ABSTRACT: Student workers are an indispensable component of library operations. They play an important role in delivering good library services to the patrons. Without student workers, the library would not function as effectively as it does. Literature search yields few papers addressing the topic of how student workers perceived their employment in the library. The author of this paper intends to fill the void in the literature by asking student workers in her interlibrary loan and document delivery department how they perceive their library jobs, the working environment, and the work ethic of staff and fellow students. The author would also like to find out how well students communicate with their supervisors, what training method is most preferred by student workers, what motivates students to do a good job, and what most often triggers their resignation from the library. Giving student workers an opportunity to voice their concerns/suggestions is a proactive way to lead the department to continue to serve successfully. Success and efficiency of a libraryís operations depend greatly on student workers.
|Employment Duration||Number of Student Workers||% of Student Workers|
|Less than one year||10||52.6%|
|Student Classification||Number of Student Workers||% of Student Workers|
The ILS has a total of 264 hours per week of student help. Two student workers (30.5 hrs/wk) work in the borrowing unit, six (92.5 hrs/wk) in the lending unit, and eleven (141 hrs/wk) in document delivery. Only five students found the job in the ILS strictly through searching the website of Jobs for Aggies while the rest were recommended by friends who already worked in ILS.
All the student workers indicated that they were informed by their supervisors of the rules and expectations of the job when they were hired, and all of them affirmed that they had a clear understanding of the mission of ILS.
The majority (84.2%) of students were not in favor of having a Handbook of Studentís Rules, sixteen of the students stated that they would not read the handbook, and only three (15.8%) were interested in having one.
All but one (94.7%) of the students acknowledged that their supervisors did continue to check with them periodically to make sure that they understood the work process. However, six (31.6%) students did not think supervisorsí follow-ups were helpful in their performance, nor did they feel the follow-ups make much difference in the way they performed their jobs.
Sixteen (84.2%) stated that they learned the job through their supervisorsí thorough training while three (15.8%) didnít think that their supervisor trained them thoroughly but learned the job through self training, try and error, and/or asked others.
Fewer than half (47.4%) of the students would like to have a student training manual as a reference guide that details the step-by-step process of the work. Ten (52.6%) didnít think it was necessary to have such a guide.
Ten students (52.6%) liked the idea of having a library tour as part of their training to gain an overall knowledge of the TAMU Librariesí operation, but nine (47.4%) didnít believe that this would be helpful in doing their jobs. All six lending students turned down this option, but both borrowing students who serve at the ILS service counter would like this opportunity.
Only one student (5.3%) deemed that the daily job assignment was too much while the rest (94.7%) all regarded their job assignments as adequate.
When reporting to work, nine (47.4%) student workers preferred to be assigned to a specific task (e.g., given x number of pull slips for floor searching and scanning, or given x number of requests for ordering). Of those nine, eight worked for in-house document delivery and one was from lending. Five (26.3%) students preferred to decide how many requests that they could process each day. Of those five, three were lending students, one was from document delivery, and one was from borrowing. Another five students (26.3%), two from lending, two from document delivery, and one from borrowing, preferred to meet with their supervisors and decide what they would be expected to do each day.
Fifteen students (78.9%) felt that they worked as hard as their fellow student workers, three (15.8%) considered themselves worked harder than their fellow students, and one (5.3%) modestly recognized that his peers worked harder than he did.
Eleven students (57.9%) perceived that they worked as hard as their supervisors while eight (42.1%) regarded their supervisors as working harder than they did.
None of the students felt that they worked harder than the staff members in ILS. Fourteen students (73.7%) believed that staff members worked as hard as they did, and another five (26.3%) judged that staff members worked harder.
Only two students (10.5%) didnít feel that their supervisor kept them informed about any changes in the procedures, workflow, or tips.
Thirteen students (68.4%) felt free to voice their frustrations or concerns to their supervisors while six felt intimidated by their supervisors.
