A day in the life of an academic librarian

Last week, I posed the question on my Facebook page, I’m thinking of doing a “day in the life of an academic librarian” kind of post… what do y’all think? The response was positive, so I set out to take notes during a recent day at work.

Librarian for Life + Style | Facebook question

First of all, if you’re wondering what an “academic librarian” means, that is a common term used to describe a librarian working in higher education, or academia. Academic librarians include librarians at community colleges, 4-year undergraduate colleges or universities, research and graduate institutions, etc. Some academic librarians have faculty status while others do not — it depends on the institution. At my college, librarians do have faculty status, which means that I teach as a major part of my job, and I am going through the tenure process.

There’s also not really a “typical” work day for an academic librarian — or any librarian, for that matter! — as every day could be a combination of any number of things:  teaching, prepping, lesson planning, reading reviews for collection development, ordering materials for the library in different curriculum areas, answering questions from students and faculty at the reference desk, attending or leading meetings, going to a conference or professional development workshop, filling out paperwork, researching topics, answering (never-ending) emails, and more. The day I describe below is a typically “atypical” work day. 😉

Librarian for Life + Style | A day in the life of an academic librarian

Here we go:  a day in the life of an academic librarian!

5:45 a.m. Alarm clock goes off on my phone. Snooze. Snooze. Snooze. (My snooze setting is 5 minutes long and only goes for 3 cycles.)

6:00 a.m. Backup alarm goes off on my phone. Snooze.

6:05 a.m. Carefully get out of bed so as not to disturb my cat, Ibsen, too much and gather up outfit items I had put out the night before.

6:10 a.m. Get dressed, put on makeup, and finish getting ready. I had taken a shower the day before, so all I have to do this morning for my hair is to wet my bangs and blow-dry them again, and quickly flat iron rest of hair.

6:40 a.m. Kiss husband in bed good-bye as he doesn’t have to get up for work until later. Ibsen, now lounging over the water dishes upstairs, meows at me. Refill water dishes. Go downstairs.

Librarian for Life + Style | A day in the life

Librarian for Life + Style | A day in the life

Librarian for Life + Style | A day in the life

6:45 a.m. Pour coffee and do style linkups while I sip coffee. Turn on porch light for my friend and fellow librarian Stephanie (seen here); we carpool back-and-forth during the week, and today is one of her days to drive.

6:55 a.m. Stephanie arrives to have her breakfast, which she brings with her on days she drives. She heats water for her tea. We talk and catch up on personal news from over the weekend.

7:12 a.m. Put on lipstick. I always do this in the morning after coffee, and I have a cup of lipsticks in the downstairs guest bathroom for this purpose. Today’s lipstick is my new red L’Oreal Infallible lipstick.

Librarian for Life + Style | A day in the life

7:15 a.m. Ready to go to work. Stephanie and I gather up our stuff, get out the door and walk down the sidewalk to where she’s parked the car. Chat in the car.

7:50 a.m. Arrive at work, Stephanie parks in the carpool lot. We go in the side staff entrance of the library. Pick up the stack of mail — a collection of library review journals, catalogs, paperwork — in my mail slot. Put my lunch bag into the staff fridge, walk down the hall to my office, put away mail, hang up coat and hat, and turn on computer.

7:55 a.m. Check calendar on my work Outlook email. Write daily schedule on whiteboard on my office door that faces the staff side. I’m often in and out of the office, so this way colleagues know where I will be during the day in case of questions. I’ve also found writing my daily schedule on the whiteboard in the morning also helps me settle my mind and get ready to start my day.

8:05 a.m. Realize I need to call an admin assistant for a computer classroom alarm code for a credit class I will be teaching that afternoon. It’s the start of the term, and I haven’t taught in that classroom before.

8:10 a.m. Gather teaching materials (lesson plan, handouts, etc.) to teach a library instruction class for a mental health class. Update sign on my office door that faces the public side of the library. (Yes, my office has two doors. It sometimes makes it difficult to maneuver.) Grab keys for library classroom.

Librarian for Life + Style | A day in the life

Librarian for Life + Style | A day in the life

8:15 a.m. Start setting up equipment in library classroom. Doublecheck the day’s teaching schedule on the instruction podium to know how to configure the equipment. That day, we’re scheduled for back-to-back library instruction classes, so I need to set up the classroom in order to be able to switch laptops inbetween classes to make sure they’ve got enough battery power throughout the day. We keep laptops in locked carts at the back of the library classroom, so that students can use the room as a group study space when we’re not teaching.

8:45 a.m. Students start trickling in for class that is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Class instructor arrives, and we chat before class begins.

