Alt-Career Spotlight: Courtney Baron, Teaching & Learning Librarian at Oxford College of Emory University

This series of interviews features individuals who have received their MLIS/MSIS, but do not currently hold positions solely dedicated to art librarianship. Some may work in libraries and have an interest or duties related to art librarianship, while others use their information science skills in fields outside of the traditional library setting. Today we hear from our ArLiSNAP/NA Co-Moderator Courtney Baron!

What is the name of the employer/institution you work for?
I’m the Teaching and Learning Librarian at Oxford College of Emory University. Oxford College is a two-year liberal arts college on the historic Emory campus. We are a teaching- and student-focused campus and our library serves just first and second year students.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your current position?
I have a dual bachelor’s degree in Classical Archaeology and Latin from the University of Georgia. My first library job was directing the Visual Resources Center at the University of Georgia’s Lamar Dodd School of Art. I was in the position for 1.5 years while finishing up my MLIS from Valdosta State University. I’ve been at Oxford since January 2016. We are a small library, so I wear many hats and work in all areas of librarianship. My main responsibilities are leading our Research Practices and Events teams, coordinating our information literacy instruction program, and planning our outreach initiatives. I also serve on our Collection Development, Customer Service, Website, and Student Employment teams. There are always new projects to work on! Recently, I curated our new circulating tabletop game collection and just completed our biennial assessment report for the library.

What brought you to your current position?
When I saw the opening for a Teaching and Learning Librarian at Oxford, I decided to go for it since I was hoping to move into a role with instruction responsibilities. I had visited Oxford College a few years prior and really liked the campus. Oxford is unique since it’s a liberal arts college that feeds into a large research university. This means our library has far more resources than the typical liberal arts college of this size (FTE < 1000). Most students live on campus so the library is very busy and a true “hub of living and learning”. I really value the opportunity to work closely with faculty and administrative colleagues on big picture issues, like implementing the new college strategic plan and curriculum. Our Dean is very supportive of professional development and provides generous funding for professional organization memberships, conferences, and continuing education classes.

What does a typical work day look like for you?
No single day is the same which is one of the things I love about my job! On a typical day, I’m usually teaching or planning classes, helping students in research consultations, working on the information desk, planning our next event (like Game Night!), attending meetings, selecting materials or weeding the collection, and supervising student employees. There is a never a dull moment!

Do you stay involved in the field of art librarianship and if so, how?
I’m the personal librarian for art, although Oxford librarians are mostly generalists, since we are expected to teach or work with faculty and students in all subject areas at Oxford. I stay connected by being an active member of ARLIS/NA and serving in various roles. In ARLIS/NA, I’m the 2016-2018 Co-Moderator of ArLiSNAP and the Co-Chair of the Archaeology and Classics SIG. I recently became the Faculty Liaison and Incoming Co-Chair of SEI (Summer Educational Institute for Visual Resources & Image Management) which will allow me to stay connected to the visual resources profession and help with digital imaging and archival projects at my library.

Do you have any advice for current students and/or those on the job market?
For current students:
· Get library experience! Get as much experience as you possibly can even if it doesn’t seem related to the type of librarianship you want to do. For example, the only teaching experience I had before my current position was volunteering to lead introductory Biology classes for the Science Library at UGA. Though it seemed completely unrelated to art librarianship, having experience in the classroom gave me a leg up when I applied for my current position.

For job seekers:
· Don’t hesitate to apply for jobs even if you don’t think you are a strong candidate. I had the opportunity to be on the search committee for our Access Services Librarian position and have helped interview many others for jobs here. Often the people with the most impressive resumes don’t interview as well as other candidates.
· If you’ve been on the job market for a while, try applying for jobs outside of the scope of art librarianship. Though I’m not solely an art librarian, I still work closely with the arts and I’ve gained so many other valuable skills in this position.
· Don’t ignore potentially great jobs just because of the location. I originally didn’t want to stay in Georgia when I started my post-MLIS job search, but now I’m happy I did. My husband and I have been able to pay off over $50k of debt because of the low cost of living here, plus we are near family and friends.

What are some of the current challenges you see in your field or the art/information science field?
Advocating for libraries and librarians remains a challenge. Particularly for instruction librarians, it can be a challenge to convey the value of information literacy and the role we play in the classroom to faculty and administrators. It’s frustrating to be an academic librarian teaching in the classroom with rank and promotion expectations similar to faculty yet still have people assume you read and check out books all day! We need to demonstrate the value of library services and resources to our patrons and stakeholders.

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