Personal Librarian

7 Aug

Or, in my case, Personal Library Paraprofessional.

Last Spring, the Catherwood Library started a program through which all new faculty and all graduate students would be assigned a librarian or reference staff member as their contact point for all library-related questions, comments, and concerns. As a non-librarian, I was assigned only grad students, whom I dutifully emailed at the start of the semester.

I got responses from only two of them, but had solid reference interactions with both. One contacted me a few times throughout the semester with questions, indicating that she found the program helpful (at least when it came to dealing with document delivery questions).

The interesting aspect of a program like this is that it only took me a few minutes to send those initial emails, and the resulting questions took no more time than any other reference question would have. But we managed to communicate our presence and our value to two of our most important constituencies. I’m looking forward to getting a couple more grad students to contact this term.

Anyone else running similar programs in their libraries?


4 Responses to “Personal Librarian”

  1. Lorraine Porcello August 7, 2008 at 4:41 pm #

    Hi Jim,

    I follow your blog via the SyracuseLISFeeds that Scott Nicholson put together a few months ago.

    I work as a Senior Library Assistant at the River Campus Libraries at the University of Rochester. Here our mantra is “Every class has a librarian.” To emphasize this to the students, we created an open source system that dynamically generates a web page for every course that is taught on River Campus. Each page has contact information for the librarian as well as some specially selected resources relevant to the class. (See for some examples)

    We also host a “Parent’s Breakfast” at the library every year during Freshman Orientation, so that the parents also get the message that a librarian is available for every one of little Johnnie’s classes. This idea came out of the Undergraduate Research Project that the librarians conducted here with an anthropologist. They found that undergraduates actually talk to their parents a lot during the completion of a research paper, so we thought it was prudent to let their folks know that we’re here too.

    Sorry to go on so long, but you did ask. :)

  2. Jim DelRosso August 25, 2008 at 9:48 pm #


    Thanks for the reply! The system you have sounds great — do you end up with students coming back to librarians even after they’ve left the class?

    And sorry for the late reply — my spam filter made a bad call, so I’m only now seeing your comment.


  3. Lorraine Porcello August 26, 2008 at 9:45 am #

    Hi Jim,

    Not to worry about the late reply. I only thought to check back today. (What luck!) Actually, I just got back from another successful Parents’ Breakfast. They are always fascinated by the idea the “Every class has a librarian.” This year there also seemed to be a lot of interest in student jobs in the library.

    To answer your question, yes we do find that students will come back and ask for librarians that they’ve worked with before. I don’t have hard numbers, but I know that many students will make a point to connect with the librarian of their particular discipline.

  4. Emily Horning June 4, 2009 at 6:22 pm #

    Hi Jim – I just now found your post. At Yale we’ve started giving all incoming freshmen their own Personal Librarian. It works this way: I get a list of the incoming freshman class (the Class of 2012 was 1,320 students), which I divide up among a group of 32 librarians. Each month I compose a message, which I distribute to the librarians for them to send on to their students. The students are encouraged to get in touch with their PL any time they have a question about the library or their research. It works really well! We answered 376 questions this year (about 12 per librarian). A pretty low-overhead operation, all in all. Students love it, and the librarians do too. You can read a little about this at It’s a great way to reach out to undergraduates, especially freshmen who can be really anxious about using a large academic library for the first time. I just gave a talk about our PL program at the ACRL/New England conference. If you have questions, I’d love to hear them.

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