Libro Futuro

Profession, training and Ukulele. Being a librarian in Hawaii. Mario Coffa interviews Brian R. Huffman

Intervista in italiano

Brian R. Huffman is an electronic services librarian at the University of Hawaii Law Library. He has published and presented topics such as digital self-publishing, access to justice and open access educational resources. His duties include managing library database accounts, coordinating and marketing the legal library’s electronic resources, the website, LibGuides, collecting institutional archives and digital archives, as well as teaching advanced legal research and forensic technology labs. Brian was president of the Hawai’i Library Association and the AALL Western Pacific (WestPac) section. He studied at Drake University Law School and earned his MLIS from Saint Catherine University.

Brian, for starters: what does it mean to be a librarian in an earthly paradise like Hawaii? Also, what is the training to follow to become a librarian and practice this profession? 

For me, being a librarian means knowing your community. There’s not much different being a librarian in Hawaii than it was in my last location (Minnesota). I have found the Hawaiian Islands home to deeply warm and community-minded people. Being a newcomer, it took some time to acclimate and get to know my new home. After having lived here over eight years I feel like this is home. I have been lucky to make new friends and learn what my library patrons need from their library. The one comparison I can make is there are fewer librarians on island compared to the number back on the mainland. We are a small but close-knit community in Hawaii.

Can you briefly tell us what you do in your job? 

I am the electronic services librarian. My job duties include researching, testing, training and implementation of library databases and other library electronic media including LibGuides and legal technology training tools like a Legal Technology Assessment. I also maintain the Law Library website, our social media sites, and assist with accumulating annual usage statistics. I also coordinate with our digital institutional repositories. In addition to these core duties, I am backup for reference and conduct instructional services as well as teach on occasion. My service includes representing the library in University and Law School committees.

The covid experience has affected our lives at every level: how did you deal with this crisis in your country and how did libraries react? 

COVID was a major disturbance for libraries in the US and Hawaii specifically. On one hand librarians who serve the public were deemed essential workers and could not stop our services completely. Yet, on the other hand, we had to implement measures that would limit in-person contact and keep staff and patrons safe. It required us to make use of increased electronic resources and develop online methods to provide similar services. Although we still circulated books, we required curbside pickup and 3-day waiting periods until returned books could be re-circulated. The library also acquired a book sanitizer. Once we could open, we limited access by requiring seat reservations which incorporated social distancing. Library staff were able to utilize a hybrid work schedule that allowed for staggered in-person work alongside remote work. 

You deal with electronic and digital services. Do you believe that digital has helped to support libraries in this period of pandemic crisis? 

Very much so. It allowed us to provide online versions of books we had in person through the HathiTrust. HathiTrust opened copyrighted material in their digital library to member institutions with copies of those items in their physical collections. Additionally, we were able to provide digitization requests of items not in the HathiTrust. This allowed patrons to request 1 chapter, or 10% of a resource, which is within the fair use, copyright guidelines. The library began acquiring more e-books in our collection because of the pandemic. This caused a shift in our collection development policies. 

Fantastic! I read about a project called “Ukulele Lending Program” which allows you to borrow a Ukulele to learn how to play it at public libraries. I believe this is a 360 degree view of what a library can be. What do you think?

I love hearing about creative lending programs libraries provide. From ukuleles to baking utensils and pans to house and garage tools. I have even heard of libraries that lend people so you can chat with them and find out what they might have to teach or tell you about. These are amazing services libraries can provide. Our Law Library has a small slice of this. We have a special collection called Cool Stuff. These are items that can enrich a library users; study experiences and entertainment. We have chargers, large monitors, laptops, games, cameras, etc.

What would you recommend to a young student who would like to become a librarian one day?

Get to know a librarian. Ask them if you can shadow them for a day. Find out what modern librarians do for a living. It’s far more than reading and shelving books. Discover if you like helping others and if you have a natural curiosity about how things work and why the world is how it is. If so, you probably are a librarian at heart!


Mario Coffa
Mario Coffa
Mario Coffa archivista e bibliotecario, laureato in Conservazione dei Beni Culturali presso l’Università degli Studi di Perugia (2005) e diplomato in Archivistica e Paleografia presso la Scuola di Archivistica dell’Archivio Segreto Vaticano (2010). Dal 2010 Lavora per CAeB (Cooperativa Archivistica e Bibliotecaria) presso le biblioteche dell’Università di Perugia come bibliotecario e come archivista presso l'Archivio Storico del Comune di Gubbio. Si occupa di Biblioteche Digitali e formazione in ambito di biblioteconomia digitale. Nel 2014 membro del Comitato Esecutivo Regionale dell’Associazione Italiana Biblioteche (AIB) sezione Umbria, membro del gruppo AIB sul portfolio professionale e nel triennio 2017-2020 Presidente eletto di AIB Umbria. Dal 2020 membro dell'Osservatorio Formazione dell'Associazione Italiana Biblioteche. Autore di diversi articoli e interviste per Insula Europea sul tema degli archivi, delle biblioteche e del digital lending.


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