Librarians: More Than Dealing With Books

When a student or a faculty member walks into the O’Malley Library, they take for granted that books are going to be ordered, printers and computers that are fast and ready to be used, and the person waiting to help them in case their research paper is due in three hours.

But all these logistics are not that easily managed, and there are people behind the curtains who work to make the day-to-day of this 85,000 square feet building run as smoothly as possible.

The person in charge of over 250,000 books and 100 computers is Dr. William Walters, executive director of the Mary Alice & Tom O’Malley Library.

He has been a librarian for over 20 years, working in places such as Cornell University and St. Lawrence University, and finally, because of its proximity to his family and what he calls the perfect balance between size and resources, he has been at Manhattan College for over a year and a half.

“Students see librarians at the reference desk, and in few other places, but a lot of what we do is behind the scenes,” Dr. Walter said. “A whole lot of effort goes into building collections that meet student needs. Then, making those materials accessible, maintaining the library catalogued, maintaining research guys…” and the list goes on and on.

Although he is surrounded by pieces of printed-paper at work, he affirms that his entire life revolves around media.

“I read books, I watch TV, I listen to music, I surf the web… that’s my life, and that’s what I enjoy doing,” says Dr. Walter. “Not all librarians are like that, but I think most of us are.”

But he is not the only one around the five floors and fours subfloors of Manhattan College’s Library. Valerie Jimenez, library information assistant, is in charge of refilling the printers if they run out of paper or ink, checking in and checking out books, assisting students to locate a certain item and, in previous years, to be in charge of the controversial study rooms.

She admits, as MC alumni, that she would have loved knowing that librarians were there for helping her when she was doing her research papers and thesis.

“I didn’t really use the resources as I should have. […] You don’t really use databases as you should, and they [librarians] just help you out to make everything easier.”

Today, what she loves about the job she acquired when she had just finished school is interacting with students from different backgrounds, states, and even nationalities.

“I like meeting new people and helping them out,” Jimenez says. “I was in your shoes once, and when I see those kids during midterms and finals week, with their worried faces, I just want to tell them: everything will be fine.”

In the future, Dr. Walter would like staff, students, and faculty to be able to see the library in broader terms. Today, he says, some Jaspers see the library only as the provider of reserved readings for certain classes when the reality is that librarians serve as a connection to external information that is not necessarily available in the library’s collection.

“Today, students seem very reluctant to ask for that kind of stuff: statistics, data… but we can help with that,” Dr. Walter says. “My second goal is to improve the reliability in day-to-day little things: make sure that the printers work, that computers work, can you log-on quickly… the details to make sure that those things are reliable.”