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Undergraduate Outreach Librarian Annette M. Vadnais

Promotes libraries and librarians as part of College Matters for U

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The UMass Amherst Libraries announce undergraduate outreach librarian Annette M. Vadnais’ participation in the University of Massachusetts’ College Matters for U program. In October 2014, the UMass Center at Springfield launched College Matters for U as part of Springfield Public Schools’ College and Career Awareness Month.

The College Matters for U program allows students from area schools to visit the UMass Center in Springfield to participate in a day of engaging activities.  The goal of the program is to educate students in grades K-12 about S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) career options and expose them to opportunities available after high school graduation, including applying to and attending college.

Vadnais reached out to Leykia Nulan, assistant provost for diversity at UMass Amherst, who spearheads the university’s ongoing efforts to increase diversity in the undergraduate student body and to foster an inclusive, supportive campus community, and offered to help these efforts in any way she could. Nulan then connected Vadnais with Jamina Scippio-McFadden, Director of Marketing and Community Relations at the UMass Center.  

“College Matters for U is a program that really speaks to me. Being able to help kids realize that college is an option for them is really wonderful,” says Vadnais.

Annette M. Vadnais graduated from UMass Amherst in 1999 with a B.A. in theater, and received her masters of library and information science from Simmons in 2013. Vadnais is a first generation college graduate from a low income background. “My parents never spoke about going to college, my father had only finished the seventh grade.” says Vadnais, “Even though my parents wanted me to do well in school, there was no pressure to perform academically. After taking time off after high school and working at a grocery store, I realized that I wanted more. A friend was applying to Mt. Holyoke and she strongly encouraged me to apply to UMass.”

In her sessions, Vadnais works with students of three age groups; elementary, middle, and high school. She tailors her time with each group in an age-specific manner, always concluding by telling the students the ways in which librarians are helpful, and encouraging them to make friends with librarians at their school or local public library.

For the elementary school students, she talks about various types of librarian jobs and the many different kinds of library spaces such as the Libraries’ Digital Media Lab which includes 3D printing. The students are then able to choose from several pre-made activity sheets featuring drawings of librarians that they finish themselves using what they learned from the presentation.

When working with middle school students, Vadnais shows them pictures of various people and asks which person they think is a librarian. She asks why they selected the picture they did, and then surprises them by revealing that all the images depict librarians. They then learn about the various types of librarians and library spaces, as did the elementary school kids, but since these students are older, they are asked to guess what the various types of librarians do, before they are told.

The high school students are more focused on what they want to do for a career, so for this group Vadnais discusses how libraries and librarians can help make their studies easier if they decide to go to college. She provides a list of resources they can use in high school and in college. She includes the UMass Amherst Libraries home page (pointing out that as residents of Mass. they can access the entire catalog, research guides, and much more) and information on the Libraries’ academic liaison program where each academic department is paired with a librarian. Vadnais says that the students get “super excited” to learn about the Occupational Outlook Handbook which shows salaries of various careers.

“I love working with students of all ages, teaching them not only about college but about how libraries and librarians can help them in their life.” says Vadnais.

For additional information about the College Matters for U program, please contact Jamina Scippio-McFadden, director of marketing & community relations, at 413-788-6277, or jscippiomcfadden@umassp.edu.