February 17, 2018


Dustin Fife Takes Library Evangelism Beyond Brick and Mortar

Dustin Fife


Outreach & Patron Services Librarian,
Utah Valley University Library, Orem


MLS, Emporia State University, KS, 2013


@creativelibutah (Twitter); creativelibrariesutah.org; www.blubrry.com/evillibrarians

Photo by J. Michael O’day,
UVU Library Circulation Supervisor

When LJ Mover & Shaker Dustin Fife first arrived at Utah Valley University Library in Orem and took the job of Outreach & Patron Services Librarian—charged with working on interlibrary loan, E-reserve, and faculty delivery—his employers placed great emphasis on the “outreach” aspect of the position.

His first task? To create a larger presence for the library on campus.

So, he served on the Faculty Senate; did research for campus administrators through Executive Research Service; and partnered with other campus groups on initiatives to increase undergraduate research and the use of open educational resources.

“The main goal was to be visible and available,” says Fife, who earned an MLS degree from Emporia State University in Kansas. “The idea was to break down the library walls and take services to faculty and students where they were.”

The task suited Fife, who believes that librarians and the physical library are too often synonymous in peoples’ minds. “The comfort zone is sitting back and waiting for people to come to us,” he says. “We librarians know the value we can add, but unfortunately, other people often do not. Much as E-collections have broken down the walls of the library—people can be anywhere in the world and access our collections—we need to do the same thing on our campuses and in our communities with our services. We need to take our expertise and insinuate ourselves into as many projects as we can. Not so the library can take over, but so that we can add value and help other people accomplish their goals.”

In short, Fife believes that librarians have skills and should travel, that when they bring their skills to bear, it makes other projects stronger and more viable. Through services like faculty delivery and scan and deliver, that’s becoming more of a reality.

“At UVU we are willing to teach anywhere and do reference wherever we are,” he says, citing the campus-wide “Ask me Anything” roving reference cart mission he helped implement.

“Roving reference is not a new thing in libraries,” he says. “But UVU is unique in the fact that all the buildings are physically connected throughout the campus with walkways. We wanted to be outside the library, so I went outside the library. It was not a unique idea, but it was a visible one. It was just an example of how our library team was willing to go anywhere and help with anything.”

As a result of Fife’s efforts, reference interactions have increased. “It’s because the entire team has been reaching out to faculty and students and letting them know that we want to help,” says Fife, who cites an example of a colleague who answered a reference question on her cellphone recently while bowling at a library retreat.

“That’s how the library should be defined: by its staff and what they’re able to do through its services and expertise,” he says. “There’s so much more to a library that the building and its collections.”

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