Success stories for Solos? Our next guest blogger, Rana Hutchinson Salzmann (Librarian and Manager of Content Strategy for the American Planning Association in Chicago), has some to share!
About APA and the Library
The American Planning Association is a nonprofit membership, publication, education, and advocacy organization serving approximately 40,000 urban, suburban, and regional planner members. Formed in 1978 by the merger of two organizations (the American Society of Planning Officials and the American Institute of Planners), APA and its predecessor organizations have maintained a library since 1932, when six organizations shared the Joint Reference Library on the University of Chicago’s Hyde Park campus.
(For more about the history of the Library, see: http://www.planning.org/library/history.htm)
Today, our primary users are research staff working on grant-funded projects and publications. We also serve the research needs of other department staff, APA members, and the general public by appointment. In the Chicago office, home to approximately 80 staff members, we maintain a collection of nearly 5,000 monographs and serials. We also provide a limited collection of key publications for the 15 staff members in our Washington, D.C., office.
Since coming to work at APA five years ago, I have faced challenges common to solo librarians in many settings, including serving patrons at a distance, developing collections on a limited budget, and ensuring adequate staffing and service levels. In this post, I’ll talk about a few strategic partnerships with universities, archives, and library schools that have allowed us to do things we otherwise could not.
Since 2010, we have been fortunate to enjoy a partnership with the University of Maryland’s Urban Studies and Planning Program. According to terms spelled out in a Memorandum of Understanding, fifteen APA research, policy, and outreach staff members are permitted Research Affiliate status in the UMD library system. This means that the wealth of electronic resources accessible to students at a major research university is available to our small staff (in both office locations) at no direct cost. This has been a blessing for our collection budget. Staff members are able to access specialized research material in planning and related fields that we could not otherwise afford to purchase or store.
In return, we provide in-kind knowledge support to faculty in the University of Maryland planning program. Over three years, this support has taken different forms. One year, APA experts worked with planning studio faculty to help develop course reading lists and evaluate student projects. More recently, APA staff assisted a faculty member with a research project by compiling a literature review and advising on formulation of a survey about planning education for distribution to APA members.
We face space and staffing limitations in both the Chicago and D.C. offices. To manage these challenges, we ship historical records, business documents, and ephemera of potential research value to the architecture and planning archives at Cornell University. We rely on the pathfinders to the collection prepared by Cornell and work with archivists there to digitize items as needed. While it can be inconvenient to have back issues of newsletters, leadership documents, or other materials so far away, the Cornell staff and facility are better equipped to care for and catalog our archival material. We must account for shipping time and digitization costs when the occasional request is made and so educate staff and other users accordingly.
The pathfinders to APA’s collections are here:
- American Planning Association – http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/EAD/htmldocs/RMM04075.html
- American Society of Planning Officials – http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/ead/htmldocs/RMM03247.html
- American Institute of Planners – http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/ead/htmldocs/RMM04007.html
Finally, I’m sure solo librarians of all kinds can relate to the manpower problem. By definition, we do it all (from acquisitions to reference, readers’ advisory, IT troubleshooting, weeding, and more). And oftentimes budgets dictate that we can’t hire additional help for extra projects. Upon my arrival at APA, the organization had been without a librarian for nearly eight months. We faced a significant backlog of cataloguing and needed to process a large donation of material. After securing the necessary funding, I reached out to a local library school and advertised for a summer temp.
Since then, I have hosted interns (both paid and unpaid, as budgets dictate, and for course credit or not) continually in the library. Interns have worked on blogging and book reviews, cataloguing, data clean- up, serials management, taxonomy tagging, and a variety of other projects. When I was in library school, I did not take advantage of a practicum and was never introduced to special librarianship. I’ve enjoyed mentoring LIS students and recent graduates and introducing them to the many responsibilities of solo librarianship in a membership organization.
Interns and temps have come from several library and information science programs:
- University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science, Urbana, IL
- Dominican University Graduate School of Library and Information Science, River Forest, IL
- University of Michigan School of Information Alternative Spring Break
For more information about the APA library, visit: http://www.planning.org/library/.
Rana Hutchinson Salzmann, M.A., M.L.S., is the librarian and Manager of Content Strategy for the American Planning Association in Chicago. During her tenure at APA, Rana’s role has evolved from solo librarian to knowledge manager to content strategist. She works in the space where IT, Research, and Publications converge, helping to create and deploy a comprehensive, authoritative, and practical taxonomy for the association’s digital and print content. She received an M.A. in English from DePaul University and an M.L.S. from the University of Illinois LEEP program. Prior to joining the staff at APA, she was the Head of Reference and Electronic Services at the Brookfield, Illinois, Public Library.