Like any other discipline or profession, librarianship has its own unique set of issues, questions, dreams, frustrations, and particular language. Topics as lofty as intellectual freedom and information literacy mix with subjects as mundane as overdue fine amounts and cataloging minutia in our conversations with one another. The challenge, often, is finding opportunities to have such conversations with our colleagues about what life is like as a librarian. We attend conferences with other librarians, which are fantastically fulfilling, invigorating, and rejuvenating. While there we share common problems and solutions, commiserate and laugh with other people who “get” what we’re talking about, and have incredibly meaningful conversations about the issues we as librarians deeply care about. But after a couple days the conference is over and the feelings fade over time.
In the Portland area, there are a few informal groups of librarians that meet regularly to provide this kind of cross-institutional interaction. Instruction/reference librarian Scott Gallagher-Starr and I have asked, “Why not in Eugene?” Following the Oregon Library Association conference in April this year – one of those amazingly rejuvenating experiences shared with colleagues – some conversations began at a lunch and continued on Facebook after the conference was over. Conversations between myself and other academic librarians and some mutual public library friends in Eugene. The conversations centered around food, of course (secret fact: librarians love to eat!). The time seemed ripe, so I threw out the idea. “What if we did in Eugene what they’re doing in Portland?”
With a handful of interested librarians we all knew, we decided on a meeting time and place, and put the word out to the e-mail lists that librarians in our area would be likely to follow. Four people showed up for that first gathering in May. But two of them had not been part of the original conversation. They had come based only on the minimal publicity we had done. The conversations were good. We had met some new colleagues. We knew others were interested but had schedule conflicts. We decided to forge ahead.
A month later, on June 27, thirteen librarians from all types of libraries and from as far away as Sweet Home gathered together at a Eugene area restaurant. The excitement was immediate and infectious. We met new colleagues from different kinds of libraries, and renewed relationships with colleagues we already knew from other venues. By the end of that gathering we had a name, a Facebook page, and a schedule of meeting times. SWiVL, the Southern Willamette Valley Librarians, will meet the fourth Thursday of every month, alternating between lunch meetings and an end of the work day time.
While SWiVL is still very new and only time will tell if it sustains, it feels like it will. I think we have tapped a need that other librarians in our area feel as well. Even those from as large a place as the University of Oregon libraries. Certainly those from small places like the Sweet Home Public Library. And definitely for those like the Willamette High School librarian who had received her lay-off notice that very morning. It is very gratifying to see a dream realized. A dream that meets my felt need, yes, but also in very significant ways fulfills NCU’s Institutional Goal “To serve Christ and humanity, demonstrate integrity as an institution, and lead our community….” In a small way I can serve my librarian colleagues by spearheading this group. I can demonstrate that NCU cares about our community. I can exhibit the leadership that our goals and mission call us to exemplify.
And now you can proudly say that your NCU librarians SWiVL!
Steve Silver, NCU Library Director