By Suzy Frisch
Growing up in Virginia, Kim Clarke got inspired to be a librarian after spending numerous hours in the stately downtown Richmond library. The children’s librarian was always attentive and encouraging, and Clarke knew she eventually wanted to have a job like hers.
Now an associate librarian at the University of Minnesota Libraries, Clarke serves a slightly different population. Yet her goals are much the same: to help people. Whether she’s working as a library liaison or counseling students on research strategies, Clarke finds it enormously gratifying to make instructors’ jobs easier and ignite students’ passion for learning.
‘I love what I do’
“I love what I do,” Clarke says. “Watching a student or researcher have this ‘aha!’ moment, their eyes glow and they get so excited. It’s wonderful to see when things start to gel.”
In search of four seasons and especially winter, Clarke came to the University in 1997 after library graduate school in North Carolina. She serves as library liaison to the departments of organizational leadership and professional development, curriculum and instruction, and gender and sexuality studies.
Clarke also holds workshops with graduate students about doing research for their thesis projects, counsels undergraduates on research methods, and helps professors and others navigate the Libraries.
One of the best parts of her job, Clarke says, is advising undergraduates, who often seek help with senior research papers required for graduation. Many have not yet needed to do extensive research, and they are intimidated by the vast scale of available materials.
Clarke observes that students often excel at making strong written arguments, but they haven’t needed to search for source material and integrate it into papers. She understands that the Libraries can be imposing for students and new faculty alike.
She’s a ‘research coach’
“My mission is to be a research coach. I take them from wherever they are now to show them the skills they already have to build a rapport so they can talk about their library anxiety,” notes Clarke, who shores up confidence by highlighting students’ other research skills, such as using Google to car shop.
“Researchers might start off feeling anxious, but at the end of the session, faces are relieved, they aren’t as frightened, and they feel more confident.”
Passionate about reading, science fiction, reality television, 90s music, and sim video games, Clarke also strives to stay current in her work subject areas and technology. That way, she can continue helping others.
“I’m always learning something and thinking about current issues in my discipline, managing new stuff and integrating the old with the new,” she adds. “That’s what keeps my job exciting, because things are always changing around here.”