For library director Rick Sample, it’s the students that count
“Libraries, to a librarian, are always personal,” says Rick Sample, director of library services and information literacy. Capitol’s Puente Library is certainly an example; its development over the past two decades has been guided by Sample’s vision.
That vision includes an awareness of the multiple ways in which university students make use of library resources. For many, it is not simply a place to locate information and check out materials related to their coursework. Many come to the library to take a break from academics – for instance, by checking out a movie or the latest best-selling thriller. Under Sample’s leadership, Puente Library has endeavored to meet such needs.
“We’ve purchased a large fiction collection and bought DVDs,” Sample explains. “And we’re always adding things, board games for instance. I’m impressed with the usage of the board games. In general, we try to do things that are student-driven.”
“I spoke with other librarians from MICUA (Maryland Independent College and University Association) schools and they said I should expect studying to account for 50% to 70% for the library’s usage. It took me awhile to adapt to that.”
Sample is a strong proponent of student-driven programming, saying Puente has become one of the focal points of campus life. “I don't think you could find a student on campus who couldn’t tell you where the library was,” he says. “You might be able to find students who don’t know where the McGowan Center is, but not the library.”
That’s partly because of the variety of activities and events developed by Sample, librarian Susanna Carey, and a dedicated team of student workers. The library calendar includes an edible book contest, a Halloween costume party, a chili cook-off, a Mobile Phone Olympics, gaming events, a Veterans’ Day essay contest, and a poetry contest. In recent months, Puente Library has boosted its presence further through social media and the launch of a new website.
A library director -- and professor
Being in charge of a university library is not for the faint-hearted; it’s a demanding job. Even so, Sample also finds time for his second vocation: teaching. He’s a longtime member of the adjunct faculty, specializing in literature courses. These have covered topics including sci-fi, mystery and horror fiction.
Sample says he took up teaching because he values interaction with students. His first role at Capitol, before taking on the library post, was as basketball coach and athletic director. That’s right – Capitol once had a basketball team. It was active from the mid-1980s until the turn of the century. The team participated in an area league, travelled to neighboring states for away games and even participated in a few tournaments. And Sample was its coach.
The era of the bouncing ball at Capitol is long past, but Sample recalls “good times” and “funny stories.”
“Engineers probably shouldn’t be playing basketball,” he jokes affectionately.
Although he once considered the sport his first love, he now finds more fulfilment in being a professor. He’s passionate about the capabilities of Capitol students and relishes hearing their ideas during classroom discussions. “Our students have a lot to say and they are very articulate. They know how to defend their positions. They really keep me on my toes.”
Sample has been at Capitol now for close to thirty years – first as coach, and then as library director and professor. The close-knit, family-like ambience of a small campus appeals to him; though he expects changes as the university expands, he anticipates that Capitol will retain many of its unique qualities as an institution. He is proud of Puente Library, which boasts a collection far wider in scope than some might expect from an institution dedicated to technology, business and engineering.
Above all he is committed to doing whatever he can to make Puente a valuable resource for those who walk through its doors. “Librarians don’t like to say no,” he acknowledges. “People come to the library wanting an answer to something, and we want to be able to provide it.”
“I guess my proudest accomplishment here would be that I have been sensitive and understanding and have listened to our students.”