If you didn't know Dr. Jennifer Crispin's job, you could guess from the 1.5-inch-long "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" volumes dangling from her ears.
It's no surprise the bookworm earned a master's degree in library science and doctorate in information and science learning technologies. What's surprising is she landed in a library without books.
In October 2021, Crispin became the first librarian at San Jacinto College's newest campus, Generation Park.
Just off the lobby, this library contains cabinets, round tables, offices, two study rooms, and a lab with 16 desktop computers. The only thing missing? Open stacks where students can comb spines and pages.
"It automatically doesn't look like what people think of as a library," Crispin said.
This isn't to say libraries are ditching books. The master-planned campus in northeast Houston comprises one instructional building now. As the campus grows, the library will move to a larger permanent home, and bookshelves will follow.
More than books
Crispin welcomed the chance to get the Generation Park library off the ground.
"When campuses get really large, the different services can get siloed," she said. "They don't have as many opportunities to communicate with each other."
According to Crispin, Executive Director Dr. Destry Dokes has picked faculty and staff who collaborate well outside their realm of responsibilities. Together, they navigate providing on-campus and online support since many classes still follow a hybrid-flex model of in-person and streamed learning.
"Being online is not an easy thing — not something we're born knowing how to do," she said. "There are multiple layers of complication."
Crispin should know since she focused on information access during her doctoral program. Before San Jac, she worked as a public service librarian at Houston Community College's Alief Hayes Campus. For now, a library without books has been no problem.
"My work previously was not dependent on books," she said. "It was helping people find articles for assignments and learn how to cite sources, format papers, and evaluate whether they could trust information."
Crispin wants to remove any barrier that prevents students from accessing information, whether that's lack of technology, time, or research know-how. She visits classes to share how to find peer-reviewed academic journals for projects and keeps an eye out for lost students.
Something for everyone
What does the Generation Park library currently offer?
It houses the same scholarly databases as other campus libraries while containing reserve materials like biology and engineering textbooks.
Students may request interlibrary loans from the North Campus and return any College library book to the Generation Park library. In the study rooms or at the computers, tutors meet with students.
Beyond research and tutoring, Crispin ensures the space is mingle-friendly — from sprinkling puzzles and Brain Flakes construction discs across tables to scribbling a question of the week on an interactive whiteboard: "What's the most interesting thing you've learned this year?" "What's your best study tip?"
"We're trying to accommodate students as much as we can before we have physical books," she said.
As demand grows, books will follow. Crispin points to a wall that borders tables with laptop plugs — a space perfect for tall shelves. She imagines some paperbacks there before the library moves.
Despite this digital age, Crispin still recommends visiting a brick-and-mortar library. Not only do staff have the training to help, but they want to help you whatever your need, academic or personal.
"One of the things that makes me saddest is hearing someone has searched for days to find an article about something," she said. "I could have helped them, and they could have all this free time back."
It's why Crispin also jumps on the College-wide library chat to answer students' questions. Whether helping students online or in person, she loves directing them to the information they need and learning they got a good grade.
"I get so proud — like I'm their big sister," she said.
The Generation Park library is open Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Learn more about Generation Park at sanjac.edu/generation-park-campus.
Off the Bookshelf
National Library Week is April 3-9. Visit your local library to celebrate reading and/or check out Librarian Jennifer Crispin's recent favorite fiction: