Personal Librarians

Every first year student at Boston College has several professors, an advisor, residence assistants ... and a Personal Librarian! All incoming students have been assigned a librarian to welcome them to the resources and services of the Boston College Libraries, and to guide them towards learning all that the library has to offer them to support their work.

Inspired by a program developed by the Yale University Libraries, the BC Libraries piloted the program 3 years ago with 4 volunteers, and has since expanded to 15. Personal Librarians come from any of the library departments; the only requirement is the willingness to help new students, and to refer students when necessary. Personal librarians are assigned by residence, and in the case of the Newton Campus residences, partner with The Pathways Program to provide the maximum benefit to students.

Amy Howard, Personal Librarian for Duchesne East Amy Howard, Personal Librarian for Duchesne East

The Personal Librarian program is just one of the programs directed at helping new students get to know the libraries. During orientation, all students attend a First Year Experience session where they are formally welcomed to the Library. For the first week of fall semester, Library greeters are on hand to direct students at the main entrance. And Instruction Librarians come into First Year Writing Seminars to train students in the use of library materials.

According to Este Pope, Head of Instruction, O'Neill Library, "The Personal Librarian program at BC is an integral part of the library's vision for introducing students to library resources. Personal Librarians provide a unique avenue for students to engage with library resources, and to develop relationships with BC librarians early in their time at BC. The Personal Librarian program is a hands-on example of the University Libraries' commitment to the growth and development of Boston College undergraduate students. The vast resources available in the University Libraries may feel overwhelming to new students, and the Personal Librarian program is one way we like to help students get familiar with the tools we offer."

The Personal Librarian welcomes students; gives them someone they can contact with questions like how to begin research for an assignment; connects them with some of the most useful services and collections and spaces - for instance, the 5th floor group study rooms. They provide a personal touch until students connect with their subject specialist librarians when they declare a major, though they may very well refer a first year to a subject specialist when appropriate.

Personal Librarians send out about 6 emails per year to their students. While all Personal Librarians include the same overall information in their emails, they are encouraged to customize them to suit their personalities. They are careful not to flood the students' emails, but to pop in at regular intervals and offer tips, encouragement, and sometimes treats. The emails introduce the Personal Librarian and the program, and welcome students to Boston College. They highlight services like Holmes, virtual reference, mobile services, extended hours for exam periods (and coffee and donuts in the libraries!) They explain interlibrary loan and how to access ebooks. Tours and RefWorks sessions are offered as well. A brief survey on the program is included in the final email of the year.

Why do Library staff get involved? This is a program where librarians from all parts of the library can participate and connect with our students. For those who work in areas like acquisitions or metadata, it's often a nice opportunity to engage with students face-to-face. For those who work in public services, it can provide new insights into the interests of our newest students and potentially help us discover unmet needs. Barbara Mento, Data/GIS librarian, who is also the Subject Specialist for Economics, Computer Science and Mathematics, serves as one of the Personal Librarians for Hardley. She feels the program is "a great opportunity to reach out to students at the very beginning of their academic career," and she enjoys being able to share her "enthusiasm about libraries and the world of information that is available."

More information on the program, including a list of participating staff by residence is available here: //libraries/about/services/personal-librarian.html. The Boston College Libraries Personal Librarians are ready and eager to greet the incoming class of 2018!

Enid Karr
Senior Reference Librarian/Bibliographer O'Neill Library