Photo of fishbowls at Kennedy Library

Written by on April 4, 2013

Integral to the community at Cal Poly

Colette Hayes attended Cal Poly from 1998 to 2002 and worked at Kennedy Library her freshman, sophomore, and senior years (because junior year, she was studying abroad). Recently she got back in touch!

As part of getting to know Colette, I asked her a few questions about what she’s doing now, which includes working towards a master’s in library and information science at San Jose State University. During our email exchange Colette wrote: Kennedy Library was integral to my sense of community at Cal Poly, and that has influenced my vision of how academic libraries should be.


What did you do at Kennedy Library?
I worked on the second floor, in what was called, if I remember correctly, the Learning Resources and Curriculum Department, where I checked out materials and shelved books. This department housed a large computer lab, as well as a collection of children’s and young adults’ books. I remember recognizing, just by the arrangement of colors on their thin spines, books I’d read as a kid and hadn’t thought about for years. We also loaned out media – at the time, mostly cassette tapes! – that were on reserves for language classes, as well as games, different kits, and even a life-sized replica of a skeleton!

One summer, I also worked in the Dean’s office, where I learned a little bit about library advancement, budgets, and human resources. It was an excellent experience to see this side of the library, too.

What are you doing now?
Now, I work at the University of San Francisco. I am the stacks coordinator at the Gleeson Library/Geschke Center here, which means that my primary responsibilities are to supervise the shelving, shelf-reading and shifting of materials within the stacks.

In my role, I also get to work closely with our student assistants, which is really fun. I have to remember, on a daily basis, what it was like to be college student, so I think about Cal Poly often.

I also write for the library and digital humanities blogs, as well as work on various smaller library programs, displays, and projects. I’ll complete my master’s next year.

Photo of Colette and brother

Colette and her brother, who also attended Cal Poly.

How did you decide that library school was right for you?
I remember calling my parents, after an upper division English Literature seminar at Cal Poly, and telling them I wanted to get a PhD. The course I was taking was on Emerson and Thoreau. I was graduating soon, and, I suppose, really soaking up the end of college, and the space that school gives you to learn and think. I was fervent, and really kind of fired up about everything.  I don’t think my parents knew what to say!

After working for a few years, I did go back to school to earn a master’s degree in English Literature. While studying for that degree, though, I realized that I was better suited to applying what I was learning, and my excitement for it, in a different way than the PhD.  I loved learning about communities of readers, and writers, and I liked the ways that libraries, in particular, have often encouraged and supported these communities.  Plus, libraries are like nuclei that hold our cultural DNA. They are also places that we share, and to which we contribute. When I think about that, it amazes me. That’s how I decided, and how I know, that library school is right for me.

What are your thoughts about where university libraries are now and where they’re going?
The nature of information has changed a lot since I was in college, and I think that’s exciting.  When I look at the many issues on the table – from ebooks to information literacy, and much, much more – I see a ton of opportunity for university libraries. And, I think many university libraries are seizing the day, so-to-speak, in innovative and thoughtful ways. This takes both vigilance and agility, and I hope libraries’ and librarians’ competencies in these areas will be more and more recognized and respected in the years to come.

I also love the ways that university, and public libraries, for example, are positioning themselves, with the types of programming and services they offer, as hubs and community centers. Towards those ends, I think it’s really important that students are actively involved and invested in shaping the university library into something that’s useful for them, and a place where they feel comfortable and want to be.

What are you most excited about for your professional future?
I’m most excited about the creativity that the library profession currently demands. Right now, I’m on the academic librarianship track, so I think that, for me, my professional future will necessarily involve being a creative teacher. I also look forward to helping others to be creative and innovative — not only in terms of their academic research, but also creative in their approach to learning and being resourceful about life, in general. I can’t wait!

What about your work at Kennedy Library influenced you?
The librarians and library assistants at Kennedy were wonderful examples, and really supportive of us as student workers; they have influenced my practice as a student supervisor.  Also, working at Kennedy, I think I really came to understand the library as a hub of the university. I met so many different students from different majors when I was working, or I’d see friends and people I’d had a class with quarters before, and we’d say “hi” and catch up.  The library was integral to my sense of community at Cal Poly, and that has influenced my vision of how academic libraries should be.

Anything else you’d like to mention?
I’ve loved following Kennedy Library’s website and Facebook page for the past few years, and I continue to learn immensely from the library! You all are doing terrific work!!

Thanks, Colette! We’re glad to be a part of the Cal Poly and academic library communities!

Photo from Kennedy Library’s Flickr.

Read more on academic libraries, alum, cal poly, kennedy library, san luis obispo, student assistant, and university libraries.

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