When asked if they could freely voice their frustrations or concerns to other staff members of ILS, seventeen (89.5%) agreed while two (10.5%) still didnít feel comfortable in doing so.
Two students (10.5%) indicated that their supervisor did not treat them with respect, but all nineteen students concurred that other staff members in the ILS treated them respectfully.
Regarding receiving feedbacks from supervisors, the majority (sixteen students, 84.2%) preferred that it be done in private, two students (10.5%) preferred via email, and one (5.3%) preferred that notes, announcements or tips be posted in a central location for everyone to read. The majority of students (fourteen, 73.7%) would rather have timely feedbacks if their work did not meet expectations than be evaluated by their supervisors at the end of each semester.
A little over half (ten students, 52.6%) liked the idea of having a meeting with all ILS students at the beginning of each semester so as to be better informed about expectations, rules and regulations, but nine (47.4%) didnít think that necessary.
As to what motivated them most to do a good job, seven students (36.8%) believed, "I made a commitment, and I would like to carry it through." Six students (31.6%) thought, "a sense of accomplishment in a job well done." Three students (15.8%) felt, "everyone works hard in the ILS, and I want to contribute, too." Two students (10.5%) chose, "I feel appreciated." And one student (5.3%) selected, "my supervisor sets a role model for me."
Fifteen students (79.0%) agreed that they were fairly rewarded with pay raises based on their performance, two (10.5%) disagreed, and another two (10.5%) had not yet received raises.
In regard to the primary reason students chose this job, eight (42.0%) responded "learning to balance my time between work and studies," four (21.1%) chose "purely to earn money," another four (21.1%) selected "training myself to be a responsible person," and three (15.8%) indicated "gaining some work experience."
More than three fourths (16) of our student employees were happy working in the ILS. Three (15.8%) indicated that they were somewhat happy. None chose "I am not happy working in the ILS, but I need to earn money."
Other than school pressure, lack of time for school work, or to find a job more relevant to the studentís field of study, "the pay is too low" (chosen by eight students, 42.1%) was the trigger which would prompt most of our students to quit the library job, followed by "the job is too boring" (three, 15.8%), "I am not treated well" (three, 15.8%); "the job is too tiring" (two, 10.5%), "I donít get along with my supervisor" (two, 10.5%), and "the working atmosphere is not good" (one, 5.3%). None chose "the work distribution is not fair" or "I donít like the people."
All our nineteen students would recommend a friend to work in the ILS if there were a vacancy.
When asked if they would consider working in a library after graduation, only two (10.5%) gave a positive "yes," seven (36.9%) firmly discarded the option, and ten (52.6%) thought "maybe".
Many students added suggestions, comments or wish list that would help improve the workflow in ILS.
One wrote, "I am leaving after this semester, but if I were to stay, a student training manual would be great to refer to if needed. I recommend giving one to every new employee."
One added, "It would be good to have a follow-up work fair for those that have left for a while because there could be new additions to the operations."
One commented, "Although the work is sometimes repetitive, the people here are wonderful!! I really do not expect much more from ILS. I am appreciative of how all staff members help in every way and how they truly take time to meet your needs and answer your questions. It is a very relaxing atmosphere."
One thus expressed, "Thank you for all the wonderful experiences."
One was happy that "Everything as of now works smoothly and I am content with that."
One of the student workers added at the end of the questionnaire that "Thank you for taking the time to listen to student workersí opinions on the work environment. I believe this is truly a positive step in the right direction! Thank you for always making us feel respected and appreciated!" This statement echoed Walker and Fliotsosí "Conducting a survey or discussing issues in small groups can open channels of communication between students and supervisors and promote a more positive working atmosphere." 
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|Yang, Zheng Ye. (2006). "Library Working Environment: From the Perspective of Student Workers." Chinese Librarianship: an International Electronic Journal, 22. URL: http://www.iclc.us/cliej/cl22yang.htm|