When Ina Rodino, BYU-Idaho’s associate university librarian, was a student at Ricks College, she had a few roommates who kept telling her she should be a librarian.
“I loved books, and maybe I was always in the library — I don’t even know,” Rodino said. “They kept saying that. I just thought it was really funny, you know, because there’s a stereotype for a librarian, right?”
But modern libraries are much more than stereotypes, more than spinster women in cardigans and beady glasses who stock dusty bookshelves or loudly shush patrons.
Libraries nowadays remain endless wells of knowledge. But the people who run them are constantly adapting their spaces to best serve the needs of an ever-changing population. From egg chairs to a cardboard cutout of Bob Ross to digitally available magazines and much more, the David O. McKay Library is a place designed for students.
Rodino is one of the librarians at the forefront of that change, working every day to help students succeed and thrive.
But, like many librarians, her calling came as a surprise even to her.
Many people with a career in library work fall into it. For some people, extensive research for a post-graduate degree made them fall in love with the resources libraries can offer. For others, a part-time library assistant job was the only experience needed to develop a love for the work.
For Rodino, a fresh degree in humanities left her spinning, suddenly having to find a job with no idea where to start.
“I think because my roommate had probably said that (about librarians), it just kind of stuck in my head as an option that you could do,” Rodino said.
After a childhood filled with warm memories of attending storytime at her local library and her mother helping her find her favorite books, Rodino thought a library seemed like a wonderful place to find a career.
One master’s degree in library science and 10 years later, Rodino still loves her work at the McKay Library, now in an office filled with memories.
A drawing of her cat on the whiteboard warns, “Watch out for your kneecaps!” A space heater sits under the desk, kicking on occasionally to heat up the overly cooled space. Drawings by Rodino’s kids are strewn along the walls and the front of her cabinets, accompanied by photos of the artists, a framed diploma and a spread of plum-colored sticky notes in front of her computer.
In front of it all, a cardboard cutout of Bob Ross leans against her desk and greets everyone who walks in with a paintbrush and a smile.
Despite the warmth and life present in this small room, Rodino’s favorite part of her job lies outside of it.
“My most favorite part is actually working with students,” Rodino said. “That’s the exciting part: when you can help somebody, and then they get that ‘Wow!’ moment. Or they’re like, ‘I’ve been looking for this for like three hours — please help me,’ and then you’re like, ‘Okay,’ and then we can find stuff.”
Eliza Taggart, a sophomore studying communication, has been working as a McKay Library student employee for two semesters now. She loves being able to help students and share all the library has to offer.
“I love the opportunities … that it has for all the students,” said Taggart. “There’s so many resources available to students at the McKay Library, and I just love that.”
Rodino likes to explain the benefits of the library by likening it to going to a doctor. A student who broke their leg would rather go to a real doctor than try to look online and learn how to set a broken bone by themselves.
Similarly, when students need to conduct research, librarians are there as trained professionals to help them accomplish their goals as quickly and most effectively as possible.
Or, as Neil Gaiman put it, “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.”
But the library is much more than just research, and its resources are much more than just books, as important as they are.
Besides physical objects, space is vital for many students, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. The McKay Library is helping solve this need by providing additional areas for students to work. These new spaces are decked out with tables, chairs, outlets and couches. There are even new types of seating, like the individual study pods, also known as “egg chairs,” that are so popular with students the library plans to add more in the future.
Rodino likes to think of the McKay Library as the “heart of campus,” not only because it’s nearly in the center of campus, but because it serves as a gateway to learning. Open space, printed and digital publications of all kinds, a Mac lab, a 3D printing station, events, and research assistance are only a few of the free resources available to BYU-I students at the McKay Library.
With the library’s web page, students don’t even need to step foot on campus to access many of these resources.
“I just think all of that is contained in libraries, like, that’s what they do,” Rodino said. “They collect information, they collect historical things, they collect people, right? … It’s also a place to connect. So, connecting with your community, connecting with people who can help you. It’s a good place to be.”
For any students looking to find the “good place to be” on campus, the McKay Library is open 7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday.
More information, one-on-one librarian appointments, upcoming events and more can be found on the McKay Library website.