Harvard College Library

Student Employees Play Vital Role in HCL

March 4, 2002 --Harvard students spend hours in the library studying and researching; over 450 Harvard undergraduate and graduate students employed by the Harvard College Library (HCL) as student employees also spend countless hours in the library not studying. Forming an entirely different dynamic within the library system, student employees step out of their roles as library users and learn the intricate workings of the system. For these students the library is where they sharpen people skills, discover ways to conduct research more efficiently, and meet friends.

"Working at Hilles is the best job I've had on campus," said Kristopher Kelly '02, an English concentrator who is currently a student supervisor at Hilles Library. "I enjoy working with the public and am often challenged by users who have difficult or odd questions. Helping answer these questions has enhanced my ability to trouble shoot effectively."

Lionel Rivera, '04 Government concentrator, discharges books at the Widener Circulation Desk.

Students are employed at each of the 11 Harvard College Libraries, with duties ranging from checking out and shelving books, to basic cataloging and bar coding, to working as administrative support staff in library offices. In many of the libraries, students play a vital role in the management of the library during evenings and weekends. "It is important to remember that the library is intended for student use. I am amazed at how committed the student employees are. I think working at Lamont makes them feel more like it really is their library. We depend on them so much!" said Jon Lanham, Associate Librarian, Lamont.

Certain libraries even utilize student employee training programs and evaluations to better simulate a professional work environment. At Hilles Library, Leslie MacPherson Artinian, evening supervisor for Hilles, works with the students to set goals for job performance and follows through with biannual evaluations. Johnny Weyand, Head of Stacks Division for Widener Library, has developed a series of power point training programs that teach students detailed information necessary to accurately shelve and organize discharged books. Weyand trains over 100 students a year. He developed the programs to ensure the information was consistently conveyed.

Despite their important role in running the library, students find that their supervisors realize they are students first. "One of the things that really appealed to me about this job was the flexible schedule," said Patrick Salyer '04, a Widener Stacks Division employee studying Economics. Salyer noted that when he has a test or project his supervisor understands his commitment to academics.

"After working in Widener, I better understand how the library works. I can be more proactive when I am doing research, because I know how long it will take to order a book, get a book from Interlibrary Loan, or from the Harvard Depository. Understanding the processes of the library has made me a more responsible student," said Eddie Bruce '04, a student supervisor for the Widener Circulation Desk studying Social Anthropology and African American Studies.

Most Libraries hire student employees in the fall. The students usually take a position for a year, though many return to library jobs throughout their career at Harvard. "We have been lucky to have many of our student employees return year after year. Sometimes a student will graduate and their sibling will step into the position. It seems like we have had whole families work for our office," said Ellen Cohen, director of financial services for HCL.

Library jobs are posted in the Harvard College Library Human Resources office located in Widener Library and on the Student Employment Office Web site: http://www.seo.harvard.edu/.

This story appears courtesy of the Harvard College Library Communications Office
Copyright © 2004 President and Fellows of Harvard College