The newly hired Social Sciences Librarian at NDSU, Alfred “Al” Bernardo, fell into the profession rather than knowing that is the passion he had, he realized after graduating with a completely different degree.
Bernardo graduated from Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, with a Bachelor’s degree in political science. After attending graduate school to further his political science degree he realized it was not the path he wanted and discontinued his program.
“It seems like whenever you talk to librarians you either find the people who are like ‘from the time I was eight years old I knew I wanted to be a librarian’ to the people who are like ‘well I sort of tried some other career and that didn’t work out’,” Bernardo said.
He explained that he fell into being a librarian and that it wasn’t the plan at first. When he discontinued his education towards political science it was fall 2008, to which finding a job was difficult, so he was only able to work at his public library, Worthington Library. At this library, he continued to move up in his position until he realized he would need a Master’s degree if he wanted to further his rise in the librarian profession.
“I developed an interest in it, it wasn’t something I thought of myself – I never considered it before, but after working there for a few years – I developed an interest in it,” Bernardo continued, “I’d been working in the field for a few years anyway, so – I had a much better idea of what I was getting into I think because I mean it is more of a professional degree.”
After this realization, Bernardo went to Kent State University, Ohio, to which he received his master’s degree in Library and Information Sciences. He used this to then become a librarian at Valley City State University for two years.
As for advice for anyone struggling to figure out what they want to do he said, “remain open to other things that are out there” then explaining that it’s not uncommon to change majors or even careers after completing school.
Now working at NDSU, he is still adapting to being a larger university than what he is used to, now instead of having multiple duties in different areas, he has more specific and narrowed job he must focus on.
“I’m still sort of learning the ropes here,” Bernardo explained.
His main duties consist of, selecting materials, mainly books, but also databases for his department, maintaining hours at the reference desk where people can ask questions online and in person and going to classrooms to explain how to find appropriate references for students as well as usage of databases.
A difference at NDSU, when compared to Valley City State University, is that there are more graduate programs so he explained that he sees it as an opportunity to work with students who are doing more in-depth research.
Bernardo thinks that not automatically moving towards the professional degree, but rather working in a library to begin with and then following that career path, gave him the unique factor of patron service.
“I think working – spending the years I did working with the front desk, working more with the public in a public place of reference desk I think I have a lot of experience with that type of service orientation that comes with that,” Bernardo said.
He sees stereotypes changing as the library profession changes with younger people entering the field. Along with the typical ‘middle aged woman with the bun and glasses shushing any person who speaks’ stereotype being debunked.
Now the problem being, many think libraries are becoming extinct because everything is online now, but Bernardo disagrees. “Everything isn’t online and a lot of the stuff online you can’t just get to for free – a lot of the stuff online there’s people out there somewhere doing a lot of behind the scenes work making sure you’re able to find that stuff,” Bernardo explained.
Although he went onto explain that some colleges are starting to take away their libraries because of the belief that everything is online. He explained that is isn’t just a place for information, but a place for students to meet and have a space to do work or even hang out, “I do think libraries are very important for the academic environment,” Bernardo shared.
“Discovery is really important – serendipitous discovery, where like you’re walking down the shelf – of books and something just catches your eye and this is something – all around is something we’re losing culturally as we lose video stores and instead have Netflix or we lose music stores and instead have Spotify” Libraries are a place that still offers this because Netflix and Spotify you can still have something new, but it is all an algorithm so they are pushing that towards you without you knowing.
He looked back to his time as an undergraduate and realized he never asked a question to any librarians even though he used it often, he hopes that students will not make this mistake. “Other than your professors we’re (librarians) sort of people that you can come and talk to about academic things, school-work related things, questions that you have about research or whatever that you’re involved in,” Bernardo shared.
Many are hesitant to ask for assistance from an unknown source for their school work or research or even light reading, but they can help. “Anyone – should feel free to contact us (librarians) for anything – whether it’s by email or it’s by chat, or even just showing up at my office,” Bernardo said.