Written by on July 12, 2018

Student assistants give, Kennedy Library gives back: Graduates reflect on experience working at Cal Poly’s library

With spring quarter finished, graduations complete, and the hot days of summer in San Luis Obispo upon us, Kennedy Library would like to highlight some of the graduating student assistants who have worked to improve the library and campus for all who use it. More than 100 students with various academic experience, majors, and backgrounds provide vital services to their peers, faculty, and staff every year. These students and their supervisors continue to make Kennedy Library what it is.
Three graduating students, Sean Leavey, Nico Berrioc, and Swasti Mittal, impacted the library positively through their years of dedicated work. Sean was a Library Research Assistant Technician for four years, Nico worked in the Information Techology department since 2015, and Swasti was a design student assistant who dedicated her time to enhancing user experience over multiple platforms. All three have been ambassadors for Library, and in return have gained experience and insight into their future career paths.

Sean Leavey is fourth year History major who has worked as a Library Research Assistant Technician (LibRAT) for four years. “As a LibRAT, I have gained confidence for my future workplace by teaching research workshops” he said, “and I have made connections that will last me the rest of my life.” By teaching research workshops and assisting students use databases, Sean has learned that everyone has a story.

“We often have these micro-interactions with strangers, 30-seconds or maybe a minute before they drift off into the world. I’ve learned how to try to make the most out of every interaction with another human, to hopefully help a stranger feel better about themselves or about their situation. Especially when they have a paper due tomorrow morning and they need ten scholarly, peer-reviewed articles: we all could use a bit of encouragement.” Not only did Kennedy Library give Sean an on-campus position, but valuable skills that continue to benefit himself and his community.

Another student, Nico Berrioc, is a fourth year Computer Science major who worked in the Library Information Technology (LIT) department. For Nico, a typical work day involved taking service calls from students and faculty with technological issues and working away at a list of ongoing technical problems around campus. Since 2015, Nico has been a crucial member of Kennedy Library as a student assistant, ambassador for LIT services, and a dedicated mentor to his peers.

Nico has been working with the library for three years, during regular school quarters and during the summer on special projects. “Being a student assistant was rewarding because I learned a whole new set of technical skills,” Said Nico. He has trained some of his fellow student assistants that work in the library and explained that the experience was invaluable. “Training someone else completely reinforced my own knowledge,” he said, “and I am grateful the library staff respect and trust their student assistants to make the decisions.” Nico was also grateful for the opportunity to participate in meetings and to come up with his own solutions for the real problems affecting Cal Poly. “I get to hear about ongoing projects,” he said, and I get to give input directly to those making the decisions, and side effect of all this has been my increased communications skills.”

The third student assistant is Swasti Mittal, an Art & Design student who had the opportunity to showcase her work and learn about how design functions in the real world. “The job is very independent,” she said, “and I feel completely responsible for the work I put out.” Working in the library honed her collaboration skills and gave her a better idea of the work environment that she envisions herself in in the future. “I’ve realized that I love small collaborative groups” she said. “I came to know this through working with my wonderful design team, peers, and supervisors at the library.”

Knowing what work environment fits you best is a big factor in a happy and successful career, and Kennedy Library provided this for Swasti. In reflecting about her experience, Swasti said she has always maintained that “the library is only as beautiful as we make it.” She loved being a student assistant because her work directly bettered one of the most used buildings on campus.

As a student at Cal Poly and a fellow student assistant at Kennedy Library, the personal impact of these students has been remarkable. Every time I take a research workshop for an English class, a LibRAT has instructed it. Every time a professor is unable to turn on a projector, it is someone from LIT services that answers that phone call. Because of these students I have accessed course reserves and rented USBC chargers on more occasions then I can count and have excelled as a student because of their knowledge. The fact that students can help other students here at Kennedy and other locations on campus is simply too rewarding to pass up.

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