Comings & Goings at the UConn Library – Academic Engagement

The pandemic has reshaped the work environment in unprecedented ways, forcing organizations to adapt to a new way of working. The UConn Library is no different. Since March of 2020 we have shifted access to collections, increased online outreach, created new programming, and found new ways of working with each other and our communities. We have also seen an incredible shift in staffing. We have been fortunate enough to welcome several new staff members, said good luck to others moving to other institutions, wished many a happy retirement, and said goodbye to a dear colleague. In the final post of this three part series, we will look at the shifts in staffing and service to our areas of work and hope you will join us celebrating the people, past and present, of the UConn Library. If you missed the first two posts in the series, they were regarding our Library Administration and Collections & Discovery areas.

Academic Engagement

The Academic Engagement area is one of the most externally facing areas in the Library, and responsible for a number of our programs and services aimed at advancing research, teaching, and learning on campus. It is also the area that has seen the most changes due to staffing over the last few years. 

We often call our Access Services unit the “face of the library” because of their role in serving our patrons through circulation & reserve related services, including staffing the iDesk in the Homer Babbidge Library. In the spring of 2020, we were fortunate enough to welcome two new staff members to help coordinate the work of the iDesk. John Cropp came by way of the University of Georgia Libraries, where he had similar job responsibilities including supervising the Circulation Desk and managing student employees. John got his MLIS from Valdosta State University and his Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies from the University of Georgia. In addition to his responsibilities for the evening and weekend shifts in Homer Babbidge, he is also the advisor to our favorite student organization, the Homies Student Advisory Board. We also welcomed Michelle Greene to Access Service and our circulation desk. Michelle previously worked as a Library Specialist at the University of Maine at Presque Isle. Michelle is currently in the Master of Science in Library Science program at Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Library Science from the University of Maine at Augusta. They both jumped into an Access Services department as it was being upended during the COVID-19 pandemic. Services that were primarily based in-person, shifted online, and we had to create new protocols like sanitizing and bagging materials, scheduling pickups, and much more. Michelle and John learned the ropes from their colleagues, one of which, Steve Grigoreas will retire from the position of Access Services Associate this month. Steve began his career at UConn Library in 1992 and held various positions for the Library in his 30 years of service. Steve was also an active member of the UConn Professional Employees Association (UCPEA) union.  

The Access Services unit was led through the pandemic by Barbara Mitchell who had ushered us through many changes in the over 42 years she worked for the Library. Sadly, Barbara passed away unexpectedly in April and the loss to our institution runs deep. On June 17, we honored Barbara by inviting her family, colleagues, and former colleagues to come together and share memories around a small garden planted with a hybrid daylily called the Barbara Mitchell Daylily outside the east entrance of Homer Babbidge Library. John Cropp will be serving as Interim Head of Access Services until a formal search is launched.

Of great importance to the Library is ensuring students are successful at UConn, and the team dedicated to it is our Reference & Student Success Services unit. The unit works to support academic success and enhance the holistic student experience by connecting students to information literacy initiatives and library resources. Understanding the need on campus, we created two new student success librarian positions in July of 2021 and hired Kelsey Brown and Zach Claybaugh in those roles. This duo have been working across campus developing innovative programs and services with students in mind. Kelsey Brown’s focus is on advancing the Library’s information literacy program. Kelsey left sunny California, where she worked at the University of California, Irvine as a Library Assistant. She received a Master of Library and Information Science from San Jose State University and a Bachelor of Arts in Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies from California State University, Long Beach.

OER at UConn image

Zach Claybaugh’s special focus is on advancing the awareness and adoption of Open Educational Resources at UConn. Zach received his Master of Science in Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois, a Master of Arts in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Illinois, and a Bachelor of Arts in History at West Texas A&M University.  He has most recently served as the OER & Digital Learning Librarian at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT, where he played a leading role in the University’s OER efforts, worked to integrate the library in the First Year Seminar Program.

Kelsey and Zach had the opportunity to work with and learn from two veteran employees in the Reference & Student Success Services unit who retired in June. Kathy Banas-Marti was hired in 1981 as a Bibliographic Assistant in what was known as the Technical Processing Unit. She earned her MLS in 1987 and began working more in our Reference Department where she found her love of providing reference and engaging in outreach activities like mentoring students, talking with nervous parents, and being the public face of the library at events and programs across campus. An example of that gift was for 22 years she served as a UConn Connects facilitator, mentoring students on academic probation, receiving the UConn Connects Mentor Award in 2017. She continued to provide support for the technical side of things, including updating our acquisitions process from a paper environment to an automated one through the implementation of NOTIS, one of the very first integrated library systems. Later, the Library’s reorganization in 1996 brought Kathy’s skills and talents to reference once again, where she became a Reference Librarian and in 2000, the Liaison to the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences. Kathy is looking forward to traveling once again in retirement. 

