Ch@t: Chatham’s reference librarian serves as teacher, CCCC liaison and more

Posted 3/6/20

Dana Haven grew up in a military family and took her first library job when she volunteered at a military base library in Florida during her high school years. She went on to work in public libraries …

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Ch@t: Chatham’s reference librarian serves as teacher, CCCC liaison and more

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Dana Haven grew up in a military family and took her first library job when she volunteered at a military base library in Florida during her high school years. She went on to work in public libraries and ultimately decided to move to Chapel Hill to pursue a master’s degree in library science at UNC after earning bachelor’s degrees in English and psychology from Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida.

“During my graduate studies at UNC, I worked in the Geological Sciences Library and the E-Resources Department in Davis Library,” she says. “My academic and public library experience were a good fit for the Reference & Instruction position at Chatham Community Library, a joint-use public and community college library. I started working at Chatham Community Library right before the new building officially opened in 2010, so I’ll be celebrating 10 years this fall, as will the library itself!”

Haven lives in Chapel Hill with her husband and daughter. This week, we spoke with her about her role at the library.

What does your role as Reference and instruction librarian entail?

My role is fairly wide-ranging, but it broadly includes research assistance, digital and information literacy instruction, collection development, and technology assistance. I work with public patrons as well as community college students, so patrons come to the Reference Desk with a variety of information needs, from learning how to create an email account to finding peer-reviewed resources for an assignment, and that helps keep my work interesting. I’ve also been involved with the technical aspects of several recent library projects, including self-serve print stations, wireless printing, and the Chatham PASS program, a partnership between Chatham County Public Libraries and Chatham County Schools that automatically provides K-12 students with public library accounts.

How has a library’s traditional role as the “home” for research changed with the internet and the fact that, with a smartphone, most of us have libraries in our pockets?

The role of Reference Librarians has certainly evolved over the years, especially with the rapid growth of online content, and one thing we do less of these days is answer simple questions that can easily be found online. We’re helping patrons with more complex questions and, increasingly, we’re showing people how to do something rather than how to find something. We spend a lot of time these days teaching people how to use and troubleshoot technology. We see all sorts of devices at the Reference Desk, and I feel as though we’ve become tech experts by necessity!

In the age of the internet and easy access to information, some may wonder whether a library’s information services are as vital as they once were. During the last fiscal year, our staff logged more than 16,000 reference transactions, and it’s clear that patrons still need help locating and evaluating information, despite (and sometimes because of) the vast amount of information available at our fingertips these days. It’s often assumed that everything is available online, but there’s a lot of information that hasn’t been digitized, or is just not freely accessible. We can help patrons locate this information, whether that means searching for articles in library databases or requesting materials through interlibrary loan. Our ultimate goal is always to connect people with the information they need, whatever form that may take.

You serve as liaison between the Chatham Community Library and CCCC, on whose campus the library is located. What does that role entail?

Chatham Community Library is unique in that we’re one of three branches in the Chatham County Public Library system, and we also serve as the library for the Chatham campus of Central Carolina Community College. My main role as liaison to CCCC is supporting students and faculty through reference services and information literacy sessions. I also help to ensure that the college material in our collection is up to date and adequately supports the college’s programs. Being located on the CCCC campus puts us in a position to collaborate with departments such as the Human Resources Development program, which has provided employment assistance sessions in the library’s computer lab, and NC Works, whose coordinators have taught classes on job searching and creating résumés. I’ve also worked with the Academic Assistance Center to provide research skills workshops for students outside of formal instruction sessions.

What’s included in your role in instruction?

One of my roles is overseeing our public computer classes, which are taught by reference staff. Last year we offered 32 classes on a wide range of topics, helping 239 participants learn how to use a computer and navigate the internet, use Microsoft programs such as Word and Excel, collaborate using Google Apps, and download free library eBooks through OverDrive.

Digital literacy classes such as these help provide community members with the skills they need to apply for jobs, conduct research, and communicate with others online. We’ve had patrons come back to tell us that the skills they learned at the library helped them secure jobs or connect with friends and family, and it’s always so rewarding to hear about the impact that libraries and library programs can have on people’s lives.

My instruction role extends to Central Carolina Community College as well. I teach information literacy classes for students on the Chatham campuses, as well as early college students and high school students who are earning college credit through CCCC. I also serve as the online librarian in sociology courses, ensuring that distance education students receive similar information literacy instruction and research support to those in seated courses.

Along with formal classes, we also provide a lot of informal, one-on-one instruction at the Reference Desk every day. We teach people how to use the library catalog and online resources, navigate job websites, find their next read, print tax forms, download eBooks, and much more.

What resources or services does the library offer that someone might be surprised to learn about?

We have such a great variety of programs and services at Chatham County Public Libraries. Most people probably know that the library provides free computer and Wi-Fi access, a wealth of children’s and adult programs and, of course, plenty of reading material! What people tend not to know as much about is all of the amazing online resources they can access with their library accounts. Many of our online resources are available through NC LIVE, which is a collection of over 100 databases and other curated resources that all North Carolina library patrons can access for free with a library card. NC LIVE contains resources such as Mango Languages for interactive language learning, NoveList Plus for reading recommendations, Auto Repair Source for repair and service guides, and Films on Demand for educational and documentary films. We also have an ever-growing collection of downloadable books, audiobooks, and magazines available through OverDrive.

If you’re interested in researching your family history or our local history, check out our Local History & Genealogy (LHG) collection, which includes family histories, church histories, troop lists, census records, and more. You can also access records from across the country and around the world through our genealogy databases: African American Heritage, Ancestry Library Edition, and HeritageQuest. Our dedicated genealogy volunteers provide one-on-one assistance by appointment. In addition to our LHG collection, our North Carolina collection includes titles covering all aspects of the Tar Heel State.

Reference staff are happy to speak with you about any of these resources. Call us at 919-545-8086, chat with us online (look for the orange tab in the corner of our website), or visit us at the Reference Desk to learn more.

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