9 a.m. Start teaching library instruction session, which is about how to search for evidence-based research studies (peer-reviewed research articles) in the mental health subject areas of trauma-informed care and crisis intervention counseling. For a series of research assignments in this class, students will be searching for a research study on their specific population (youth, veterans, older adults, etc.) and critique the study and its methods.

9:50 a.m. Finish session and chat with class instructor about the session. Switch laptops around on the tables for next class that Stephanie will be teaching, which starts at 10:10 a.m.

10:00 a.m. Office hours. Answer a few questions from students who come to my office, respond to and write emails, update professional organization website I manage, print out extra copies of handouts for afternoon class, go back over lesson plan and handouts for upcoming class, accept meeting invites to add to weekly work schedule on Outlook, sync personal weekly schedule with upcoming reference desk shifts.

11:40 a.m. Pack up rolling bag with handouts and extra whiteboard markers. I use old library catalog drawers to hold my office supplies. Leave to walk to computer classroom, which is located outside the library building.

Librarian for Life + Style | A day in the life

11:45 a.m. Arrive at computer classroom to unlock the door and turn off alarm. Sign into instructor computer at podium. Arrange handouts. Greet students as they come in. This class is a 1-credit course, a research methods course for allied health professionals. (This is different from the library instruction sessions I teach, in which I teach 1-3 shorter sessions within another instructor’s class.) For today’s class, we are focusing on the components of research article abstracts and critiquing abstract samples.

12 noon. Class begins with an in-class quiz! We missed the first class of the term last week due to inclement weather, and this course is only scheduled for one day a week, so we are having to play catch-up this week.

12:50 p.m. Class ends with homework reminder to students for the next class period and students turning in participation worksheets. Gather papers back up into my rolling bag, respond to a couple of students who stayed after to ask a few questions, log off instructor computer, reset classroom alarm, lock door. Walk back to library for lunch.

Librarian for Life + Style | A day in the life

12:55 p.m. Eat lunch in library break room. Sam packs lunch for me the night before (he’s the cook in our family), and today’s lunch is a sandwich lettuce wrap, grapes, and baked potato chips. I carry a steel water bottle everywhere, which I fill and refill with hot water throughout the day. Chat with colleagues who are also eating their lunches at the staff table. After lunch, brush teeth and floss.

1:40 p.m. Find a cozy spot in the “quiet zone” of the library to read during the last 15 minutes of lunch break. (A Breath Of Snow And Ashes, the sixth book in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.)

1:55 p.m. Walk across library back to office. Gather up to-do list, folders, and materials to work on while on the Reference Desk. Change sign on office door that faces the public side of the library, so students know where I am during the day. I mentioned in an older post about how I carry around a little bag with me during the day to hold necessities like chapstick and keys, since I am often in-and-out of the library. Here’s a look at what’s in my current work clutch, which started out life as a makeup bag.

Librarian for Life + Style | A day in the life

Librarian for Life + Style | A day in the life

2:00 p.m. Reference Desk shift. During Reference Desk shifts, librarians at my college are responsible for answering questions via several channels:  chat, email, phone, and in person. Questions today include seeing if we had specific textbooks on reserve, printing, browsing circulating library materials on different research topics, and an in-depth research consultation with a campus staff member who is working on a doctoral dissertation (she leaves with my business card for future questions). When it’s not busy at the Reference Desk, l work on miscellaneous tasks on my (never-ending) to-do list. Today, this included updating the library instruction manual of policies and procedures — I coordinate our library instruction services — and scheduling library instruction requests that came in over the weekend.

5:00 p.m. Close up reference desk — we’re usually staffed through 7 p.m., but I’m the last shift today due to a staff illness — and doublecheck closing procedures in our Reference Desk manual. This includes checking the library classroom and making sure equipment is put away.

5:10 p.m. Put stuff away in office, put on coat, gather up purse and lunch bag. Walk over to faculty association office for the remainder of the executive team weekly meeting, which started at 4:30 p.m. Stephanie is also on the executive team, and she let them know I would be late.

6:05 p.m. Stephanie and I walk across campus to carpool parking lot to go home.

6:45 p.m. Stephanie drops me off at home. Kiss Sam hello, pet kitties, go upstairs to change into sweatpants and slipper socks.

Librarian for Life + Style | A day in the life

6:50 p.m. Log into work email to respond to emails from students.

7:00 p.m. Dinner. Pulled pork barbecue sandwich and homemade fries for me — Sam’s a vegetarian, so he has a barbecue tofu sandwich and fries. With Sam, watch The Good Wife taped on DVR. We chat about our day. During commercial break, feed cats.

