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Indiana Libraries

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Student employees have been called the unsung heroes of most modern academic libraries. As the roles of librarians have shifted, the role of the student employee has too changed. They have been asked to take on more duties such as staffing the primary service point, handling circulation and reference, shelving, digitization.

Some librarians feel concerned that students are now responsible for tasks that used to fall under their purview. As the line between “librarian work” and “student employee work” has been blurred, expectations for student employee performance have gotten progressively higher. Supervisors responsible for the management and training of student employees feel increased pressure to ensure that student employees are capable of these. When expectations are not met, members of the library staff worry that levels of service are decreasing. Over time, this pressure builds and “supervisors run the risk of not only the inefficient use of valuable resources, but also a bad employment situation for the student, the supervisor, and the library” (Kathman & Kathman, 2000, p. 176). This is not cost-effective or beneficial for any of the involved parties. Libraries want to provide what Scrogham and McGuire call “an opportunity for involvement that is both meaningful and educational while assisting them in becoming successful members of an increasingly global society” (as cited in McGinniss, 2014). How can an environment be created where student employees meet high expectations and successfully accomplish all that is ask of them? Butler University has been successful with a unique approach to student employment known as the Information Commons (IC) program.


Originally published by the Indiana Library Federation under a Creative Commons Attribution License in Indiana Libraries, 2014, Volume 33, Issue 2.