Amy Harris, UNCG’s Jackson Library

My name is Amy Harris, and I’m the Information Literacy Program Coordinator and Reference Librarian at UNCG. I graduated from the MLIS program at UNCG in 2005. I started in the Reference Department at UNCG in 2005 as a temp and got my tenure-track job in June of 2006. Before I became a librarian, I had a variety of interesting jobs, including elementary school teacher, payroll administrator, talk radio show host and assistant manager of the concession operations for the Winston-Salem Warthogs (RIP Wally). In my personal life, I’m married and have a (precious) nine-month-old daughter.

When I started library school, I wanted to be a school media specialist, because I was teaching at the time. I quickly realized that wasn’t for me. Then I wanted to be a cataloger so I did a cataloging independent study. Shortly thereafter, I heard about the Reference Intern Program at Jackson, so I decided to give reference a shot. It definitely stuck. I love working with people to find the information they need.

In addition to traditional reference librarian duties, I serve as the library’s Information Literacy Program Coordinator. When I began working at Jackson, I was the First-Year Instruction Coordinator. This entails working closely with first year classes such as English 101. Outreach is a huge part of this job, as the instructors are typically graduate students and a new group starts every year. This position also involves lots of teaching one-shot instruction sessions. In academic year 2007-08, I taught 100 of these sessions. Luckily, my colleagues are very supportive so I’m able to focus most of my attention on teaching during the busy times of the semester. I’ve recently added the Information Literacy Program Coordinator title, which means in addition to the outreach, I’ll be working to make information literacy a more important issue on campus. In my spare time, I work with the Dean of Student’s Office to teach students about Academic Integrity and plagiarism, and I’m also the co-coordinator of the Reference Intern Program. It’s chaotic at times, but I think I have an awesome job!

If you have any questions about general librarian stuff, teaching, reference or being on the tenure-track, I’d be happy to try to answer them!

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11 thoughts on “Amy Harris, UNCG’s Jackson Library

  1. Hi Amy,

    If you could give advice on one really important LIS course to take (not one of the required courses), which one would you recommend and why?

    Thanks!
    Erin

    1. Erin,
      For people who are interested in working in an academic library, I highly recommend the subject reference classes. They’re a great way to learn the resources in an area you’re not familiar with. So if you’re a humanities person, take the business or sci/tech class. Some entry-level reference jobs will require or prefer a subject reference course, so that’s another plus.
      For anybody, I recommend the library-specific classes. I took Academic Library and Special Library. In the Academic Library class, I wrote my favorite paper of my whole library school career. And even though I (obviously) ended up in an academic library, the Special Libraries class was great. I learned so much about all the different types of special libraries out there.

  2. Hi Amy

    Although I am sure that I do not want to be school media specialist, I am still uncertain exactly what type of library I eventually want to work in. For someone in my position, would you advise keeping options open by taking more “general” classes, or take a variety of specialisms in the hope something “clicks”. Additionally, how much emphasis should be placed on technology classes? Looking at vacancies notices it seems skills such as designing/maintaining web sites are almost de rigueur.

    Thanks.

    1. Colin,
      I’d definitely suggest taking the library-specific courses (Public, Academic, and/or Special)to see if something clicks. Also try to talk to people who work in different types of libraries to see if their jobs are interesting to you. I think your instinct is correct on technology. I’d definitely take tech classes because employers are looking for tech skills. GTCC also has great classes on web design and other techie stuff. And you can’t go wrong with subject reference courses because the chances are good that you’ll end up doing some kind of reference, even if it’s not your primary job.
      Just my 2 cents. I’m far from an expert 🙂

  3. Greetings Amy!

    I read your post and must say that your jorney to your current position is very intriguing! I wanted to ask more about Outreach services at an academic library.

    I worked at Jackson Library years ago (as an Assistant) and my last few years have been in a public setting so I have only heard about Outreach at public libraries. How are Outreach services developed (i.e. how do you decide what services are needed)? What other Outreach services in addition to the ones you mention in your post does the library provided?

