Beyond books: Preparing student employees for the future at JMU libraries & educational technologies

By: Liz Chenevey

Office of the Provost

At JMU Libraries and Educational Technologies (LET) we aim to provide our undergraduate student employees with employment opportunities that are not only beneficial to the mission of the organization, but to the students' personal and professional development goals. LET employs students at almost every level of the organization, from the frontline service points to human resources to media production. Students help digitize materials, catalog resources, repair books, monitor equipment and spaces, check out items, develop tutorials, and teach workshops on emerging technologies, all while maintaining a high level of service to our community of students, faculty, and staff. With a student employee workforce of 103 we heavily depend on our student staff to keep crucial library services operating smoothly and efficiently. But what exactly do our students get out of these experiences? We spoke with some of our student employees throughout the organization to find out.4-

A large portion of our students heard about their position from friends who already worked in the libraries and enjoyed it. Several also already spent much of their time in the libraries, felt comfortable in the environment, and even knew some of the LET staff from those experiences. It is clear just from walking through various departments of the libraries that there is community among our student employees and LET staff. Many students expressed an appreciation for the flexibility and support they receive from their supervisors; Rebecca Kruse, a senior History & Art History major working in Metadata Strategies expressed how her department is "very supportive, and they want to see you succeed."

When asked if they saw their position as helping their future career plans, every student interviewed replied with an emphatic “yes.” From book arts to human resource management to graphic design, students have found positions that allow them to apply skills they learn in the classroom, especially skills related to computers and systems. But beyond hard skills, many expressed the importance of their position in cultivating their soft skills like communication and socialization. John Williams, a sophomore ISAT major working in Public Services stressed the value of interpersonal skills in his future career in science, which is partly why he wanted to work at the library front desk in the first place; "I get to talk to and help a lot of different people, and in science it's important to be sociable and have social interactions, I think they're missing a lot of that right now."

Working for LET, student assistants get to see and experience things that they feel more Dukes should know about. One main theme was repeated throughout our interviews—the libraries are full of services beyond just books, Starbucks, and study space. Emily Tiemeyer, a senior Graphic Design major working in Outreach and Partnerships said, "I'm still finding out about things we have." And those services are maintained by a large, diverse, and dedicated staff. Gina Russo, a senior Architectural Design major working in digital collections mused, "[Before], I never knew how many people work here—the depth and organization it takes to have so many people doing things to help make things convenient [for users]." Halle Forbes, a sophomore SMAD major working in Special Collections added this, "If you're willing to ask, don't be intimidated. It's ok to not know where things are and the people here are always happy to help you find what you need." 

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Published: Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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