Fred Folmer – 2006

Research and Instruction Librarian, and Special Projects Coordinator at Connecticut College
Member of the 2009 Dual Degree Cohort

20140409-101819.jpg“Although I began the NYU/LIU dual-degree program with a great desire and drive to become an academic librarian, I entered with no experience in the library field. I’d had years of professional experience in publishing and the arts — and had, of course, spent lots of time using libraries — but I began the program with a serious deficit in practical library skills. And so the first thing that comes to mind when describing the advantages of the program is that it gave me multiple opportunities to redress this issue. The dual-degree program insists that practical skills be learned from the beginning, alongside the library-school and scholarly/critical work undertaken in the various classrooms. It is hard to overstate the advantages offered by this structure. It allowed me systematically to build my skill set, and my résumé, step by step: beginning with teaching, reference and collections modules; then moving on to internships, both within NYU and outside it (at the Brooklyn Historical Society and Barnard College); then adjunct work; and then to a full-time library career.

“Another key advantage of the program is the robust culture of mentoring it provides. I received expert and wise counsel from my principal mentor, Undergraduate Librarian Paula Feid, who helped me select opportunities and experiences, guided me through key issues and questions, and helped to shape my teaching practice and philosophy. I received similarly useful guidance from Evelyn Ehrlich, the librarian for Jewish and Religious Studies, with whom I worked on the program’s collections module. What’s more, for dual-degree students, mentors can be found everywhere: at the reference desk, in cohort sessions, and in daily interactions. What stands out is the NYU library faculty’s not mere willingness, but eagerness, to mentor and teach dual-degree students, and the subtle and broad advantages of this “mentoring culture” in molding persons capable of meeting the challenges of 21st-century academic librarianship.

“Finally, I want to highlight the rigor and richness of NYU’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the integral role it plays in providing a necessary background for would-be librarians seeking to enter a scholarly research environment. My M.A. program, Religious Studies, gave me a diverse background not just in religion but also in social and critical theory; politics; history; anthropology; and numerous other disciplines and discourses (performance theory, postcolonial studies, affect theory, psychoanalysis). Through all of this, I was able to engage in sustained reflection on some of the most critical issues to librarians and their constituents: how knowledge is constructed and disseminated; what forms of social life and power underpin the creation and transfer of knowledge; and how assumptions about knowledge can change according to disciplinary norms. What’s more, I constantly found opportunities to use what I’d learned in the graduate school classroom directly in my projects as a library student, apprentice, intern and librarian. More than ever, academic librarians today need to understand the needs of the scholars they serve, and it’s in this aspect that the education I received from the combined resources of NYU GSAS, NYU Libraries and LIU’s Palmer School is most salient to my work today. My career — and my ability to navigate the teaching, reference, assessment, public service, collection, curation and technology issues that come my way in my professional life — would be unthinkable without the combined theoretical and practical background I received as a dual-degree student.”

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