By Melissa Rayner
By now, I’m sure you’ve heard of Gale U, our way of putting real names, faces, and stories to the kinds of people who frequent the library, explaining their needs and challenges, and providing creative solutions. Gale U houses 47 unique individuals from librarians, to faculty, to students. Each of these personas was developed via extensive research and by working with real-life individuals to determine our fictitious library users’ needs.
Now, we’d like to showcase just how realistic these personas are by working in reverse and finding real-life people who can relate to each and every one of them. This endeavor kicks off today in the first of a new blog series, entitled I am Gale U.
We’d like to start at the heart of Gale U, the Undergraduate Library. Perhaps you’ve already learned a bit about our resident Undergraduate Services Librarian, Naomi–if not, you can get to know her here. The feature of this article is Naomi’s library twin, Leslie Morgan who serves as the First-Year Experience Librarian for the University of Notre Dame. I was lucky enough to have a chat with this inspirational and lively woman, and I hope her interview will similarly leave you feeling energized!
First, I asked Leslie to explain how she and Naomi are alike.
Leslie started our conversation by confessing to being a “Gale Junkie.” She’d had great experiences with Gale resources as a library science student and wanted to offer them to her students once she joined Notre Dame. Leslie is lucky in that her university assigns great value in her role. In fact, all freshman must go through a special process in their first year, which helps to transition them into college curriculum. All freshman report to this college rather than major departments, and its faculty teach the students to engage the library and build a good foundation for the rest of their college careers.
Although a traditionally trained reference librarian, Leslie has been a leader in the digital revolution, bringing the university’s collection from a roughly 40/60 digital/print ratio to a stunning 95/5. She says that Gale resources, Opposing Viewpoints in Context and GVRL really helped her make the case for this shift.
Like her fictional counterpart Naomi, Leslie teaches an undergraduate course on information literacy, and she does everything she can to ensure that ALL undergraduate students are familiar with research tools and on the road to becoming true scholars. She invites her students to come to her with questions–trusting them to own the process–and they always come through with fantastic questions. Her favorite part of the job is when she gets to witness a student having that very first “ah-ha” moment that ups his or her research game. Also like Naomi, when Leslie finds a resource she likes, she makes it her mission to tell a million people!
Of course, Leslie was more than happy to discuss her favorite Gale resources.
Two of the resources she regularly proselytizes are GVRL and Opposing Viewpoints in Context (OVIC). Many of her students tend to rely on Google and Wikipedia when first entering college, and, while she certainly isn’t anti-Internet, she considers it her challenge to turn these students into true scholars. Her starting point is always either GVRL or OVIC.
“Reference tools are a really great way to begin the research process,” Leslie explains. “I have my students check out GVRL, so they can see for themselves how it is better than Google, and they get it. Gale does a great job of giving students a Google-like experience without being Google.”
While GVRL provides a clean and familiar interface (with a string of recent updates and enhancements that Leslie and her students have especially appreciated), she believes OVIC is the best choice for teaching her students about argument and analysis and rhetoric, even going so far as to call it the “perfect” resource for this endeavor.
Next, we talked about how the two women differ.
Leslie and Naomi aren’t perfect twins, though. Our Gale U persona, Naomi, is sometimes at odds with the subject selectors when fighting for limited financial resources. This was initially true for Leslie as she started her career; however, she advocated to change the perceptions toward first- and second-year students and was remarkably successful in changing attitudes at her university. Leslie claims that the more she trusts the students, the more they amaze her.
Leslie went on to discuss her relationship with the university administration.
Leslie has worked hard to make her position a valuable one to the university and has picked up several supporters along the way. The Dean of First Year Studies has been a tremendous ally for her and is very open to her unique ideas and innovations. She secured this relationship the same way she’s earned the trust and admiration of her students–by extending trust.
“Sometimes, I have to pinch myself what I’ve been able to accomplish as a librarian. I’ve really blown colleagues away by daring to step out of the box and make things happen. I’m not afraid to crash and burn, and this strategy has worked well for me,” Leslie explains.
Similarly, she’s forged great relationships among publishers. “Gale has done a tremendous job in making my work as seamless as possible, and I truly appreciate the fact that Gale Cengage thinks about our needs and wants to meet them. So, this new Gale U is pretty cool.”
We finished the discussion by detailing Leslie’s advice for aspiring Undergraduate Service and First-Year Experience Librarians.
“Learn how to talk the talk. I recommend joining ACRL’s national committee for academic librarians and reading through the information literacy framework we’ve been developing, especially with regards to threshold concepts,” Leslie recommends. She closes by offering some truly great advice: “Don’t wait for anyone to come to you, go to them and ask their needs.”
Melissa is obsessed with books, birds, and bonbons. She is a new mom and holds an MA in Applied Sociology. She also writes fiction and skips about the interweb as Emlyn Chand.