Copley Library is home to thousands of bound editions of knowledge, multimedia sources and quiet study spaces such as the “Harry Potter” room. Nearly everyone at the University of San Diego goes to the library. Even the Torero To Go mobile food truck parks in front, feeding hungry students at lunchtime and during late-night final exam study sessions.
But some of Copley Library’s biggest fans are the students who are required to be there.
Chelsea Kamai calls it “a place where I feel like I belong.” Lizeth Juvera’s experiences at the library help “prepare me for the future.” Ophelia Augustine “learns something new each day.” Levor Ross, quite frankly, believes Copley Library has contributed mightily to his personal pathway to a milestone event on May 26.
These four undergraduate students, along with Danielle Bertolero, Julie Le, Sean Ricucci, Dominic Spencer-Avarado and Brittany Swicord and graduate students Kim Buford, Cecilia Gong and Katharine Petrich, comprise the 12 Copley Library work-study USD students among the Class of 2013.
“Our work-study students are the crown jewel of our workforce,” University Librarian Theresa Byrd said. “They assist us in keeping the library open from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. They work in Access Services, Technical Services and Special Collections. All 12 graduating students have contributed to the excellent service Copley Library provides to faculty, staff and students.”
The 37 work-study students in Copley Library, a widely diverse group, is second only to the 80 represented within the Center for Community Service-Learning.
The students contribute plenty during the 112 hours that the facility is open per week, but the benefit back to the student is equally vital. Augustine, Juvera, Kamai (pictured above, left to right) and Ross spoke of the fun environment, potlucks, precious study time and camaraderie among them while also focusing on processing and performing quality control of new print materials and more in the downstairs Technical Services Department.
“If we didn’t have (a work-study program), I don’t know what I’d be doing,” said Kamai, an English and psychology double major from Hawaii, who has worked in the library for three years. “Working here has helped me grow as a person. I feel I have a place where I can be myself. Sometimes, on campus, it’s hard when people surround you, especially when you come from a minority group and it’s a culture shock. The library has helped me learn about myself and to work well with others.”
Ross (pictured, at right), a sociology major from Gaffney, S.C., and a defensive lineman from 2010-12 with the Toreros’ football team, struggled to balance academics, football and an off-campus job.
“I had no time to study, no time to sleep, nothing. I was taught not to quit, but I almost did because I couldn’t get my grades up and I was working at a bar as a bouncer until 2 a.m.,” he said. Working at Copley Library and having a much more flexible work schedule made a big difference.
“My experience here has been great,” said Ross, who will walk in the graduation ceremony but is taking a summer class to complete his graduation requirement. “In the library you work your hours, but they understand your class schedule. They work around your classes and if you need to study for a test. It’s no big hassle. They’ve been very supportive.”
A supportive environment has been invaluable for Augustine, a 30-year-old mother of two children. She transferred to USD in 2010 from Southwestern College. She expressed overconfidence when, after a successful community college academic stint, that didn’t translate to the same due to USD’s academic rigor.
“Most of these kids are 18-19 and I felt like, ‘I’ve got this. I can do this. I was an A student.’ But my first semester at USD I fell flat on my face. It was the worst college semester I’ve ever had. It was so rough. It was hard to keep up with the curriculum, I was working off campus, I had my kids and we were living in South Bay. It was horrible,” she said.
But she sought help from campus resources such as Student Support Services staff and a mentoring program with high-ranking administrators and staff. Her mentor was Theresa Byrd. When Augustine initially looked for a work-study job and couldn’t find one, she turned to Byrd. The decision to put her to work in the library provided immediate stability. Academically, she gravitated toward psychology, which included a class with Associate Professor Adriana Molitor that Augustine said broadened her perspective as a student and as a parent.
“The reason I’m walking across the (Jenny Craig Pavilion) stage this month is because of the wonderful faculty and staff here at USD,” Augustine said. “They genuinely want you to succeed. I’ve felt their love and concern. People want to reach out and help you. It’s really been like a community.”
Juvera has worked in the library all four years, even intersession and summer sessions. She’s a double major in business administration and marketing, a French minor and she’s successfully balanced school, work and she has a passion for fashion and modeling. She’s also done study abroad. She went to Florence, Italy as a sophomore through the Second-Year Experience and last summer visited eight countries and took courses via the popular Semester at Sea program.
Juvera said her time at USD and in the library has been well spent. She started out doing customer service tasks upstairs on the main floor and frequently interacted with students, faculty and staff. Moving downstairs her second year — Byrd’s first at USD — was a slight adjustment at first, but Juvera is fine with it.
“It’s been the best thing for me,” she said. “I wound up being very happy. When I’m done with my tasks I do homework and I’ve made some very good friends here.”
All 12 graduating students are about to close a chapter of their lives and open a new one. Kamai has applied for a job in New York to work with underserved, at-risk kids. Ross wants to start a local nonprofit organization to help kids from low-income areas get to college. Juvera and Augustine are both looking for job opportunities. Having a degree will open doors, but working in the library certainly gives them all an enhanced skills set for the job market.
“It’s a great environment. Working in the library has also let me be a student, become a well-rounded student. I’ve learned a lot of new things just by working here,” Kamai said. “At USD you can always find your niche somewhere. You just have to be yourself.”
— Ryan T. Blystone