The meaning of library — and life?

The title of this post refers to our interviews with the library staff members in all of the three libraries. We started with questions like “what is your job, what do you work with” and ended up talking about the meaning of the library, sometimes even life. Interviews turned into discussions and interchange of opinions.

We interviewed three persons at the NTNU library; a research librarian who has worked for more than 20 years,  a librarian who has worked for more than five years and a new staff member, also a research librarian. At UCL we interviewed three librarians; one who has worked in the library for more than 20 years, another one who has worked for seven years in her first job there, and a third one who has worked for about 20 years. In UEF we interviewed two staff members, a librarian/information specialist who has worked in KUH medical library for three and a half years, and an information services advisor who has worked there for 13 years.

The starting point for the interviews were about roles and value:

  • What is your role in this library?
  • Why do you work here?
  • What is the meaning/purpose of your work here?
  • What value does the library (and your role in it) add to the university?
  • What would mean if the library did not exist/provide the services?
  • In your opinion, is the library doing the right things/providing the right services?
Kollasj - interview

Discussions with staff members at NTNU, UCL and UEF

 

What did we learn?

The method turned out be very useful. Staff members were willing to share, and what started as interviews soon turned into collegial discussions. We found ourselves taking part in processes where people reflect their own work. It seemed possible for many of them to talk about the meaning of their work and the value of library with outsiders. Even if their supervisor was also present, it was not official and there were no organizational objectives. It seemed they were able and willing to speak freely.

There were no “right answers” but opinions and views. It was a chance for free expression and reflection. We ended up finding the value together — in connection to each person’s tasks in their library.

To conclude these fruitful discussions: If libraries did not exist, they would have to be invented.

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A December week in Kuopio

The week in Kuopio started with summing up, making some blog posts and planning the rest of the week. There were several meetings and appointments.

At UEF, there are three campuses (Kuopio, Joensuu and Savolinna). Kuopio campus hosts two libraries (the campus and the hospital ones) and a distinct learning center which is run by IT and university services, and is independent but in cooperation with the library services. You can find places for reading and working on computers. The learning center offers silent study booths and rooms for group work.

Campus library

Campus library

Learning center

Learning center

 

While the campus library and the learning center are quite new, the hospital library will move next year to a more central place, in the hospital’s reception area. Even if it is currently kind of “old fashioned”, the medical students met in the hospital library clearly expressed they do prefer to study and work there than in another library or learning center.

KUH library

KUH library

 

The first meeting was with Jarmo Saarti, the UEF library director, who initiated the whole project. It was very useful to talk to him: there was a discussion about what was already done (statistical and figures background) and in which direction the project should be continued.

We visited the national repository library (Varastokirjasto) that receives, stores, and delivers material from and to all kinds of libraries in Finland.

Scanning at Varastokirjasto

Scanning at Varastokirjasto

 

We also had the opportunity to discuss with library people about Finna, the virtual national metadata repository that harvests different material metadata from different Finnish catalogs, about information skills training and collecting feedback, and about service promises. We certainly will discuss these last points further in distinct blog posts.

 

Interviewing library users (part 3)

Today we talked to the users of the Kuopio University Hospital (KUH) Medical Library. We asked them the same questions that were asked in NTNU/BMH library and UCL Library.

Our questions were:

  1. What do you use this library for?
  2. Why do you (study/read/work/group work) right here?
  3. Where would you study if the library did not exist?

All the people we approached, except one who was in a hurry, were happy to participate in our small interview. We have chosen five different spots and talked to five individual users, as there are currently no rooms for group work. 

Where we interviewed the users

Where we interviewed the users

We spoke to four medical students who were studying for exams, reading library books and own books. Two of them were also using computers — one after waiting for an hour, another one for an hour and a half, having used the waiting time for reading. One interviewee was a nurse who came to search for information, to read new journal issues and to take a look at a recent doctoral thesis.

Two of the students had taken the first computer that became available, one had chosen a carrel booth as a second choice, and one had chosen her favourite place for quietness and for being able to sit by the window. The nurse was standing close to the information sources she needed. The quiet atmosphere was appreciated.

Interviewees

Interviewees

If they could not use this library four of them would have gone to the learning center or the campus library and one would have studied at home.