Linda Kern remembers the first email she sent from her Brenau University account 13 years ago. The email, addressed to a good friend, was about her first impression of the art displayed in the Trustee Library because of Kern’s love for modern art.
Kern, previously the library’s research and instruction director, is now dean of library services. Her office walls are decorated with art from the university’s Permanent Art Collection — including pieces from professor Claudia Wilburn and renowned pop artist Jasper Johns — alongside her Faculty Member of the Year and a Teacher of the Year awards. A New Orleans native, Kern particularly adores her Pete the Cat painting set in a New Orleans restaurant.
She is the university’s first librarian to hold the rank of full professor, teaching first-year courses including the first-year experience seminar, foundations for success and library research.
“This new position means opportunity, and I like that,” she says. “It also means a lot to me personally because I am first-generation college student, and to be able to accomplish all of what I have done and work my way up in this promotion means a great deal. I can’t think of anything else I would rather do than to have the privilege of sitting in this chair.”
When Kern first came to Brenau, she started the university-wide information literacy program that focuses on articulating information you want to know, then finding and using it. A part of this program allows Kern and her team to incorporate gamification for first-year students, which combines learning research and the library’s resources with having fun meeting learning outcomes.
Kern and her team work with first-year students through those at the doctoral level in any program. They are always looking to stay up-to-date with new methods of helping students. Not only do they meet face-to-face or in online simulations, but they are also creating online tutorials to help students in efficient ways.
“I am very proud to say that when we go to conferences with other schools that Brenau is always ahead of the pack with our instruction and access,” Kern says.
Sommer Stockton, an interlibrary loan assistant, says Kern is always helping students.
“She is without a doubt one of the most intelligent people I have ever met,” Stockton says. “You know when she walks into a room because of the way she carries herself and the presence she exudes.”
The librarians always collaborate with faculty in the classroom to find out what their goals are so they can help them achieve it. Kern calls Brenau’s library services “customized and personalized,” and that’s what makes it stand out from other libraries.
“As librarians we are there to help students because we have the ability to do so,” Kern says. “Whether a student is weeks or days into research, we will meet them to help as much as they would like.”
The library is home to 85,000 print volumes, more than 60,000 e-books, a core selection of journals and a media collection of DVDs, videos and CDs. Brenau’s library is 95 percent online and has access to more than 200 databases. The library’s special collections include the Bentley Rare Books room and the Tom Watson Collection.
Everything in the Bentley Rare Books room — a beautifully furnished space surrounded by stained-glass windows — was donated, including the money to build the space. Some of the books, which include many first editions, date back as far as the 1500s. The Watson collection was obtained from the state legislature after the politician and newspaper editor’s house flooded.
The Trustee Library also houses the archives room that has years of Brenau’s history stored and displayed. Students use the archives for research, and alumni can use it to learn about their history. Kern hopes within the next five years that the items will be listed online for easier access. She believes keeping Brenau’s history intact is just as important as keeping books intact.
Today, Kern enjoys being challenged by what she calls “the big picture” — developing a new mission statement, creating a strategic plan and figuring out how to implement it and how to best communicate what the library does.
“I would have to be pushed out of Brenau to leave this place,” she says. “Brenau always keeps me stimulated and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.”