Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting the Macdonald-Kelce Library at the University of Tampa and speaking with Art Bagley, a librarian specializing in reference, collection management, and special collections (archives). I chose to visit UT for several reasons. First, I’ve driven by the campus many times (especially when I was living in South Tampa and, more recently, when I was temping in Clearwater) but I’d never actually seen the campus. (The campus is lovely. I can see why ~6,400 students chose UT.) Second, UT is pretty much halfway between my house and St. Pete (my second stop of the day), so it was super convenient.
After Art graduated from FSU in 1974, he wound up staying in Tallahassee and becoming a state employee. State employees at the time were offered six free semester hours (I don’t remember if that was per year or per term) at state schools. At around the same time his first wife started pushing him to think about the future and where he wanted to be in five years. He decided to go to grad school at FSU and settled on library science because a) it wasn’t a thesis program and b) the more he thought about libraries, the more he realized how vital they are (plus, they “have cool stuff”). He graduated from FSU with his MLS in 1986. Shortly thereafter, he moved to Tampa for his second wife. After interviewing for two different positions at the public library, he was hired by UT in 1987 for a part-time cataloging position and has been there ever since. He immediately felt that UT was the perfect fit.
In addition to serving UT’s 6,400 or so students, the Macdonald-Kelce Library is also open to the public because it is part of the Federal Depository Library Program. The collection is, as Art put it, “as broad as the curriculum is” and, according to the Web site, contains more than 275,000 books and 1,600 periodicals. In addition to his library duties, Art serves on the faculty curriculum committee , which means he knows well in advance when the collection will need to be expanded (for instance, to cover the recently-added Asian Studies minor). Art estimated that half of the students use the library every semester, including practically all of the freshmen. He said that the English department requires first-year students to spend time in the library and, at the very least, get some bibliographic instruction. He also said that many of the first-years have no library skills when they get to UT.
The library itself feels big and airy. It reminded me of other academic libraries I’ve visited, but with more windows. You can take a virtual tour of the library here. It is staffed by 20-22 people (9 professional staff positions), including part-time staff, and 12-15 student assistants. The staff I spoke to seemed friendly and professional. The technology in use was almost exclusively PCs. There are also several public scanners located throughout the library. Additionally, UT students are able to check out laptops, Kindles, and even a digital camera. In addition to participating in the OCLC ILL (inter-library loan) program (for both the UT and general populations) and the statewide Ask a Librarian virtual reference program, the Macdonald-Kelce Library is also part of the Tampa Bay Library Consortium. Additionally, there is a Friends of the Library group that sponsors author talks, both by published faculty and popular fiction authors. The library’s number one priority, however, is to serve the students. The library doesn’t have any social media presence that Art is aware of, except for a blog.
Would I like to work here? Academic libraries do appeal to me, but only at the college level. I think you’d get a much wider variety of reference questions working at a general purpose college library than a specialized one, and that is also appealing. I think it would be impossible to get bored if you never knew what a student was going to ask. On the other hand, college students in large groups tend to annoy me (although that effect may be localized to bars). I also worry that seeing college student after college student who doesn’t understand that Wikipedia isn’t the most reliable information source would really depress me.
I was glad to discover that I am not the only person interested in the library field who didn’t spend a lot of time in the library as an undergraduate. Sometimes I worry that I almost have no right to become a librarian because I haven’t been the biggest library user since I graduated from high school (obviously, that’s just my silly head messing with me), so it was nice to learn that Art hadn’t been a big library user prior to entering his MLS program either. Most of the services provided by the Macdonald-Kelce Library are what I would expect from an academic library, but I had never heard of the Federal Depository Library Program.
205 University Drive
Tampa FL 33606
Phone: 813- 253-6231
Reference Desk: 813-257-3057
Hours of Operation in the Fall & Spring Semesters
Monday – Thursday: 8 AM – Midnight (Reference: 8 AM – 9 PM)
Friday: 8 AM – 6 PM (Reference: 8 AM – 5 PM)
Saturday: 10 AM – 6 PM (Reference: 10 AM – 6 PM)
Sunday: Noon – Midnight (Reference: 2 PM – 9 PM)
A monthly calendar can also be found here.