New library science instructor dabbles in creative space

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New library science instructor dabbles in creative space

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The L.E. Phillips Memorial library in downtown Eau Claire

The L.E. Phillips Memorial library in downtown Eau Claire is home to the first Dabble Box Makerspace in the area. © Rachel Schmidt 2017

By Rachel Schmidt

It’s calm and quiet in the Chippewa Valley Technical College library. About two dozen students fill the space but the only sounds are the clicks of computer mice, muted beeps from the circulation desk and the whirr of the printer as it spits out sheets of paper for a waiting student.

Shelves of books are everywhere and the computer lab is full of people doing research and browsing social media. On the other side of the room, sunlight streams through the windows and lands on tables where CVTC students study quietly.

Everything is in its place and it’s quite a normal library atmosphere, but there are a few new faces in the room.

In October, CVTC hired new staff members who will work for the college as librarians and will also be instructors. Jennifer Cook is one of these two new hires.

Cook has been an active force in improving the library experience in the Eau Claire community starting with her time at L.E. Phillips Memorial Library. At her new position, Cook says she would like to continue to improve the space she works in and engage with CVTC students in the college’s new library science associate degree that began this year.

Her path to CVTC, however, was not a direct one. As a non-traditional student she earned a bachelor’s degree in public history with a library science minor from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2012. That same year she began working at the public library in downtown Eau Claire as reference librarian, where she spent her time helping and teaching people for over five years.

“My favorite part of my job at the public library was teaching workshops, and helping people learn the e-books and teaching them how to use the computers,” Cook said. “So I taught everyday there, it just wasn’t a formal thing.”  In general, work to get that first quote up high in the story.

Then in 2014 Cook went on to earn a master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

When she learned of a new position offered this year at CVTC that combined teaching and the opportunity to share her passion for public libraries with others, she applied.

“The public library is a whole different animal really than an academic library,” Cook said.

Her old job at the public library included a range of responsibilities from office work like scheduling, timesheets and payroll management for everyone, to planning book displays and working the reference desk. She would help people find books, answer research questions and essentially aid the public in utilizing the resources available to them at the library.

“That was one of the best parts of it, you never knew what each day would bring and you learn something new every day,” Cook said.

Aside from her daily duties while at the public library, Cook played a key role in helping to develop something called the Dabble Box Makerspace.

The space includes a mug press, robots, Legos, a 3D printer and crafts where people can explore new skills such as bread making and sewing.

“The Dabble Box is a do-it-yourself room where people can come and play, create, and share,” Cook said.

The Dabble Box has been operational since January and is now in the hands of Andria Rice, a teen services librarian at the library and Cook’s partner in the creation of the Dabble Box.

Riley Dougherty, a library patron, has visited the public library a few times in the past year.

“It’s a really neat space and I think more people should take advantage of the opportunities it provides. It’s definitely a resource people of all ages could use,” Dougherty said.

Cook will start teaching classes at CVTC in the spring. The four classes she will teach are Fundamentals of Access Services, Fundamentals of Reference Services, Outreach and Community Services and Adult Literature and Services. While Cook’s classes focus on public libraries the other new hire, Becky Wojahn, will be in charge of classes centered on school libraries.

Despite the difference between her past and current job, Cook is eager to begin teaching next semester and said she hopes to educate future librarians about makerspaces.