A Student First

Student employee finds balance between work and class at Fogler Library

After working several different jobs in the retail industry, Kayla Harriman had enough. She was working toward her degree in Social Work from the University of Maine, and the jobs she had made it difficult to balance her classes with her work schedule.

“I had so many different retail jobs,” Harriman says. “I did o.k. with them, but the problem I had was that they weren’t focused on helping me get through school. They were focused on their company and what you could do for them, even it meant staying with them from your shift of 2 p.m.-12 a.m.”

Harriman realized that she needed a change, and she needed to find a job that would support her main priority of doing well in school. This realization led her to the library, where she ended up taking a work-study position in Interlibrary Loan (ILL).

“My grades started to slip,” Harriman says, “and I had work-study provided to me. I figured the library was a quiet place, and I really like books and learning about new things every day, so I ended up applying.

“I didn’t actually know what ILL was when I applied, but they let me learn on the job.”

Harriman has worked in Interlibrary Loan for almost three years. She spends most of her time processing, tracking and mailing materials, some of which are being loaned to Fogler, some that Fogler is loaning to other libraries.

“The hardest thing [at first] was finding where I needed to go in the library,” Harriman says. “With my job, I need to go everywhere. I go all over the library all day long.”

During her time in ILL, she’s learned plenty about the library, but she also developed a renewed source of energy for her classes. The flexible schedule and supportive atmosphere in ILL gave her a chance to focus on being a student.

“All the classes and internships take a toll on my energy, so when I come to work I feel like they build me back up. I love that my bosses all care about my well-being, and they all want to see me get through school successfully.

“My grade point average went up. I feel like when I get home, I can do my homework. I feel like I can function to the best of my abilities.“

Harriman, who graduates in December 2016, has plans to pursue a career in the criminal justice system. Even though her work in the library might not seem like a natural path to that career, Harriman is quick to point out the benefits she has gained.

“[With] any jobs I do, I try to find things to help me out with my future, and one of those things is researching. I’ve had to do a lot of researching here, and with criminology I know I’ll have to do a lot of that as well.”

As she prepares to graduate, Harriman is excited for the next steps in her career, even if that means leaving her job in the library. At the end of her time as a student-employee, she’s thankful she found a job that encouraged her to be a student first.

“It’s really important as a student to work someplace that supports you,” she says, “and I know not everyone gets that chance. I know it will sound cheesy, but I really do feel blessed that I came across this job.”

This story was originally featured in the 2016 Raymond H. Fogler Library Magazine.