    Please excuse my questions. I’m currently taking Iformation Services for Diverse Clients with Dr. Hersberger and we often discuss Outreach.

    Thank you,
    Ashanti White

    1. Ashanti,
      Thanks for asking your question. Outreach is actually one of the best parts of my job. What I mainly do is work with graduate student instructors of 100-level courses. So I do an orientation session with them every year before school starts and try to convince them that they should bring their classes to the library for research instruction. It’s part outreach (letting them know what’s available) and part sales (convincing them to give me some of their valuable class time).
      I also do outreach to undergraduates. I’ve been heavily involved in Game Night since it started. We use Game Night as a way to get students to come into the library for something fun and hope they’ll use it for studying/research in the future. I also serve as the liaison to the College Panhellenic Council, which means I keep in touch with sororities about their needs. Most of the organizations on campus have a library liaison who contacts them regularly to see how the library can assist them. Over the past few years, the library has spent a lot of time seeking out these types of organizations and seeing how we can meet their needs.
      I just typed a lot, but I’m not sure I answered your question. If you have follow-up questions, I’ll try my best to answer them!
      Amy

  4. Hi, Amy!

    Thanks for taking the time to introduce yourself and answer our questions this week.

    I’m in the school media coordinator track though I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do yet. My undergrad and personal interests are in new media (or basically being obsessed with the internet, haha!) and computers.

    Though what my main interest at UNCG is trying to be a great LIS grad student. Due to personal circumstances, I was too busy to really get involved and my program did not encourage internships or interacting with my classmates at all. So what would be your suggestions on how to get involved in the program aside from joining LISSA?

    Also I’ve never worked in a library (the libraries back home wouldn’t let you intern unless you were work-study or they didn’t accept volunteers), so I know I need some library experience somewhere, but I don’t have any idea where to start. None of the local ads have anything either. I’m just feeling a little overwhelmed with all the newness of a new town, new school, and a new life!

    1. Hi Amanda!
      I had a hard time getting involved in the program, too, because I was working full-time while I was in school. One thing I’d suggest is bringing some of your homework over to the library and working on it here in the Reference Department. There are tons of LIS students wandering around in Reference, particularly on Wednesdays before 620. I made some great friends in my classes just by talking to people during breaks (shout-out to my colleague and friend Lynda, who I met like this, and now we get to work together!).
      Also, I think the Greensboro Public Library accepts volunteers (at least they used to), so I’d recommend contacting them to try to get some library experience.
      I know moving to a new place is a huge adjustment, but you’ll find your niche in no time!
      Amy

      1. To be exact, during a break Amy shouted across the classroom at my dinner, “OMG, that’s Jimmie John’s!” (JJ had just opened on Tate St and Amy’s a fan).

        Yelling random things and pointing excitedly at your classmates is a great icebreaker. It was friendship at first outburst. 😉

  5. Hello Amy. You seem like you have a very rewarding career that you love after trying alot of different things before. That was kinda my road to this program. I hope to find my dream job too at the end of this road. I really feel that I want to work in an academic library also. How challenging do you find balancing teaching courses along with your regular duties? Also, could you give me any advice about what academic libraries are looking for these days when it comes to future applicants? I know that it will vary from position to position and every university library has its own set of unique values based on the mission of the school.

    1. Damion,
      Thanks for your question. Balancing teaching with other reference duties isn’t easy and is something I struggle with. The good news is, my really busy time only lasts about 8 weeks in the fall, so the other 44 weeks of the year are much easier to manage. Luckily, I have great colleagues who are willing to help me out with the other parts of my job while I’m teaching.
      As for the other part of your question, it depends on what job in an academic library you’re interested in, but for reference, desk experience is always a huge plus, along with teaching experience. Definitely start looking at the job ads now so you can try to make yourself as marketable as possible.
      Amy

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