Zara Wilkinson (Reference/Instruction Librarian) sees her role at the Paul Robeson Library as one of putting a human face on the library, both for fellow faculty and for students. In her interactions with students, she takes the position of an informal mentor whom the students can feel comfortable asking any question. “I’m not going to give them a grade,” she says, so students can be comfortable posing questions about research that they might be too nervous to ask their professors. In her time spent in classroom visits or sitting at the reference desk, she wants to be an approachable, helpful presence rather than playing the role of the forbidding librarian that many students associate with libraries.
When performing one of her primary duties, visiting classrooms to instruct students in library use, she attempts not to give students all of the information they will need for the duration of their academic careers, but to give them an idea of what the library can do for them if they ask. Her goal is that students walk out of her instruction sessions feeling as if the library is an open and accessible place, even if they are not entirely sure how to use all its resources. She also relishes classes where she is able to make multiple visits and actually assist the students with conducting their research. Beyond the reward of helping students learn to navigate the library’s resources for their own benefit, her work in library instruction takes much of the burden from professors when they assign research.