Kathleen Barnard discusses new library job: The first student engagement coordinator of Whittemore Library shares her journey to FSU

Kathleen Barnard, the first student engagement coordinator of the Henry Whittemore Library, discussed her new position, how she’s fitting in with campus life, and how she’s adapting to life in a new state.

Barnard graduated from the University of Memphis in Tennessee with a degree in English, and said that she always had passion for working with books, sharing some of the work experiences she had before arriving at FSU.

“I have always worked with books, and that has always been my driving passion … books and literacy, and getting books into people’s hands, and getting people involved in literacy activities, whether that’s through a library or a bookstore,” she said. 

Barnard said in the past she worked in multiple book stores, a public library for five years, and then 10 years as an audio book editor for the “Books for the Blind” program, which is operated by the National Library Service. 

“We were narrating the books, and keeping in mind that we weren’t trying to create a character for our readers, but more to just let the readers create the characters on their own, because [the audiobooks are] for a population who maybe didn’t have access to print materials,” she said.

When asked about her goals as the engagement coordinator of the library, Barnard said she was excited to work with students and committed to making sure students felt at home in the library, and that any relevant issues they had would be acknowledged. 

“I want to work with the students who are here, and I want to make sure that we are creating not just programming that’s fun and engaging, but just making sure that all of our students here at Framingham State feel welcome in the library,” she said.

Barnard then spoke about the position she was filling, and how she was adapting to the new role. She added that she was “kind of creating it” as she gained more experience.

“One of my primary goals is to work with students and student groups across campus to make sure that the library is first and foremost a welcome and inviting place,” she said. 

She added that she wants everyone to feel comfortable entering the library’s doors, “no matter if you’re a grad student, an undergrad, commuter students, continuing education – we want everyone to feel comfortable.” 

Barnard said that she was also excited to work with these groups of students and find more ways to get them “involved in the library,” saying she wants to host events and book discussions.

She also emphasized that she wanted to find ways for students to have “a lot of buy-in,” and to “feel like the library is their space.”

Barnard said the position and her career at Framingham were relatively new, both starting in January. She added that she has only facilitated one event so far, the first of three discussions on “The 1619 Project,” which took place Feb.14. 

She said that while it was the first event she’s hosted at FSU, it wasn’t her first ever, and she hosted numerous events at a previous job – a public library in western Tennessee. Barnard added she has experience hosting book discussions, author talks, and other events of that nature from her time at the library and multiple bookstores. 

Barnard said “The 1619 Project” will have two more meetings over Zoom  Feb. 23 and Feb. 28 which can be accessed through the latest Campus Currents email. Her plans are to discuss the content of the 1619 project not yet touched upon, and the media backlash the project has received.

She explained her role as a facilitator of book discussions and how she tries to incorporate questions that can engage a wide range of readers. She said that it’s important to take into account the people that “only read the essays they’re interested in, or [those who] might not have time to get through everything.”

“I try to create questions and discussions that are a little more open, so that even if you didn’t read the whole thing, you can still feel like you can participate. So, instead of saying, ‘we’re going to discuss chapters five and six today,’ … I more want to discuss overarching themes,” she said. 

Barnard said she is excited to explore and collaborate with more student groups as time goes on, and she is enjoying getting to know people around campus, as well as settling with her recent move to Massachusetts.

“It’s a beautiful campus … Everyone has been so nice! It’s a very welcoming environment. I think that the school is incredibly welcoming – I feel very comfortable here, and that is just a testament to the great students and staff and faculty of this University,” she said.