Among Honnold/Mudd Library’s nearly two million volumes on everything from Shakespeare to structural geology, there is an even bigger collection of untapped resources. It lives on the web and comes to students through online periodicals and journal databases, all provided free of charge to students of the Claremont Colleges.
In an effort to better connect students to this expansive set of resources, the library recently hired a new Instruction Services Manager and “E-Librarian” named Char Booth. With a focus on the intersection of education, research, technology, and design in library services, Booth brings a wealth of expertise and a new vision to Honnold/Mudd.
In her position, Booth will manage and develop the library’s teaching and learning initiatives, participate in cross-college outreach efforts, and provide in-person as well as virtual research assistance. An emerging American Library Association (ALA) leader, Booth holds master’s degrees in educational technology and information studies, and she spent the past three years working as the E-Learning Librarian and liaison to the School of Information at UC Berkeley. She has conducted research on a range of topics from teaching effectiveness to information for people with disabilities, and recently designed and piloted a five-district study on the ways California Community College (CCC) students use and perceive libraries and technology.
“Mostly, I’m engaged in exploring the changing meaning of librarianship at a dynamic time in the history of information access and education,” Booth said.
After spending a few years at Berkeley, Booth said she was excited to join a smaller community.
“I liked the idea of getting back to a liberal arts college environment, which was so important to my own development as a thinker and doer,” said Booth, who is a graduate of Reed College in Oregon.
Berkeley allowed Booth to exercise what she called the “advocate and activist” side of her professional identity.
“At Berkeley, people listen to what you say,” she said, adding that her interests also include fair and equal access to knowledge, intellectual freedom, and creating a safe public space for self-directed learning.
“All that advocacy I did at Berkeley, I get to put into action here,” Booth said. “I was excited about a job where I could experiment in so many directions, build close relationships with students and faculty, and hopefully make a real impact on the intellectual life of the campuses.”
Students and faculty have responded positively to Booth’s contribution to the 5Cs.
“Char Booth has been an amazing resource and stellar mentor to our EA students and me,” said Char Miller, Director of the 5C Environmental Analysis (EA) program, with which Booth has been working particularly closely. Working with Miller and Honnold/Mudd Science Librarian Sean Stone, Booth has helped senior EA majors develop and improve their theses.
“The larger goal is for the students—and me—to learn how to use the library’s many tools and databases to enrich the complex processes of research and writing,” Miller said. “These are skills that are transferable across the curriculum, and will help our students become more information-literate, qualities that, not incidentally, will make them more savvy citizens.”
Students echoed Miller’s comments. Becky Armstrong SC ’12 said Booth was instrumental in helping her conduct research for her thesis.
“Char is incredible because her mind seems to be able to stretch in many directions all at once,” Armstrong said. “She can focus on small details of a project at the same time as conceptualizing the larger umbrella framework you’re working under.”
“She’s also clearly young and hip, which brings such a freshness to the whole field of [librarianship],” Armstrong added.
The addition of Booth to the library staff is just one of many steps Honnold/Mudd has taken to make its resources more accessible to students. The library made five new hires recently and is looking to add another, according to Booth.
Some changes are less conventional than others. Booth’s colleague Stone recently converted a yellow hot dog cart into a mobile library that he wheels around campus. Elsewhere, Honnold/Mudd Instruction Librarian Natalie Tagge is exploring ways to collaborate with student groups like the Writing Centers, while Booth and her colleagues have been working with the 7C Queer Resource Center (QRC) to update and re-imagine its small lending library.
Honnold/Mudd also launched a series of workshops for students on topics like Library Bootcamp: Get to Know Your Library in Thirty Minutes, Says Who and So What?: Establishing Authority and Credibility, Wikipedia: Know Thy Frenemy, and Renegade Research. Booth and her team have even started two library plots at the Pomona College Organic Farm.
“I’ve never worked with a group of librarians and staff so committed to the research needs of their community, so I can confidently say that the library can be one of the most supportive aspects of a student’s experience here, if they understand what the library can do for them,” Booth said. “It’s that piece—building understanding of what we can do for you—that I’m personally invested in exploring.”
One path Booth said she wants to explore in Claremont is the role of the library in supporting student creativity.
“A library is certainly a place where people make and create scholarship, but a library should also have physical objects—tools, practical things that people might need in their lives but don’t want to buy,” she said. One such object is the library’s button maker, which the library recently used to create new marketing materials.
“We are slinging out ‘Love your library’ pins… as well as having ‘Maker Breaks’ where we invite students to make custom pins out of the old maps and book covers that libraries tend to recycle,” she said. Booth said she’d like to see video editing materials added to the library’s resources.
“As a library I think we want our services to reflect what students want us to be, and in turn to reflect the performance that faculty expect of their students,” she said.
“I love being a librarian, and I’m finding that this is pretty much an excellent place to do exactly what I love,” she added.