Skip to content

Redefining the role of a student assistant

April 10, 2023

By: Kim Karim

As the supervisor of student workers in an academic library setting at a small liberal arts college, I have always been motivated to make sure my students have the best possible working experience. For the students we hire here at Snowden Library, our Circulation Assistant position is often times their first campus job. It is also their first time truly balancing a full course load with work and other campus activities.

At our circulation desk, there is downtime between helping patrons find and check out materials, answering questions and helping students print from our computers. As a service desk that must be staffed at all times during open hours, we’ve struggled finding the right balance between having our students be just a body at the counter and making their work here at the library meaningful and also supportive of the full-time employees.

Many of my student workers have come to me when putting together a resume and asked for describing what their job duties consist of here at our library. I point them in the direction of the job description we post on our library website, but I often challenge them to think more critically about the skills they have learned here.

Often times, this will get me thinking about what we are actually teaching them, aside from library policies and procedures. I strive to show our students that punctuality is very important when arriving for a shift. Being respectful of their peers’ time and not being late is an expectation the students have set amongst themselves. Communication, respect, honesty – these are all values the students have said they expect when working with their fellow circulation assistants. Knowing this has challenged me, and our Head of Access Services, to think outside the box on how we can allow our students to grow in their positions.

We have added new responsibilities to the students’ checklists, including a question recorder form and patron head counts they conduct during their shifts. We have challenged the students for their input and suggestions about library changes – such as our physical space, collection ideas and more. We often seek their input for book displays and allow them to pick the materials we place on display. We want them to take pride in their job here. Walking into our front doors and seeing a display or project they had a hand in putting together allows them to feel more included in the library.

It is gratifying as a supervisor to see when my students get excited about something they know has made an impact here. I’m sure it’s comparable to the feeling a faculty member feels as they see the light bulb turn on for a student in their class as they grasp a once foreign concept.

Are there any student engagement strategies that have worked for your team? Feel free to share!

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: