2020
22
Jul

Training Matters: Student Employment and Learning in Academic Libraries

In Brief

Conceiving of student employment in academic libraries as an educationally purposeful experience requires adopting a learner-centered pedagogical approach to student employee job training. Adopting such an approach is triply beneficial: it makes that job training more effective; it identifies training as an opportunity to pursue learning goals that support the growth of students as information literate critical thinkers; and it emphasizes the distributed nature of teaching and learning in the library, pointing to the need to support supervisors of student employees as educators and learners themselves. Focusing on the pedagogy of workplace training for student employees thus provides a point from which to redefine the community of learners the library supports, and disrupt hierarchical distinctions among the library’s many teachers and learners.

By Liz Vine

Introduction

Teaching and learning happen in more ways, and in more places, in the academic library than we commonly assume. And one of the most obvious and overlooked arenas of teaching and learning in the academic library is student employee training. Training and learning are frequently set at odds with one another. Training is often devalued because it happens in the workplace rather than the classroom, and is perceived as having limited aims and scope, not necessarily being overseen by experts, and not prioritizing the needs of learners. But to view training and learning as separate domains elides the fact that, for both trainee and trainer, training is learning. If we say that our aim is to help a specific group of people “develop a set of key component skills, practice them to the point of automaticity, and know when and where to apply them appropriately,” are we describing workplace training or classroom learning?1 To separate or oppose them is to create a false dichotomy that obscures the rich educational opportunity presented by the seemingly mundane task of ensuring that student employees know how to do their job. 

We can more fully realize that opportunity by approaching training with a learner-centered mindset, and utilizing evidence-based practices not just from the academic library literature, but the scholarship on teaching, the science of learning, and the fields of instructional and training design. In this article I argue that explicitly thinking of job training as learning, and approaching it from a pedagogical orientation, is imperative because it makes for more effective training, identifies a valuable opportunity for libraries to achieve their learning objectives and support student success, and can foster an organizational culture of care and learning that encompasses all staff. Training is an unexplored site for expanding where, how, and for whom the library is a partner in learning.

Improving job performance

The most immediate and, for busy supervisors, pragmatically compelling reason for conceiving of training as learning is to increase its effectiveness. Reconceiving of training as learning emphasizes the need for thoughtful design of both form and content, and points to the benefits of training that is learner-centered and evidence-based—that is, grounded in proven approaches to learning. These are approaches that libraries use to support student learning in other contexts, and that in this instance might draw not just on the scholarship around teaching and learning, but also on workplace training and instructional design, which frequently overlap and intersect in their findings and recommendations. Though their end goals might differ, there are practical commonalities aplenty between Teaching With Your Mouth Shut and Telling Ain’t Training—between problem- and inquiry-based approaches to classroom learning, and learner-centered approaches to workplace training, that both move away from the instructor as the principal conduit of enlightenment.2

Having an effective learning-oriented training program sets student employees up for success in their job, to the obvious benefit of the library. Attention to questions of retaining and transferring knowledge, to achieving what Wiggins and McTighe identify as “understanding,”3 increases the likelihood of satisfactory job performance. It’s true that, even without formal training, student employees will learn on the job, will pick things up as they go along, and Baldwin and Barkley suggest that “that’s the danger.”4 Is that really the only way we want them to learn? Taking a learner-centered approach, we can recognize that no training program is fully comprehensive or sufficient unto itself, and that informal, on-the-job learning will happen, for good or ill, regardless. But supervisors can incorporate both modes of learning in intentional structures of reflection that encourage students to take a considered approach to both work and learning. We can provide opportunities to talk about how training does or does not match up with on-the-job reality; we can foster supported on-the-job learning through peer mentoring; we can give students means to record or track what they’re learning, no matter how they’re learning it; we can have more experienced employees lead a discussion on a topic such as “The Most Important Things You Need to Know That Aren’t Addressed in Training.” In these ways, formal learner-centered training can work with informal experiential learning to support student employee work performance, and improve the efficacy of our training programs. 

A learner-centered, evidence-based approach to training that takes seriously student employees, their learning, and their jobs also has positive ramifications beyond how well they are able to do those jobs. An investment in training pays dividends not just in terms of performance, but also in reducing turnover of student employees, and increasing their engagement in and ownership of their work.5 As Melilli and colleagues note, investing in student employees increases their investment in their work.6 Training offers a tangible means of demonstrating that investment at the outset of a student’s work experience, creating a virtuous feedback loop of mutual reward that ultimately improves the consistency, efficiency, quality, and continuity of the work the library does. 

Designing effective training on proven learning principles, and gaining the benefits in terms of student employee competence, confidence, and commitment, also serves to mitigate many of the issues raised in the literature of complaint regarding student employees in academic libraries—a literature that extends from the early part of the twentieth century to the present day.7 Framing training in terms of learning encourages supervisors to reflect on their own practices, rather than despairingly assume that employing students means tolerating high turnover, mediocre performance, and patchy attendance. Successful college teachers don’t blame their students for difficulties they encounter in the classroom, and are willing to “confront their own weaknesses and failures.”8 Likewise, it would behoove supervisors to reflect on their approaches to student employment before reflexively finding fault with student employees: “if librarians are not happy with the performance of their student staff, then the fault lies with the librarians.”9 To see whether we’re actively supporting the job success of our student employees, we might look first at the training we provide them. 

The extensive body of literature that focuses on the specific details of managing and training students in academic libraries generally fails to connect training to learning at all, or does so in inconsistent or superficial ways. In fact, there often remains a sense in this and related work that training students is onerous and that it distracts and diverts librarians and library staff from more substantive and important work.10 One inevitable outcome of viewing training in this way is an approach to training design that is motivated as much by convenience as efficacy and by the misguided hope that student employees will teach themselves. Though sometimes accompanied by pedagogically-inflected language around, for example, autonomous,  self-paced, or even active learning, these training approaches nevertheless feature a preponderance of passive learning via PowerPoints, Prezis, and in-person presentations, and share with the literature at large a marked and pervasive attachment to training student employees by having them read manuals or handbooks.11

Evidence abounds as to the efficacy of classroom interventions that draw on research into how learning happens, and that utilize learner-centered approaches. Brown and colleagues identify ways in which businesses such as Jiffy Lube have transferred these methods to workplace training with the effect of reducing staff turnover and improving customer satisfaction.12 Given how infrequently such approaches are documented in the literature on training student employees in libraries, it’s not surprising that there is less evidence that points to their effectiveness in this specific context. There are a few examples, nevertheless, that indicate the rewards of deploying learner-centered, evidence-based training methods for both students and supervisors. Surtees, for instance, “reduced lecture-style teaching of circulation and reference services in favor of a non-hierarchical peer-learning and active learning model,” and student employees have subsequently retained more information, are more confident and prepared, perform better on quizzes, and have a deeper understanding of the library.13 The literature also yields telling examples of training programs whose success is hampered by their failure to implement learner-centered principles, such as Kohler’s conclusion that students found online training presentations unhelpful, didn’t learn enough to be able to answer quiz questions, and that this training method “did not solve the problems of student engagement and providing excellent training in patron service.”14 Allied with the results of research from other learning contexts on and off campus, these examples demonstrate the value of learner-centered approaches to training, and of building assessment into training programs in order to be able to gauge whether and what student employees are in fact learning.

There are undoubtedly logistical difficulties associated with training part-time, limited-term student employees, and these are certainly exacerbated by budgetary pressures and the many and varied demands on supervisors’ time. But foregrounding training as learning makes it clear that this is part of the educational work of the academic library. It’s an extension of one of its principal functions and reasons for being, and as such is not a distraction from the important work of the library, but a fundamental part of it (on which, more below). It also, however, points to ways in which supervisors can work smart, make adjustments to how they train that leverage what we know about retention and transfer, and utilize “methods that have seen success within other instructional venues.”15 These adjustments might take the form of large-scale overhauls of training programs, but they can also be made through focused, incremental changes, or what, in parallel to Lang’s concept of “small teaching,” we might call “small training.”16

Small training can provide achievable ways to move training plans that currently depend on passive consumption of content in more learner-centered and evidence-based directions. A handbook or manual can be deployed not as something to be read from cover to cover, but as a key, or one of a set of tools, that new employees use to solve realistic problems they may encounter on the job. Existing presentations or tutorials can be revised to open with a question, problem, or puzzle that engages learners’ attention, and invites them to activate existing knowledge; other quick revisions might include building in brief opportunities for learners to summarize, reflect on, or respond to the content—variations, for example, on the “muddiest point” technique. Those presentations or tutorials can be followed up a few days later with a short exercise that asks employees to retrieve and apply what they learned to a situation authentic to their job. Other concrete small training practices might include: identifying specific learning objectives; chunking material in logical and digestible ways; designing tests, assessments, or knowledge checks that utilize the retrieval practice effect; providing opportunities to practice in contexts that resemble on-the-job reality and feature authentic scenarios and examples; using guideposts or touchstones that point us in the direction of effective, learner-centered training design, such as the empathetic question, “What is it like to be a person learning something?”17 These and many other interventions drawn from the literature on both classroom learning and workplace training are achievable through small-scale changes, and translate the recognition of training as learning into more effective job preparation for student employees.18

Advancing student learning

Designing effective training invests in the job success of student employees. However, if we approach student employment itself as a structured learning experience—as an increasingly substantive cross-disciplinary body of work compellingly argues we should—then there is an additional imperative to conceive of training as learning. Within the context of academic libraries, authors have emphasized the value of viewing student employment from a more holistic learning perspective, identifying it as an opportunity for libraries to make a meaningful contribution to student success.19 This integrative, learning-focused approach to student employment extends to aligning student employment with High-Impact Practices (HIPs)—educational practices that research shows have a particularly strong relationship with student engagement and retention.20 Though not on the original list of recognized High-Impact Practices, student employment has since been identified as a possible HIP both by student affairs and education researchers and by academic librarians.21 If we approach student employment as a whole as a learning experience, then every element of that experience should be viewed through a learning lens—including, and perhaps especially, the most obvious and direct scene of learning in any work experience: job training.

However, the literature that advocates for student employment in libraries as a rich learning opportunity frequently either does not address training, or suggests that a broader focus on student learning is at odds with a reductive attention to training. Bussell and Hagman, for example, title their book chapter “From Training to Learning,” and suggest that “student employment is an opportunity for libraries to go beyond training and explicitly encourage learning,” setting training and learning apart, or at a distance from one another along a spectrum that has training at one end and “real” learning at the other.22 Evanson suggests a tension between long-term learning objectives oriented to student employees as students and the more “employee-type skills” necessary for them to do their jobs.23 And while McGinniss recognizes the importance of continuing to think about job skills, he suggests that considering student development in only this way “impoverishes the library’s potential to challenge and grow its student staff,” again positing a value difference between “just” job training and additional forms of experiential development.

