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Get to know the people in the stacks

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Photo by Kayli Kunkel

Love it or hate it, students either spend too much time there or not enough. It’s the library. A staple in most students’ study habits, it’s the home of countless books, magazines, journals and online databases. We take for granted our ability to walk in and pluck the perfect resource off the shelf or hole up in a quiet study room for a few hours. But who stops to think about exactly what, or specifically who, reside there?

The Times-Delphic was able to sit down with Liga Briedis, the head reference librarian and coordinator of access services, to see exactly what life was like for the people in the stacks. As coordinator of access services Briedis is in charge of approving interlibrary loans; monitoring and updating research guides; reviewing books for the library to potentially purchase; and teaching classes on information literacy.

Information literacy is a buzzword often heard around the library. It means figuring out what information you need, how to find it and how to use it. Briedis, along with digital literacy librarian Carrie Dunham-LaGree, teach workshops to all of the first-year seminar classes on how to navigate different research tools.

Briedis said that one of the ways students can utilize the library is the use the databases it offers. She feels that the library has tons of online research tools, but most students don’t know how to use them to their full potential. This is where the librarians come in. Briedis said if students come up to any staff member at the library and tell them they’re working on a paper about sensory and perception for psychology, or the cross-cultural tensions surrounding the Mexican-American War, the staff members can tell them exactly what databases to use for your research. Thus making all individual staff members invaluable resource.

In fact, all of the librarians agreed that students should feel free to walk up to them with any questions, even if they look busy. Think of the people at the reference desk, sitting quietly behind the printers. They would love nothing more than to help students with research projects. Nearly everyone at Cowles is working there because he or she loves the students, and genuinely enjoy watching the light bulb of understanding go on when students finds what they’re looking for.

Conversely, Briedis said the part of her job she dislikes the most is the tedium that goes on behind the scenes. There’s always something to be done, whether it’s updating the card catalog, organizing the shelves or monitoring databases. Oftentimes a source on a database will expire, or the host site will move it, causing a curious researcher to hit a dead end link. It’s the job of the librarians to make sure all of the database links are updated and accurate. They have to correct and review the source information, and while it keeps the library up to date and easily accessible, it’s not the most interesting job for the people behind the scenes.

Thanksgiving break is almost here, and that means finals aren’t far behind. Nobody is more keenly aware of this than the library staff. They unanimously agreed that finals week is the busiest time of the year.

“There is like five times as many people in here at any point in time,” senior Batiesha Boeker, student library supervisor, said.

The rest of the staff agreed that finals week definitely sees an increase in the foot traffic at the library. Reference librarian Mark Stumme said that while there are more people, there are fewer questions for the staff to deal with. Though this seems counterintuitive, he explained that students are less likely to be writing a research paper and needing reference materials that week, and are instead having problems with the printers or need help finding a book.

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