Library Career Profile: Rob Vega, Reference Services Librarian

Rob Vega (Spectrum 2002) is Reference Services Librarian at Valparaiso University's Christopher Center for Library and Information Resources. He also teaches library instruction courses in a variety of fields at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. In addition, he is the library liaison to the Departments of Sociology, Social Work, and Communication.

He earned his MLIS from Dominican University in 2004 and also has an MA in Medieval History from The University of Notre Dame. Rob's areas of research interest include manuscripts and early books, the history of book publishing, information policy, and reading studies. He also frequently teaches a course on Early Books & Manuscripts in Dominican University's GSLIS. Rob is Co-Editor of Book reviews for First Monday, an online journal devoted to the Internet and Information Policy.

What made you choose your field of focus, and when did you decide?

I really have the best of both worlds. As Reference Services Librarian, I get to do a substantial amount of "front line" reference work, which I love. But, I also get to teach a substantial number of library instruction sessions, which is also a source of great joy and satisfaction for me. I decided when I was offered the reference position; it was an easy decision!

What skills have you had to learn on the job that weren’t covered in your classes?

Reference skills! I was only able to take the basic reference course in library school. But, I believe that no amount of course work can truly prepare you for reference work. Until you're sitting at the desk for the first time, and a patron comes to you with your first question, you just can't really know what it's like. Also, you have to be prepared sometimes to say, "You know, I don't know how to find this out. Let me call one of my colleagues." No librarian can have all the answers. We all need support from our colleagues with expertise in other areas.

What information from your MLS studies do you use regularly? What doesn’t come up at all?

My more esoteric courses -- Information Policy and Human Records & Society -- have been surprisingly useful in that they help me keep in mind how forbidding an experience entering a library and asking for help can be. Those of us who are librarians frequently lose track of this feeling, I think. I mean, the library is "our place," so we don't always remember that it's a sometimes-daunting place for others. As far as what doesn't come up, that would have to be Dialog. I used it for one assignment in my Intro to Reference class and have never used it again! 

What kinds of skills from outside of your library background have come in handy in your job as a librarian?

My knowledge and experience while working on my first masters degree has come in handy from time to time. Also, as is the case with many librarians, I read a lot. This has helped me in my role as librarian for our small pleasure-reading collection. I keep up on what books are hot, what's gotten good reviews, what has the buzz. This helps me make purchase decisions. 

What is your typical work-day like?

I'm glad to say that in some ways there isn't a "typical" work day. Of course, I have reference duties and collection development responsibilities and the like to deal with on a daily basis. But, I'm happy to say that it always at least seems different! My library isn't a huge one, so I especially enjoy the fact that working the reference desk is always an exercise in variety. I might be asked a sociology question, then a directional question, then a theology question, and then -- gulp! -- a business question. Those darn business questions are always the toughest ones for me!