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 I — Talitha Matlin, San Diego Chapter, Biomedical & Life Sciences Division
In March of this year, the previous library director retired, leaving me with some very large shoes to fill. As the first professional librarian for the San Diego Zoo, she had developed the library and archives into the valuable resource it is today. When she retired, I felt honored and extremely fortunate—I can only describe working as a librarian at the San Diego Zoo as my “dream job.” However, I will admit to moments of being overwhelmed, feeling like there was no way I could maintain, let alone improve upon, the services my predecessor had provided. As a new librarian with almost my entire professional career ahead of me, I had to step back, assess the situation, and take responsibility for my own future.
Throughout this last year, an overarching theme has been present in my work—setting realistic goals based upon honest self-assessment. When I first became a librarian in 2010, I was excited about everything NEW. I was going to innovate and bring about change! However, the future I wanted for myself and for the library was one in which we best supported the zoo’s important research. For our library, this meant we had to re-focus on the basics, not reinvent ourselves. I asked myself two questions:
- Were we meeting our users’ basic needs?
- How could we best leverage our available resources to reach more users?
For the most part, I thought we were meeting our patrons’ needs, not only providing what people wanted, but also anticipating what they might want. However, taking an honest look at my weaknesses, I knew I didn’t have the training to care for our rare books and archives. The San Diego Zoo will be celebrating its centennial in 2016, and the library definitely wouldn’t be meeting our patrons’ needs without greatly improving access to our archival holdings. By being realistic about what I could and could not accomplish, I realized that I had to hire a self-motivated librarian who could take on this responsibility. Doing so has proven to be invaluable—I know without Amy (the newly hired librarian) and her archival expertise, we would never be able to provide our current level of value-added service.
In regards to expanding our patron base, I have so far relied upon tried and true methods. With only two full-time librarians and a half-time research assistant, we don’t want to overreach and set unattainable goals—better to first go for the “low-hanging fruit” and affect the biggest change with the least effort. So far, this has entailed keeping statistics on our patrons for the first time, revising our library’s website without a complete overhaul, and adopting simple outreach methods such as a monthly e-newsletter. However, the most effective tactic so far has been to position the library as a friendly, welcoming space—comfy chairs, attractive book displays, and a full candy jar has worked wonders to entice people to linger and take advantage of all we have to offer. Decidedly low-tech, yet so far highly effective.
I hope you will check back tomorrow to read about Amy’s experiences at the zoo!
Talitha Matlin is the Associate Director of Library Services for San Diego Zoo Global. Talitha received her MLIS from San Jose State University in 2010 with a focus on instruction in academic libraries. Her other professional activities include adjuncting at MiraCosta College and serving on the board of CARL-SCIL (California Academic and Research Libraries – Southern California Instruction Librarians).