Over the past year, part of my nine-year-old son’s daily routine has been to go in the backyard and work on various baseball skills for about two hours. (He’ll only let my wife and me help for about 45 minutes.) It has been interesting to watch him take what he learns at practice and incorporate it into his backyard routine. This culminated in him trying out for a local travel baseball team.

During the tryouts, I was thinking about how hard my son has worked to improve, and the part of my brain that is always in Rush Rhees Library thought his process—listening, absorbing, applying—was a lot like experiential learning for Rochester students.

This past year, the libraries oversaw a summer internship program where students worked full-time on projects that support the libraries’ mission. The goal wasn’t to create librarians; it was to provide real-world learning opportunities in areas such as user experience, content creation for social media, and website development. Additionally, we created a similar program that had students at our Q&i (reference) desk creating proposals to improve or create library services.

Experiential learning isn’t new for the libraries. We’ve had interns in the Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation, Rossell Hope Robbins Library, and other areas for years. And we have the Karp Library Fellows program, which is entering its fifth year. None of this happens without our staff enthusiastically adding this to their already full workloads, the counsel and generosity of alumni and friends that goes into building these programs, and the desire our students have to learn and challenge themselves.

All of this is part of being a 21st-century library.

We are repositories of knowledge and centers for research and knowledge creation. But we are also grounds for the experiences that prepare students for their future professional and personal lives, and it is in this way that the libraries must continue to grow and improve.

As students begin refilling our spaces and preparing for a new semester, I will be working with staff to enhance our existing programs and find new ways to serve our students and make their Rochester experiences better.

Lastly, my wife and I are proud to share our son made that travel team. We now have the tough job of tempering his excitement until October when practices start.


Kevin Garewal
Vice Provost and Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean
University of Rochester Libraries