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Helping the University Get a “Read Up” on Education

Article profiling the staff members of the Education and Behavior Services Library
by Joe Savrock (March 2008)

“Wouldn't you love to visit a restaurant where every dish your mom and dad ever cooked and every meal you ever ordered could be served in a minute?” asks Steven Herb, head of Penn State’s Education and Behavioral Sciences Library (EBSL).

herb_s.jpgNo, Steven doesn’t serve up homemade delicacies at the Education Library. But he and his staff can fill anyone’s appetite for a good read. As Steven puts it, “Every book you ever read is in here.”

Steven enjoys his role as EBSL's head librarian. He sets a great example for the rest of the library staff. Last summer he was named Follett Chair by Dominican University in Chicago for his excellent teaching ability and scholarly achievement. The Follett Chair is one of only four library and information science chairs in the nation.

Steven is serving as a visiting scholar at Dominican for a one-to-three year stint, where he is conducting research and teaching a course each semester. “I am there one-third time, and two-thirds of the time I’m here at Penn State,” he said, noting that reference librarian Dawn Amsberry recently joined EBSL to help fill the void when he’s away.

Steven has a special interest in the power of storytelling. By virtue of his first-year seminar, “Stories and Storytelling: How Humans Become People,” Steven was named Penn State’s Most Innovative Faculty Member in 2000 by the Schreyer Institute for Innovation in Learning and the Undergraduate Student Government Academic Assembly.

Steven has observed a disturbing drop-off in reading for recreation. “Fewer than half of American adults now read literature,” he said. “The steepest rate of decline, 28 percent, has occurred in the youngest age groups—among adolescents and young adults. I am pleased that the text-based world is thriving electronically and that our world is as social an organism as ever, but we must find ways to keep our middle school, high school, and college-age kids reading literature as well.”

wright.jpgIndeed, the ESBL offers a comprehensive collection of books and other materials. Even with its enormous size, this library is a place that is user-friendly—a direct reflection of its pleasant and knowledgeable faculty and staff.

Librarian Carol Wright has been part of the EBSL since 1999. Carol has held various academic appointments with the University Libraries since 1969. She just completed a three-year term as a member of the University Libraries’ Collection Development Council, responsible for oversight of collections budget and management.

As ESBL librarian, Carol holds a number of responsibilities. Among them, she is the primary selector for the departments of Education Policy Studies, Learning and Performance Systems, and Counselor Education, Counseling Psychology, and Rehabilitation Services.

“We are very open to input from our users, and welcome feedback and suggestions about our resources, Web presence, and other features,” she says. “I think students are initially intimidated by the volume of materials and the organization of an academic library. But students within the College of Education soon find a home within EBSL as a base from which to expand their search for information.”

schmit.jpgCarol will be taking a sabbatical leave from late April through late August. “I’ll be studying the changes in the content of the ERIC database since the 2002 legislation,” she says.

Librarian Karla Schmit is a newcomer to EBSL, having arrived last fall. She is very enthusiastic about her new job. “I particularly enjoy both formal library instruction sessions as well as the informal—like when I’m in the stacks with a student helping him or her to choose a read-aloud book or find titles that will help to enrich a curriculum unit,” she said.

Karla is nearing completion of her doctorate. “I’ve completed all of my course work and I’m currently finishing my comprehensive exam papers,” she says. “I hope to be ABD after this spring semester.”

She knows full well that it’s not easy to juggle a full-time job and academics. The balancing act was particularly challenging while she had to make the two-hour commute from her previous position at Shippensburg University. “I just make time for the writing and research,” she said. The resources that she needed for her research turned out to be quite accessible. “It helps to be a librarian!” she quipped. “Looking back on the crazy schedule that I kept, I’m amazed that I did it. But it makes me feel like I can face almost any challenge that comes my way.”

ingram.jpg“The people here go out of their way to be helpful to patrons,” says library assistant Eloise Ingram. “Anyone needing assistance, in any way, just needs to ask.”

