This week marks our annual celebration of student staff throughout the university. The long-standing tradition of honoring student staff during National Student Employee Week (NSEW) is deeply rooted in the team building, professional development, mentorship, and financial earning support that it provides. For the library, our student staff are also a lifeline; serving as the key facilitators of direct library services and crucial support to backend library operations. Without them, we would not be able to maintain library services.
Currently, the University Library employees more than 30 student staff members. Most library divisions employ student team members, including SPCA, Technical Services, and our Digital Services departments. Our public services divisions (front-facing, direct service units), the Access Services and RIAE departments, employ the bulk of student team members. These student team members primarily work evening and weekend hours to ensure we can provide access to library materials, loanable technology, research assistance, and library facilities.
One of the common misnomers about our student team members is the skillsets they must possess for their roles. For example, student team members working in SPCA will be assisting with archival processing of historical documents. This requires foundational training by the Archivists before they can perform their responsibilities. Furthermore, SPCA requires someone fulfilling that role to be extremely detail-oriented and cautious as materials in their custody can be extremely fragile. For Digital Services, student team members serve alongside the rest of the Digital Services team providing tech support for Library staff technology. Student team members employed in this role will need to have specific technology / computer skills to be employed in this role and will receive additional foundational training specific to library technology before they can perform their responsibilities. For student team members in Technical Services, their roles require extensive training in library cataloging rules and MARC fields for use in data entry responsibilities in library management systems.
Student team members employed in Research, Instruction and Academic Engagement or Access Services departments often have their skillsets diminished or confused with general office support roles. While some of the activities of front desk support are similar (i.e. answering the phones, transferring calls, and answering directional questions), many of the responsibilities require extensive training in library classification systems, library management systems, library policy and procedures, and basic research skills. For RIAE student team member, they receive extensive training on subject searching, primary and secondary resources, and advance use of information tools to optimize producing materials most appropriate to answer a patron’s research question. For student team members in the Access Services Department, it is crucial to their role in the library to have good problem-solving skills and prior customer services experience. They often must deal with difficult patron interactions and situations that require professionalism, diplomacy, and sound judgement even when there is a senior staff member on duty to support or differ to for assistance.
We, as their library colleagues, understand the knowledge, expertise, and professionalism they must possess to perform their roles and are truly honored to work alongside them. Happy National Student Employee Week Library Student Staff! Although their contributions are significant all year-round, we will expend extra efforts this week to celebrate their invaluable service. Please join me in letting our student team members know how awesome they are, how they complete us, and how their superpowers support the DePaul Community as I do a roll call for our heroes / heroines of library service.