Thinking of student employment as an enriched learning experience, or as a HIP, should not render the details of training obsolete. Job training itself can be educationally purposeful as well as an integral part of student employment as a larger educational practice. Job skills training cannot, indeed, be easily or usefully separated from the other, possibly more recognizable forms of learning that academic libraries can support through student employment. Job training is, or should be, a feature of all student employee positions, whether or not those positions meet the criteria to be considered HIPs, and is thus an important location for advancing both specific job knowledge and broader learning goals for a wide range of student employees. It’s a place where we can work to “honor the essential learning outcomes while balancing the need for student employees to learn specific knowledge and behaviors that will enable them to perform their job responsibilities.”24 As Scrogham and McGuire note, the clear relationship between training and learning makes training “an excellent opportunity for many seamless connections to students’ classroom learning, personal development, and citizenship.”25 The hybrid training method they identify as combining specific job tasks and skills with broader personal and professional development, from orientation onwards, provides a useful template that academic libraries might follow.26

However, to appreciate the potential deep learning value of job training requires dealing with training’s baggage. Training has a connotation problem—training a dog, training for a marathon, potty training, basic training, HR-mandated training… It comes with some regimented and less-than-positive associations: “Some people cringe at the word ‘training’: ‘Training is what you do to monkeys; development is what you do to people.’”27 The very construct of “doing to” runs counter to what we know about best learning practices and how to nurture critical thinkers. It speaks to a perception of training as a unidirectional transfer of knowledge from experts to novices, designed for the benefit of the employer and very much aligned with Paulo Freire’s notion of the “banking” model of education, wherein knowledge is “bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing.”28 Baird finds evidence of this approach in relation to student employees in libraries, whose “training is often minimal and directed from the trainer (top-down), feeding them skills that serve the library’s need.”29 In this version, training often occurs in a limited timeframe and is concerned with standardization rather than individuation, organizational effectiveness rather than personal growth. It centers on the expertise and authority of the trainer and posits the trainee as a passive blank slate. It is, in this rendition, a narrow form of learning focused only on inculcating consistently reproducible behaviors.

But we can think of training, and of those who train, in more expansive and nuanced ways—and in ways that identify and make the most of the very real connections between training student employees and the larger educational objectives of academic libraries. That might involve, at one level, deploying proven pedagogical practices to increase the effectiveness of training. But at another level it means recognizing that training can have a purpose larger than just effective job performance. McClellan and colleagues identify training as a “structured learning opportunity.”30 But that structure doesn’t have to be characterized by hierarchical knowledge transmission, and that learning does not have to be restricted to the mechanics of accomplishing a specific task. 

Indeed, besides the fact that such decontextualized learning is less likely to be effective, it also represents a naive appraisal of what’s happening during job training. Student employees are always inevitably learning more than “just” how to shelve, or discharge returned materials, or scan documents. We are always already conveying more than how to accomplish a task when we train. To that end, it’s worth considering what our student employees are learning about the library and the workplace when we don’t devote care and attention to training. But if we provide that care and attention, are intentional in how we frame training, and connect it to the organization’s key learning goals, then training student employees more obviously becomes an opportunity not just to improve their performance as employees, but to shape their thinking as students. And it’s an opportunity shared by all student employees, whether they’re in a position or program crafted to function as a HIP or not. Setting its connotative baggage aside, training then is simply a word that signals that we’re concerned with learning in a workplace context.31 Training can combine both the short-term goal of enabling someone to independently do something required of them as part of their job, and broader aims around supporting the growth of critical and information-literate thinkers. 

Approaching training as learning prompts us not just to think about what student employees need to know or be able to do, but also about how we want them to approach problems, what questions we want them to be able to ask, and how we want them to reflect on their work and learning. Learning, as Stolovitch and Keeps note, is change, and in training employees we’re concerned not simply with the transmission of information, but with changing people, with transforming learners.32 That change—which challenges, modifies, and extends the mental models of learners—can be informed by student learning outcomes that exceed job requirements and align with the stated educational goals of academic libraries and the colleges and universities they serve. Mapping the alignment between training goals and institutional learning outcomes is beneficial on a number of levels. It provides a framework in which student employees can identify the educational value of their work, and connect it to and integrate it with other learning experiences; it provides objectives for supervisors to build training and employment experiences around, and avenues for reflecting on how to make those experiences educationally purposeful; it furnishes concepts that can be folded into an expanded approach to performance evaluation, and can be used in assessing the learning impact of training and employment programs; and it enables the library to discuss its support for student success in language shared across campus.

Starkel affords an example of what such goal alignment might look like in practice in her description of how student employment and training in Butler University’s Information Commons program is aligned with the university’s values and its nine institutional learning outcomes.33 And Grimm and Harmeyer have recently mapped the tasks, knowledge, and skills required of student employees at Purdue University Archives and Special Collections against the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, demonstrating that information professionals can create work environments “built to impart educational growth, critical-thinking, and problem-solving skills.”34 As Grimm and Harmeyer show, those skills are in fact required to successfully accomplish many of the jobs students hold in academic libraries, which makes incorporating them in job training imperative for student success at multiple scales. The Framework “envisions information literacy as extending the arc of learning throughout students’ academic careers and as converging with other academic and social learning goals”35 — and it converges too with training competent student library employees. 

That convergence can involve building out training to accomplish student learning outcomes through “a syllabus-like professional development program” mapped out over the course of a semester.36 But it can also mean looking at the ways in which we currently train, and making adjustments that recognize the wider learning potential of training, while improving that training’s efficacy. For instance, learning scientists have shown that successful learners put newly acquired knowledge into a larger context; they improve transfer by recognizing underlying principles, rules, and patterns in what they’re learning, create connections between new and existing knowledge, and organize those ideas in mental models.37 Hawks and Mestre and LeCrone provide examples of what that might look like in a library training context—such as focusing on generalizable principles, or explaining why as well as how to do something, in order to improve transfer and the creation of mental models by making explicit the assumptions underlying a particular task, process, or approach. 38 While Hawks doesn’t address student employment, and Mestre and LeCrone don’t frame their intervention explicitly in terms of learning, both suggest approaches to training that reflect learning research and workplace training literature, offering indications of how academic libraries might more intentionally and overtly incorporate those ideas within student employee training.  

