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River Campus Libraries

On a Friday at Rush Rhees Library

Interview No. 107

0 - RCL team0 - RCL team

Sarah Thornton

Where are you from originally? What brought you to Rochester?

I’m from Troy, New York—the home of Uncle Sam! It was also known as Collar City, because collars used to not be attached to shirts, and Troy, NY made a lot of shirt collars.

I moved to Rochester in 2006 to attend U of R for undergrad; I studied Religion while I was here. I moved away for two years and came back, and have been working at RCL ever since!

What’s your favorite part of living in the Rochester area?

Three things: food, hiking trails, and biking trails. McCann’s is just the best—it’s a Friday treat for my boyfriend and I. We go and buy steak tips and peanut butter cookies, and cook up the steak at home and enjoy it. The sloppy joe’s at McCann’s are also amazing.

I’ve lived in almost every neighborhood in Rochester at this point—the Wedge, Upper Monroe, Highland Park, and Park Ave, and now I live in Mendon in a cabin in the woods. It’s a fairytale! All my friends are deer.

What made you want work in a library? What’s it like working in a library in 2017?

I love that libraries support so much scholarship. When I was completing my master’s degree, I realized that I didn’t want to be doing all this writing myself; I wanted to be supporting the people who were. I am surrounded by brilliant people here, and it’s really fun and exciting.

Tell me a little bit about working at River Campus Libraries at U of R. What’s it like? What makes RCL unique?

This place is really fun! We like trying new things and you have the freedom to fail. It’s a very collaborative environment. We have to showcase who we are and what we do, and I get to be myself. They see who you are here and they appreciate you.

Do you have any favorite fun facts about either the history of Rochester or the library/the University?

We open the tower of the library for students to go up and see one of the best views in town, twice a year. The opportunities are during Senior Week in May and on Scare Fair in October. It’s unique to the University community.

Grant Dever

Where are you from originally? What brought you to Rochester?

I’m from Honeoye Falls, a cute little town 25 minutes away from the city. It’s a lot of farmland, but not a lot of farms. I applied Early Decision to the University of Rochester and wanted to school here, where I majored in Business. I also completed UR’s unique Take 5 program, where a student can take a tuition-free fifth year to study any interdisciplinary subject matter they choose. My Take 5 was in Modernism and Creative Writing.

I’ve stayed in Rochester because my family is here and I’ve found there’s sufficient opportunity for me to expand my competency.

What’s your favorite part of living in the Rochester area?

It is a community—not too big, just a nice size city. I always know a couple people from different parts of my life wherever I go. I also like the way people are here; they’re friendly and have a broad perspective. It’s a unique Upstate/Western New York ethos. Saying ‘hi’ on the street is special.

What made you want to work in a library? What’s it like working in a library in 2017?

I love the project I’m working on, the iZone. It’s an innovative idea—a multidisciplinary hub meant to focus on diverse projects. We help students get started and connect them with resources. I think it’s really important work, helping students to expand their competencies and empowering them to take initiative.

Overall, it’s cool to be a part of a library in the climate we’re in. Libraries are a place to congregate and discuss. Plus, libraries preserve books, and you feel comfortable to read about whatever influences you want without fear.

Tell me a little bit about working at River Campus Libraries at U of R. What’s it like? What makes RCL unique?

I like the coworkers here—right now, the team I’m on is very focused on starting up iZone, but there are many opportunities ahead to integrate with the rest of the library. You can tell that people who work here are passionate and curious, and want to continue to develop and learn. I also love the space and being able to work in such a beautiful building with beautiful architecture all over campus. Plus, I live nearby and can walk to work in just 12 minutes!

Do you have any favorite fun facts about either the history of Rochester or the library/the University?

Something I think about every day is that the three doors at the front of Rush Rhees are all inscribed with different words. There’s a door of the past, the present, and the future. I make a concerted effort to walk through the door of the present every day. I aim to be mindful and not vacillate endlessly between the past and the future.

Jessica Lacher-Feldman

Where are you from originally? What brought you to Rochester?