Also retiring from the Reference & Student Success Services unit is 37-year veteran Sheila Lafferty. Sheila had an interesting and varied career, working at most of our locations including the UConn Health Center Library, Law Library, Waterbury Library, served as director for both the Torrington Library and Avery Point campus, and most recently leading our work with information literacy and programs for First Year and new students when she moved to the Storrs campus in 2016.  She has served on numerous committees and internal teams that have helped shape our organizational strategies and profession – including the Executive Board of the Connecticut Library Association, the Information Literacy Subcommittee of GEOC, the Student Welfare Committee, and the Scholarly Communications Committee. Sheila plans to visit with family and become more involved with historical genealogical societies in retirement. 

Sheila’s work throughout our library locations highlights an important part of the UConn Library, and that is our presence in each regional campus community. This June we bid a retirement farewell to the UConn Waterbury Library Director Shelley Goldstein. Shelley began as a Reference and Instruction Librarian at the Jeremy Richard Library at UConn Stamford before serving as the Director of the UConn Waterbury Library beginning in 2008.  She also served as Interim Director of the UConn Avery Point Library. Shelley was a skilled administrator, but her focus on the needs and success of all students, with a special focus on first generation and first year students is what defined much of her work. Shelley was a brilliant teacher who taught instruction sessions across disciplines too numerous to note, an expert on academic integrity, presenting on the topic at regional and national conferences throughout her career, and helped create the learning commons in the Stamford Library, She regularly participated in First Year Experience courses, and in 2021 was the inaugural winner of the One UConn FYE Teaching Award for her dedication to student success.  

Our Avery Point Library has also seen notable change in the last year. In December 2020 we welcomed Chalynne “Chay” Reed as the new Access Services Coordinator for the Avery Point Library. Prior to UConn, Chay had over 10 years of experience in public libraries including in Cromwell and Rocky Hill, and at academic libraries including Adelphi University and Trinity College. Chay worked alongside Beth Rumery until her retirement this June. Described as the “rock” of the Avery Point Library, Beth started and ended her career in Avery Point, embodying how a librarian at a regional campus library could engage with the community. Beth started her career for UConn in 2005 and in her 17 years of service she had several roles over the years, including Library Director for the Avery Point campus, Research and Instruction Librarian, Undergraduate Education Librarian, and Undergraduate Services Librarian. Some of Beth’s proudest achievements were serving as the Alliance – GSA advisor, being a student supervisor, winning the national “I Love My Librarian” Award in 2015 from the American Library Association, receiving the Avery Point Campus “Excellence in Student Engagement and Support” Award 2018, and watching many students becoming librarians.

Image of a Hartford Campus Library study area

After years of interim support, our UConn Hartford Library will welcome a director starting in July 2022. Karen Tatarka has a rich background and wide-ranging experience and expertise in both public and academic libraries that will be a great benefit to our partnership with the Hartford Public Library. She has most recently served as the Weston Public Library Director in Weston, Connecticut and prior to that was the English and Foreign Languages and Literatures Librarian at Auburn University. But what we love the most is that she launched her career in librarianship in our very own Jeremy Richard Library in UConn Stamford. Karen holds a MLS from Southern Connecticut State University and a Master of Arts in English from Fordham University.

Also from our Hartford Campus Library, Steve Batt resigned from his position as Reference and Instruction Librarian in April. Steve’s career at the Library began in 1997 and in his time with us he served in a wide variety of capacities and roles, including as Data Visualization Librarian, Coordinator for the Federal Depository Library Program, and Reference and Instruction Librarian. Drawing on deep expertise in a variety of disciplines as well as in data access, organization, and visualization, Steve most recently served as the liaison to English and Public Policy for the Hartford campus, and as liaison to Geography, Journalism, and Political Science on the Storrs campus, as well as to Geosciences in a general information role. Steve was also involved with the operation of the Connecticut State Data Center and the Map and Geographic Information Center (MAGIC). 

Following the retirement of Sharon Giovenale in October of 2019 after 30 years of service, we were fortunate to hire Roslyn Grandy to fill the shoes of Pharmacy Librarian. Roslyn was our first all-online search during the pandemic, and started in August of 2020. Roslyn holds a Masters of Library and Information Science from Rutgers University, a Master of Science in Communication Management and Media from The College of New Rochelle, and Bachelor of Arts from Brigham Young University. Before joining UConn, she was the Reference and Publications Librarian at the Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), where she managed the BNL institutional repository, conducted literature searches and compiled bibliometric data for researchers in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, and computer science, and managed circulation services for the BNL print collection. 

In addition to her role in supporting the School of Pharmacy, Roslyn is also a member of our Research Services unit, which has seen significant changes. The Research Services librarians couple disciplinary knowledge with information expertise to advance the research, teaching, and learning of UConn students, faculty, and staff. Their subject expertise is sought after by students, faculty, and the community alike. In the coming and going of staff, we have filled some of the subject roles that were vacated, and used the openings as an opportunity to add new subject specialties needed at UConn. 

Part of the changes to the unit start at the top, with new leadership under Samuel Boss. Sam joined the UConn Library as Head of Research Services in October 2020.  Sam holds a Master’s degree in Library and Information Studies from the University of Wisconsin Madison, a Master’s degree in History from SUNY Brockport, and bachelors’ degrees in History and English from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Sam has extensive professional experience including his most recent position as Director of the Northern Vermont University Libraries, Director at Lyndon State College, Public Services Librarian at Lyndon State College, and Outreach & Public Services Librarian at the Guangzhou Library in Guangzhou, China.  