Translating these ideas into concrete features of training can be as simple as remembering to provide learners with rationales that explain why a particular skill or task is important, and how it fits into the big picture of the employee’s job and library’s mission. It might also include, for example, creating brief two- or three-question reflection prompts, and providing a couple of minutes for students to respond to them at the end of a training session—prompts that ask them about what they’re learning, and how it connects to, adds to, or changes what they already know. It could involve learners practicing and applying what they’re learning in a range of different situations, or providing outlines or maps that student employees can fill out or create as they learn, in order to draw connections between and suggest a structure for what they’re learning. Such interventions support student employees in successfully learning how to do their job, but they also support their learning about how to learn, and encourage them to make connections among the skills, concepts, and ideas they encounter across their academic and non-academic experiences. The result is training that both effectively deepens job learning and fosters metacognitive skills, integrated learning, and an awareness of how certain principles or approaches might apply across a multitude of scenarios. And these are features of educational practices—like HIPs—that strongly support student engagement and accomplishment.     

We also know that learner-centered approaches are more effective—that they “promote a different, deeper, and better kind of learning […] a kind of learning that lasts” and that “enables higher education to achieve some of its broadest and highest goals.”39 Recognizing that, and taking the constructivist approach that emphasizes learners’ active construction of knowledge also points to ways in which training can both be more effective and support learners in developing autonomy and problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. And, furthermore, it does so without reinforcing hierarchies of knowledge and authority that actually hinder learning. If effective teachers “think about what they do as stimulating construction, not ‘transmitting knowledge,’”40 then successful trainers too need to work with the idea that, as Hawks notes, “Engaged learners don’t just passively receive knowledge, they construct knowledge.”41

This approach makes training an exercise not in student employees “teaching themselves,” but one that can incorporate specific practices that encourage autonomy and foster higher-order thinking. We can create structured opportunities for learners to discover information about the library, explore the parts of a process, or investigate a database for themselves, perhaps even with the goal of having them share what they’ve learned with their peers. We can design training activities that ask student employees to make decisions, use their judgment, and grapple with the kinds of problems germane to their position. We can provide space for them to fail, reflect on what went wrong, and try again. In following this path, the trainer doesn’t abdicate responsibility or operate solely from a “hands-off” position, but provides guidance and structure within which student employees can exercise their autonomy and agency, and work with the trainer to build the skills necessary not just to their job but to their development as learners.

A critically-informed training pedagogy also foregrounds the reciprocity of the teacher-learner relationship, emphasizing that those roles are fluid rather than fixed. Throughout the term of a student’s employment, we can learn from their lived experiences, their perceptions of the library, and the knowledge they bring with them from other arenas of work and learning. In the context of job training specifically, we can learn from student employees about that training itself—about the experience of participating in it, its effectiveness, its ellisions or omissions, and how to do it better. Both new and continuing student employees can and should be co-creators and critics of their work-learning experience at the library, including training. Activating student employees’ existing expertise in the course of training, and having them contribute to rather than just receive that training, realizes the two-way learning opportunities that inhere in both student employment and job training. They point to student employment as a catalyst for change in the library, and student employee training as a learning moment that can exceed hierarchical models of knowledge transmission.  

Creating organizational change

Thinking of student employee training as learning reorients it from being a peripheral chore that gets in the way of the real and important work of the academic library, to something that is actually at the very heart of the academic library’s educational mission—directly connected to supporting student success not just in the very particular and local context of the job they’ve been hired to do, but in the broader arc of their college and life journey. And identifying the work of student employees, and of training student employees, as educationally purposeful redraws the boundaries of teaching and learning in the library. In particular, it highlights the importance of supervisors—many of whom are not librarians—to student learning, and the need in turn to support their learning. The fact that student employees are students is generating an increasing amount of thought about how to make their work experience educationally valuable. The fact that student employees are employees, however, might also create a route via which to think about the learning of other library employees, and develop continuities between the care taken with, and the practices and models used in, student and staff learning—which coincide at the point of the student employee and their supervisor. Thinking about the learning of student staff might prompt us to consider further supporting the learning and success of all library staff, especially those who supervise student employees, and to recognize that the community whose learning the library supports is not just “out there.” As Wilkinson and Lewis note, “Education is a core mission of all libraries. Libraries should make the same commitment to educating their personnel that they have made to educating their users.”42

If training is learning, supervisors are themselves, of course, not just learners but also educators, a designation that disrupts typical demarcations around who in the library teaches. McClellan and colleagues suggest that a good supervisor can operate like a good professor in creating “a positive and open atmosphere for learning.”43 However, Markgraf notes there may be “hesitation among some staff to refer to themselves as educators, and […] resistance among faculty to cede any part of that role to colleagues outside of the classroom.”44 Student employee training highlights, nevertheless, that clear distinctions between these terms and roles do not hold—supervisors “train, instruct, and educate […] One is not more important than the other. All three work together.”45 Indeed, as Reed and Signorelli point out, “almost everyone within a library or non-profit organization is a trainer-teacher-learner.”46 Our official titles and place within the library hierarchy don’t map in obvious and straightforward ways onto the work around learning that we actually do. Thinking of supervisors as teachers might produce some dissonance and difficulties.47 But supervisors are already fulfilling that role and doing that work: “we spend more time with the student employees on average than any one professor, counselor, or advisor,” and spend that time “educating, training, helping to form students’ work ethics and habits.”48 Burke and Lawrence refer to this as “accidental mentorship,” but if we recognize the work of supervisors as directly contributing to student learning, then we can be more intentional about supporting them in this role, and untangling the “mixed signals” they receive “regarding the time that they spend training and managing student employees.”49 Thinking about effective, pedagogically-informed student employee training requires conceiving of supervisors as both teachers and learners and seeing the learning of students, student employees, and full-time staff as interconnected and integral to the learning mission of the library.     

