At the Madden Library, there is always a phenomenal staff of dedicated student assistants. To the great honor of Fresno State, this incredible staff once included Josie Reyes, Manlia Xiong, and Justin Aceves. After gaining invaluable experience as student assistants and completing their library degrees, these three Fresno State alumni are now working together at the College of the Sequoias (COS) Library in nearby Visalia, CA.

With great pleasure, we caught up with Josie, Manlia, and Justin over email to chat about their journeys and the role their time at the Madden Library played in their career development.

How did working at the Madden Library set you on a path to your current position?

Josie: I worked at Petrucci for about four years and by the time I finished my undergraduate degree, my perception of libraries and librarianship had changed completely. When I first started, I was just looking for an on-campus job that would work with my class schedule. By the time I graduated, I discovered that I had a newfound passion for helping students in the unique way that librarians do and decided to apply to San Jose State’s program with much encouragement from Britt. The rest is history!

Manlia: It was Vang Vang who influenced and helped me on my path to my current position. Working alongside a Librarian of Color and someone who looks like me in an academic library; that was inspirational. Unlike years past, I believe library staff today are reflecting the diverse communities that they serve. I’m very proud of our diverse library staff at COS.

Justin: I started becoming interested in librarianship during my Junior year at Fresno State, I started talking to librarians that I worked with about librarianship as a possible career. One of the librarians I worked with talked to me about the University of Illinois and mentioned how they have a great program and that I could apply for graduate assistantships to gain additional library experience. I ended up applying and obtaining a graduate assistantship from the University of Illinois, so I moved almost across the country to attend a library program. After graduating from the University of Illinois, I wanted to try and come back closer to home and I ended up being hired at COS.

What is your fondest memory of your time working at the Madden Library?

Josie: In general, I have fond memories of working with librarian Britt Foster, at the V.E. Petrucci Library! However, one memorable project that stands out to me is the Garabedian Digital Collection. This involved digitizing photographs, wine labels, and other viticulture and enology research materials. I had a lot of fun learning about the collection, gaining new skills, and collaborating with a great team of people from both the library and the department of viticulture and enology. When I reflect on my time working at Petrucci, this project is one that comes to mind because of how much work it was and how much time we spent together on it.  

Manlia: The fondest memory I had working at the Henry Madden Library was working in the Reference Department as a student assistant. Working alongside library employees like Gretchen,  Vang , Kimberley, Paul, Monica, Dave, Jane, Diane, Ross, and Marilyn; they were all influential in some ways to me.

Justin: This is a tough one. I worked as a student assistant for four years, so I have plenty of fond memories while working at the Madden Library. If I had to pick one, then it would be when I was working with two other student assistants to coordinate a De-Stress Retro Game Night during Finals Week. It took a few hours to plan that event and then during the night of the event we were able to watch what turned out to be a pretty successful event. 

“Being an incredibly hard worker is such an important skill to have when you’re a librarian” – Britt Foster, Public Services Librarian, Henry Madden Library

What transferable skills did you learn as a student assistant that you now use as a COS librarian?

Josie: A lot of the skills I learned as a student assistant are applicable today in my work as a librarian. My experience at Petrucci required me to work closely with students, staff, and faculty on a day-to-day basis, and assist them with their various information needs. Sometimes this was just locating a book or resource in the library, but other times I would sit down and help them with a more complex research question. I feel that these experiences served as an introduction to conducting a reference interview and have helped me feel more confident in my interactions today.

Manlia: Wholeheartedly, it is the customer service and interpersonal skills with the ability to interact with a range of people from the college and local community.

There are other transferable skills I learned as a student assistant that I now use as a COS Librarian. They include IT, communication, research, and presentation skills; the ability to work as part of a team, but also on your own initiative, and the ability to find a creative solution to a problem.

Justin: While working at the Madden Library, I received valuable experience interacting and working with patrons which I feel increased my communication skills.  It helped me feel comfortable working at a Reference Desk and interacting with patrons. I also feel like I learned problem-solving skills when trying to help students with their research. Not all searches provide good results so sometimes we have to think of different keywords or how we can approach their topic so students can find valuable information. 

What has surprised you most about working at COS?

Josie: I was surprised to learn how many other former student assistants became librarians at COS! Many of our librarians are also Fresno State alumni as well. I’ve also learned that the library world is very small and have been fortunate to connect with great library folks at other institutions in the valley.  

Manlia: I believe it’s the dedication and commitments in serving our students. And the pandemic is a  great illustration of it. We never stopped providing for our students. We onboard several  services, became more flexible, and accommodating.  

Justin: What surprised me the most about working at COS is seeing some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of working in libraries. Some of my responsibilities at COS include working in the background to ensure that everything is running smoothly in our library system. For students, they can access ebooks or articles with a few clicks, but there are several steps that must happen to make that possible. 

What do libraries bring to the community, and why are they such an important part?

Josie: Libraries play such an important role in their communities. Information, resources, and learning opportunities are certainly a few things that libraries bring, but the library itself also serves as a safe space for the community. During the pandemic, the library was especially integral to our campus community by allowing students to continue their education remotely with our laptop and hotspot checkout program. I feel that without the library, online learning may not have been possible for many students.

Manlia: Libraries bring access to the community. Libraries are educational, informational, and support  centers that fuel students with academic resources, working spaces and the opportunity for self-development. They also encourage thinking processes, creativity, and  inquisitiveness.

Justin: Libraries can play a vital role in any community and can provide a safe space for their community. Through library resources, libraries can help create opportunities for learning. Librarians try their best to get to know their community and understand their needs so they can provide their communities with valuable services and information that can be useful for the community as a whole. Since the pandemic has caused students to go online COS has hundreds of Chromebooks and hotspots available for checkout so students can access their courses remotely. 

As a librarian, how do you hope to impact the lives of students?

Josie: As a librarian, I hope to create connections with students and identify myself as someone students can feel safe coming to for support. I’ve always had a bit of library phobia when I was younger, so it’s very important to be conscious of how I interact with the public and ensure that I’m contributing to an environment that is welcoming to students. I also hope that I can provide students with the tools needed to be successful in their educational endeavors through information literacy. As much as I enjoy finding information for students, I know that teaching them how to properly locate and evaluate information themselves is ultimately the most beneficial way that I can impact their lives.

Manlia: As a Librarian, I hope students know I cared and want them to be a confident user of  information and resources.

Justin: I hope that as a librarian I can help support students with their college education by introducing information literacy skills. If a student comes up to me and asks for help trying to find research for an assignment, I will try to find teachable moments where I can add in information literacy skills. Part of information literacy is the ability to identify and evaluate sources of information and these skills can help students throughout their college education and they are skills that can be valuable even after graduation.

Justin Aceves (he/him)

Former HML Student Assistant, Research Services & Petrucci Library: 2015- 2019

Fresno State, B.S., Business Administration: 2019

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, MLIS: 2021

COS title: Systems and Technology Librarian

Josie Reyes (she/they)

Former HML Student Assistant, Petrucci Library: 2013- 2017

Fresno State, B.A., Deaf Studies: 2016

San Jose State University, MLIS: 2020

COS title: Library Specialist & Adjunct Librarian

Manlia Xiong (she/her)

Former HML Student Assistant, Research Services: 2002- 2006

Fresno State, B.A., Liberal Arts, Minor in Southeast Asian Studies: 2006

San Jose State University, MLIS: 2012

COS title: Information Competency Librarian

Q&A by HML Student Assistant, Mallory Crow.