News | Student Life

Barnard launches personal librarian program

Before incoming Barnard students had the chance to get lost in the shelves of Barnard Library, they received a welcoming—but possibly overlooked—email from their personal librarians.

Barnard Library and Academic Information Services (BLAIS) recently launched a personal librarian program in an effort to establish a solid relationship between each student and a librarian who matches her interests.

The idea of a personal librarian appeals to Barnard first-year students, but few have utilized the program so far. Each of the seven personal librarians heard from only two or three of their assigned students.

As a personal librarian herself, Lisa Norberg, Dean of BLAIS, has been interested in outreach since her arrival at Barnard in February. But she remains optimistic about the success of the program.
“A number of them [first-years] contacted us, and we communicated with them and began to initiate that relationship,” Norberg said.

The concept of the program—one where a student is attached to their own go-to librarian—was established by Yale University, and other University libraries have been using it since. For BLAIS, which has been looking for ways to connect with students, it was a logical next step.

“I think that BLAIS has always been student-centered, but it’s nice to have it be official,” Jenna Freedman, a personal librarian at Barnard, said.

The first-years who contacted their personal librarians said they were grateful to have someone to help them during the first few weeks of class but do not expect to reach out to them again anytime soon.

“It was the first week of school so it was helpful for that, but since then the professors are more helpful,” Elianna Mintz, BC ’14, said, who met with her personal librarian upon receiving the initial email.

Students are not limited to their assigned librarians for the duration of their four years. If a student’s interests become better suited for another librarian, she can request a switch.

Norberg said she plans on expanding the program by also assigning personal librarians to upperclassmen. But older students are overall not aware of the program and do not say they see a need for such assistance.

“If you don’t know how to do it [research] at this point, I don’t know what you’ve been doing for four years,” Catherine Rice, BC ’11, said.
But, she added that she could see some value of the program to first-years.

“I personally found the whole library research database system overwhelming at first. You just don’t know how to approach it,” she said.
Kat Chamberlain-Harrington, BC ’14, agreed.

“At least at first, it’s really great because there are so many resources,” she said. “It can be intimidating, but having someone to help you navigate is useful and helps you feel less stressed.”

Norberg said that the success of the program ultimately depends in large part on the commitment of the students to the process, but that the librarians are prepared to work with them.

“All of us [librarians] are excited to work one-on-one and develop our relationships,” she said.

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