SIG Reflections / Mary Seem

After a bit of a hiatus, the Collection Development SIG blog returns with a review of a survey sent out to SIG members reflecting on the current climate at work.

The survey began with a (hopefully) easy one: a professional bright spot from the past six months. A few librarians noted how lucky they felt to still have a job and noted that the remote work has resulted in improved communication between team members. Others have been able to accomplish more during their time at home including writing a book chapter and working on digital exhibitions.

When asked about onsite versus remote work, a majority of responders are working from home while some are going onsite periodically. No one, at the time of the survey, was working onsite full time.

Many of the comments related to working from home were about changes to areas of focus (more documentation and projects, less cataloging) and that creating a work-life balance was increasingly difficult. A few also added that they were surprised by how much could be done remotely.

Those who have returned to onsite work have noted that there is a lot to accomplish in a limited amount of time and that with fewer people onsite, it’s easier to get more done.

Nearly all responders noted that frequent calls and meetings with team members was a vital component of working from home.

Regarding staffing changes, most said that their library had experience changes.

Most noted a reduction in supplementary staff especially student workers as well as furloughs and other layoffs. This has resulted in changes to roles within the library. One responder noted that they are the Head of the library currently performing Librarian Assistant tasks and many are picking up the work normally done by student workers and volunteers. Some have had to pivot entirely as other departments have taken priority.

The second half of the survey was related to Black Lives Matter. Of those who responded, a majority said that their library was taking steps to address Black Lives Matter and racial inequality within their institution.

Most responses said that diversity and equity task groups have been formed. Others have placed new attention given to diversity within collecting practices. One pointed to the Ivy Plus plans to highlight specific collections relating to diversity and equity. Another noted that their library contributes to a departmental group that meets to discuss critical race theory, identity politics, and systems of power to help inform future actions. Others have noted that their library is reconsidering the way material is classified and the use of certain subject headings.

When asked what changes you would like to see in light of increased equity and diversity, responses ranged from increased mentorship and engaging new audiences to expanding collection development and cataloging hidden collections and material. One librarian noted that placing an emphasis on publishing and searching for publication outlets is important for increasing diversity within academia and the book market, especially in specific topics.

While we did have a number of responses, more comments and suggestions are always welcome. Feel free to comment to this post with any thoughts or additional ideas!

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