The Accidental Embedded Librarian

16Jul12

A few days ago, Shaunna Mireau wrote a post on Slaw, Where do you work? Then I read a related post on Conversation Matters, The Hallways of Learning. What these two posts have in common is the idea of how the physical space you work in can change the way you do your work. (Thanks to Nina Platt, editor of Pinhawk Librarian News Digest for directing me to these articles.)

My firm is renovating. We’ve added some office space on one floor, and we’re redoing the carpets and painting the rest. There’s a lot of upheaval and shifting of offices and furniture while one area is being completed. The library, which backs on the lawyers lounge, is being used for storage of some of the excess furniture. Rather than work around a pile of furniture, and feel like I was on an episode of Hoarders, I’ve been moved to an office in the new space. By changing my physical location, I’ve had a bit of an epiphany about how I’m viewed in the office.

The first day I was in my new office, a senior partner walked by and asked if this was my new location. I explained that it was temporary, until the renovations were done. He said, ‘Grab it and keep it” – hmm… do I claim squatters’ rights? One surprising result of the move is that I feel like I’m part of the firm. I’m beside other lawyers, who walk by and see me working on something not directly related to books. I overhear conversations and actually stop in peoples’ doorways to chat.

When I walk by the library, I’m now aware of how empty and almost forlorn it looks. There I sit at my desk, all alone most of the time. Lawyers occasionally come in to get books, but mostly I respond to phone and email requests. I’ll even select books for a lawyer to use, flagging the relevant sections, and then deliver them, preventing them from even coming down to the library.

What I’ve come to realize is that from my desk in the library, I look like the guardian of the books. How am I to convince the lawyers in my firm that I am so much more, if what they see is a gatekeeper? Or, if I’m not in the vicinity of the library, are they going to think they don’t need a librarian? I’m a big believer in the concept of the library as a service, not a place, yet I’m confounded by this conumdrum. When the renovations are over, should I go back to the library, or should I ask to be embedded next to my clients?

~ Karen

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