Just ask my student staff, I’m big on boundaries. I like writing in terms of bookends: start ’em out with a story, write your piece, then finish what you started at the beginning. I started thinking about our jobs visually and I came up with this: we are both the back-end and the front end of things.
Bear with me.
Outreach can be 80% splash while only 20% of our jobs. Or it could be 80% of your job and feels like 100% splash. Or something like that. In other words, what are most people “seeing” you do compared to what you actually do? And why is this important?
My colleagues and I were recently asked to outline projects that would help meet the goals we established for the next ten years. I realized much of what I had to contribute connected to larger college goals of being a good neighbor and not necessarily goals of making the campus community aware of our services/programs. Suddenly I felt my job was all “splash ‘n’ flash” and akin to diplomatic missions to France. I was not rewiring buildings to improve student internet access nor was I helping to migrate vasts amounts of data over to a new management system.
It’s the front end and the back-end of things. I do both and yet the splashy front end is often the one most associated with my job. This is equally as valuable, but harder to quantify. Outreach does not just entail programming and awareness, it encompasses people’s perceptions of and feelings about libraries. We should care if our library is welcoming and if patrons feel comfortable asking for help. And yet much like housework, this is often seen as “not real work”. It’s throwing on some glitter. But, Outreach is serious business.
What are your thoughts and experiences with perceptions of your services?