Raymond F. LeChase Hall, the home of the Warner School of Education and Human Development at the University of Rochester, has several distinctive features designed to support the preparation and development of educators and educational research. Eileen Daly-Boas ʼ00 (MA) deserves to be recognized among them.
A social sciences (education and counseling) and humanities (philosophy) librarian at the River Campus Libraries (RCL), Daly-Boas is widely known and valued by Warner students and faculty. In the better part of the last decade, she has established herself as an eminently reliable, passionate, and indefatigable resource.
It’s fair to view claims like this skeptically—what library system wouldn’t want you to think they have great librarians? But the fact is, there is an abundance of LeChase Hall testimonials to back up the claim that Daly-Boas is a bit of a “librarian superhero,” as stated by Nahoko Kawakyu O’Connor ʼ18W (PhD), an assistant professor (clinical) of educational leadership.
“Her name is consistently brought up by students as someone who makes herself readily available, opens them up to new worlds, and sets them up for success,” says Kawakyu O’Connor. “She focuses on user-centered experiences, observing and asking questions to understand students’ needs and preferences better.”
Mary Jane Curry, an associate professor of teaching and curriculum, offers another ringing endorsement. “Her knowledge, passion, and enthusiasm know no bounds in her service to students and faculty,” she says. “I welcome her into my doctoral research writing course at the start of each semester so she can introduce students to the latest techniques for locating and evaluating information to use for their research and general knowledge.”
Daly-Boas’s colleagues at the RCL see and hear it too.
“Warner students rave about Eileen as a professional, as a guide, and as an advocate,” says Kim Hoffman, interim assistant dean of learning and research. “She works tirelessly to assist with their research needs while helping them navigate challenges in their personal lives.”
Lara Nicosia, interim director of learning initiatives, puts it succinctly, saying Daly-Boas “is the embodiment of ‘above and beyond’ and a true library all-star.” And the Rochester Regional Libraries Council (RRLC) agreed.
On June 6, Daly-Boas and five other library professionals were celebrated by the RRLC as the 2023 Library All-Stars. The honor provided a great opportunity to check in with the RCL all-star.
Eileen, we have to start with how it felt to receive this recognition from RRLC.
I did not expect it at all. Around the same time RRLC was looking for nominations, I nominated an education librarian in Geneseo—whom I collaborate with—for a different award that recognizes librarians statewide. I was really, really surprised and touched that Lara (Nicosia) and Kim (Hoffman) took the time to nominate me because I know they have a lot on their plates. And I appreciate the letters written by MJ (Curry) and Nahoko (Kawakyu O’Connor). So, I was surprised, and I think my mom and husband were surprised, mostly because I’m not 100 percent sure they know what I do every day.
Well, make sure they read this interview because that’s where we’re going next. You had more than 160 consultations with students and faculty this past school year. But that’s only a portion of your work. What does a typical week look like for you?
I think of work in categories: students, faculty, department, RCL, and others. Day to day, I may have work that directly helps one or more of these groups. But every week, I have at least five student consultations, most with Warner graduate students from different programs. So it might break down to two education, two human development, and one counseling.
With faculty, somewhere close to 10 will reach out to request a book purchase, make an appointment, request a class visit, or track down access to materials necessary for their research. As just a quick example of that work, MJ Curry is working on an autoethnography, which is a method of social science research combining one's personal history with cultural and social theories and histories. We’ve been working on collecting hard-to-find genealogical resource and newspaper articles. I’m also part of an [open education resources] working group, so we usually have grant work that we’re working on or thinking about.
I also visit classes. I’ll go in and talk about how to research—how to get information, how to use it, how to cite it, how to make a website and other work like that. And then there are probably six to seven hours of planning meetings with [other RCL librarians], which could be about teaching, collections, or an active project, like the humanities citation toolkit group.
And surely that’s the abbreviated version. You mentioned grants; let’s zoom in there for a moment. You were involved in a couple of successful open education grants at Warner. What does that work entail?
My role is to help connect the dots to ensure success. So, that means talking through various issues and guiding faculty members through the process of creating an open educational resource—that might be helping to clarify what you can and can’t do if the work is going to be adapted or the kind of license you can put on the material.
One of the grants was awarded to Warner faculty members Rafaella Borasi and Dave Miller, who opted to publish their textbook in Pressbooks, and open publishing platform. I’m the go-to person for Pressbooks, so I do a lot of teaching around it as far as when it’s appropriate to use and figuring out if it’s a good fit. And if it is a good fit, I’ll help the get the project started.
A lot of what you and other librarians do aren’t the kinds of things most people would think of, which is closer to a human version of a Google. How would you characterize your work?
I’m not the person you got to for the answer. My job is to be a coach. I want to help people get better at coming up with strategies to be more successful on their own. Whether that person is an undergraduate student or a faculty member, I try to give them the skills to help them work more efficiently. Wherever someone is, I’m there to get them to the next place they want to be.
More than one person has described you as ‘tireless.’ What drives you to maintain that level of commitment?
I really like helping people. But I think a lot of it comes from when I was first a librarian. I felt like everyone around me seemed confident about what they were doing. I had a list of things I knew I needed to do; I just didn’t know where to start. I needed a coach. Being in that position has helped me become the coach I needed for students and faculty.
I think people have this vision of higher education—whether that’s student work or faculty research—where someone’s sitting alone in a dark room with piles of papers and books nearby. It doesn’t have to be a solitary experience; it can be, but it will be harder and take a lot longer. I try to save people time by offering bespoke strategies because every person is a little different in terms of what works for them. If I can save someone a few minutes, an hour a week, a day, that can make a huge difference.
There’s the struggle against yourself, and then there’s the struggle against a bad system. If you have a bad system, the work is never going to be fulfilling. I try to take as much focus as possible off the process so it’s easier for the person to engage with and enjoy whatever topic they’re exploring. ∎
Want to work with Eileen Daly-Boas? Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.