Most recently, two valued members of the Research Services unit retired. In March 2022 Carolyn Mills, Open Access, Authors Rights & Sciences Librarian, retired after 26 years of service. Carolyn began her career as Biology Librarian and added several subject areas along the way, including Agriculture, Pathobiology, Natural Resources, Environmental Science, and Agriculture and Resource Economics. Furthermore, in her time at UConn Carolyn provided excellent leadership in a variety of roles including, serving as head of the sciences liaison team (2008-2015), serving as the UConn lead for an Ithaka S+R study of research needs of agriculture faculty (2016), and as a grant co-principal investigator on a National Library of Medicine grant with a colleague from Boston College for sponsoring community Software Carpentry and Software Data workshops. Carolyn also played an important leadership role in the area of Scholarly Communications on behalf of the UConn Library.

Two months later in June, Valori Banfi, Grant Funding & Sciences Librarian (Nursing & Allied Health), retired. Val has supported the School of Nursing as a subject specialist since 2007. Her prior experience as a librarian for both Internal Medicine at Hartford Hospital and Houston Academy of Medicine – The Texas Medical Center Library meant very little time was needed to earn the trust and respect of the School of Nursing. Val was an active member of both the UConn Nursing and Library communities, and her tenure is marked by numerous collaborations on both grant-related and health informatics workshops. She also served in temporary roles as liaison to Psychology and Allied Health, and served as our Citation Management Specialist.

While we feel the loss of Carolyn and Val as part of our research services team, we have had the fortune to hire several new librarians in areas of need across UConn. 

Edward Lim joined the UConn Library as Business and Entrepreneurship Librarian in March 2020. Due to the pandemic, it took him some time to move from Singapore to Connecticut, but it was worth the wait. Edward came to UConn after serving as the Reference and Research Services Librarian for Business at New York University Shanghai and, prior to that, as Business Librarian at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (2011-2017). Edward holds a Master of Science in Information Studies from Nanyang Technological University and is a published scholar on Chinese data sets, web usability, and professional development. His role at UConn is to support the UConn School of Business, Department of Economics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the Peter J. Werth Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Hilary Kraus joined us in August 2020 as a Research Services Librarian primarily supporting the departments of Kinesiology and Psychological Sciences. She has also taken on the role of Citation Management Specialists from Valori Banfi. Hilary holds a Master of Science in Information from the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University.  She has most recently served as Librarian for Nursing and Health at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Hilary’s extensive professional experience also includes service in a range of professional capacities at Johnson & Wales University, Bryant University, DePaul University, and Loyola University. She is an active member of the profession, publishing and presenting on professional development, health sciences librarianship, instruction, and other areas. 

Fyiane Nsilo-Swai was hired in January 2022 as a Research Services Librarian to support the various disciplines in the social sciences. Fyiane received a Master of Library & Information Science from the University of Rhode Island in 2000, she completed a graduate practicum at the Dinand Science Library at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts that same year, and holds a Bachelor of Science with a major in Agricultural Resource Economics at UConn. In her most recent position as Reference & Instruction Librarian at Quinebaug Valley Community College in Danielson, Connecticut, she served as coordinator of the information literacy program, collaborating with library and faculty colleagues on designing research assignments. One such collaborative activity culminated in the publication of the book chapter, “Undergraduate Research and the Academic Librarian: Case Studies and Best Practices” published by the Association of College and Research Libraries in 2017.

Stephanie Birch was also hired in January 2022 as a Research Services Librarian to serve as liaison to Africana Studies. Stephanie received a Master of Library Science and a Master of Arts in African Studies from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 2016. Additionally, she received a Master of Arts in History from the University of Illinois, Springfield in 2012 and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art History from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 2010. In her most recent position at the University of Florida, Stephanie served as African American Studies Librarian, Samuel Proctor Oral History Program subject liaison, and affiliate faculty with the Center for Gender, Sexualities & Women’s Studies Research where she was a collaborative partner on timely and important projects such as the Intersections on Mass Incarceration grant project. 

Jennifer Schaefer joined us in March 2022 as a Research Services Librarian to serve as the liaison to Latina/o, Caribbean, Latin American, and Spanish Studies. This role was previously held by Marisol Ramos, who left UConn in May 2020 to join the staff at the University of California Santa Barbara as their Latin American and Iberian Studies Librarian. Jennifer received a Ph.D. in History from Emory University in 2015, a Master of Arts in Latin American Studies from the University of Chicago in 2008, and Bachelor of Arts degrees from Brown University in History (Honors) and Comparative Literature in English and Spanish in 2007. Jennifer comes to the UConn Library with a laudable record of publication and professional engagement and has significant experience in both producing and supporting digital scholarship.

In this final post in the three part series, UConn Library Comings & Goings we hope you got a glimpse of the changes to our staffing since March of 2020. If you missed the other two posts, they highlighted the changes in Library Administration and Collections & Discovery.

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