Gatepost Interview: Kathleen Barnard, Henry Whittemore Library Student Engagement Coordinator

Courtesy of Kathleen Barnard

What is your professional and educational background?

I got an English degree from the University of Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee. Since then, I have been working on books, reading, and literacy. That’s pretty much what I’ve done. My first job out of college was with an independent bookstore. I worked at a public library, I made audiobooks for 10 years for the blind and print-challenged, and I also worked in publishing.

What does your job here at FSU entail?

It is mostly student engagement. So, the first thing is to make the library as open and inviting for our students as possible. So, listening to what students need [and] asking how we can make it a better place for them. We also like to have events. We’ve been doing National Library Week this week. We’ve had a lot of really cool things going on. So just trying to make the library a really engaging, fun place for students to come. That’s my goal here.

What led you to your work as student engagement coordinator?

It was a bit circuitous. I only moved to Massachusetts last year. I briefly worked in publishing when I first moved here, and I happened to see this posting for student engagement coordinator, and it felt like it was really in line with what my previous work has been, which has been mostly with books and literacy and learning. Like I said, I was in public libraries. It felt like a great way to bring some of my public library experience into an academic environment. I’ve always loved college campuses – I grew up around them. So, it is a very comfortable place for me, and I was really happy to see this opportunity to bring some of my experience into this environment.

Do you have any personal hobbies outside of your work?

I’m always reading. I have a book everywhere I go – it is my favorite thing to do. I like to cross-stitch, and I like to go and explore New England. This is a new place for me. I hadn’t lived here until last year. Something my husband and I have enjoyed doing is driving all around the region and seeing the historical sites, the old houses, things like that – things that I had never seen before in the other places I’ve lived. That’s really one of my favorite things to do right now.

What advice do you have for students?

Be curious. I think one of the greatest things about college is getting to learn so much in a variety of different areas. And for me, that was really meaningful when I was in school – getting to take classes in areas that I wouldn’t normally take classes in, or that I might not normally be interested in. I feel like that curiosity has stayed with me and led me to many different career options that I didn’t even know were out there, and many different life experiences that I wouldn’t have had any chance of having without being curious and asking what is out there. I think that would be my biggest piece of advice – be curious and enjoy your time. It’s a short time, but you can get a lot out of it, and you can pack a lot into that time.