Meet the O’Neill Library Reference Assistants

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The Reference Desk is staffed by Reference Assistants Sarah Shepherd, Caroline Safreed, and Michael Burke on Monday-Thursday 4pm to 9pm. We are all graduate students at Simmons University studying Library Science. Come by and say hi!

Sarah (she/her)

Close-up photograph of person with long red hair and earrings, in a tan jacket, smiling broadly, in late afternoon sun.
Sarah Shepherd, Reference Assistant, O’Neill Library, Simmons University School of Information Science ’23

I recently moved to Boston to pursue a masters in history and library science at Simmons University. Previously, I lived in rural West Virginia so it was a bit of a change! Last semester, I interned at the Library of Congress increasing access to the extraordinary holdings of letters written to the presidents in the early twentieth century. If interested, you can read one of my essays or my blog post on the Library of Congress site about letters to President Woodrow Wilson. At the reference desk at Boston College, I love working with students, faculty, and other members of the community to help them find resources, troubleshoot, and where that one book they are trying to find is hiding. We love answering questions and helping students so please ask us any and all questions that come to your mind. My background is in history, and databases for newspapers like the New York Times and The Boston Globe are my favorites. I love learning new things and it has been fascinating to learn how to search for science, economics, and business resources. One of my favorite things about working at the reference desk is serving as the eyes, ears, feet for the Answer Wall. The reference assistants work as the Answer Wall’s helpers and act as go-betweens for the Wall and the students. The O’Neill library is home to some of the friendliest people and I encourage you to come over and say hi!

Caroline (she/her)

Photo of person with long hair, round glasses, and multicolored knit top, with a background of grass, ocean, and sky
Caroline Safreed, Reference Assistant, O’Neill Library, Simmons University School of Information Science ’23

This is my fourth semester working the reference desk for BC, but only my second semester at the physical desk! The transition from doing exclusively remote reference via chat to having in-person interactions is almost like doing a completely new job as there are a lot of questions asked at the desk that aren’t asked over chat, like ‘where’s the bathroom?’ or ‘My professor says this book is in the library. Where is it?’ My favorite interactions at the desk are the ones that demystify the library to students. Explaining how to search in the catalog and what to do with a call number can make doing assignments so much easier. I am currently writing a thesis on the influence of Puritan theology on the adjudication of enslaved people during the seventeenth century in the Massachusetts Bay Colony to complete my archival management/history degree at Simmons University. I could not imagine doing so without access to BC’s collection and databases. It is exciting getting to share fundamental research skills and promote all of the cool stuff O’Neill has to offer. Did you know BC has a subscription to Ancestry.com? The digitized vital records on Ancestry have been helpful for my thesis. After finishing my thesis, the next step is to enter the working world as a bonafide librarian. I would be happy to stay in academic libraries, but I am leaning more towards law librarianship as my day job is at the Social Law Library in the John Adams Courthouse.

Michael (he/him)

Close-up photo of person with brown hair and light beard.
Michael Burke, Reference Assistant, O’Neill Library, Simmons University School of Information Science ’22

This semester has been my first working at the Reference Desk at O’Neill, but having attended Boston College as an undergraduate, I’m no stranger to spending some late nights among the stacks. Returning now with graduate coursework in library and information science under my belt, I can really appreciate the different kinds of technical and administrative work that goes into sustaining the research needs of a university. At the desk, we usually only have a few short moments to be as helpful as we can to students, so we make sure to welcome all questions with equal enthusiasm–whether it’s how to find a journal article for a paper or where someone can post a flyer on campus. We’re usually able to connect students with resources quickly because there is a whole community of staff that have been doing things like creating great up-to-date research guides and FAQs, digitizing campus collections like the Boston College Newspapers, or keeping the building clean and accessible. From the questions we receive online via the library chat service to the ones we get from the stream of students that pass through the lobby, we get glimpses into the amazingly diverse research, classwork, and programming going on around campus. As I finish my degree this year, I’m hoping to continue working in academic libraries, incorporating my interest in digital scholarship and data management with the humanities background BC first gave me.

Michael Burke

Reference Assistant, O'Neill Library

Caroline Safreed

Reference Assistant, O'Neill Library

Sarah Shepherd

Reference Assistant, O'Neill Library