By Beth Black and Amy Pajewski
I met Amy at the Students in Transitions Conference in October 2018 when I attended a session she led on giving student employees in the library leadership roles. Similar to how we build upon the lessons of the FYE to continue students’ momentum in their second year, elevating student employment beyond the basics is a great way to increase engagement and cultivate valuable skills. In this two-part interview, we discuss her library's leadership program and the challenges she's overcome in transitioning the student employee experience.
Beth Black: What leadership roles did you give your student employees?
Amy Pajewski: The student worker program really developed out of a source of need. At the time, our Teaching and Learning Librarian accepted another position, and the institution decided to leave that line unfilled—a familiar problem for many institutions. In order to continue to provide a high level of service to our community, I realized I needed to prioritize managing the information literacy program over some of my other outreach duties, and one way I saw a potential for growth was with our student workers. Historically, student workers at our institution focused on basic customer service at the desk, checking out and re-shelving materials. I knew from my own undergraduate library job that our students had so much more potential and that they were capable of handling high-level patron interactions while gaining some invaluable job skills.
I started the work of mapping our strategic plan to areas where we were missing human bandwidth to get the job done. From that work, I found that there were three areas where we could focus students’ work while also providing them a beneficial employment and learning experience.
Library Student Ambassadors, to serve as the public face of the library to students, staff, faculty, prospective students and their families, as well as the general community. Ambassadors will advocate for and speak publicly about the library at various campus events.
Peer-to-Peer Educators, to provide in-person and virtual reference services and information literacy instruction for the campus community which allows for both the fulfillment of patrons’ and students’ information needs, as well as a personal educational opportunity for peer-to-peer educators.
Outreach Team Members, to serve as the event-planning and marketing arm of the library, informing students, staff, and faculty about events, services, materials, and spaces. As the virtual public face of the library, students on the outreach team will advocate for and speak publicly about the library.
Each group was given a semester plan mapped directly to the library’s and college’s strategic plan. I felt like it was important to inform students about these kinds of documents to help them put their work into context and really understand why their work matters on a larger scale. Plus, it allowed students to gain experience with strategic documents that they will one day interact with in their careers. Students within the groups were largely autonomous—scheduling team meetings outside of regular desk shifts and keeping abreast of campus events and needs. To help manage these groups, I was able to negotiate for one upper-level student to take on the role of Student Supervisor. Our Student Supervisor’s role involved attending each team’s meetings, reporting out at library faculty meetings, and managing schedules.
In Part II of this conversation we'll discuss the supports Amy provides for students as they take on leadership work and how she integrates key higher ed practices into her program. Read it here!
Amy Pajewski is the Student Success Librarian and an Assistant Professor at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, where she leads a team of teaching librarians, focused on enriching the first and second year student experience through information literacy. As liaison to non-academic departments, she collaborates with student success initiatives across campus, including the summer Academic Success Program and West Chester’s First-Gen Initiative. Her research interests include cultivating communities of practice, gen ed information lit instruction, and library impact on student success.