Adrienne Rife, newly minted librarian, has been awarded the 2020–2021 Oppliger Award. The gift is given to honor an exemplary graduate student working in the IU Libraries, deserving of recognition and financial recompense. Dr. Robert Oppliger, having received his bachelors and masters in education from Indiana University in the 1960s, wishes to reward industrious graduate student workers in creating a dynamic research community essential to the performance of IU as a distinguished university.
Dedicated to reference
Adrienne’s nominators agreed categorically that she was an outstanding asset during the pandemic. Working virtual reference meant picking up phone calls and instant messaging from home. Anna Marie Johnson, Head of Scholars’ Commons, wrote, “She has demonstrated commitment to the work of the Scholars’ Commons by keeping up with policies and procedures, was instrumental in helping figure out how we might answer the phone from home during the beginning of the pandemic, and by her professional and kind way of answering chat and phone questions.”
As the reference staff found their new best practices virtually, Adrienne remained committed to answering patrons’ questions with depth and understanding. “Working the reference desk was an incredibly valuable experience for me,” she states. “Reference is such a dynamic skill in a library; particularly for large institutions like IU. You have to familiarize yourself with so many resources, departments, and services.” During their biweekly reference training sessions, Adrienne asked strategic questions and made “thoughtful contributions to our discussions,” said one colleague.
When she wasn’t promptly picking up a phone call or chat, Adrienne kept herself busy with optional projects, absorbing more and more about the IU Libraries. She explains, “Prior to entering my MLS program, I had very little experience with working in a library, so this experience was especially helpful for me in learning how to be a good librarian and how to navigate the challenges of an academic library environment.” Taking that initiative, Adrienne delved into government documents, creating an information literacy assignment and helping librarian Emily Alford with a grant project. In addition, Adrienne completed 100 pages of transcription for The Dúchas Project, an Irish national archive.
Adrienne hopes to pursue a career in special collections. Her MLS has a specialization in Archives and Records Management. Besides working the reference desk for the IU Libraries, Adrienne assisted Joshua Bennett, media manager and archivist at the Media School with archiving media materials, but specifically the Roy W. Howard collection. With over 14,000 pieces, the archive gives a full picture of Howard’s life as a journalist in the early 20th century. He went on to become president and general manager of United Press and chairman of Scripps Howard Newspapers.
Besides being an assistant archivist and reference staff member, Adrienne considered museum work briefly before deciding to pursue librarianship. She says, “I eventually realized how much I liked the user-driven aspects of librarianship, and it seemed like a natural transition.” The historian in her has led her to archival work. “I have always been a hands-on learner, and I love how archivists act as intermediaries between historical records and researchers in such tangible ways,” Adrienne explains. “Letters, photographs, publications, and other historical records provide concrete connections to the past and the people who lived through it, and I want to be a part of preserving that history and making it accessible to researchers and the general public.”
For now, Adrienne has graduated and is looking for full-time employment in an archive. Thrilled to use her MLS, she looks forward to serving “the information needs of the public and promote understanding of the importance of libraries and archives.” After all, as her supervisor wrote in her nomination, “She is well-equipped to be a public services librarian!” She will use the Oppliger award to help her transition to her new vocational home where the patrons will be delighted by her service-ethic.