Through the lens of a learner-centered approach to training student employees, the academic library emerges as an organization whose support for learning isn’t restricted to instruction or public-facing services, and where responsibility for that support lies with both librarians and non-librarian staff. A distributed, shared attention to learning provides opportunities for groups within the library to gain from each other’s learning regardless of status and role, to the benefit of individuals and the organization as a whole. It might foster workplace learning programs like the one detailed by Decker and Townes, where librarians and non-librarian staff take turns sharing their knowledge with one another; this “vertically integrated” instruction model, with learning moving across hierarchical divisions within the library, aims to bridge the work divide between librarians and other library staff.50 That instruction model could easily extend to encompass student staff, and both Baird and See and Teetor provide accounts of training programs in which student and full-time staff participate together—a practice which, as Baird notes, is “not commonly done,” but which can improve student employee motivation by creating stronger connections with the organization’s culture and objectives.51 Why not, indeed, further recognize the distribution of knowledge and expertise throughout the library organization, and have student employees contribute to training new full-time staff, as Mestre and LeCrone recount?52

Conclusion

McClellan et al. identify seven qualities that all student employment programs should have. One of them is meaningful relationships between student employees and their employers, focused on teaching and learning; another is that they “must have caring as an embedded and essential value.” Caring, as they show, has a demonstrable impact on student success.53 Investing in both initial and on-going training and development that is thoughtfully designed to support personal growth and broader learning goals manifests an affective orientation of care for student employees. Paying attention to the quality and effectiveness of student employee job training, and to that job training as a specific and widely shared learning experience, grounds the supervisor-supervisee relationship in teaching and learning that moves in both directions. It also creates a bridge between the library’s often outward-oriented educational mission and nurturing an internal culture of learning and care for all library employees that can be integrated into our very operational fabric. Reframing student employee training as a particular learning occasion within the broader work-learning experience, and insisting on the need for and benefits of approaching it with pedagogical care, in fact serves as a demonstration of what Meulemans and Matlin identify as “organizational care,” which supports change that benefits library workers “in an equitable, inclusive, and socially just fashion.”54

This article advocates incorporating not just student employment in general, but job training for student employees specifically, into academic libraries’ educational practices. Such an argument points to a need for further research on and assessment of the relationship between student employment, training methods and programs, and student and supervisor learning. What support do supervisors need to effectively facilitate training as a learner-centered experience? How do we reconfigure the structure of our organizations to recognize supervisors as educators? How can we track the impact—on student employees, supervisors, and the work of the library—of adopting a learner-centered approach to work and training? Answering those questions, and others, will work to shift hierarchized distinctions between types of learning within the library, and allow us to identify further overlooked educational opportunities and other arenas in which we might bring learner-centered approaches to bear to the benefit of library staff and users, as does looking anew at job training for student employees. Reexamining student employee training from a learning perspective can not only improve job performance and advance key learning outcomes; it can also reconfigure assumptions about who “does” teaching and learning in the library, confound hierarchical distinctions that hinder organizational learning, and contribute to a reflective, learner-centered library, characterized by care, in which the learners are both patrons and staff.


Acknowledgements

With many thanks to publishing editor Jaena Rae Cabrera, internal reviewer Ian Beilin, and external reviewer Cindy Pierard for the many generous and insightful comments that have enriched my thought and writing on this topic; to Paul Moffett, for his time, support, encouragement, and getting excited about doing new stuff in Access Services; to Michelle Niemann, in-home writing coach and interlocutor par excellence; and to the student employees in Access Services at IUPUI University Library, from whom I learn so much, and who make going to work a pleasure.  


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Gerlich, Bella Karr. “Rethinking the Contributions of Student Employees to Library Services.” Library Administration and Management 16, no. 3 (2002): 146-50.

Gregory, David. “The Evolving Role of Student Employees in Academic Libraries.” Journal of Library Administration 21, no. 3/4 (1995): 3-27.

Grimm, Tracy and Neal Harmeyer. “On-the-Job Information Literacy: A Case Study of Student Employees at Purdue University Archives and Special Collections.” In Learning Beyond the Classroom: Engaging Students in Information Literacy Through Co-curricular Activities, edited by Silvia Vong and Manda Vrlkjan, 75-88. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries, 2020.

Hawks, Melanie. Designing Training. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries, 2013.

Hansen, Sarah L. and Beth A. Hoag. “Promoting Learning, Career Readiness, and Leadership in Student Employment.” New Directions for Student Leadership no. 157 (2018): 85-99.

Hillyard, Cinnamon and Katharine A. Whitson. “A Multi-Unit Approach to Interactive Training of Student Employees.” Library Administration and Management 22, no. 1 (2008): 37-41.

Hoag, Beth and Sarah Sagmoen. “Leading, Learning, and Earning: Creating a Meaningful Student Employment Program.” In Students Lead the Library: The Importance of Student Contributions to the Academic Library, edited by Sara Arnold-Garza and Carissa Tomlinson, 1-20. Chicago: ACRL, 2017.

Kathman, Jane M. and Michael D. Kathman. “Training Student Employees for Quality Service.” Journal of Academic Librarianship 26, no. 3 (2000): 176-182.

Klipfel, Kevin Michael and Dani Brecher Cook. Learner-Centered Pedagogy: Principles and Practices. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2017.

Kohler, Jamie P.  “Training Engaged Student Employees: A Small College Library Experience.” College and Undergraduate Libraries 23, no. 4 (2016): 363-380.

Kuh, George D. High-Impact Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter. Washington, DC: American Association of Colleges and Universities, 2008.

Kuh, George D. “Maybe Experience Really Can Be the Best Teacher.” Chronicle of Higher Education, November 21, 2010. https://www.chronicle.com/article/Maybe-Experience-Really-Can-Be/125433

Lang, James M. Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2016.

