Academic journal article Collaborative Librarianship

Frustrations, Challenges and Opportunities in Public Library Collaboration: An Interview with George Jaramillo, Library Director, Taos Public Library, Taos, New Mexico

Academic journal article Collaborative Librarianship

Frustrations, Challenges and Opportunities in Public Library Collaboration: An Interview with George Jaramillo, Library Director, Taos Public Library, Taos, New Mexico

Article excerpt

(George Jaramillo is interviewed by Ivan Gaetz, Collaborative Librarianship)

As part of Collaborative Librarianship's series of interviews with members of our Advisory Board, we met up recently with George Jaramillo. George was one of the first persons engaged in conversation about beginning a journal that focuses specifically on library collaboration and which led to the founding of this journal in January, 2009.

CL: How did you arrive at your position of Library Director of the Taos Public Library?

Jaramillo: I have been in the library profession in one form or another for over 30 years, initially at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Campaign, working in the Education Library. This was followed by 20 years at the University of Northern Colorado where I was Associate Dean for Administrative Services, and then most recently, six years at Colorado State University (CSU) in Fort Collins, Colorado, as Assistant Dean for Administrative Services. I retired from CSU in the summer of 2006 and moved to Taos. As it turned out, my "retirement" lasted only one year, and in December, 2007, I became Library Director for the "Town of Taos."

My first entry into library work was in high school where I served as a library assistant in the school library. Upon graduating, I received a scholarship at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and found a natural fit in its library system. It has been mainly academic libraries ever since. So, in fact, my work here in Taos is my first experience as a librarian in a public library.

CL: How was the transition from the academic to the public library environment?

Jaramillo: In public libraries, there is a much broader sociological picture at play. You have to use a different language, so to speak, and engage different sensitivities. The transition involves adjusting to a different mode of inquiry and knowledge interest. For instance, the literature wanted and needed in a public library includes, of course, popular fiction, self-improvement books, travel, but also religious writings and material on spirituality, health-related issues, and resources for genealogical research. The collections in our public library support personal development and a wide range of general interest, and not so much academic research and scholarship. With a different purpose, public libraries deal with a very differently motivated user.

Another significant difference from the academic environment, and this was a big adjustment for me, was dealing with the young adult users with their interest in technology of all kinds, as well a children and their unique interests and needs in yet another very different realm. I had never actually dealt professionally with the younger users of the library, and it was big surprise to see their particular tastes in literature. Graphic novels and literature on drugs, suicide, teen pregnancy, divorced parents, tattoos, and gangs are enormously popular with young adults. I was not expecting the popularity of these topical areas among our youth. Younger children have a special place in the public library, and because we have in our library a designated children's area, I was able more readily to identify, understand and appreciate these users and their needs. Another significant difference is the level of technological know how. University students are quite tech savvy, whereas public library patrons often need extra help in becoming familiar with computers, using the software and accessing internet resources more effectively.

CL: Not only is Taos Public Library a new work environment for you, the Taos area itself is a rather unique area. Could your profile its demographics?

Jaramillo: Taos Public Library serves the 5,500 residents of the Town of Taos itself and an overall county population of 30,000. The library boasts 25,000 registered patrons, a good indication of the popularity of its resources and services. …

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