Earning While They’re Learning: Archiving Valuable Experiences

“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.


What goes on behind those mysterious Rubenstein doors? For junior Ines, it’s a learning that goes beyond the classroom.

Hired in her freshman year, Ines works several days a week in the David M. Rubinstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. On a typical day, you can find her shelving and retrieving books, manning the service desk, and helping patrons from all over the world find materials for various research projects. Amazed at the ideas behind the research, Ines remarks that her favorite part of the job is interacting with researchers and getting a glimpse into their worlds of discovery.

For Ines, every rare material in Rubenstein Library is like a hidden treasure with a story that is just waiting to be brought back to life. As a current double major in Art History and Political Science, she has come to appreciate the value of tangible sources both through her travel and her experiences working at Rubenstein.

“You can’t underestimate what it’s like to hold a resource in your hands, really see it, and personally engage with it on your own time,” she said.

And these aren’t just any sources; they are some of the best in the country.

“Duke has an amazing rare books collection,” she said. “That’s something undergrads sometimes forget or don’t even realize is available.”

Working in the Rubenstein has given Ines a better understanding of the infrastructure behind Duke’s research, and has made her a better researcher. Though sometimes having a job can fall low on Duke students’ list of priorities, she finds it incredibly valuable.

“What my peers don’t realize is that being a student-worker doesn’t detract from my Duke experience—it amplifies it. I’m able to work with adults and be responsible. It’s character development as much as anything.”

Ines believes in enriching her education beyond the classroom and strives to constantly expose herself to new things. The Rubenstein Library has provided her with a space to explore these pursuits, and that wouldn’t be possible without funding from programs like the Grody Challenge and the Libraries’ Annual Fund. Last year, she was informed there might not be enough funding to renew her position, but she stuck it out.

For Ines, Duke’s special collections are more than just musty old repositories. While there is some dust (of course), she views the Rubenstein as a dynamic place. The staff have become inspiring mentors and friends, and even the oldest of documents have captured her imagination.

“There’s some stuff people never take out,” she pointed out. “Those are stories just waiting to be told.”


About this Series: Students like Ines 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.

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