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Staff Spotlight: College Library’s Janice Rice

June 16, 2014

Our staff spotlight this month is Janice Rice, Public Services and Outreach Librarian at College Library. In speaking with her, it is clear that she is passionate about outreach and working one-on-one with students. Read on to learn more about Janice and how she slowly but surely became a “library person.”

News: Can you tell me a little about what you do as the Public Services and Outreach Librarian at College Library?

JR: At College Library we all do a variety of things, but the core of what we do is reference, (which is what makes us public service librarians), library outreach, and collection development. It is a nice kind of “triangle of services” that we provide. In addition to these three things, each of the librarians at College Library has a focus area, and mine is outreach and liaison work.

One thing that I focus on when doing outreach is local learning communities, so there are several residential learning communities that I work with. The goal is to determine how the library can be utilized in helping the particular community with their academic work. I have worked with various Letters and Science student services programs across campus and also worked with University Housing for a long time. Chadbourne Hall is one of the first residence halls that I worked with.  I also do liaison work with the Summer Collegiate Experience program, the School of Education’s College Access Program, the First Year Experience program, and the Freshman Interest Groups (FIGS) program, among others. Students enrolled in the FIGS program take three courses together. One of them is in English or Communication Arts, which includes a library instruction component. We keep in touch with those students. In addition to these programs, I also work with the Posse Program which brings in a cohort of students from one region of the country. They are talented students who are leaders in positive social change. They come from all states across the country, including Illinois, California and Florida, and are admitted as a team to UW–Madison.

Janice Rice
Janice Rice

News: Wow, it sounds like you certainly keep busy with outreach! What would you say is your favorite part of your job?

JR: I have lots of favorites! I really enjoy the personal contact with students at the reference desk. Being able to meet new students, guide them, and help them find research materials is really rewarding—that is what I like about reference. But each component of my job has its own exciting thing. I also enjoy learning about the new tools and resources that are available to help students.

The exciting part about the outreach and liaison activities is that I get to work with all different types of faculty, staff, and students—both undergrad and graduate students. So I get to interact and make connections with a variety of people on campus, and it complements what we’re already doing at the reference desk. For instance, I might see some of the students in the library that I just met somewhere else. Or maybe they learned about one of our services that they hadn’t heard of before, and they’re dropping by to take advantage of it.

Another gratifying aspect about my job is doing library instruction because it allows me to reach so many students at the time when they really need it. So those aspects are what I really like, and I guess each of them involves personal, one-on-one contact. It’s interesting because I started out as a really shy person who wasn’t really outgoing or anything, but the more I met people the more I learned an area of interest and now I enjoy just getting acquainted with people and getting to know them.

News: How long have you worked here?

JR: Let’s see… I think it’s been 32 years, all with College Library. Well, I guess I did a short, grant-funded project where I did some outreach that involved more of a General Library System type position just briefly, but I was still stationed here in College Library. I love working here at College. An unbelievable view of Lake Mendota, wonderful and supportive coworkers, what more could I ask for? The University really feels like home to me.

News: Growing up were you always a “library person?”

JR: Not really… I guess one of my high school jobs was working in the public library, though. I was a circulation student assistant, and I would be responsible for a library display every now and then. But I just kind of thought of it as a job during high school, and hadn’t considered it as a potential career.

I went to college to be a teacher—my bachelor’s is in education—and when I was at registration the advisor said, “Okay you have your major, now you have to declare your minor too.” And I said, “I have no idea!” So he suggested library science as being a good supplement to teaching.  He didn’t even know that I had worked in libraries in high school, but I figured the two career paths would blend well together, so I agreed. I started taking courses and I saw how interesting and fun librarianship could be, but I still didn’t think of it as my major career. I just thought of it as sort of a balance of what I was learning as a future teacher.

During the later years of my undergrad in Milwaukee, I ended up doing my work study placement with a professor who wanted me to do research in the library as part of her project for me. So I learned more about libraries through that experience. By the time I got to that senior year and I was thinking about jobs, people from the American Library Association started trying to recruit me for library school. They talked to some of the faculty members at UW–Milwaukee and said, “Do you have anybody? We’re looking for minority people that might be interested in library school.” The faculty members thought of me, so two of them—one from American Indian Studies and another professor from the School of Education—recommended me. They pushed my name forward and ALA contacted me to get me interested in a library program. At that time Madison was ALA accredited but Milwaukee was not. I figured I might as well choose the one that is accredited. At that point I still didn’t know much about librarianship because I was just so education-focused, but I decided to go for it.

The American Indian recruiter here at Madison heard I was interested in grad school and he got me connected with some of the library school folks. It was so kind of him to take that extra step to introduce us. It felt really nice and personal because another American Indian, a Navajo student, wrote me a personal letter while I was still in Milwaukee. She told me that it would be fun, that I would like it, and that we should meet up. I did get a chance to meet her the summer before I started, and it helped me to feel welcome before I even started here.

News: What do you do for fun outside of work?

JR: I read a little bit but I am not avid by any means—my interest in it sort of comes and goes. I do enjoy being involved with book groups because I tend to get more into the reading, and I enjoy talking about books. My favorite author at the moment is Sherman Alexie. I have seen him speak a few times, and he is just really hilarious and a wonderful speaker.

Another thing I do is garden, but I haven’t done that as much in recent years because the weather has been so unpredictable these last few years. I didn’t take courses or learn it from anybody. I just sort of winged it, looked things up on Google, and went on intuition. My mother was always more of a vegetable gardener, but I am more of a flower person so I mainly plant flowers.

The other thing I like to do is walk. I used to do more things like sports, but not so much recently. In the past, I have played on co-ed volleyball and softball teams and I was even the pitcher on a fast pitch team at one point. That really was a real interest of mine that I’ve sort of let go of, and now you’re reminding me that I need to get back into some of the fun stuff! I am a golfer and my husband is a bowler, so we used to do both those activities together quite a bit. But we have slowed down in doing that within the last five years or so when we got our new house. We live on a lake now which is a time-consuming venture. We have gotten more into boating now, so boating and fishing are my other hobbies.

I also attend powwows throughout the year. I am big into Native American dance, mainly traditional style. I have a craft room full of material for sewing and beadwork for the regalia. I especially enjoy the summer powwows, since they are held outdoors.

Know a librarian or library staff member with a cool skill or interest? They belong in the spotlight! Submit your suggestions to news@library.wisc.edu.  We’d love to learn more about you!