By Colleen Murphy
The typing on keyboards and the whirring of the Library Cafe’s coffee machine is heard in the background. Occasionally, the phone behind the Reference Desk goes off. Sitting behind the desk to answer the phone is Lisa Roe. Within just a 40-minute period, students ask the librarian where to locate a children’s book, how to navigate the library database and how to narrow down book searches. And she has the answers.
The College’s library is home to 15 full-time, tenure-track librarians, as well as three part-time librarians, including Roe. With their diverse backgrounds, the librarians are equipped with knowledge that can help students, faculty and the public find books, better their research abilities and keep them updated on the library’s resources.
Ask any librarian at the College what led them to their career and you might be surprised to hear of their paths because for many, it seems to have been a circuitous route.
Library Dean Taras Pavlovsky has been in his current position since 2001, after serving as the College’s music and media subject librarian since 1995. But Pavlovsky originally went to school to study chemical engineering. After graduation, he spent his time as an amateur musician, eventually going to graduate school for musicology. It was there, during his time working in subject librarian since 1995. But Pavlovsky originally went to school to study chemical engineering. After graduation, he spent his time as an amateur musician, eventually going to graduate school for musicology. It was there, during his time working in a music library, that he realized that he wanted to enter librarianship because, after all, “librarians had more fun.”
Like Pavlovsky, many of the librarians at the College have degrees in multiple fields. And while there is no requirement in the number of fields the librarians had to major or complete their graduate studies in, they all must have at least a masters in library science from an accredited program to be qualified to work at the College, Pavlovsky said.
“Many, especially private research institutions, hire librarians who don’t have librarian degrees,” Pavlovsky said. “They’re super subject specialists and they’ve worked in research, but they haven’t necessarily (earned a library degree). I couldn’t hire somebody like that if I wanted to.”
According to Pavlovsky, of the 15 full-time librarians at the College, 11 of them work in the public sphere. The other four are technical services librarians who work more behind-the-scenes. Of those 11 public librarians, eight are subject librarians who have specialized backgrounds in or around the subjects they oversee.
Assistant Director for Public Services Maureen Gorman is the life sciences librarian, meaning she looks over the subjects of biology and nursing. She has been a librarian since 1983 and has been working at the College since 1987.
Gorman was a biology major as an undergraduate student and earned her master’s degree in ecology before earning a second master’s degree in library sciences.
“I knew by the time I was at the end of that degree, a PhD wasn’t (my next step), but I knew I wanted to be a part of an academic community, and a library degree was a way I could use my science background and still be a part of an academic community,” Gorman said. “It’s just a different world from being a scientist or a professor.”
As both Gorman and Pavlovsky noted, there are not as many subject librarians as there are majors at the College. That is why subject librarians often have at least two subjects that they head. Erin Ackerman is the subject librarian for six different subjects but is currently on leave. To fill her position until she returns, Pavlovsky said that he looked through the résumés of the librarians to see who could help pick up her work while she is out. Anybody who had a background in a related subject was asked to take on some of Ackerman’s responsibilities.
According to Pavlovsky, subject librarians have three main duties for their respective areas of study: collection development, such as the acquiring of print books, electronic books or journal subscriptions; information literacy and the answering of specialized reference questions.
On top of these responsibilities, all 15 librarians will spend time at the reference desk on the first floor to answer people’s questions. Some even teach classes, including a couple from the Freshmen Seminar Program. And like any other faculty member hired by the College, librarians are “required to maintain an active research agenda and research publication agenda,” Pavlovsky said.
Becoming a librarian at the College can be a highly competitive process. According to Pavlovsky, the most successful searches usually yield 75 to 90 applicants. But sometimes there will be 120 or 130 applicants per position, which can make the selection a bit harder, he said. Occasionally, the library won’t receive enough applications and the search has to be conducted again.
“We have great people here. Great, great people. A key to that is running a good search,” he said.
While Pavlovsky misses having more of the face-to-face interactions with library patrons, he can now have the satisfaction knowing that, as an administrator, he helped the library get to where it is today.
“I’m certainly proud of the institution that the library has become… In my opinion, the most important job (for deans) is to shape the body of their faculty. I take that very seriously. I’m not taking credit for the folks being good, but I’ll take some of the credit for them being here,” Pavlovsky said.
The librarians seem to be fond of their job, as well, particularly because of the one-on-one interactions they have with students.
“I really like the students here. I find them polite, intelligent… I think the TCNJ students are terrific. I truly do believe that… Plus, it’s such a beautiful space,” said Roe, who is in her 12th year at the College.
Senior political science major Francesca Buarne is just one of the many students that a librarian at the College was able to help. Last school year, Buarne needed some guidance in narrowing down the broad question she had for her 30-page research paper and went to Ackerman for assistance.
“(Ackerman) not only helped me narrow down the topic, but also helped me find proper resources to complete the paper,” Buarne said. “She printed a list of articles, books and online journals that I could look at to help me complete the large research paper. She also followed up with me to make sure I found what I needed. My experience with the librarian was very, very helpful and very eye-opening… Overall, meeting with my librarian was a positive experience that really helped meet my goals on writing my lengthy research paper.”
The success that Buarne found with Ackerman is an example of why Gorman also noted her work with students as being her favorite part of the position.
“I really do enjoy working with the students. It’s one of those things that may sound a little trite, but to know, ‘OK, there was somebody who needed help getting where they’re going,’ and being able to do that is satisfying,” Gorman said.