“Earning While They’re Learning” is an occasional series of stories celebrating our library student workers. The Duke University Libraries employ more than 250 undergraduates and graduate students every year, making us one of the largest student employers on campus.
Tucked inside the Mary Duke Biddle Building on East Campus, the Music Library is not like most other libraries at Duke. It’s small, quiet, and out of the way. Many students might not even know it exists. But for senior Rachel Thompson, the library has become something of a second home over the past three years.
Rachel is one of the first people you typically see at the front desk when you walk into the Music Library. As a student employee, she does a bit of everything—working with patrons, stacking and reshelving, sorting through books, scores, microfiche, and CDs. In all her time at Duke, she’s never considered applying for any other job.
“A lot of times people complain like, ‘Ugh, I’ve got to go to work,’ ” she says. “But I’m like, ‘I can’t relate!’ ”
As you descend the steps from the library’s main floor into the stacks and study rooms below, it’s not hard to see why. Perfectly peaceful and still, it’s a little oasis of sanity, tucked away from the chaos of academic life.
“I really like the aura of this place,” she says when asked about why she enjoys working here so much. “I typically only study in this library.”
For Rachel, a pre-dental philosophy major with a minor in chemistry, working in the library gives her a chance to get in touch with some parts of herself that can be hard to find other places. She played trombone in high school and has played piano for most of her life, and she’s currently part of Duke’s gospel choir. Working in the Music Library lets Rachel immerse herself in music—not just scores, she’s quick to point out, but also books on music theory, music history, and music’s evolution across different genres and cultures.
When asked about her future plans, in fact, Rachel says her work in music libraries may not necessarily end with graduation.
“I actually wouldn’t mind working in a library later in life,” she says. “I like books, I like music … and music libraries are fun because you get to see the scores, which is a little bit different than just your run-of-the-mill book.”
When asked about an especially good day on her job, Rachel has a hard time picking out just one.
“Well, towards the end of the semester, the person who’s over us typically will have an end-of-semester party, which is always nice—free food, you know… but, let’s see…” her voice trails off. “Most days are pretty good!”
About this Series: Students like Rachel are an indispensable part of our library workforce. Their employment provides Duke students with valuable financial aid to support their education, and they learn useful skills that enhance their academic studies and careers after college. This year, to encourage senior giving to the Libraries, George Grody (Associate Professor of Markets and Management Studies) has set up the Grody Senior Challenge. Every gift made by the Class of 2018 to the Libraries Annual Fund will be matched by Professor Grody. All funds will directly support library student workers who provide research and instructional help.