Faculty and Graduate Profile: Carol Zeile
The academic hub of Alma College, the library, is a place of challenges, toil, and success. Library Director Carol Zeile understands that to a great degree as she was once an Alma College undergraduate. Now she dedicates her time and energy to ensuring that the library is equipped to serve the research needs of students, faculty, staff, and community members. Simply put, Zeile’s role is to ensure the smooth operation of the College library, which involves “making sure that patrons have as many resources as possible” while providing them assistance with technology, reference, and research.
Entering her tenth year at Alma College and her fifth year as Library Director, Zeile enjoys the varied duties or her position, which include hiring and training full-time library staff, managing the library budget, and overseeing the building’s day-to-day activities. In charge of technical services, Zeile is also responsible for buying books and materials, cataloging library materials, evaluating and subscribing to a variety of electronic and online databases, and maintaining the library’s automated system. She compliments her “fantastic support staff” who make the library’s wide offering of services possible. “I’m amazed at how much we accomplish with just four librarians,” she says of her small but dedicated staff.
Zeile discovered her calling to library science while working in the graduate library at Indiana University, an experience she calls “simply fascinating.” After earning her master’s degree in Spanish at Indiana, Zeile taught college level Spanish for a year before earning a master’s degree in Library Science at Western Michigan University in 1978.
Zeile worked for many years in the University of Pittsburg library system before returning to her alma mater in 1998, where she cherished the familiar feeling of home. “When I first came back to Alma, it felt like I never left,” she remembers. While new additions had been made since her graduation in 1974, most of the same buildings remained, and some professors she’d had as a student continued to teach and mentor a new generation of Scots. Zeile notes that through the years, the atmosphere on campus hasn’t changed. Both now and as a student at Alma, she has relished the “Alma feeling of camaraderie, loyalty, and friendliness” that pervades its inviting campus.
Once a member of their ranks, Zeile enjoys working with Alma’s motivated, dedicated students. While she and other librarians assist students with research, the real reward lies in “seeing what students do with that information and seeing their development.” Yet like many college librarians, Zeile wishes to see more students in the library. “We have something to offer all students, no matter their area of study,” she says.
While enticing the entire student body into the library can be difficult, perhaps the most challenging aspect of Zeile’s position is prioritizing time, talent, and resources to best serve the library’s patrons. Reflecting on technological advances over the past two decades, Zeile notes that “in many ways, librarianship has gotten easier and less labor intensive” due to automation and electronic services; however, at the same time the rapid pace of technology demands that librarians today must have more expertise in a variety of areas. Another challenge is deciding how to maintain a balance between print and electronic resources in the library. Despite an ever-increasing demand for electronic resources, the fact remains that not all information can be found online - a truth that few students seem to realize, notes Zeile.
With its tradition of academic excellence, Alma College would not be complete without Monteith Library and its dedicated staff. As Alma’s Library Director, Zeile enjoys “being able to see the total picture of organization” within the library - knowledge which allows her to help the staff develop while improving library services. “I love being in a position where I can support everyone else,” she says, reflecting on her first two years as Library Director. Sharing her love of scholarship and information, Zeile hopes that others discover as she has that “libraries are great places - you learn something new every day.”