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Sarah Hammill's picture

Teresa Omidsalar

Monday, February 24, 2014 - 9:00 am to Friday, February 28, 2014 - 5:00 pm

IAmRUSA Interviewee for the Week of February 24th is

Teresa Omidsalar

Ask her a question!

Teresa Omidsalar's picture

Hi Everyone,

I am the Reference Services Coordinator and Education Librarian at CSU Los Angeles.  The California State Univesity system is made up of 23 campuses.  The librarians have faculty status, which means that in order to get tenure we need to not only do well on our postion responsibilities, but we have to be active professionally, including publishing, and we have to give service to our campus and community.  If anyone has questions about the tenure process, I would be happy to discuss!

As the Reference Services Coordinator, I oversee the scheduling of the librarians at the reference desk as well as serving as the QuestionPoint Ask a Librarian administrator.  I'd be happy to answer questions about digital reference as well.

I graduated from library school at UCLA in 1979.  My entire career has been one of change.  Changing to an online environment has been exciting and challenging and frustrating.

For many years I taught a reference course at the Dept of Information Studies at UCLA.  My area of interest is the reference interview and the information seeking behavior of library users.

As a liaison librarian for the Charter College of Education I teach lots of course-integrated instruction sessions.  I also teach a credit-bearing information literacy course at the library at CSULA.  We take turns in teaching the courses each quarter.

I am married, I have 3 children -- all in college.  Well enough about me! I'd like to hear from you.




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Kirk MacLeod's picture

Hi Teresa,

As a MLIS Candidate, I've always been a little nervous about moving towards Academic Librarianship due to the publishing requirements of the position - in your own experience are there specific guidelines to the types of things you can publish (original research, case studies, etc.), or are you able to focus on other areas for your publishing requirements?

Thanks for participating, I'm looking forward to reading your discussion this week.


Teresa Omidsalar's picture

Hi Kirk,

In my experience, there are no written guidelines as to the types of materials you publish. However, on our campus, there is an unwritten rule that over the 4 to 6 years that it takes a person to go up for tenure, there should be at least one peer reviewed publication.  Having said that, it does not mean that one has to publish in the area of librarianship, one can publish in any discipline.  We have librarians publish in the area of music, history, and so on.  One can also publish articles, books, book chapters, and so on. Kirk, let me know if this doesn't fully answer your question.

Teresa Omidsalar's picture

Hi Kirk,

One thing that I suggest to new librarians is to team up with another, either new librarian or a mentor, and write something together.  This way it usually makes it more fun and will keep you on track if working with someone else. 

Sarah Hammill's picture

Hi Teresa!

I remember taking reference classes where we dived into the print collection looking for an answer to an unusual question.  It got us familiar with the sources.  However, I don't find that I get many needle in the haystack type questions as an academic librarian. 

So I am interested in hearing if and how over time whether you changed how you taught the reference course? 



Teresa Omidsalar's picture

Hi Sarah,

I remember those types of reference courses, too! I taught the course, not so much tied to format as much as tied to strategy.  I did very little with print, although there were bibliographies available. I mostly taught online sources.  I tried to get the reference students to think strategically about how someone would be looking for the information, how much information, what type of information, etc. 

I had them doing very little comparison of print to online, since in most cases there is no comparison.  For their major paper they had to select a research question-- either one they had gotten or a made up one-- then they had to develop a strategy and suggest appropriate sources. Of course, it was very artificial because as we know, research can take many twists and turns, and so we have to be flexible.

They also had to analyze a reference interview they had observed.

Sadly, the reason why I stopped offering the course is because I find that at many academic libraries, the number of drop-in reference questions has dropped dramatically.  Students come to our office hours or schedule a consultation appointments. 

I attended a workshop this past December where several academic libraries are trying new reference models and getting away from the desk model.  We are in the process of making these sorts of decisions at my library.

Stay tuned!


Teresa Omidsalar's picture

Even though at many academic we have seen a drop in students asking for in-depth assistance at the reference desk, we have had increases in individual or group appointments.  For instance, at our library we have office hours.  Our business librarian has lines of students at each office hour.  I tend to have bunches of students the week before papers are due, either for midterms or finals.  Of course, if a student can't come to an office hour, then we work out another time that is convenient for them.

However, when I provide chat reference through QuestionPoint, I regularly assist students who have a research paper and need help getting started.  Now I wonder if they are coming through QP because there was no one at their reference desk to assist them, OR is it because they are doing their work remotely. I tend to think it is because students want assistance at their moment of need, which could be at any time.  I suppose the expectation is that if you have access to the resources 24/7 then your questions or our need for assistance could be at any time of day or night.

