshops and brownbags. Rachel received her MLIS from the University of South Carolina, while also working in reference services for both the USC and Beaufort County Library systems. Rachel did her undergraduate work in English and Communications, receiving BAs for both from Bluffton University, while participating in two international exchange programs with universities in Northern Ireland and Poland. Rachel is an active member of Military Librarians Division of SLA. In her free time, Rachel enjoys many outdoor sports including running, hiking, wakeboarding, snowboarding and swimming.