Slice of Life

SU librarians and students tell stories of why they chose their career path

Liam Sheehan | Asst. Photo Editor

Syracuse University is home to seven different libraries run by staff, student assistants and 36 librarians. These libraries contain resources ranging from an Academy Award statuette to architectural drawings and host hundreds of databases and 25,000 publication subscriptions online.

SU’s School of Information Studies is rated the 4th best school for library and information studies according to U.S. News and World Report. The master’s degree program allows students to choose courses specific to his or her interests and focus areas, and also offers online and off-campus course options.

Some SU library students and employees stumbled upon the profession by chance while others have always held an interest in information studies.

Marianne Swanberry Hanley, Preservation Department:

Marianne Swanberry Hanley helped start a library in a dorm at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. While she had always loved reading and “grew up in the library,” she said volunteering at this student-run lending system solidified her decision to enroll in the iSchool at SU.

After earning her master’s degree, she worked as a law library clerk and spent seven years in a public library system before finding a job at Bird Library’s preservation department.

Now, she and another staff member oversee grad students as they repair everything from modern paperbacks to books from the early 1900s. Hanley said the library never throws anything out, and her department can usually repair and return a book to circulation within a week.

She said not every college has a preservation department, and she feels lucky to be at one that does. However, Hanley’s favorite part of her job is interacting with students. This is something she took away from her time in the public libraries, where she saw the importance of introducing books at a young age.

While the students she works with now are older, she believes the same ideas still apply.

“They are continually learning,” she said. “I’m learning from them, they’re learning from me … it’s just that constant back and forth that we have.”

Hanley said she worries that many students don’t know about everything the library has to offer, such as subject specialists and research tools.

“You can even text in a research question,” she said. “That’s amazing.”

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Liam Sheehan | Asst. Photo Editor

Sylvia Hetzel, Library and Information Studies Graduate Student:

While studying abroad in Florence as a Goucher University undergraduate student, Sylvia Hetzel loved the city so much she decided to permanently relocate. While in Italy, she worked as a teacher and interpreter before becoming an administrative assistant at the SU Florence program in 1993. In 2011, however, she filled the place of the program’s library coordinator.

That position compelled her to spend a year back in America, enrolling in the SU library and information studies program, something she had previously considered but never committed to.

“I was afraid that it would be boring. I was afraid that it would be too static and just cold and hard cataloging,” she said. “However, once I started working in a library, I found out what a good feeling it is to help people find what they’re looking for.”

Hetzel said she is especially interested in academic librarianship because she enjoys the challenge of finding information. She considers the ability to research an important quality for a librarian.

“More than ever, we need people who are professionally trained to weed through the superfluous and the irrelevant to get to good, useful, credible information,” she said. “There’s a lot to navigate in the digital world.”

She said the role of the public library is changing, as it focuses on the needs of the community and offering services to meet those needs. Hetzel said she sees libraries as an important resource for immigrants in particular, giving them the opportunity to integrate into English-speaking society.

Hetzel said she disregards the notion that libraries and librarians are becoming obsolete.

People think libraries are no longer relevant, because you can Google anything you need and any question you have. However, those of us in the field know that’s not the case.
Sylvia Hetzel

David Lankes, Library and Information Studies Professor:

While he doesn’t hold a master’s in library and information studies, Professor David Lankes considers himself to be a “feral librarian” who has learned from years of experience and other technological degrees. He completed both his undergraduate and post-graduate studies at SU, and now teaches multiple courses at the iSchool.

While some say libraries are becoming obsolete, Lankes explained they are simply returning to their original use after years of focusing on organizing tools and materials.

“Now that we have more means of delivering information and documents … it really frees libraries and librarians up to get back to what they are doing, which is learning,” he said.

According to his student, Sylvia Hetzel, he is also “active in transformation of libraries from collections to active participants in local communities.”

To Lankes, this means seeing what people in the community need and working to provide it, in both public and academic settings.

“A librarian has to be just as adept at working with a faculty member as they do with the materials and the publications that they come out with,” he said.

Lankes also said libraries fulfill needs far beyond books and research. They often help women escape abusive situations and provide resources in times of crisis. For example, the public libraries provided food and makeshift schooling during the protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

He also said many people do not know how much should be attributed to librarians.

“People really need to understand that the core of a good library is not its collections or its buildings,” he said. “It’s the professionals and people in it.”

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Liam Sheehan | Asst. Photo Editor

Isabella Baxter, Library and Information Studies Graduate Student:

In elementary school, Isabella Baxter was always paired with the librarian for her class’s buddy program. Baxter soon considered the librarian her best friend, and decided she wanted to emulate her idol when she grew up. While Baxter later considered this a “little kid goal” and joked about it through high school, she found herself seriously considering library school after working in her undergraduate school’s library at Gettysburg College.

“It isn’t everyone’s first choice of job, which is a shame because it’s a wonderful field,” she said. “But it ended up being my first choice.”

Originally from the Finger Lakes area, Baxter planned to earn her master’s in a warmer, southern climate. However, after attending an open house event at the iSchool, she decided to apply to and ultimately attend SU.

“I really liked all of the stories that everyone had to tell,” she said. “And everyone was really excited about the library program, so that made me really excited about it.”

Baxter aspires to work in a small academic library, but she believes all libraries are growing and becoming centers for socialization and collaboration.

Additionally, she said, libraries work to serve and support the surrounding community. This is why, she said, she believes there are so many types of libraries.

Libraries help communities become better places, she said. In turn, the librarian helps fulfill this goal on an individual level.

“When you actually start working in a library setting, you realize it is a lot more than checking out books,” she said. “It’s talking to people and figuring out what they want.”

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Liam Sheehan | Asst. Photo Editor

Tarida Anantachai, Learning Commons Librarian:

As a learning commons librarian, Tarida Anantachai said she has three roles. She does frontline research, both in person and virtually, she teaches faculty and staff about research in various sessions and classes and she establishes relationships with other units on campus.

Anantachai didn’t picture herself in these roles as an undergraduate, but said her librarianship was “a long time coming.” She originally went into the publishing industry, but she began to notice similarities between the two fields, especially after talking to various librarians.

“It seemed to be my calling,” she said. “So I decided to take that leap of faith.”

After graduating from library school at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Anantachai’s first job was a resident librarian position, an entry-level opportunity to gain experience, at SU. Anantachai said she is fortunate to have been able to stay and enter her current position.

She believes libraries are important community spaces, even in an academic setting.

On a campus like this that is very segmented into different schools, we serve as a central hub, whether that be a place they can get information, grab a bite to eat or to meet up with friends.
Tarida Anantachai

She said she also sees the library as an important tool for students, providing information to support academic success and personal growth. She hopes to help students find, evaluate and use the information to formulate their own thoughts and ideas.

One of her favorite library memories comes from her first semester at SU, when she helped with a program called “Bird After Dark.” At the event, students were locked in the library after-hours to complete research-based challenges, enjoy games and eat food.

“It was incredible to be part of that and see the library as more than just a serious space,” she said. “It was exhilarating, it was exhausting, but it was a lot of fun.”

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