Understanding Your Personal Librarian


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While at Wilson College, there are a number of ways to access help on campus. There is the Academic Success Center, the One Stop Student Center, and, perhaps most importantly, the Personal Librarian. Personal librarians are our lovely librarians (Kelly, James, Shanna, and Maleah) who are there to help us find everything we need for a research paper, a book we might be missing, a book to enjoy, or even just to chat! They are so open and friendly, and willing to help anyone!

When a student first arrives on campus, they are assigned to a personal librarian by the first letter of their last name. This helps keep things organized and gives them someone they can go to right off the bat for the semester. As you get to know the librarians, you may talk to someone else more, but you will always have your assigned personal librarian there to help you.

Technically, Maleah Friedline, the Learning Commons Coordinator, is not an official personal librarian. Friedline is at the library on nights and weekends, when most of the other librarians are not there, so she is a key person to go to in a weekend panic if you need help. Shanna Hollich, the Collections Management Librarian, has said that Friedline is often mistaken for a student, in part because she did her undergraduate degree at Wilson.

Hollich told me in an interview that all of the librarians are fairly close friends with each other and will gladly refer students to each other if they feel that will help the student. Hollich also says that their feelings will not be hurt if someone prefers to go to a specific librarian, they see it fairly often and that is alright. I was also told that she gets asked questions in some strange places. People have stopped her in the dining hall to ask questions, and I once asked her before choir once about a book, and we then spent a fair chunk of time looking for it, though I was not able to get a physical copy.

James D’Annibale, who is a Reference Librarian and the Director of Educational Technology, has some wild stories of requests. One was from an inmate in a California prison who sent him a letter saying that he had some parts to a Nintendo Wii and requested D’Annibale’s help in knowing what else he would need to make it work in his cell. D’Annibale responded with some information on what he could do, and the inmate sent him another letter thanking him. It turns out that the inmate was learning to play the Wii so he could play with his son, as he was set to soon be released. D’Annibale said that the letters are in the Hankey Center because of the strangeness of the situation.

D’Annibale also says of students, “I really love when people come with topics that I haven’t seen other students write about.” He describes one student who was writing a paper about a very niche environmental topic, and how he actually went to Kelly Spiese, the Reference and Instruction Librarian, for more info. Hollich dubs Spiese “the guru” because she has been with Wilson so long and knows the library so well. Hollich also says on the subject of finding reference works, “Whatever help that is, we’ll figure it out.”

Some advice Hollich and D’Annibale have for students is, most importantly, do not wait until the last minute to try and get ahold of a librarian for sources. They cannot always stop what they are currently working on because you have decided to procrastinate and are scrambling. They will do their best, and want to help, but they can only do so much. They are people who have lives outside of work. Both Hollich and D’Annibale have said that they do not check their emails on the weekend because that is their time off.

They also request that, when a student does email them with a request, more is better. Some students try to take up as little space as possible in their email, but both Hollich and D’Annibale confirmed that they would love a PDF of the syllabus or, even better, the assignment itself when asking for sources. They want as many details as the student can give them, including what the student has already tried in their research process or if they have begun research at all. This will help your personal librarian help you the best way they can.

That being said, if someone does not know who their personal librarian is, they recommend going to the library website and clicking on the Ask a Librarian tab and filling out the form. The completed form will be sent to all of the librarians and someone will be able to help. D’Annibale and Hollich have said that they love seeing a student’s face when it hits that the librarians are real people and not omniscient beings. Students tend to think that librarians know everything, but if they did, we would only have one librarian and not our wonderful staff of librarians. For example, when a student comes to D’Annibale with this long, intimidating science term he may refer them to someone else because science is not his area of expertise.

As for contacting the librarians, they prefer email, but D’Annibale can also be reached through his Canvas inbox or on the Portal. They have said they can be contacted about anything and their door is almost always open to students. Hollich has said that she is glad to have students drop by, and she always has food available in her office. The same goes for other librarians as well, though perhaps they may be lacking food.

Personal librarians are there to connect students to information that will help them. Whether it is a personal question, sources for an academic paper, or just to vent a little, they are happy to be of assistance whenever they can be. Pop by the library to say hello to a librarian sometime!

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