Eloise has been with EBSL since 1999. Her responsibilities include collection development, collection maintenance, and she acts as budget assistant.  “My job is mainly behind the scenes,” she says. “I'm in contact with faculty and grad students when ordering material for the library through their suggestions or donations.”

You sometimes can see Eloise working at the reference desk, where her clientele is largely undergraduate students. Eloise’s eagerness to help is typical of all the library staff members.

“We're happy to help anyone in any way that we can,” echos library supervisor Jenny Litz.

Jenny manages the library’s day-to-day activities. She also  is the Web editor and does various editorial duties. “Mostly, I make sure that the service desk is scheduled and staffed and the library runs smoothly,” she says. “I also hire and train the reference assistants who work the desk.”

 

She started working with the University Libraries in 1993, coming to Penn State after teaching school in Nashville, Tenn., for nine years.

“The library is a wonderful place to work and we have a great staff,” continued Jenny. “We’re happy to help anyone in any way that we can. We have a very interesting and diverse collection of materials—books, journals, kits, games, posters, multimedia—and encourage all faculty, staff, and students to make use of what we have.”

 



wermuth.jpgPennsylvania Center for the Book


In 1999, Penn State became the home of the Pennsylvania Center for the Book. The Center’s mission is to study, honor, celebrate, and promote books and literacy to all residents of Pennsylvania. The Library of Congress designates one center in each of the 50 states as well as in the District of Columbia.

“The Center for the Book is a living embodiment of what we’re trying to do as a continuing education university for all of Pennsylvania’s citizens,” said Steven, who serves as the Center’s director.

As the Center’s assistant director, Karla been working the majority of her time on two particular projects—“the Baker’s Dozen and Letters About Literature,” she says. “Each year we select a Baker’s Dozen—thirteen of the best picture books to support family literacy and to create a love of books and reading with preschool children.  Our Letters about Literature writing event invites student writers in 4th through 12th grade to tell authors what their books have meant to them.”

jalowitz.jpgKarla notes that the Center administers a number of programs such as the Public Poetry Project, which celebrates the work of Pennsylvania poets, and the nationally recognized Lee Bennett Hopkins Award for the best children's poetry book published annually. The Center provides book lists, educational guides, lesson plans, and resources for families of young children and those who work in language and literacy development.

Caroline Wermuth is the Center’s outreach coordinator. She's been a University Libraries employee since 1990, and has worked at the EBSL and the Center since August 2006. "I feel fortunate because, every day, through the many wonderful programs and awards we sponsor—the Baker’s Dozen, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Award for Children’s Poetry, Letters About Literature, and the Public Poetry Project—I work to promote two of my favorite interests:  reading and writing." 

Caroline contributes to these programs and awards by collecting and organizing information for and about the involved participants—many of whom are writers, publishers, librarians, and educators working in other parts of Pennsylvania and around the country—by facilitating various stages of the programs throughout the year.  She also writes public information releases about these programs and awards and helps plan related events.

"I have loved books and libraries for as long as I can remember," she says.  Here at EBSL and the Center for the Book, we strive to instill in children and young adults a lifelong love of reading, and encourage and support the work of educators and those preparing to be educators.  I am proud that my work contributes to this important mission."

Alan Jalowitz is editor and biographer of the online Literary and Cultural Heritage Map of Pennsylvania. Some eight years ago the Center developed the interactive Heritage Map, which now contains more than 900 biographies and links to thousands of digital sources. This unique resource includes county-by-county historical data, a digital bookshelf of contributions of each county to the history of Pennsylvania, samples of historical events from local newspapers, and a geological atlas of each county.

In 2005, the Heritage Map received a Daniel Boorstin Award from the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.

Alan says he provides “a conduit” for students to write and publish biographies as part of the Map project. “I also coordinate the addition of content of all sorts: biographical subjects, feature articles, and text availability,” he says.

“I believe we have undertaken a valuable and important project for the preservation of our state’s heritage,” continues Alan. “It’s absolutely fascinating to contemplate the breadth and depth of Pennsylvania’s contributions to American culture. To have that fascination be my primary task on this job is greatly rewarding.”