Visiting DeVry Decatur Library and the Robert Woodruff Library at Atlanta University Center

I went to Atlanta to see my family two weeks ago and while there I was able to visit the director of library services at DeVry Atlanta Metro, Tiia Kunnapas. I’d met Ms. Kunnapas while waiting for the airport shuttle at the end of this year’s American Library Association meeting.  Ms. Kunnapas was kind enough to set up a tour for me of her own library at the DeVry campus at Decatur as well as a tour of the Robert W. Woodruff library at the Atlanta University Center, which serves four historically black institutions: Spelman and Morehouse colleges, Clark University, and the Interdenominational Theological Center.

Ms. Kunnapas, Pam Bamberg (Lindsay’s mom!), Lindsay, and Mrs. Daniel at the Robert Woodruff Library. Photograph taken by Mr. Oscar Daniel.

Both Ms. Kunnapas and her colleague, Jacquelyn Daniel at the Woodruff Library, gave inspiring accounts of their experiences as academic librarians. For Ms. Kunnapas, her position as Director of Library Services at DeVry Atlanta Metro, which she has held for four months, was her first time with the job title that clearly marked a leadership position. Nonetheless, in her previous positions, she prepared herself to lead by jumping at the chance to do anything and everything, getting a taste of reference and circulation, acquisitions, instruction, budgeting, management, and access services. She believes these highly varied experiences put her in a much better position to manage a library where she is the only full-time trained librarian–and therefore the “jack of all trades”! Ms. Kunnapas is full of energy and ideas, and wants to transform the way the DeVry Atlanta instructors perceive information literacy skills and the library’s role in improving them.

Ms. Kunnapas is proposing a for-credit course that will lay the foundations of research for the many students who enter DeVry. Ms. Kunnapas showed me a fifteen minute Power Point presentation that serves as her “elevator speech” to instructors, showing them the vast array of resources the library can provide for their students as well as the practical analytical skills needed to assess information. She carries this presentation on a flash drive with her everywhere and takes every possible opportunity to talk to instructors about coming to their classrooms to do an instructional session.

As a “solo librarian,” Ms. Kunnapas was adamant about the need to show your value, to be connected with the rest of the organization and be a part of whatever their latest initiatives are. She is campaigning to revamp the library’s image as a place that is the heart of the academic community. I have no doubt that Ms. Kunnapas is on the right track, following the needs of both the students and the instructors, and trying to gain buy-in for a much broader vision of information literacy skills.

At the Woodruff library, Mrs. Jacquelyn Daniel showed us around their beautifully renovated space. Mrs. Daniel is a reference librarian for the social work and psychology subject areas, as well as the liaison librarian for students and faculty at Clark Atlanta University. She does reference, instruction, some acquisitions, and outreach in her role.

The new space features amphitheater-style seating near the front entryway, suitable for lectures or events, the 360 degree “Echo” room for instruction that allows the instructor and class to be taped for later consultation by students, audio/visual editing studios, presentation practice rooms, and small group meeting rooms that feature TeamSpot collaborative software. Furniture in the new space is easily moveable and can be reconfigured for a variety of group or individual needs. Whimsical light fixtures make the space feel modern and fresh; art and sculpture can be found throughout the library, cleverly combining gallery space with functional spaces. A large casual seating area near a Starbucks was filled with natural light –even though our visit was during the relatively-slow summer term, several students were studying and relaxing there.

I am so thankful to Ms. Kunnapas and Mrs. Daniel for showing me their wonderful libraries and letting me get a glimpse of the working lives of academic librarians!

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