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The Library: Gathering Place for an Academic Community
“Some of my favorite memories at Covenant have been in the library, around a table, laughing and joking and snacking on the various things each person brought to the little communal feast— and getting assignments done. A handful of my now dearest friendships began just from the fact that we spent a lot of time in the library.” - Sloane Hopkins ’23
For most academic institutions, the campus library is a key landmark. These storeholds of knowledge offer the delightful smell of paper and ink and the sounds of students hard at work. Covenant’s library is also a gathering place for our academic community, a place of laughter amid the work and connection among the hours of study. It’s a place where minds come together.
The Kresge Memorial Library is intentionally situated in the center of Covenant’s campus because academics are central to the college experience and community is central to the Covenant experience. Here in the library, those two cornerstones unite.
An Expert in Curating
One key figure in the library who every Covenant student will hear about and likely receive help from is John Holberg, director of library services and expert in hunting down academic resources. John ensures that we have quality resources for every course, and he also works to keep the physical space of the library conducive to studies and community.
John spends a great deal of his time curating the library collection. “Any time a new faculty member comes, we sit down and talk about what they do,” he says. “We have an ordering process where faculty order to support class courses. For example, Scott Jones is teaching a course on the Psalms, so he will collect sources on the Psalms, and I will look to see what we don’t already have. Then, I search every book that’s come out on the Psalms in the last ten years to see what holes we have in our resources.”
Additionally, before every semester, John looks at each assignment for each course and learns about what each professor hopes to accomplish. “I look at all the course syllabi, and I’ll try to do the assignment myself and see what happens.” If John, the expert, can’t find quality, necessary sources, he knows that students won’t be able to complete the assignment either.
“I describe my job as resources and people - I get the stuff so the people can do their academic work. Then, I work with the students so they know how to use the stuff.” John is fond of saying, “No one’s done college before, so I’m a person who helps you do college.” His advice to any student is to ask lots of questions, remembering that it’s natural to face a learning curve.
Sloan Hopkins ’23 says, “John Holdberg and I became good friends my sophomore year when I went to the library to study or sometimes just to chat with him, which was always wildly entertaining. (Ask him about the job he used to have where he used a flamethrower!)”
A Place to Come Together
When it comes to the physical space of the library, John pays attention to which areas students use often and which could use improvement. He rearranges the furniture and adjusts the lighting accordingly, always seeking to create more usable spaces where students can collaborate, use library resources, or study alone.
“The first floor is interactive, and the second floor is quiet. We did that intentionally,” says John. The top floor houses the Senior Capstone Project carrels, the Center for Student Success, and the Writing Center. It’s known across campus that this floor is a great quiet study zone while the bottom floor is often full of conversation and connection. John’s desk is in an open area on the bottom floor, easily accessible to students. He remembers his time as an undergrad and often thinks through what would have been helpful to him in college. “It’s important to talk to the students, get to know them, what their life is like, where their frustrations are to be able to help them better.”