Manley, Laura and Robert P. Holley. “Hiring and Training Work-Study Students: A Case Study.” College and Undergraduate Libraries 21, no. 1 (2014): 76-89.

Markgraf, Jill. “Unleash Your Library’s HIPster: Transforming Student Library Jobs into High-Impact Practices.” Proceedings of the ACRL 2015 Conference. Portland, OR, March 2015, 770-777. http://www.ala.org/acrl/sites/ala.org.acrl/files/content/conferences/confsandpreconfs/2015/Markgraf.pdf

McClellan, George S., Kristina Creager, and Marianna Savoca. A Good Job: Campus Employment as a High-Impact Practice. Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2018.

McGinniss, Jeremy.  “Working at Learning: Developing an Integrated Approach to Student Staff Development.” In the Library with the Lead Pipe, April 9, 2014. https://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2014/working-at-learning-developing-an-integrated-approach-to-student-staff-development/.   

Melilli, Amanda, Rosan Mitola, and Amy Hunsaker. “Contributing to the Library Student Employee Experience: Perceptions of a Student Development Program.” Journal of Academic Librarianship 42, no. 4 (2016): 430-37.

Mestre, Lori S. and Jessica M. LeCrone. “Elevating the Student Assistant: An Integrated Development Program for Student Library Assistants,” College and Undergraduate Libraries 22, no. 1 (2015): 1-20.

Meulemans, Yvonne Nalani and Talitha R. Matlin. “Are You Being Served? Embracing Servant Leadership, Trusting Library Staff, and Engendering Change.” Library Leadership and Management 34, no. 1 (2020): 1-12.

Michael, Joshua B. and Jeremy McGinniss. “Our Student Workers Rock! Investing in the Student Staff Development Process.” Library Faculty Presentations 17 (2013). https://digitalcommons.cedarville.edu/library_presentations/17

Mitola, Rosan, Erin Rinto, and Emily Pattni,.“Student Employment as a High-Impact Practice in Academic Libraries: A Systematic Review.” Journal of Academic Librarianship 44, no. 3 (2018): 352-373.

Moore, Cathy. Map It: The Hands-On Guide to Strategic Training Design. United States: Montesa Press, 2017.

Perozzi, Brett ed. Enhancing Student Learning Through College Employment. Bloomington, IN: Association of College Unions International, 2009.

Reed, Lori and Paul Signorelli. Workplace Learning and Leadership: A Handbook for Library and Nonprofit Trainers. Chicago: American Library Association, 2011.

Rinto, Erin, Rosan Mitola, and Kate Otto. “Reframing Library Student Employment as a High-Impact Practice: Implications From Case Studies.” College and Undergraduate Libraries 26, no. 4 (2019): 260-77.

Savoca, Marianna and Urszula Zalewski. “The Campus as a Learning Laboratory: Transforming Student Employment.” NSEA Journal 1 (2016): 3-11.

Scrogham, Eva and Sara Punsky McGuire, “Orientation, Training, and Development.” In Enhancing Student Learning Through College Employment, edited by Brett Perozzi, 199-220. Bloomington, IN: Association of College Unions International, 2009.

See, Andrew and Travis Stephen Teetor. “Effective e-Training: Using a Course Management System and e-Learning Tools to Train Library Employees.” Journal of Access Services 11, no. 2 (2014): 66-90.

Starkel, Amanda D. “Investing in Student Employees: Training in Butler University’s Information Commons Program,” Indiana Libraries 33, no. 2 (2014): 83-86.

Stolovitch,  Harold D. and Erica J. Keeps. Telling Ain’t Training: Updated, Expanded, and Enhanced. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press, 2011.

Surtees, Laura. “Training to Learn: Developing an Interactive, Collaborative Circulation-Reference Training Program for Student Workers.” Proceedings of the ACRL 2019 Conference. Cleveland, OH, April 2019, 814-815. http://www.ala.org/acrl/sites/ala.org.acrl/files/content/conferences/confsandpreconfs/2019/TrainingtoLearn.pdf 

Vassady, Lisa, Alyssa Archer, and Eric Ackermann. “READ-ing Our Way to Success: Using the READ Scale to Successfully Train Reference Student Assistants in the Referral Model.” Journal of Library Administration 55, no. 7 (2015): 535-548.

Weimer, Maryellen. Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2013.

Wiggins, Grant and Jay McTighe. Understanding By Design. 2nd ed. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005.

Wilkinson, Frances C. and Linda K. Lewis. “Training Programs in Academic Libraries: Continuous Learning in the Information Age.” College and Research Libraries News 67, no. 6 (2006): 356-65.

William III, James. “Starting Off On the Right Foot: A Library New Student Employee Orientation,” South Carolina Libraries 1, no. 2 (2015). http://scholarcommons.sc.edu/scl_journal/vol1/iss2/7

