STEPHAN TOLJAN/The Vermont Cynic
Structurally, UVM’s libraries are buildings with countless bookshelves. Less visibly, the people inside keep the libraries’ hearts beating.
Librarians are behind the bookshelves and desks of UVM’s campus libraries, and they contribute to the UVM community in diverse ways beyond finding and shelving books.
Dean of Libraries Bryn Geffert, who grew up in southern Minnesota, remembers his early love for books and the institutions that celebrate them.
“I remember very clearly my house was six miles away from the public library as a child, so I’d hop on my bike and go to the library,” Geffert said. “I remember spending hours in the library, picking out just exactly what I wanted and then filling up my backpack and biking home.”
Circulation Supervisor Angus Robertson was also raised with an appreciation for libraries; both his mother and grandmother worked as librarians.
“I spent a lot of my life being a library geek,” Robertson said.
Library Instruction Coordinator Daisy Benson volunteered in a library throughout high school before working in a library during graduate school.
“I realized I really like the different ways I can work with people in a library,” Benson said. “Sometimes when people think about a library, they think about books and they make jokes, ‘I bet you get to read all day long at work.’ But teaching, and working with students, is the best part of my job.”
As dean of libraries, Geffert oversees the vision and mission for UVM libraries, he said.
“I get to see just about every part of campus, and I get to work with fascinating people,” Geffert said. “They’re all brilliant, fun, creative, good-natured people.”
Geffert also recognizes the diverse specializations of the librarians at UVM.
“I think there is probably not a good sense of how varied the work of librarians is, how different are the jobs that different kinds of librarians do,” Geffert said.
According to the UVM libraries department directory, there are several departments in which UVM librarians work. They include access and technology services, information and instruction services and special collections and archives.
Benson works both in the library and in the classroom. While she works at the reference desks to answer research-related questions, she also works directly with classes to develop curricula and to teach research methods.
“In essence, I might call myself a teaching librarian,” Benson said.
Benson and other information and instruction librarians often work with first-year TAP classes, classes with a writing focus designed specifically for first-year students. They also work with higher-level classes, such as history method classes, for advanced research.
Robertson oversees hiring and student employment at the libraries, as well as maintenance of the physical collections. Robertson believes the circulation desk and department help to maintain a cooperative, communal element to the library.
“We’re not just here to help you find books,” Robertson said. “The library brings services available on campus, such as tutoring, into one place. We want students to feel they can come here and get a variety of different types of help.”
The array of UVM library positions are held by librarians with various backgrounds.
Benson has an undergraduate degree in American studies, while Geffert has degrees in history and Russian language. Robertson does not have a library science degree, but he first worked for International Business Machines Corporation in education services and is now a library professional for UVM.
Though the higher positions are occupied by librarians with various degrees, UVM students also have an important role in the UVM library community. Senior Lillian Sharp has worked at the library for seven semesters.
“At the circulation desk, we often refer students to librarians at the reference desk to answer any questions they have about research or the online databases,” Sharp said.
While working at the circulation desk, Sharp also collaborates with librarians in other departments.
“The reference librarians know everything you could possibly need to know about finding information on their subject,” Sharp said. “The reference librarians are the heart of the library.”
The librarians are part of a larger commitment to knowledge and education that extends beyond the UVM campus.
Geffert believes the librarians’ dedication to their work has an underlying effect on students’ success.
“We succeed if students leave this place knowing how to do good research,” Geffert said. “We fail if they don’t.”