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Bearded UNT librarian becomes face of helpful trend

Bearded UNT librarian becomes face of helpful trend

Bearded UNT librarian becomes face of helpful trend
January 28
09:28 2014

Javier Navarro // Staff Writer

Perhaps it’s his graying beard, his thick-rimmed glasses or the thin southern twang in his voice that makes Doug Campbell an unusual librarian.

Maybe it’s his approachable disposition and the way he can make a first-time discussion feel like a conversation with a familiar face.

The recognition may also stem from the posters adorning different areas on campus that feature a caricature of Campbell’s face, his distinctive beard and glasses, with a caption that reads “Doug: Your Librarian on Location.”

“It’s a little embarrassing, but flattering,” Campbell said. “It’s my fifteen minutes of fame, so I might as well live it up.”

Recently Campbell has become the face of UNT’s “embedded librarians” campaign. With posters around UNT and Denton, the service assigns librarians to different residence halls every week to assist students with schoolwork.

Campbell sets up a “portable reference desk” for two hours where students can ask him questions about where to find books or articles for assignments.

“I love helping people,” he said. “If I find one piece of the puzzle that they’re working on, then I feel good about that.”

The idea behind the project was to make students more comfortable to ask for help instead of being nervous to go the library and ask—which he described as “library anxiety.”

Studio art sophomore Kevin Contreras met Campbell when Campbell set up his desk at Kerr Hall last year. There he would ask questions and find resources with Campbell’s help. Contreras said Campbell’s friendly demeanor made him easily approachable.

“He doesn’t come off as very intimidating,” Contreras said. “He seems interested in what you have to say.”

Campbell started setting up the desk in fall 2012 when he was living in Kerr Hall as a faculty-in-residence. He said he would also grab lunch with the director of housing, and one day she wanted to promote his project by developing posters.

Campbell said he gets recognized by students every now and then because of the posters, and believes the campaign has made it easier for students to approach him about anything.

But little is known about the man behind the beard.

The bearded librarian

Campbell grew up in Van Alstyne, Texas, a town of about 2,000 people where he graduated high school in a class of 47 students.

After graduating from Stephen F. Austin University in 1993, he moved and attended school at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in California, where he graduated in 1998 with a Master’s of Divinity. During his time there, he worked at the college’s library, but working there didn’t necessarily make him want to be a full-time librarian.

“I originally wanted to be an overseas missionary,” Campbell said. “The librarians there really encouraged me to go to library school and at the time I thought ‘No, that’s not what I wanted to do.’”

After his move back to Texas in 2000 coupled with persuasion from other librarians, Campbell finally decided to attend library school. Campbell went to UNT in 2002, one of three schools in Texas to offer a Master’s in Library Science.

While attending school, the dean of the department of library science at the time asked him why he wanted to be a librarian. Campbell responded by saying the primary reason was that he likes helping people find books that they like to read or use for their academic research. The dean smiled.

“[The dean] said he met so many people who say they want to be librarians because they like to read,” Campbell said. “Then he said ‘that’s the worst reason to be librarian. You’re not going to read.’”

He received his master’s degree and has served as an official librarian since 2004.

Instructional technologies librarian Lilly Ramin believes good librarians should constantly gain more knowledge in different fields and expand on other skills.

“It’s like a pop quiz,” Ramin said. “You never know what questions you’re going to be asked at the desk.”

Ramin has worked with Campbell for a few years and believes Campbell is a good librarian. Ramin describes him as “curious” and “inquisitive,” as well as being a “people person.”

While interacting with different people is part of the job, Campbell said he is an introvert, and that talking to people for many hours a day can exhaust him.

Campbell said he would usually find some time to be alone for about an hour so he can get his energy back. He often likes to read, listen to the radio and relax during this time.

Continuing the help

When he arrives at the residence halls, Campbell said he usually sets up a desk along with a big sign that features his face. He keeps his iPad out, ready to help any students who come up to him.

On Tuesdays, he goes to Kerr from 4 to 6 p.m., on Wednesdays he is in Clark Hall from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and he makes his last trip of the week to Bruce Hall from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m on Thursday.

He said he’ll usually get at least one reference question during each period.

Being a librarian is something Campbell wants to keep doing until he retires. He said the type of people he meets is something that makes him want to keep going.

“I’m surrounded by smart people all of the time,” he said. “Everyone here wants to learn and they’re learning something everyday.”

Building relationships with students is also an added bonus for Campbell.

Contreras said he has developed a friendship with Campbell ,and the two will sometimes grab coffee together.

Perhaps it’s his appearance, his disposition, his relationship with students or his reputation as a mobile librarian that makes Campbell different from the other librarians. But Contreras has a different theory.

“I actually think it’s the beard.”

Feature photo: Research and instructional services librarian Doug Campbell offers on location help at Clark, Bruce and Kerr Hall for students that have any questions throughout the week. Photo by Kelsey Littlefield / Staff Photographer 

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