Whether it is in the stacks, at the resource desk, or in the library classroom you can usually find Jen Bonnet smiling and ready to serve.
Bonnet acts as a liaison librarian at the Raymond H. Fogler Library to students and faculty in the anthropology, art, communications and journalism, Native American studies, new media and theater departments. She works closely with members of campus on research as well as professional and personal projects.
“Librarians try to meet people exactly where they are, that can be conceptually or physically,” Bonnet said. “We can meet right here in the library, we can help students who are new to a topic or very invested and involved who are looking for what else is out there. We also work with students who are coming back from college after taking time off for various reasons. We work with veterans and adult students. It’s just an interesting diversity of students and needs here. I feel like my role is to try and get to know as many students on campus as possible to try and meet their needs.”
When Bonnet arrived at the University of Maine in the fall of 2013, she wasn’t sure what to expect. Bonnet previously worked for the University of Michigan, which has a population of 44,000 students, four times that of UMaine. Bonnet quickly fell in love with UMaine’s tightly knit community and realized she had the opportunity to build strong relationships with students and faculty.
“I see undergrad and graduate students on the bus almost every day,” Bonnet said. “It’s a great comfortable space for folks to chat, it oftentimes brings out projects they are working on and problems they are working through. It’s a great opportunity to casually connect with one another but also talk through things students need help with.”
Bonnet says that many students come to her with a sense of urgency, needing help understanding an assignment, needing guidance on how to approach research, or simply having hit a wall with a project. While Bonnet loves assisting students in need, she has found that one rewarding part of her job is getting to see the outcome of these relationships.
“I have people contact me who I have worked with before, to share successes, and that’s really neat,” Bonnet said. “I have worked with some students as first years, and now they are further along in their education, getting internships, studying abroad, or doing various things in their communities and they want to share that. They are curious about how they can take their experience at UMaine and the new skills they have and translate those into their new positions. It’s really cool to see what people doing with their lives, and hopefully that we have helped them develop life long learning skills.”
This idea of engaging “lifelong learning skills” is not only something Bonnet attempts to instill in students, but also to practice in her everyday life. Bonnet finds joy in learning about student’s passions, but she also finds an education in the relationships themselves.
“I think students think ‘oh I’m coming here to learn from everyone else around me’ but I think we do so much learning too. Working with students is such a mutually beneficial experience because the more that we know about what students care about, what they are trying to do and accomplish, the better we are able to respond and develop collections, services, and programs for them,” Bonnet said.
Based on student feedback and need, Bonnet is working with her fellow faculty members to hosts events such as “Grants 101: Seeking, Analyzing, and Writing Basics” on March 19, “Fake news, misinformation, and political bias: News literacy for the 21st century” on March 25, and the Human Dimensions of Climate Change Film Series March 26 through April 9.
Next time you have a question, need assistance, or just need a morale boost, ask for Jen Bonnet. She is happy to help.