Knowing how much time Rob LeBlanc, first-year experience/humanities librarian, devotes to Villanova University students during the school year, I (Gerald Dierkes) seized the chance to interview him before the fall semester began.
GD – What’s new this year?
RL – Our newest and most exciting initiative this year is our “Personal Librarian” program. Based on feedback we’ve received from both faculty and students, we will be assigning a research librarian to each first-year student, and an introduction email will be sent out early in the semester. This personal librarian will be their first contact at Falvey Memorial Library and will be available to help them with first-year-student research projects or to direct them to the best subject librarian for their assignments.
The personal librarian will continue to help them until they declare their majors (usually in their sophomore year). After that, their subject liaison librarian will be their primary contact, but they can always get help from their personal librarian, or any reference librarian for that matter! We hope this program will help new students to better connect with Falvey and its resources, and take away some of the anxiety that comes with doing your first college-level research assignments. Besides that, it is always nice to see a friendly, helpful face when you are studying at the library!
GD – What are the challenges for first-year students who want to use the Library?
RL – The biggest challenge is fear: Many first-year students are overwhelmed by our huge book catalog and 200+ databases, but our primary job is to help them learn the basics of searching for books and accessing online academic articles. Another challenge is assumption: Students shouldn’t assume they know how to access everything because they used an online book catalog or a database like EBSCO in their former school. This is a big university and we have a huge number of resources. Luckily, we also have plenty of friendly reference librarians who would be happy to give them a personalized instruction on how to best use our resources!
GD – What resources does the Library offer to help first-year students overcome those challenges?
RL – Their personal librarian is a great first contact point; if we cannot help them personally with their topic, we can get them to a librarian who can. I am also here to assist them. As the first-year experience librarian, I am available to help them learn our system, locate books, articles, websites, etc. and learn the difference between a good scholarly resource and unacceptable one. Many first-year students may also meet me or another reference librarian through a library instruction class in one of their two ACS seminars. Finally, the great staff at our first-floor service desk can connect them with a reference librarian during business hours, or they can email/text a reference librarian from our website’s help page.
GD – What do you wish incoming students knew about you, about the Library?
RL – I’m a huge nerd; I love video games, zombie movies, comic books, gaming, etc. If you don’t want to talk about scholarship, any of those topics are in my wheelhouse. As for the Library, my colleagues and I love to help people; that is why all of us got into this field. If you have any fears/concerns/problems, we are here to help you. Don’t hesitate to ask because you want to avoid that finger-shushing, bun-wearing, ruler-wielding librarian; nobody fits that archetype at Falvey.
GD – What do you like best about being a librarian?
RL – I like to talk. It seems counter-intuitive based on what people assume about librarians, but I can’t be quiet. That is why I love to teach research instruction classes: it gives me an opportunity to impart information and jabber on at the same time.
GD – What do you like best about working with Villanova students?
RL – They are friendly and POLITE! I have worked at other schools, and nowhere are the students more polite and respectful than here at Villanova. It is a pleasure to talk to them, hear their interests and stories, and help them achieve the most they can academically. I have only been here about two years, and I already have a great, ongoing rapport with students I met as first-year students. I’m always there for them when they need academic help; we all are.
Gerald Dierkes is an information services specialist for the Information and Research Assistance team, senior copyeditor for the Communication and Publications team, and a liaison to the Department of Theater.