Today we’re putting the “guest” in “guest blog” with a special post featuring undergraduate students employed at Copley Library through the USD Work-Study Program. Copley manages around 30 students during the academic year, and the library relies on student assistants to help staff run and maintain day-to-day operations. We interviewed two student assistants, Erica Skerven and Elisabeth Smith, for their unique perspectives on the library and their roles in it. Erica is in her first year at USD and has already had a chance to see both the outer and inner workings of Copley; she spent her first semester in the Access Services department before being transferred to Technical Services. Elisabeth is in her second year at USD and her second year at Copley and is afforded an opportunity not many people get: she works in the heart of library, Special Collections & Archives. In this candid piece, they tell us what it’s like to experience the library as more than a study space.
Explain why you chose to work for the library and describe the parts of your job that you most enjoy.
Erica: I wanted to work in the library because I used to spend a lot of time in the library when I was young and my mom was at work. I wanted to see what happens behind the scenes. When I was a kid, I would go to some of the events or listen to music being played, and I especially remember going through the teen section frustrated that I had read all the books that looked interesting….I think that the library does so much more than I had ever considered. I mean, there are so many resources there, and I never thought about how they get there or even the fact that it’s maintained by someone. For some reason, librarians were just people who shelved books and knew cool facts, and, well, I know a lot better than that now.
Elisabeth: I chose to work for the library because I needed somewhere to work for Work Study, and the library seemed to fit my personality. I liked the calm, quiet environment and how organized everything is. Working in archives, I enjoy being able to look back into the past of USD. Recently, I’ve been scanning and bookmarking old yearbooks from the 60s to almost current day. It’s fun to see what USD students were like when the school started and where traditions came from. I also like to be knowledgeable about the campus history. I often find myself listing facts about past bishops or school traditions that my peers are surprised by—like how USD used to have student Budweiser representatives on campus, which definitely would not be allowed today.
Tell us what has surprised you most about working in the library and explain why?
Erica: I was surprised that there are a ton of magazines that people don’t use and that a lot of people don’t even know there are magazines in the journal section. When I study I sometimes need to give my eyes a break from my computer screen, and flipping through the pages of a magazine is the first thing that comes to mind. I figured that tons of people like to look at magazines, and the library is literally paying for the subscriptions so that we don’t have to—why not take advantage of that?
Elisabeth: I was surprised by how much the library depends on student workers to run smoothly. I think it is really impressive that students are given a big role when they are hired, and we are able to grow professionally to fill that role. I was also surprised at how close the staff is. At student worker [appreciation] parties, I can see how close the staff is because everyone is joking around and having a good time. I had not worked in a real office before I started my work study, so I was surprised to see that the staff acts like a pseudo-family and relies on each other….When Archives had to relocate to Technical Services last spring, I got closer with the other work study students, and I miss talking with them.
What would you like other students to know about the library?
Erica: When I have a short break between classes, I sit on the main floor in the “Silent Zone.” Everybody seems to stay up there and it gets super crowded, but when I go downstairs, it’s almost empty. I kinda just want them to know that there’s a whole lower level with more places to study and, like I said before, magazines.
Elisabeth: I think other students should learn more about the library’s immense resources that are available. There’s a lot more to the library than just printing and study spaces. Our special collections and archives offer a lot of unique and useful resources for research. There are ways to learn more about the past of our school, and of the world in general, just from the library.