Member Spotlight: Nichole Novak

Illinois Association of College & Research Libraries Forum (IACRL)

March 15, 2019

Nichole Novak: Online Learning Librarian, Illinois Institute of Technology

Interviewed by Andrea Jakubas, Illinois Institute of Technology

Why did you decide to become a librarian?

Despite being an avid reader and therefore spending a lot of time in my school and public libraries as a child, the idea of becoming a librarian never occurred to me when thinking about what I wanted to be when I grew up. Later on I enrolled in the College of DuPage with the idea of taking a few classes, hoping to find something I’d like to pursue as a career. One of the classes I chose was the first class in the LTA program. I don’t think I initially realized that it was part of the LTA program. The class sounded interesting to me because, if I remember correctly, it covered the history of libraries as well as the different types of libraries and the role of the LTA. I went to the first class, loved it, the teacher was fantastic, and that set me on the path to an LTA certificate and eventually an MS/LIS.

What are your main duties as a librarian at the Galvin Library?

As the Online Learning and Instruction Librarian, I work with our distance learners located throughout the country. On campus I am the liaison to Humanities, the Interprofessional Projects Program (IPRO) and the Institute of Design.  I’m responsible for providing both the online and on-campus students with instruction and reference services.

What do you like best about your job?

Instruction! I love working with students and seeing their lightbulb moments when they grasp a concept. It’s also very satisfying when a student comes up to me after a session and thanks me or tells me that what they just learned will help them. During college and then after library school I worked in corporate libraries before making the jump to academic. Instruction had not been a part of my work life at all and I found it terrifying at first. It makes me laugh now because so much of my semester is consumed with instruction sessions: promoting them, planning for them, teaching them, and evaluating them.

What suggestions do you have for librarians to make their instruction sessions relevant and engaging?

I like to use a mix of methods. It can be very easy to lose an early morning Humanities 200 class if it’s just me up there going on and on for an hour and fifteen minutes, no matter how entertaining I try to be. I employ a mix of lecture, modeling, student participation (offering snacks helps encourage them), showing short videos to introduce concepts, and in class exercises. At the end of the session, I give them a quiz using Kahoot. Almost all the students are familiar with Kahoot. I use the Kahoot quiz to reinforce concepts I’ve taught during the session and to see how well they grasped them, while the students see the Kahoot as a fun competition and a way to earn more snacks.

As an academic librarian, which skills or personality traits do you most frequently use?

I am the liaison to three very different programs on campus and I think my willingness to be collaborative, flexible and approachable has helped me connect with both students and faculty.

What are you reading (or watching, or listening to) right now?

When I watch television, I lean towards British and Australian TV shows. Currently, I’m finishing up season four of Peaky Blinders and the final season of Rake.  My favorite genre for leisure reading is mystery/thriller and I’m usually reading more than one book at time. I recently finished Louisa Luna’s Two Girls Gone and have moved on to John Hart’s Redemption Road and A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee.

If you received a surprise day off, how would you spend it?

Depends on the weather. Bad weather and I’d stay home and cook. I bookmark recipes I come across online so I’d pick one from the list to try. Nice weather and I’d head out to Cantigny Park in Wheaton. I’ve been going there since I was a child and I love visiting the museum as well as touring the mansion and gardens. It never gets old.

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