Hamersly Library introduces Peer Advocates

Western’s Hamersly Library introduces new student staff on the team, Peer Advocates

Mirella Barrera-Betancourt | Staff Writer

Hamersly Library is committed to providing a secure and welcoming environment where students can feel safe during all hours of operation. 

Earlier this year, Hamersly Library announced the inauguration of their new staff group, the Peer Advocates. This new student employee position was tasked with serving as student advocates in a peer leadership role, particularly in the evening and weekend hours when full-time staff are unavailable. 

According to Hamersly Library, the need for Peer Advocates arose due to several factors, primarily caused by campus wide cutbacks brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. In September of 2020, many staff members had to be laid off based on seniority. Before the pandemic, the library was completely student-run which provided its own challenges since services were also being provided for members of the local community.

In addition to these issues, the library heard conversations detailing concern and a sense of vulnerability among patrons, primarily students, during the 2020 – 21 academic year.

“We confirmed that late night hours and weekend hours were important in terms of study space, but also that students considered basic library services sufficient during those hours with referrals to daytime staff when necessary,” said Janeanne Rockwell-Kincanon, the public service librarian at Hamersly Library. “From our graduating student employees, we heard that while those student-staffed hours were mostly quiet, there were occasions when having a clear leader designated would be beneficial.”

From 5 p.m. to midnight on weekdays and during weekend hours, Peer Advocates will function as the “lead” student employees for students coming in and out of the library. They will not serve as supervisors to their peers, but rather as coordinators and a resource for students’ needs and concerns. 

While the Peer Advocate position is still a work in progress, with time only dictating future enrichment, the staff are committed to improving quality of service through the collaboration of ideas and showcasing their own individual strengths.

“Loki (Lyrix-Astyriel) is fluent in ASL, so I’m pleased that our Deaf and Hard of Hearing patrons have someone with whom they can fully communicate,” said Rockwell-Kincanon.

Meanwhile, Saysha Breitmeyer has experience in working with the Math Center, and Jaelynn Cocker has worked for the library since even before the pandemic. Students visiting Hamersly can find the three Peer Advocates doing their rounds wearing their new Peer Advocate white jackets.

Contact the author at howlstaffwriter@wou.edu