2015 I Love My Librarian Award Winner Doug Campbell: Embedded Librarian

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If you’re a student at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas, chances are you have met Doug the Librarian.

Perhaps you have seen the posters splashed with his bearded visage, accompanied by the slogan, “Go see Doug.” Or perhaps you have encountered him in your dormitory.

As his colleague Sheri Broyles wrote about Campbell, librarian at the school’s Willis Library, when she nominated him for the 2015 I Love My Librarian Award, “Doug isn’t just any librarian. He’s ‘Doug the Librarian,’ an affectionate title bestowed upon him by students across our 37,000-student campus. His passion is helping students solve problems, and he’s the trusted guide our students go to when they’re lost.”

For Campbell, it isn’t enough to connect with students – he has gone out of his way to share his life with them – he spent a year living in a dorm as the Resident Librarian.  His commitment to the students Doug is embedded in his very skin – his first tattoo displays the Beta Phi Mu symbol along with the legend “ALIIS INSERVIENDO CONSUMOR,” Latin for “Consumed in the Service of Others.”

The response from the students reflects their esteem. As another nominator, Shay Youngblood wrote, “There is a social media campaign #WeLoveUNTLibrarianDoug that supports the fact, that Doug has helped thousands of students and countless faculty, staff and community members with his research and library skills, added richly to the community by encouraging students to vote, spent countless volunteer hours creating awareness of the positive impact of bike culture on the environment and the city’s culture. UNT Students use Twitter daily to show their gratitude via student videos or photos which can be seen through @WeLoveLibrarianDoug.”

Broyles said Campbell will never give up on a student.  “He’ll work with them until they understand both the process and how to use the information. He also does some hand holding for faculty. We’re all better because Doug is on our team.”

She said Campbell has provided valuable contributions to one of the gateway courses to the Mayborn School of Journalism, Introduction to Media Writing.

“This is a required course for every student – advertising, broadcast/digital, print and digital, photography and public relations – who come through our program. It’s a tough class that includes both lecture and lab,” Broyles said.

Campbell delivers a guest lecture in every section, every semester.  Broyles said, “There are two purposes for him coming to this class. First, what he talks about is an important topic not just for journalism majors, but also for our overall society.

“Specifically he digs into how one should evaluate a website and other sources. Is this site legitimate? Is the data valid? Is it reliable? These are important questions for students and journalists, but more than that, such critical thinking is important as we train the citizens for our larger world.”

Campbell also speaks in the advanced class of News Reporting, Writing and Editing, where students are expected to handle more complex stories and find sources.  Broyles said, “Doug is often where they start, not as a source but as a way to find sources. He doesn’t just give them names. Rather he helps them think through the process.”

“Doug isn’t just a librarian. He’s a teacher. He makes our students smart, critical thinkers.”  Campbell brings the library to his students, she said.  “In fact, he prefers to think of himself as an ‘embedded librarian.’

“One year he lived in the largest dorm on campus, which houses more than 1,000 of our first-year students. He was a fixture there, even setting up his help desk one night a week in the lobby to assist students with research questions and to teach them how to access the library resources remotely. “

His outreach extends across the campus.  She said that during one semester he spent part of his time four days a week at buildings across campus.

She said three were in dorms, where he was accessible to more than 6,000 students. The other was in the building that houses the school’s 1,000 journalism students. Students would find him every Monday from 10 a.m. to noon on the benches by the windows as they walked in the doors.  “He (set) up his poster – the one with his bearded face that everyone recognizes – and students (would) stop by and sit down to talk with him about whatever project they might be working on.”

In a video interview in connection with the I Love My Librarian Award ceremony in New York, he said, when asked, “What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?” “The people. That’s easy. The number one reason I became a librarian was to help people find stuff.”

On winning the award, he said, “It’s only a tribute to the people that I get to help every day. It’s only because of them that I won this award. It’s because of them that I love my job. It’s because of them that I have a job.”

Has a librarian made a difference in your life?  Nominations are open through September 29  for the 2016 I Love My Librarian Awards.