Librarian for Life + Style | A day in the life

7:45 p.m. Do blogging work on laptop. Finish SIA style round-up post, check style blog email, catch up on style blog daily reads. During these tasks, watch DVD of Labyrinth in honor of David Bowie, who had just passed away. Sam is also blogging and responding to students’ emails beside me on the couch.

10:00 p.m. Go upstairs to get ready for bed — brush teeth, put in retainer, take off makeup, moisturize. To plan tomorrow’s work outfit, look up weather on phone app and log into work email to doublecheck work schedule tomorrow. Put out clothing and shoes for work the next day. Pop down downstairs to kiss Sam goodnight. (Sam says he’ll come to bed later, as he is still working on something.) Ibsen follows me back upstairs.

Librarian for Life + Style | A day in the life

10:30 p.m. Cuddle with Ibsen while reading book in bed. Set phone alarm for 5:30 a.m. as I will need to take a shower in the morning.

11:15 p.m. Sleeeeeeeeep.

Did you enjoy this peek into a “day in the life” of an academic librarian? Would you like to see more of these kinds of posts? Perhaps I could do a similar post for a more behind-the-scenes kind of day, or during a librarian conference… please leave a comment and let me know!


28 thoughts on “A day in the life of an academic librarian

  1. Mike

    Wow Jen, you do so much in a day! Thanks for sharing your day with us! I would like to see more posts like this. And I was thinking that maybe you could have a blog post where you ask us to describe our own days sometime. I work in a library too and would love to share my day!

    1. Jen @ Librarian for Life and Style Post author

      Heee, Ibsen says thank you! I think he definitely stole the spotlight in that post. 😉 And yes, he does have markings similar to your Lafayette — I think perhaps my Ibsen is a bit smaller in size? I often refer to Ibsen as my “Cary Grant cat,” who looked great in sleek grey suits. 😉

  2. Jennifer

    I thought it was great! I enjoy hearing about people’s daily routines- beauty, hair care, food, transportation, recreation, work day, etc.

    1. Jen @ Librarian for Life and Style Post author

      Hah! I hadn’t thought of it like that. My husband and my friend Stephanie were surprised by the level of detail I had put in — but then, I am a details-oriented kind of person! I guess all those details helped “paint” a picture of my day. 🙂

  3. momofdox

    What a fun post! Your job as academic librarian is MUCH more involved than my volunteer job as church librarian. 😉 How interesting that your husband is a vegetarian and the cook in your household; I am the vegetarian cook in ours. It can be challenging to prepare meals that work for both of us. I wouldn’t mind bending Sam’s ear to learn how he does things.

    1. Jen @ Librarian for Life and Style Post author

      Sam and I bought a recipe book a few years ago called “Double Take,” which focuses on recipes that will work for couples made up of a vegetarian and a meat-eater — so the couple can enjoy the same kind of meals together. So the recipes have the same foundation, and then there’s the part where it goes “and now do this for the meat-eater,” etc. It’s perfect for couples like us! 🙂

    1. Jen @ Librarian for Life + style Post author

      Thanks, Denita, for stopping by! That day was a heavy teaching day, so not all of my work days are like that — and not necessarily representative of all academic librarians, either. But if this kind of post helps shine a light on how varied a librarian’s work can be, then that’s something positive for the profession! 🙂

  4. Erin @ Loop Looks

    Love this post! As someone who went to library school but has never really worked in a library it’s so interesting to read about it in detail. Sounds like you have a lot of students in your college who are focused on health fields. I forget; is that your background or did it take some learning to be able to teach those classes?

    1. Jen @ Librarian for Life + Style Post author

      We do have several health-related programs at my college, but it was coincidence that I had two mental-health themed classes in the day that I detailed. The next day I taught a session for a history class about how to find films about historical topics and then research film reviews! I’m a generalist (although my bachelor’s is in English with a minor in Psychology), and I teach research and information literacy skills across the curriculum, in classes ranging from history to writing to integrated metals to speech/communications to GED classes to you name it. The fundamentals of research are transferable skills; you employ the same basic skills in different contexts and for different subject-specific resources.

  5. Jamie

    Very interesting to see how the other half lives! Fellow proud librarian, public though. Although I staff a reference desk most days as well, my typical workday involves many more gluesticks and much more Hokey Pokey than does yours…I assume. 😉

    1. Jen @ Librarian for Life and Style Post author

      Hello, colleague! I started out in a public library, as a teen services librarian, so I do understand the public library world 🙂 Sometimes, I do find myself surrounded by scissors and tape and bits of paper scattered around me — like when I’m putting together for hands-on activities — so you never know where another day is going to take you!

  6. Pingback: SIA interpretation: Bible Quilt | Librarian for Life and Style

  7. Pingback: Another day in the life of an academic librarian | Librarian for Life and Style

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