I have mixed feelings about not having librarians at the reference desk, just in case that student who needs assistance comes along.  Our plan is to have librarians on call and student assistants to take care of the help with printing, scanning, and photocopying. Our student assistants will answer questions related to finding reserve materials and answering directional questions, but will call the librarian on call for most anything else.  

Hopefully this will work, and if not, we will try other models.

Teresa Omidsalar's picture

We have an intern this quarter and it is always refreshing to hear about what they are learning in library school. The intern we have is in an online program so she rarely meets with other students face-to-face. 

Providing internships is a commitment.  Many still think of it as 'free labor' but it is far from it. An intern has to be made to feel a part of the organization and this requires lots of orientation and training. An internship is a 'group project' in that all have to be on board.

I am at a quarter campus, and the first year we had interns I made the mistake of accepting interns for one quarter.  By the time the student had training and was prepared to work, the quarter was almost over.  Now we take interns for 2 and preferably 3 quarters.  

Coming up with intern assignments has to do with both the interns interests and what projects are available.  Our internships now focus on reference and instruction.  If and when we change to an "on call" reference model, I don't see how this can incorporate an intern.  I would be interested to hear how others would approach this.  

Of course, learning to provide info lit instruction is always an important part of an academic library internship, and many students want to do an internship in order to get teaching experience.

I love working with interns and hope that we will continue to offer internships.


Teresa Omidsalar's picture

One of the questions that library school students ask is what are the important things that I need to know in order to get a job in academic libraries.  As far as I am concerned, the answer is easy--teaching. In California at the community colleges, the state universities, and the university of california system, most librarians have teaching as a top responsibility.  I have heard library students say that they want to provide reference and do collection development. Of course, in an academic library they will have to do that,too. But what will probably be scrutinized on their CVs and cover letters is how much teaching experience they have.

At our library, we average 30 information literacy instruction sessions per quarter. Our sessions are 90 minutes long.  It isn't about the numbers, though. It is about getting the students to think critically about the information they need to find, to develop effective strategies for finding it, and then to be able to analyze what they read.  It is challenging, and it is rewarding to have students return to let you know how well they did on a research paper.

In addition to course-integrated instruction we also have introductory library sessions for the introduction to higher education classes, which are offered for incoming freshmen (101) and for incoming transfer students (301). These are fun and are a great way to get students familiar with the library's website, resources, and services.  We also play a game of library jeopardy by dividing the class into teams.  Each member of the winning team receives a flash drive with the library's logo on it--very popular.

Teaching is one of the most rewarding aspects of my work in an academic library.


Teresa Omidsalar's picture

We are finally getting rain. It arrived yesterday morning, lasted a few hours, and by 11am the sun was shining brightly, and it was difficult to believe that a few hours earlier it had been pouring.  

Today it looks to be a different story.  It began raining around 2am. I know because it woke me up, it was coming down so hard.  It let up a bit,  but right now it is raining quite hard.  I am not complaining; we certainly need it. The problem with rain in Los Angeles is that no one seems to remember how to drive in it, it rains so infrequently.  When it rains, the freeways and streets are quickly a mess. 

Fridays are a light day on our campus. It is a commuter campus and few classes meet on Fridays. This rain will also keep some people away.  More from me once I get to the library.

Teresa Omidsalar's picture

I feel very fortunate that I had the opportunity to get involved in ALA early in my career.  The first committee I served on was the Notable Books Council.  Initially, it felt like Christmas. Large boxes of books would arrive unannounced.  It was so exciting to open them and see brand new books--fiction, non-fiction, and poetry--and not knowing which to read first! That wore off quickly, when I realized I would have to manage my time, and organize my schedule in order to have enough time to read and find book reviews.  Back then NBC members had one extra meeting. We were flown to Chicago in October and spent Friday evening through Sunday morning discussing books.  I was overwhelmed at that first meeting. Everyone was so much better read than I was. I served on NBC for two terms, so by the end I learned so much, and felt so much a part of the ALA conference experience.  I also made some life-long friends.

Ever since then I have been a RUSA (RASD back then!) member, and I have always volunteered to serve on committees.  It really has been one of the highlights of my career.  I believe it has shaped my outlook in many ways.  I always encourage new librarians to become active in whatever way is meaningful to them. 

It is still raining and I hope this storm helps our drought! Have a great weekend.