I’m from Schenectedy, but I lived in Alabama and Louisiana for 16 years prior to coming to Rochester. I moved to Rochester in July 2016 to take a position here as the Assistant Dean, Special Collections and Preservation; Joseph N. Lambert and Harold B. Schleifer Director, Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation.

What’s your favorite part of living in the Rochester area?

It feels like home to me after only a short period of time—I grew up in Upstate New York. I love the history and the community here.

What made you want to be a librarian? What’s it like being a librarian in 2017?

Well, working in Special Collections and as an archivist is really a whole different breed of librarian. I came here through history and culture and a lifelong passion for museums and public history. We have so many different projects that involve technology in different ways, like processing technology and getting it ready for use. We have exciting things happening—it’s limitless. I’m thinking about projects like uniting collections in different places. Technology is a tool and a mechanism, so it goes hand in hand with what we do in Rare Books & Special Collections. We are invested in analog.

Tell me a little bit about working at River Campus Libraries at U of R. What’s it like? What makes RCL unique?

I studied at SUNY Albany and worked at two giant public schools, so this is my first foray into working at a private university. It’s a beautiful campus and the people here are really great. Students are so creative, smart, motivated, and engaged. The faculty here are wonderful too.

Do you have any favorite fun facts about either the history of Rochester or the library/the University?

This is a community that embraces difference and advocate, and that goes back all the way to before statehood. We point to Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass as progressives in our history, but it is more than just them—more is possible. It’s very palpable; you can see it in the archives. It’s not just the famous people!

Kim Hoffman

Where are you from originally? What brought you to Rochester?

My story is a bit complicated and sometimes it's hard to say exactly where I'm from. I was born in the UK, lived in Canada (Toronto) from age 6 months to 10 years, and spent my formative years in Buffalo NY - middle school through high school. From there, I've lived in New Hampshire (for college), France (for study and work), and New Orleans (for my first professional librarian position). I came to Rochester for a full-time, permanent librarian position at SUNY Geneseo. All roads lead back to Western NY.

What’s your favorite part of living in the Rochester area?

I love the opportunities it affords that one might get in a big city - interesting restaurants, cultural events, festivals - but also the small town feel where everything is within 10-15 minutes driving distance. We also get to enjoy the natural beauty of the area from Letchworth State Park to the Finger Lakes to Lake Ontario.

What made you want to be a librarian? What’s it like being a librarian in 2017?

During my undergraduate studies at the University of New Hampshire, I was awarded work study and thought that working in the library would be an interesting job. I had no intentions of becoming a librarian, nor did I realize at the time that was even a potential career path. I very much enjoyed the "helping" aspect of the work study job as well as the variety of roles and responsibilities I was given - shelving and shelf-reading books in the stacks, working at the Circulation Desk, checking out materials at the Reserve Desk. etc. It wasn't until I was working in Paris post-graduation and student loans started calling my name that I harkened back to an amazing capstone research experience with Peter, the Reference Librarian, that I considered applying for admission to a Masters of Library Science (MLS) program. Fast forward to 2017 and my current position fulfills me just as much as the work study position where every day brings new challenges, discoveries, and lifelong learning, and I am able to help instill that same sense of curiosity, detective work, and feeling of research success in the people with whom I meet.

Tell me a little bit about working at River Campus Libraries at U of R. What’s it like? What makes RCL unique?

I will soon celebrate my third year anniversary working at RCL and I am still learning new things about the library, the campus, the students and the faculty every day. It doesn't hurt that there are so many amazing projects going on at any one time (in the library and on campus) and that the library is facing dynamic changes - in staff, in services we provide, in plans we're making for the future. A moving target for the time being which keeps every day interesting and different from the last. We are kept on our toes, thinking of new ways to work, new people or groups to work with, and new challenges to brainstorm. The level of expertise that lives within the library is humbling and I love that discovering new strengths and special interests in my colleagues brings innovative ways in which we can work together. I guess I've been spoiled by working at two libraries where collaboration is a given, so I always feel very fortune when I hear of outside stories where library staff still live in silos, between themselves and with campus partners.