Footnotes

  1. Susan A. Ambrose et al., How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010), 95 []
  2. Donald L. Finkel, Teaching With Your Mouth Shut (Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 2000); Harold D. Stolovitch and Erica J. Keeps, Telling Ain’t Training: Updated, Expanded, and Enhanced (Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press, 2011). []
  3. Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, Understanding By Design, 2nd ed. (Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005), 40. []
  4. David A. Baldwin and Daniel C. Barkley, Complete Guide for Supervisors of Student Employees in Today’s Academic Libraries (Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2007), 161. []
  5. James William III, “Starting Off On the Right Foot: A Library New Student Employee Orientation,” South Carolina Libraries 1, no. 2 (2015): http://scholarcommons.sc.edu/scl_journal/vol1/iss2/7;George S. McClellan, Kristina Creager, and Marianna Savoca, A Good Job: Campus Employment as a High-Impact Practice (Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2018); Cara Evanson, “‘We Aren’t Just the Kids That Sit at the Front’: Rethinking Student Employee Training,” College and Research Libraries News 76, no. 1 (2015): 30-33; Beth Hoag and Sarah Sagmoen, “Leading, Learning, and Earning: Creating a Meaningful Student Employment Program,” in Students Lead the Library: The Importance of Student Contributions to the Academic Library, ed. Sara Arnold-Garza and Carissa Tomlinson (Chicago: ACRL, 2017), 1-20. []
  6. Amanda Melilli, Rosan Mitola, and Amy Hunsaker, “Contributing to the Library Student Employee Experience: Perceptions of a Student Development Program,” Journal of Academic Librarianship 42, no. 4 (2016): 435. []
  7. David Gregory quotes a librarian in 1910 conceding that student employment might be “far less of an evil than it appeared” (5), and suggests that unenthusiastic “characterizations of student help […] will always be with us” (Gregory, “The Evolving Role of Student Employees in Academic Libraries,” Journal of Library Administration 21, no. 3/4 (1995): 21); those characterizations certainly persist in articles such as  Bella Karr Gerlich, “Rethinking the Contributions of Student Employees to Library Services,” Library Administration and Management 16, no. 3 (2002): 146-50, and Laura Manley and Robert P. Holley, “Hiring and Training Work-Study Students: A Case Study,” College and Undergraduate Libraries 21, no. 1 (2014): 76-89. []
  8. Ken Bain, What the Best College Teachers Do (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004), 19. []
  9. Jeremy McGinniss, “Working at Learning: Developing an Integrated Approach to Student Staff Development,” In the Library with the Lead Pipe, April 9, 2014, https://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2014/working-at-learning-developing-an-integrated-approach-to-student-staff-development/ []
  10. As even a quick scan of titles such as “Retraining is Draining,” “Searching for Solutions,” and “So Many Students, So Little Time” suggests. []
  11. For training presentations see: Kindra Becker-Redd, Kirsten Lee, and Caroline Skelton, “Training Student Workers for Cross-Departmental Success in an Academic Library: A New Model,” Journal of Library Administration 58, no. 2 (2018): 153-165; Cinnamon Hillyard and Katharine A. Whitson, “A Multi-Unit Approach to Interactive Training of Student Employees,” Library Administration and Management 22, no. 1 (2008): 37-41; Manley and Holley, “Hiring and Training,” 76-89; Jamie P. Kohler, “Training Engaged Student Employees: A Small College Library Experience,” College and Undergraduate Libraries 23, no. 4 (2016): 363-380. For examples of the use of manuals and handbooks see: Kohler, “Training Engaged Student Employees”; Jane M. Kathman and Michael D. Kathman, “Training Student Employees for Quality Service,” Journal of Academic Librarianship 26, no. 3 (2000): 176-182; Sandy L. Farrell and Carol Driver, “Tag, You’re It: Hiring, Training, and Managing Student Assistants,” Community and Junior College Libraries 16, no. 3 (2010): 185-191; Lisa Vassady, Alyssa Archer, and Eric Ackermann, “READ-ing Our Way to Success: Using the READ Scale to Successfully Train Reference Student Assistants in the Referral Model,” Journal of Library Administration 55, no. 7 (2015): 535-548; Hoag and Sagmoen, “Leading, Learning, and Earning”; Jessica M. Drewitz, “Training Student Workers: A Win-Win,” AALL Spectrum (2013): 22-24. []
  12. Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel, Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014), 247. []
  13. Laura Surtees, “Training to Learn: Developing an Interactive, Collaborative Circulation-Reference Training Program for Student Workers,” Proceedings of the ACRL 2019 Conference, Cleveland, OH, April 2019, 814-815, http://www.ala.org/acrl/sites/ala.org.acrl/files/content/conferences/confsandpreconfs/2019/TrainingtoLearn.pdf []
  14. Kohler, “Training Engaged,” 377. []
  15. Amanda D. Starkel, “Investing in Student Employees: Training in Butler University’s Information Commons Program,” Indiana Libraries 33, no. 2 (2014): 84. []
  16. James M. Lang, Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2016). []
  17. Carl Rogers, quoted in Kevin Michael Klipfel and Dani Brecher Cook, Learner-Centered Pedagogy: Principles and Practices (Chicago: ALA Editions, 2017), 8. []
  18. Overviews of effective practices, how to implement them, and why they work include: Stolovitch and Keeps, Telling Ain’t Training; Lang, Small Teaching; Julie Dirksen, Design for How People Learn 2nd ed. (San Francisco: New Riders, 2016); Brown, Roediger III, and McDaniel, Make It Stick; Cathy Moore, Map It: The Hands-On Guide to Strategic Training Design (Montesa Press, 2017); Ambrose et al., How Learning Works. []
  19. See: Hoag and Sagmoen, “Leading, Learning, and Earning,” 11; Melilli, Mitola, and Hunsaker, “Library Student Employee Experience,” 436; Joshua B. Michael and Jeremy McGinniss, “Our Student Workers Rock! Investing in the Student Staff Development Process,” Library Faculty Presentations 17 (2013), https://digitalcommons.cedarville.edu/library_presentations/17   []
