By Allison Campbell-Jensen
Each year, the Friends of the University Libraries sponsors the outstanding library student employee awards. The two winners each receive $250, plus an accomplishment to list on their resume. The Friends award committee agrees that the Libraries has amazing student employees. One committee member said: “It is a great comfort in this trying time to see how well our students rise to the occasion.”
Meet our 2021 winners:
Marshall Mabry is a junior in CLA with an Urban Studies major and a minor in Environmental Science, Policy and Management. “From his first day working at the John R. Borchert Map Library in September 2018, Marshall has stood out for his versatility, resourcefulness, professionalism, and contributions to both supporting library users and improving collection access,” wrote nominator Dana Peterson, Library Assistant.
He was quick to learn about this special collection and became skillful in offering a variety of online and print cartographic resources to those with reference questions when full-time staff were not available.
While the Map Library has been closed to users since fall 2020, Mabry’s ingenuity has been particularly appreciated, she wrote. Given general guidelines to shift 2,342 horizontally shelved atlases — flat folios — Mabry devised and proposed a plan of his own. Once it was approved, he single-handedly moved the materials within a few weeks, showing “excellent judgment in assessing space for optimal access” and reporting duplicates and items in poor condition.
He also contributes to the Map Library’s pre-1930s historical maps digitization project, pulling maps that are sent to Digital Library Services for scanning and ultimately will be made available at UMedia. “This demands careful attention to detail to find the correct maps, frequent problem-solving, and documentation of issues for follow-up,” Peterson wrote. Mabry also scanned about 250 “Library use only” maps for a University department that requested them through Interlibrary Loan and more than 50 Map Library items for University and non-affiliated patrons — a great example of service in a challenging time
“Marshall has stood out for his versatility, resourcefulness, professionalism, and contributions to both supporting library users and improving collection access.”
He’s drawn to the work by his passion for libraries. Read to as a child, Mabry was visiting the North Branch library while his age was still in the single digits.
“I would routinely leave with a stack half as high as my little body,” he says. “I’d read them by the end of the week and go back for more.”
When he’s traveling, he also likes to visit libraries. Touring the 900-year-old Strahov Monastery in Prague, he caught glimpses of its ancient library and was impressed by its beauty.
He’s pleased to be named one of the Outstanding Library Student Employees, which demonstrates that Map Library staff are proud of his work. And he’s grateful to his experience for another reason: a former co-worker introduced him to his major. “I was looking for a way to take environmental science, plants, and beautification and bring that to urban landscapes,” Mabry says; Urban Studies fits so well.
Tyler Christianson is a graduating senior majoring in Information Technology Infrastructure, with minors in computer science and Information Technology Infrastructure Networking and Systems, within the College of Continuing and Professional Studies.
He began as a user in the Breakerspace as a freshman, says his nominator Erik Halaas, Innovation Outreach and Program Specialist for the Toaster Innovation Hub in Walter Library. He quickly moved to volunteer, then to Toaster Ambassador, and was promoted to Lead Toaster Ambassador.
Christianson melds his knowledge, skills, and passion and shares it with others, Halaas wrote, “through countless coaching / training sessions, both structured and ad-hoc; creation and facilitation of in-person and virtual workshops; efforts to develop, streamline, and improve systems and processes in the space; and a willingness to share his personal projects, success and missteps, with any and all interested parties.”
He also has contributed greatly to the welcoming environment of the Toaster, Halaas wrote, with warmth and an eagerness to help. “I’ve always been a people person,” Christianson says, which smooths first contacts and makes it easy to interact with others.
But the threat of COVID-19 closed the Toaster only four weeks after it was opened. Halaas and team then turned to Christianson to find out if it would be feasible to connect to users through a platform another university was using, called Discord. Christianson had experience with Discord through prior projects; “I designed [the Toaster Community Discord] from the ground up.”
Users of the Toaster Community Discord can share ideas through audio chats, face-to-face video meetings, and text, as well as attending workshops and accessing resources. Because it was originally a gaming platform, Discord has a role-based system.
“We liked it because you could have people join it with limitations, and have people join it who have privileges,” Christianson says. Halaas adds that this allowed users to have a range of experiences, from private staff-only pages to broad public events and announcement channels. “We hope this simplifies the experience for users, allows folks to target communication, and encourages student connections around areas of interest.”
More than 100 students, alumni, and staff are using Toaster Community Discord, and Halaas expects it to continue to connect Toaster members even after the time of social distancing has dissipated. For connecting people to all the Toaster has to offer, Tyler Christianson was named one of our Outstanding Library Student Employees for 2021.
While Tyler is graduating this spring, he still is staying connected to the Toaster. He will be presenting his work on the Toaster Community Discord in collaboration with student partners from Design U at the 2021 Makerspaces for Innovation and Research in Academics (MIRA) Conference on July 15. Adds Halaas: “For details, keep an eye on the Toaster calendar or, better yet, come find us on Discord!”