Tapping Student Talent to Diversify the Library Collection

At the university where I work, all students are required to participate in a cross-cultural experience. Some students go away for a semester abroad–often through a partner institution. Some professors here take students to a different country for anywhere from 1-3 weeks. But it doesn’t have to be international either–we also offer domestic trips to different cities, rural locations, the US/Mexico borderland, and Native American reservations. They key is to create an immersive experience. You must go beyond simply being a “tourist.” I’ve chaperoned two trips to Italy and it’s a rewarding experience for students.

As part of the preparation, the library collection often comes into play. A lot of the cross-cultural experiences require students to read a novel set in the locale/country they are visiting, written by an author from that locale/country. The librarians see a lot of research questions like:

“I need to find a book set in Peru and written by a Peruvian author.”

…And that’s when we found our library collection was not too diverse. A lot of the fiction was 1) white and 2) US or Eurocentric. We needed to diversify.

This is where student workers come into play. One of our excellent circulation student workers happens to be an English and Global Studies major. Besides having her do regular circ desk work, why not use her skills from English and Global Studies? It’s a chance for her to use her course experiences and apply them. After talking with her, this is the project we devised:

  1. Get a list of countries/regions/locales where students can complete their cross-cultural experience requirement.
  2. Using Novelist, Amazon, Worldcat, and other tools, research books set in some of the areas where students will be studying, written by authors from those areas.
  3. Check our library catalog to make sure we don’t already own the items.
  4. Organize the list by area, followed by titles/authors.
  5. Using her English/Global Studies background knowledge, prioritize novels by areas with greatest need.

The student worker was able to make recommendations using knowledge from the courses she had taken and then used the tools to find more books. She was passionate about the project and it gave her the opportunity to see how the library is directly connected to student success and support. It was also a project she could put on her resume. It’s important to mention that we always need to be mindful that we are not exploiting students for their labor (and the student worker was paid for this work), but if we can find worthwhile projects that match student interests and career goals, then go for it!

I then was able to order the novels using the library’s “diversity” fund line in our materials budget. Several years ago we had carved out this fund line from the “big” materials budget explicitly for diversifying the collection. We use a broad definition for diversity, and this project fit the bill.

Now when a student says, “I’m studying in Morocco and I need a novel by a Moroccan author”…we have it!

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Finding Uncle Dan

In 2018, with all the technology and communication available, people can still slip off the radar. There seems to be this insistence that everyone is online; everyone has a smartphone. Of course, that’s overly simplistic. It ignores the digital divide and people who simply, for whatever reason, choose not to engage online. That’s the case with my Uncle Dan.

My mom texted me the other day saying she’s been trying to get ahold of Dan, her brother-in-law, but found that his phone number was disconnected. I hadn’t thought of my Uncle Dan in quite awhile. He was my dad’s older brother–by quite a few years–and the sole surviving sibling after my dad passed away in 2012.

Meeting Uncle Dan
The first time I met Dan was about 1980…but I don’t remember it; I was only around two years old. My mom and I had flown out to California to attend a wedding on her side of the family, but it was Dan–my dad’s brother–that graciously offered to pick us up at LAX.

The second time I met Dan was in 1989…and this I remember. My mom, dad, and I had flown out to California to see family and do the Disneyland thing. We visited with Dan in Long Beach where he lived. I remember him taking us to his favorite breakfast joint, Eggs, Etc.¬†We also ventured down with him to Mission San Juan Capistrano, Dana Point, and Laguna Beach.

The following year in 1990, he came out to Indiana by train (he didn’t like to fly) to visit with us and his mom (my grandma) who wasn’t always the easiest person to get along with.

That was the last time I saw him in person. He and my dad weren’t close. They loved each other, but a phone call on Christmas and birthdays usually sufficed. After my dad passed away, we lost touch. That’s on me.

About Uncle Dan
So here’s what I know (or think I know) about Dan. His full name is Daniel Alan Hardenbrook. He is around 83 years old as of 2018. He is a U.S. military veteran, having served in Korea. I’m not sure which branch of the military. I believe he also spent time in Greenland during his military service.

After the military, he ended up settling in Long Beach, CA where I think he worked as a pipe fitter. When we saw him in 1989, he was working at a hardware store. I remember him being down-to-earth with a fierce independent streak.

He lived in an apartment and his longtime address was 1121 Stanley Avenue, Long Beach, CA, 90804.

Lost Communication

After my dad died and my mom moved own of town, she disconnected her landline phone number of 30+ years. That’s the number that Dan would have known. She had given him her mobile number, but we’re not sure if he wrote it down or saved it.

I had given him my mobile number a few years back, but I’ve since changed it. Dan didn’t have a mobile number. He also wasn’t on social media.

Dan wasn’t in touch with any immediate family members that we are aware of.

Librarian Sleuthing and Court Records Search

I tried doing some librarian sleuthing. His name hasn’t popped up in the Long Beach newspaper. However, I did find something unsettling. After doing a California court records search, apparently he was evicted from his apartment–his longtime address–in November 2017.

Where does an 83-year old man go? He had friends, but we can’t recall names nor how to get in contact with them. Do I start looking for neighbors? Check homeless shelters? Maybe VA facilities since he was a veteran?

This is our fault for not staying in touch. Despite living in a world of constant communication and technology that seems to be increasingly invading our private lives, some people are off the grid.

I hope I can find Uncle Dan.