New librarian Alexandria Baker hopes to spark student engagement

By Victoria Gill-Gomez

News Editor

The Clifton M. Miller Library welcomes Alexandra Baker as the new librarian and research instructor for science and mathematics.

Announced on Aug. 11 on the library’s social media, the post provided fun facts about Baker.

Baker describes herself as“solutions-driven, process-refining leader; never afraid to forge a new path in the name of innovation and excited to learn something new daily.”

Originally from Memphis, Tenn., Baker said she never considered a career path as a librarian. After receiving a Bachelor of Science in Medicine, Health, and Society from Vanderbilt University she hoped to become an anesthesiologist.

It was later at a college her mother was attending in Memphis, Tennessee where there were recruitment efforts on-campus from the University of North Texas for their Masters Program for Library Science.

She said this was an opportunity to connect the dots.

“I had always been passionate about information literacy. The heart of the research I had conducted in the past has always been focused on health literacy, and if we were to take it further, information literacy is the foundation at which all knowledge is really solidified and comprehended,” Baker said.

Baker received her Master of Library and Information Science in Health Informatics from the University of North Texas at Denton.

“As someone who underutilized the library services as an undergraduate student, I think that has given me a greater appreciation for the work,” Baker said.

She recently joined the WC team from her previous position as the Learning Resources Center Manager of Strayer University’s Jackson, Miss. Campus. There she provided library services, academic support, career services, and technical support to nontraditional students: those returning to their education later in life. In this position she got to fine-tune her skills in informational literacy and educating those about it.

According to her personal biography, Baker’s education furnished her the knowledge and soft skills to support a variety of students advancing in their careers and her education has afforded her the knowledge and practical skills to support students as they advance their careers.

“Really approaching it in a way that was addressing the entire person, not just…getting things done. Getting creative and trying to appeal to that population of students, it really pushed in terms of what I expected of myself and what I brought to those services,” Baker said.

Looking at subject matter expertise, Dean of Library and Academic Technology Mary Alice Ball said she was concerned that the library did not have anyone among their professional faculty to fully support natural sciences and mathematics as much as they like did for research geared toward the humanities.

“It was kind of like the icing on the cake that [Baker] has this experience,” Amanda Darby, director of public services at Miller Library, said.

Baker first stepped on the WC campus back in the fall of 2019 when interviewing for her current position.

“I got to a place in my career where I was really hoping to join an organization where I could be embedded into the central library,” Baker said.

Baker came to her on-campus interview at the beginning of March, around two weeks prior to the College going digital.

Fortunately enough, even with the pandemic affecting in-person usage of Miller Library, Baker said the majority of her services at Strayer University were virtual internationally. This has made her more comfortable navigating and connecting with students digitally.

“She’ll know how to operate in this kind of climate, much better than we do,” Dean Ball said.

Baker’s mentor discovered the WC opening on a forum for librarians. Both Baker and her mentor agreed that the position was a marriage of her expertise and the knowledge she was hoping to get. She was excited to have a stronger voice and advocate for students.

According to Baker, her personal pedagogy in aiding students has been to start with engagement and that then opens the door to inform, thus encouraging students to “take flight with that information and feel empowered.”

All this starts with collaborative programming, according to Darby who is disappointed that there has not been enough full-time librarians to provide this.

However, Darby said she is excited about Baker’s enthusiasm to connect with various partners and departments of the College. Baker describes herself as someone who has never been afraid of sharing her ideas or encouraging student feedback and collaborative programming.

“I am always excited to get involved if there are things that are important to the well-being of our students. We can’t address information literacy if there are other barriers blocking a student from committing the emotional or mental bandwidth to their academics if we are not addressing their personhood,” Baker said.

Featured Photo caption: Librarian and Research Instructor for Science and Mathematics Alexandria Baker said she has always wanted to “stand out” and speak up for those who are not given autonomy over their personhood and work. She is excited to be a part of an interpersonal position at a smaller institution where she can provide support to students who were like her as an undergrad and may not have benefited from library resources. Photo Courtesy of Alexandria Baker.

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