Contribution, Dedication and Inspiration: Student Library Workers

Anthony Riccio, stacks manager at Yale University’s Sterling Library, presented a case study of how he has organized, involved and motivated student workers for greater productivity and job satisfaction in a very large collection. He described the trajectory of the typical student worker from initial contract, through a developing sense of teamwork and role-identification, to becoming a creative and contributing member of a larger effort.

The touchstone of Riccio’s approach is a well developed, student-centered training model that builds upon previous skills and intentionally incorporates student ideas and suggestions at every step. Students begin with sorting books on carts and work their way up through shelving and shelf-reading to higher-level activities such as searching and special projects. They work in teams – “We never shelve alone,” says Riccio – and both give and receive constant feedback on progress through graphs and reports, individual meetings, and daily “student huddles.” There are frequent work rotations to subvert boredom, and students who evidence interest and involvement are eligible for promotion to team leader.

Over the twelve years that he has been at Sterling, Riccio has seen a marked improvement in productivity, morale, sense of teamwork and retention rate among student workers. “Students want structure, goals, and feedback,” he remarks. “They will make a difference if they are given a chance.”

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