  20. George D. Kuh, High-Impact Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter (Washington, DC: American Association of Colleges and Universities, 2008), 14-16. []
  21. See: George D. Kuh, “Maybe Experience Really Can Be the Best Teacher,” Chronicle of Higher Education, November 21, 2010, https://www.chronicle.com/article/Maybe-Experience-Really-Can-Be/125433; McClellan, Creager, and Savoca, A Good Job; Marianna Savoca and Urszula Zalewski, “The Campus as a Learning Laboratory: Transforming Student Employment,” NSEA Journal 1 (2016): 3-11; Brett Perozzi,ed., Enhancing Student Learning Through College Employment (Bloomington, IN: Association of College Unions International, 2009); Sarah L. Hansen and Beth A. Hoag, “Promoting Learning, Career Readiness, and Leadership in Student Employment,” New Directions for Student Leadership no. 157 (2018): 85-99; Jill Markgraf, “Unleash Your Library’s HIPster: Transforming Student Library Jobs into High-Impact Practices,” Proceedings of the ACRL 2015 Conference, Portland, OR, March 2015, 770-777, http://www.ala.org/acrl/sites/ala.org.acrl/files/content/conferences/confsandpreconfs/2015/Markgraf.pdf; Rosan Mitola, Erin Rinto, and Emily Pattni, “Student Employment as a High-Impact Practice in Academic Libraries: A Systematic Review,” Journal of Academic Librarianship 44, no. 3 (2018): 352-373; Erin Rinto, Rosan Mitola, and Kate Otto, “Reframing Library Student Employment as a High-Impact Practice: Implications From Case Studies,” College and Undergraduate Libraries 26, no. 4 (2019); Elizabeth L. Black, “Library Student Employment and Educational Value Beyond the Paycheck,” in Learning Beyond the Classroom: Engaging Students in Information Literacy Through Co-curricular Activities, ed. Silvia Vong and Manda Vrlkjan (Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries, 2020), 57-73. []
  22. H. Bussell and J. Hagman, “From Training to Learning: Developing Student Employees Through Experiential Learning Design” in Pete McDonnell, ed.,The Experiential Library: Transforming Academic and Research Libraries Through the Power of Experiential Learning (Cambridge, MA: Chandos, Publishing, 2017), 147. []
  23. Evanson, “We Aren’t Just the Kids,” 33. []
  24. McClellan, Creager, and Savoca, A Good Job, 96. []
  25. Eva Scrogham and Sara Punsky McGuire, “Orientation, Training, and Development” in Brett Perozzi, ed., Enhancing Student Learning Through College Employment (Bloomington, IN: Association of College Unions International, 2009), 200. []
  26. Scrogham and McGuire, “Orientation,” []
  27. Baldwin and Barkley, Complete Guide, 161. []
  28. Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970), trans. Myra Bergman Ramos (New York: Continuum, 2005), 72. []
  29. Lynn N. Baird, “ALOHA to New Learning: Uniting Student and Career Staff Through Training, Journal of Access Services 5, no. 1/2 (2007): 122. []
  30. McClellan, Creager, and Savoca, A Good Job, 143. []
  31. Stolovitch and Keeps, Telling Ain’t Training, 13. []
  32. Stolovitch and Keeps, Telling Ain’t Training, 13. []
  33. Starkel, “Investing,” 83-84. []
  34. Tracy Grimm and Neal Harmeyer, “On-the-Job Information Literacy: A Case Study of Student Employees at Purdue University Archives and Special Collections” in Learning Beyond the Classroom, 87. []
  35. Association for College and Research Libraries, Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education (Chicago: Association for College and Research Libraries, 2015): 8, http://www.ala.org/acrl/sites/ala.org.acrl/files/content/issues/infolit/framework1.pdf []
  36. McClellan, Creager, and Savoca, A Good Job, 144. []
  37. Brown, Roediger III, and McDaniel, Make It Stick, 4-6. []
  38. For example: Melanie Hawks, Designing Training (Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries, 2013), 44; Lori S. Mestre and Jessica M. LeCrone, “Elevating the Student Assistant: An Integrated Development Program for Student Library Assistants,” College and Undergraduate Libraries 22, no. 1 (2015): 13. []
  39. Maryellen Weimer, Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice, 2nd ed. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2013), 33. []
  40. Bain, Best College Teachers, 27. []
  41. Hawks, Designing Training, 34. []
  42. Frances C. Wilkinson and Linda K. Lewis, “Training Programs in Academic Libraries: Continuous Learning in the Information Age,” College and Research Libraries News 67, no. 6 (2006): 365. []
  43. McClellan, Creager, and Savoca, A Good Job, 151. []
  44. Markgraf, “Unleash,” 773. []
  45. Keeps and Stolovitch, Training Ain’t Telling, 12. []
  46. Lori Reed and Paul Signorelli, Workplace Learning and Leadership: A Handbook for Library and Nonprofit Trainers (Chicago: American Library Association, 2011), 2. []
  47. Bussell and Hagman point out, for example, that experiential learning requires that learners be able to challenge teachers, and as “tricky as it is to establish this level of trust between learner and teacher in a normal classroom, it can be even more difficult when the learner/teacher relationship is also an employee/supervisor relationship.” Bussell and Hagman, “Training to Learning,” 152. []
  48. Kate Burke and Belinda Lawrence, “The Accidental Mentorship: Library Managers’ Roles in Student Employees’ Academic Professional Lives,” College and Research Libraries News 72, no. 2 (2011): 100. []
  49. Kathman and Kathman, “Quality Service,” 177. []
  50. E.N. Decker and J.A. Townes, “Going Vertical: Enhancing Staff Training Through Vertically Integrated Instruction” in The Experiential Library, 139. []
  51. Baird, “ALOHA,” 122-3; Andrew See and Travis Stephen Teetor, “Effective e-Training: Using a Course Management System and e-Learning Tools to Train Library Employees,” Journal of Access Services 11, no. 2 (2014): 66-90. []
  52. Mestre and LeCrone, “Elevating,” 13. []
  53. McClellan, Creager, and Savoca, A Good Job, 196-7. []
  54. Yvonne Nalani Meulemans and Talitha R. Matlin, “Are You Being Served? Embracing Servant Leadership, Trusting Library Staff, and Engendering Change,” Library Leadership and Management 34, no. 1 (2020): 3-4. []

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