Student workers 'absolutely necessary to the functioning' of a campus library

The third in a series of student worker spotlights highlighting meaningful learning and working experiences at Penn State University Libraries
Kali Smith and Jamal Renwrick

Kali Smith, left, and Jamal Renwrick are student workers at the Penn State Mont Alto and Abington campus libraries, respectively.

Credit: Images provided

Kali Smith, a sophomore nursing student at Penn State Mont Alto, knew she needed to work part time during the semester. When she noticed an opening for a front desk worker at the Mont Alto Campus Library just before the start of the fall 2023 semester, she knew she had to apply.

“The job description said that I’d work 10 hours a week plus a few Sunday afternoons, which was perfect for me,” Smith said. “I went ahead and applied, and I heard back very soon after that. I now have a great job with a wonderful work environment.”

Julie Stafford, library operations supervisor at Mont Alto and Smith's supervisor, believes that student workers not only “are absolutely necessary to the functioning of the library, but benefit from working in the library as well.

“Student workers provide a friendly face as a ‘first contact’ to all visitors who enter the library, and their positive energy sets the tone for anyone using the space,” Stafford said. “Their presence frees up library staff to complete tasks and attend meetings, knowing we can trust that our patrons are in good hands, and that our workers can manage basic questions and interactions before passing on more in-depth queries to staff.

“But student workers benefit as well by becoming acquainted with ‘real world’ expectations and tasks in a highly supportive environment,” Stafford said. “Working in a library also allows student workers access to firsthand assistance with research and homework help.”

Smith concurs. After loading the printer with paper and shelving returned books, she may have time to complete class assignments or study in between assisting patrons. Following her shift, she has a short commute to either class or home.

Indeed, Catherine Rohland, library circulation supervisor at Penn State Abington Campus Library, enthusiastically quotes the late Timothy S. Healy, former president of the New York Public Library, who believed that “the most important asset of any library goes home at night — the library staff.” That includes student workers such as Jamal Renwrick, a third-year finance major who works at the library circulation desk.

“Jamal is always very professional and approachable. He knows what needs to be done and does it without asking if he should because he knows it is necessary,” said Rohland. “He is determined to do his best to help his workplace, his co-workers and his customers.”

Renwrick applied to work at the library his first year on campus.

“I wanted a job that would allow me to stay around campus and meet people,” he said.

Like Smith, he enjoys the combination of sitting at the front desk helping people with the advantage of being able to do classwork and study when he’s not busy.

“Blending those two together minimizes the amount of work I must do at home, which allows me to have more leisure time,” he said.

Available part-time student positions are posted on Penn State’s career page for all University Libraries Commonwealth Campus locations and branches, and are open to Penn State students of all majors and colleges.  

Penn State is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer, and is committed to providing employment opportunities to all qualified applicants without regard to race, color, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or protected veteran status.

Read the first two articles in this series, “University Libraries offers variety of student work, learning opportunities” and “The Libraries’ Search Bar offers ‘high-impact’ student employment experience.”