Brian Chambers: the”knowledge base” of Occidental’s library

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Brian Chambers, senior director of Collections, Systems and Services, at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Oct. 25, 2022. Anna Beatty/The Occidental

Senior Director of Collections, Systems and Services at the Occidental College Library, Brian Chambers oversees many departments in the library and plays an integral role in maintaining library materials and resources. Chambers has worked at Occidental since 2017 and has over 10 years of librarianship experience, including as operations coordinator at San Francisco State University.

Chambers was promoted this past month from director of user services to a role that combines two departments — user services and scholarly information resources, commonly known as collection services, he said. Chambers said he oversees almost everything relating to collections and services, with the exception of the school’s Special Collections and College Archives. Chambers is in charge of cataloging and organizing library materials and helping people access them. His job also includes acquiring new materials like newspapers or newly published books, cataloging metadata and front desk circulation. Chambers said that he interacts with multiple departments and works to support various other positions within the library.

“I’m very much in an administrative role. One of my goals is not only to make sure that I am supporting students and faculty but also supporting my colleagues that are working oneonone and with classes and helping the students,” Chambers said. “We want to make sure that they have the tools that they need to do their jobs effectively.”

Chambers said he likes that a big part of his position has to do with public management and projects that outsiders to the library system would not know about. He said he puts a substantial amount of time into the stacks, to provide people with the materials they need in an organized and accessible way, and focuses on user-friendly language and structures. His job doesn’t stop at managing materials, but includes aspects that Chambers said are often overlooked when people think of a librarian.

“A lot of it is almost business-like,” Chambers said. “A reason why I’m in the position I’m in is because I manage our budget for the library, and I really enjoy that. That’s not something you would ever associate with a librarian, but I love that kind of stuff.”

Kathleen Makarewicz, Occidental’s science librarian, said she started working at the school in the beginning of July, and Chambers has been of huge assistance to her. She said Chambers is very approachable and has the skill set to help anyone who comes into the library. She said Chambers is a good leader and very active in managing the library’s email account.

“He’s a really good resource for anything. If he doesn’t know the answer to your question, he knows who to refer you to,” Makarewicz said. “Without him directing and being the knowledge base for most of the library, and being able to get people the resources they need, we wouldn’t function at all.”

Chambers said he likes working with the library’s student assistants and prioritizes teaching them the nuances of working in a library.

“I want to have a connection with [the student assistants]. I want them to be able to answer 90 percent of the questions that people have when they come to the front desk, but I also want them to know they can turn to us, the staff, and ask anything they’re unsure of,” Chambers said.

Felicia Garcia, the library’s user services specialist, works with the student assistants as well as Chambers. Garcia said that since Chambers was promoted, he has worked to improve the features, usability and overall experience of accessing library services, to make sure the resources he manages can be accessed by as many people as possible. At the end of summer, Chambers spearheaded an inventory project of the library’s entire collection; the last inventory of its type was done over five years ago, according to Garcia.

“Taking inventory of the collection is really important, so that we know which books we have on the shelves and if they’re in the right place and to check if we’re missing anything,” Garcia said. “If something is off even by a couple of decimal points or a letter and not spot on, you can think it’s lost.”

Chambers said he enjoys the business side of librarianship that no one on the surface gets to observe. He said he wants to help create a library that is as welcoming and as inclusive as possible, and ensure that resources are accessible and widely available.

“I’m here to help support people who come to the library, and we are open to suggestions,” Chambers said. We’re also open to working one on one with everyone, making sure that they’re getting the support that they need.”

Contact Anna Beatty at beatty@oxy.edu.