UC Berkeley Library on my first day I wander around the campus, taking in the multitude of student organization tables on Sproul Plaza, each carrying on in the spirit of the Free Speech Movement of 1964. Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, welcomes me from above the entrance to the UC Berkeley Library. On a tour of the library to mark the beginning of my 2-week stay, Steve Mendoza, Reference Specialist in the Doe/Mofitt Reference Services, explains that both Athena and the many books made accessible to the campus are symbolic of the knowledge residing within the library. The Doe Library - which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year - is the heart of both the campus and the UCB library system, which encompasses over 20 libraries. Originally only open to graduate students and faculty, today the 3 million volume magazine is connected to the Mofitt Library for undergraduates. The Doe Library impresses with its dignified reading rooms that are outfitted with long, heavy tables, grand portraits and classic desk lamps. The tables are full, despite the fact that the semester has only just begun. Those who study at these tables know that they are part of one of the world’s leading universities.
This library successfully binds students to it and wins them over. For example through programs like the Library Prize for Undergraduate Research, which honors exceptional, research-oriented, undergraduate papers, based on research done with library materials. On my tour of the library, my eye is drawn to display cabinets housing small collections of library materials. When asked who is responsible for these cabinets, Steve Mendoza replies that any library staff member may make suggestions for exhibitions, which in turn are reviewed and approved by a selection committee, and then executed with the help of the library’s graphic designer.
This transparency in the organization of library processes also became apparent in my discussions with Cody Hennessy - the E-Learning Librarian responsible for organizing my 2-week program – from the staffing of the reference desk to the distribution of courses within the Teaching Library to the ease of access to the staff area of the homepage. It only makes sense that the plans for the renovation of the Mofitt Library are also openly available.
Cody Hennessy explains the organizational structure of the library and Instructional Services (what they now call the Teaching Library) to me. Two things are of particular interest to me:
Firstly, Educational Services, Public Services and Collection Services are three, equally-weighted departments. I asked if this helps explain the significance of the Teaching Library, which Cody confirms. Yet he admits it is unclear how the organizational structure of the library will develop. The library is faced with immense budget cuts (as is the entire university) and has convened a „Re-Envisioning the UC Berkeley Library“ initiative, which I will discuss in the coming days.
Secondly, it is striking how many of the library’s organizational processes take place online. To answer my many questions, Cody Hennessy pulls up Google-Docs or utilizes computer programs the library uses to coordinate and organize. This way, I get to see statistics, course organization and internal professional development documents.
The focus of the Teaching Library of the UC Berkeley Library is on “Reading and Composition”. Through this program, professors may either contact the Subject Librarian attached to their department or book a library course for their seminar directly via the Teaching Library. There are 3 options: a short online course, a 15-minute lesson within a seminar, or a 60-minute workshop within a seminar. It’s up to the professor which option is chosen, but the Library prefers the workshop model, as it allows them to work more intensively and cover more in-depth themes. The library courses are individually tailored for each seminar and all include an online component via the open source program Library a la Carte. Cody Hennessy explains that the library is trying to integrate itself into the curriculum, but at the moment that is very much dependent upon the relationships with the academic departments – I can attest that this situation is similar in German libraries. The courses are offered at all levels, for undergraduates as well as PhD students. I plan on visiting some of these courses in the coming weeks! Another service is familiar from my time in the Research Help department at the Badische Landesbibliothek: during the semester, students can book a Research Specialist for half an hour for personalized counseling in their area of research. This service is especially popular towards the end of the semester, when papers are due.