True Librarian — Interviews with UWM Libraries Staff: Jane Cavanaugh, UWM at Waukesha Library

photo of Jane Cavanaugh
Photo courtesy Jane Cavanaugh.

Jane Cavanaugh, only two years out of library school and working as a corporate librarian, landed what she calls a “dream job”—a ten-month academic librarian position at UW-Waukesha (as it was called then)—where she has remained for over thirty years. Her current job title is Public Services Librarian with, she says, a multitude of duties: “I am a reference librarian, help out in library instruction classes, market and promote the library, do collection development, write research guides, and am the interlibrary loan and circulation back up. Sometimes I am even able to answer tech questions!” Jane received both her BS in education and her MLIS from UWM, where she was a student worker in the Golda Meir Library’s Curriculum Collection.

Q: Your first job as a librarian was in the business world.

Jane: Yes, at an engineering firm, Eaton Corporation. The corporate world is totally different than education but it was a good job. I prepared current awareness bulletins, answered technical and reference questions, and reorganized their library. Then, this job at Waukesha opened up, and my experience as a student employee at the Golda Meir Library helped me get the position.

Why did you want to work in an academic library?

One thing is that you are always learning something at a university—as a library instructor teaching a class for sociology or political science, or working with a student individually to find resources listed on their syllabus. Because we are a small campus, we are able to work with the faculty really closely to help students succeed. Faculty members will stop by and say, “a lot of students are going to ask about their assignment this week,” and then they will explain to me the assignment’s goal.

The UW System in general has struggled in recent years for adequate funding, and that has affected libraries, of course. However, thanks in part to your efforts, you have had success in completing several projects at your library.

Over the years I have written many remodeling grants. Two of those were funded: one was our computer lab and the other was our group study room with collaborative workstations. But my biggest accomplishment at the library was the remodeling done after a ceiling collapse in 2015. Along with Scott Silet [assistant director of libraries for the College of General Studies], we conducted surveys, met with committees, researched library design, helped design a new layout, looked for funding, and pushed to get things that our students needed. We also obtained, for just the cost of transportation, some excellent used furniture from the business library at UW-Madison.

When you surveyed the students, what did they want?

They wanted booths and comfortable chairs, individual study spaces, and quiet study. With the remodeling and new and used furniture, we were able to make the library one of the best spaces on campus.

In 2018, your campus and Washington County merged with UWM. What, if anything, has changed for you?

Well, we have so many more databases available now for our students. I like that I can collaborate with more colleagues—at Golda Meir Library and UWM at Washington County Library—than just the five staff who work in this library. There are a lot more opportunities for professional development. And we are always welcome to attend anything happening at the Milwaukee campus, and are welcomed with open arms. That has been a big deal—when we go to the Golda Meir Library, everyone is so nice to us!