“I can't say this enough; the library is for so much more than just reading books. Libraries are institutions of research, of exploration. We exist to serve our patrons, so use us!”
Lexi Smith was double majoring in creative writing and literature at WMU when she decided to apply for a job in the library. That job ended up becoming more than just a part time gig, as she was influenced by the people and the place itself, leading Lexi to her dream job as humanities librarian at WMU.
“I first started working at WMU University Libraries as a Rare Book Room Student Assistant, which I applied for on Handshake. I absolutely loved and cherished my time with the Special Collections department,” Lexi said. “I was able to actually handle rare materials such as facsimiles (we have an amazing facsimile of the Book of Kells), manuscripts, artist's books (these can be hard to explain but they are vastly cool - go see them!), archival materials, and so much more. As a bibliophile, the Rare Book Room was heaven for me.”
Lexi says the best part about working at the library as a student was having access to rare materials.
“We have a collection from Black Sparrow Press, which owned a lot of prints of signed Charles Bukowski poetry collections, and I was tasked with sorting through all of them to look for something for a graduate student. It actually brought me to tears. I know to some that might sound lame, but Special Collections is amazing and I stand by it,” Lexi recalled.
“I owe my gratitude to the faculty there for introducing me to all things Special Collections, and a special shout out to Sue Steuer for acting as a mentor to me while I navigated applications to grad school.”
Because of that guidance, Lexi’s next step after completing her undergraduate work at WMU was the ALA accredited program for a Masters in Science in Library & Information Science at University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign. She completed that degree in under two years, just in time to find herself back at WMU for her ‘dream come true’ position.
“Working in the libraries helped curate professional relationships and meaningful experiences that would eventually aid me in every job I worked at after graduating. I knew I wanted to go into library work, but I worked a variety of jobs, and working for the University Libraries helped shape my customer-first narrative, introducing new ways to interact with the public and patrons in general,” Lexi said.
Now, as humanities librarian (a one year-long appointment), Lexi is working to be available and transparent while she learns as much as she can before starting her next adventure. As the humanities librarian, she is responsible for instructing students on information literacy, research management, and helping them find the tools and resources they need to conduct reliable research. She is also available to consult students on more in-depth research questions.
“As an employee now, my favorite part of the job is being able to show students what we have to offer them at the library. So many do not realize we are here, and just being available to help students find sources for their projects has been so gratifying,” she said.
“If I could shout one thing from the rooftops, it would probably be that each discipline has a corresponding librarian. If you're a nursing student, or if you're studying aviation, engineering, creative writing, music, history, world languages - whatever you are studying, there is a librarian for you. We can help you with your research! That's our job!”