Do you have any favorite fun facts about either the history of Rochester or the library/the University?

No fun fact per se, but I am mesmerized by the Rush Rhees Tower, particularly when it is lit up at night. A true beacon that sits at the center of campus. Eight years ago, I spent time in a maternity room at Strong Hospital where my nightly view out the window was of the lit tower. I did not work at UR at the time but as I look back on those days, I wonder if there was something already written into my work history.

Zari Kamarei

Where are you from originally? What brought you to Rochester?

I am from Ahwaz, Iran.  My job brought me to Rochester.

What’s your favorite part of living in the Rochester area?

My friends, the people I work with, and hiking the parks in Upstate NY are my favorites in Rochester.

What made you want to be a librarian? What’s it like being a librarian in 2017?

When I was an undergraduate student, I got a job at the reference department of Indiana University’s undergraduate library.  I really enjoyed helping my fellow students to find information.  I worked there for couple of years, and finally decided with a background in Physics to obtain a Master’s in Library and Information Science and chose science librarianship as my career.

Tell me a little bit about working at River Campus Libraries at U of R. What’s it like? What makes RCL unique?

Working at RCL has given me the greatest satisfaction of my career.  I work with fantastic colleagues, the faculty and students are really engaged, and my favorite part is helping them navigate the information land.  RCL is truly a collaborative hub of innovation, and as science librarian, nothing gives me more satisfaction than that.

Lauren Di Monte

Where are you from originally? What brought you to Rochester?

I’m from Toronto, Ontario. I lived in North Carolina for a little while before moving to Rochester for this job—I’m the Data & Research Impact Librarian here at RCL. I love Rochester so far! Raleigh, North Carolina is a classic, sprawling southern city, and now I live in the Wedge and can walk everywhere. It’s been transformative. The small town vibe of Rochester is nice too.

What’s your favorite part of living in the Rochester area?

The neighborhood feel. Living in the Wedge, everyone has a dog, and people are just obsessed with dogs. I also enjoy the diversity of stuff that’s around here, like bands, DJs, record stores—the scale of the city makes it just the right size.

What made you want to be a librarian? What’s it like being a librarian in 2017?

I worked at a library in Toronto before I moved to the States, and I learned that it was very people focused, plus I got to work with technology. I got my degree while working there, and it was really beneficial to get real world experience while I did it. I got my first job after that at North Carolina State. My job now combines the people focus and technology with a social edge, which is cool.

In my current role, I’m basically a project manager. I work with faculty to help understand research data. I’m an enabler—I help build capacity. If we need to get a new system in place, I help figure out what tools, workflow, and people are needed. I’m a connector. Everyone always thinks that a perk of being a librarian is getting to buy books—and as a librarian, I’ve never bought a book! Instead, I buy a lot of technologies and databases. The colleagues here at RCL are tremendous.

Tell me a little bit about working at River Campus Libraries at U of R. What’s it like? What makes RCL unique?

Rush Rhees Library is the heart of the campus. Everybody comes through here; you get a cross section of the campus. People are always excited to meet at the library. One thing that makes us unique is we’re constantly trying to shift expectations. We’re in an iconic, historic building, but people are open minded about what we can be. For example, a startup called Hardlight VR that was founded by UR students came back to demo their hardware, and at first, students were like, “Why is the library doing that?” But then it was like, “Of course the library is doing this!”

The culture here is very agile. There’s a ‘can do’ attitude and no one is hemmed in by other stuff. If there are ten projects going on at once, we all sit down together and figure out how to get it done.

Do you have any favorite fun facts about either the history of Rochester or the library/the University?

Rush Rhees Library has a ghost named Pete Nicosia. At our annual Scare Fair on 10/27, we did a whole AR experience all around Pete! You can check it out in the Instagram takeover.

Huge thanks to the staff and librarians at the River Campus Libraries (U of R) for sharing their stories! For more of each person's perspective, check out our Instagram.