Getting an education in educating

For most people, the last time they set foot in an academic library is while they’re still receiving an education. For Rachel Elrod, these academic power houses are her career.

While spending her days surrounded by books sounded idyllic at first, Elrod soon discovered that the life of an academic librarian is so much more.

“We’re required to meet three columns,” Elrod said.

Librarianship, research and service. The three basic pillars of librarianship at an institution like the University of Florida, Elrod said.

Librarian’s are responsible for all of the book buying done in campus libraries, determining what is necessary to stock physically and electronically for students to access, Elrod said. On top of stocking books, they are responsible for providing aid and teaching classes to students on how to do research, Elrod said.

“We share the best ways to get the resources students might be looking for,” Elrod said.

While providing all the help she possibly can to the student body, Elrod is also working on three grants she has, as a part of her research requirement. One of these grants is the Institute of Museum and Library Services grant, which is almost $500,000 dollars for three years of research.

“We’re looking to see what choices students as young as the 4th grade all the way through graduate school make regarding selecting information sources,” Elrod said.

Elrod, along with six others, three from UF, are one year into their research and are looking forward to being able to apply what they learn to the types of resources they provide for students, both at the University and in surrounding areas, Elrod said.

Another of the grants being worked on involves the use of 3D printing as a part of the curriculum for certain courses, Elrod says. However, Elrod said, this grant is still under review and nothing has been set in stone yet.

One of the perks of the job is traveling, Elrod said. As a part of the service pillar, she is a member of several national librarian committees that meet once or twice every year, Elrod said.

While most of these trips are spent at meetings, she also gets to see the latest in books, technology and even library furniture, Elrod said.

“It’s just kind of fun to walk through all that,” Elrod said.

While Elrod has many responsibilities to both the students at the university and the members of the committee she serves on, she also enjoys working on more fun events for the Baby Gators. On March 2nd, Elrod is hosting a birthday party for Dr. Seuss, which will include live readings of some of his stories by education majors for the children, Elrod said.

“It’s going to be a really great time, for the kids and for us.”

Welcome to Gainesville Reads

My name is Jamie Shapiro, and I’m a second year journalism student at the University of Florida. I love books and reading, and I have been involved in numerous literary organizations, from book clubs to honor societies since primary school.

One thing I have discovered since coming to college is the importance of a library in my everyday life. As a lover of books, I was no stranger to the public and school libraries in my youth; but now, much older and wiser, I’ve learned just how important these institutions are.

Upon making this discovery, some questions started to come up: Who actually maintains these places? Do you actually need an education to be a librarian, or can you just get by liking books a lot? Do they care that all I do in the campus libraries is sit on my laptop and work on MyMathLab assignments?

Well the answers to these questions are: Librarians; Yes, and it’s a lot more school than most students would care to wager; and no, they encourage it actually.

To get this information, and probably a lot more than that; I’ll have to talk to actual librarians, both on the collegiate level and others; as well as other library staff members and maybe even the average student or two.

Libraries are a lot more than just some untouched books on shelves and those cool tables with USB ports. They’ve gone totally digital, in an era where information is just a Google search away, they’ve found and organized the best sources and put them on display for us to find. They’ve found ways to take the resources we need most, from free and paid for platforms and give us access to them, as students and library card holders.

On Gainesville Reads you’ll find an assortment of librarian profiles, detailing the process of becoming and working as a librarian. You’ll find interviews with collegiate and public librarians, maybe with a few others thrown in for good measure. The importance of the library will go unnoticed no longer, and the complex and constantly shifting challenges that they face will finally be brought to our attention.

Check back to see the latest librarian profiles and get inside the minds of these literary warriors.

You can contact me at jamieashapiro@gmail.com or on twitter @jamie_A_shapiro

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All books you can get from your local library! Photo taken by Jamie Shapiro.