Practice Article

The Practical and the Aspirational: Managing the Student Employee Experience in Library Publishing Efforts

  • Rebecca Nelson (Utah State University)
  • Becky Thoms orcid logo (Utah State University)


Student employees are a critical component in the workforce of academic libraries. While more established library services have the benefit of attracting student employees specifically interested in their work, scholarly communication programs, and library publishing efforts in particular, have more difficulty describing and garnering interest in their work. This article describes the journey of the Digital Initiatives Unit at Utah State University Libraries as we navigated the particular trials that come with library publishing—specifically delving into the work of our institutional repository (IR) and the role of student employees in those efforts. The labor of our program is variable and largely project-based, which has presented a number of challenges related to our student employees: understanding the larger context of their work; retention of knowledge and skills alongside their ability to prioritize; and a struggle to transfer skills from one project to another. Addressing these problems involved more intentional gathering of student feedback, colleague brainstorming, and trial and error; through which process and results we are gaining a more developed understanding of the critical importance of the student experience. When student employees see their work as more than just a job, and recognize the skills they are learning, they come away with greater satisfaction and our unit benefits from improved outputs. Using what we have learned, we will be able to continue our efforts for a better student experience as well as creating future goals for our unit.

Keywords: student employees, institutional repository, scholarly communication, student labor, library publishing

How to Cite:

Nelson, R. & Thoms, B., (2021) “The Practical and the Aspirational: Managing the Student Employee Experience in Library Publishing Efforts”, Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication 9(1). doi:

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Published on
16 Jul 2021
Peer Reviewed