UNI Librarian empowers students to succeed
Much of librarian Anne Marie Gruber’s job is spent aiding students. Her favorite memories are ones where the library helps students overcome learning barriers. For instance, one graduate student never learned to type and was not meeting due dates. Gruber taught them about “speech to text” programs so the student could get their ideas on the page. “When I was able to identify some of the barriers for them and say, ‘hey, try this, this will make your life easier,’ and then they were able to succeed — that's what is gratifying for me. The best memories are the ones where those students walk across the stage.”
Gruber received her Bachelor’s of Arts in communicative sciences and disorders from the University of Northern Iowa. Afterwards, she earned her master's in library and information sciences from the University of Iowa. She was an academic librarian for ten years at the University of Dubuque and has spent the last six years working at UNI’s Rod Library.
She is the liaison librarian for the science departments as well as social work and family services. Such a position means that she specializes in providing students in those departments with research help. Additionally, she is the liaison to the Office of Community Engagement on campus, which entails supporting the service-learning and community engagement projects of UNI students.
“The other hat that I wear is the textbook equity part, which is fairly new,” says Gruber. This part of her role involves finding ways to reduce textbook costs for students. Textbook accessibility is an enormous barrier to student education. “We surveyed UNI students and found that about 50% report not purchasing required textbooks, and almost a quarter report getting a poor or failing grade in class because they couldn't afford the textbook.” If students cannot afford the materials for education, it dampens their quality of education.
Gruber reduces textbook inaccessibility by directing federal CARES Act funding to UNI departments so faculty can write their own textbooks. The faculty-written textbooks are free to students and fit the course goals of UNI instructors better than traditional textbooks. She helped create a 2-year pilot program at UNI working to develop interactive ebooks through a software called Manifold. Gruber also works with faculty to find already-existing free textbooks and materials catered to a course.
While first resisting entering librarianship because she did not want to copy her mother’s profession, she realized that it aligned with her skills and passions. “I value education. I value empowering people to be educated, and to find and use high quality information to make the world better. And that's what I get to do all day.” She is proud to say she loves librarianship.
Gruber also coordinates the Service Learning Librarian blog, which is a collaboration across multiple institutions and highlights the service elements of libraries in higher education.