What do we do in the summer, anyway?

So we’re well into the summer intersession here at MPOW, and faculty often ask me if the librarians work in the summers. The short answer is that we do, as most of us are on 12-month contracts. The building closes at 4:30, so we all get off work a little early, and we don’t staff the reference desk as reliably as we do during the semester (one librarian does tend to work out there during much of the day), and there’s virtually nobody in the building most of the time, so it’s a nice quiet period after two busy semesters.

But I’m an instruction librarian. My bread and butter, in theory, is teaching students, and when there aren’t any students to teach, what exactly do I do?1 Well, here’s a short list of some of the things with which I’ve been occupied during the last two weeks:

  1. This morning, I consulted with a faculty member who needed help with the design of a website for an online journal that she and the Center for Women’s InterCultural Leadership are starting up.
  2. I’m comparing Camtasia Studio 6 and Adobe Captivate 4 as possible tools for creating screencasts.
  3. Later this week I’ll probably install a trial version of at least Camtasia and play around with it. I’ll need to borrow a microphone from somewhere, though.
  4. Yesterday, I wrote a sample “How Do I” item for our in-progress web redesign, to use as a model for further “How Do I” items which will feature prominently in the new page. (Sneak preview of the content, utterly devoid of formatting niceties)
  5. Also this morning, I fixed a communication gap with our web designer, whose outgoing email server apparently ate the latest version of the mockup of our new web design.
  6. Also also this morning, I revised Oberlin College’s list of ten information literacy proficiencies into a set of eight learning outcomes for Saint Mary’s College’s new general education program. (This was actually the result of several days’ work and quite a few conversations.)
  7. Next week I’m going on a bus trip to Grand Rapids, MI with others from the college to see the Steelcase University classroom.
  8. On Tuesday, I had the first of several meetings of an ad-hoc faculty group that is working on a grant application to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to enhance the college’s programs in support of career flexibility for faculty. The application is due July 1, yikes!
  9. Yesterday I learned how to create and edit content in Drupal. This is good, as the new website will be built with Drupal.
  10. Later today and/or tomorrow I’ll be training a couple other librarians in how to create and edit content in Drupal.
  11. Last week I wrote up the section of the library’s annual report that addressed our bibliographic instruction work.
  12. I’m doing homework to prepare for Immersion later this summer.
  13. Last week I wrote short, jargon-free descriptions of each of our 61 subscription and free databases, and also compiled their coverage dates and inclusion of full text.
  14. In the process, I proposed that we eliminate several databases, either because they don’t meet our curricular needs or they duplicate other content.
  15. Since we don’t have subject liaison librarians, I’ve been assigning databases to each department/program/subject field at the college in what I hope is an only moderately capricious manner.2
  16. Earlier this week I pestered our Student Affairs office again about the library’s participation in Fall Orientation for new students.

So yeah. I might not be in the classroom during the summer, but I’m not bored.



  1. Saint Mary’s College has a wee little summer term, but it’s so compressed that library research is impractical, so professors tend not to assign research projects.
  2. I’m kidding: the selection of databases by subject is entirely arbitrary.


  1. Posted June 4, 2009 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Among other things, my library attempts to shelf-read every shelf every summer; this always leads to a handful of ‘lost’ books being found. And to the discovery of books that require mending or discarding, which is helpful to us, but less obviously so to anyone who is asking what we do all summer.

    This summer, however, we are changing circ/collection software, and everybody understands how that will eat up ten weeks or so.


  2. Laura H.
    Posted June 5, 2009 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Hi, Catherine, not sure if you remember me from LSW. I happen to live in Grand Rapids – would you be interested in grabbing lunch or dinner when you’re out here?

  3. Catherine
    Posted June 5, 2009 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Hi Laura! Of course I remember you from LSW. Unfortunately, the trip to Grand Rapids is with a group of other faculty and staff from my college, and they’re providing lunch for us, so I think I’m not going to be able to get away from the group – at the very least, I won’t have my own transportation, since we’re all going together in a bus or van. But thank you for the offer!

    Vardibidian: I seem to remember hearing stories of a certain well-heeled SLAC that shelf-read its entire collection every summer. Sadly, that kind of summer staffing is completely beyond our budget, even in good years. Out of curiosity, what ILS are you switching from/to? And yes, that could definitely eat up the whole summer.

  4. Posted June 20, 2009 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Sorry to go so long without checking back–a trifle busy, what with one thing and another. Out of Voyager, into Koha. It looks like it will ultimately be a Very Good Thing, but it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

    And the shelf-reading is made easier by having a small-ish collection; I don’t say we actually complete the shelf reading every summer, but most summers we get to most of the books.


2 Trackbacks

  1. […] by Catherine Pellegrino’s recent post about what she is working on this summer, I thought I’d do a post about my own summer […]

  2. […] 5, 2009 by rudibrarian There’s a meme gaining steam around teh interwebs and since it matches what’s been on my mind, I thought […]