Personal Librarians
Building Relationships for Student Success
by Lynne Bisko, Heather Buchansky, Brian C. Gray, and E. Gail Reese
May 2019, 166pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Libraries Unlimited

Paperback: 978-1-4408-5824-6
$55, £41, 48€, A75
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-5825-3
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Practical advice and case studies examining how to develop, sustain, and assess personal librarian programs.

Experienced authors describe all aspects of a personal librarian program, including potential campus partners, diverse student populations, marketing approaches, technology integration, various assessment methods, and common pitfalls and how to avoid them.

In order to get the most out of their research, students need to understand the depth of resources and services available to them. Personal librarian programs help students—especially new ones—to feel welcome in the library and comfortable asking for assistance. They provide enhanced support and serve as students’ point of contact to help them build the information literacy skills necessary to successfully navigate their academic path.

Personal Librarians: Building Relationships for Student Success focuses on specific ways to connect with and to engage first-year and other new-to-campus students. The authors provide concrete guidance, informed by interviews with other librarians who have successfully implemented such programs, for librarians wishing to begin or expand programs of their own. Personal librarian programs provide opportunities for the proactive to build relationships that grow student confidence as future needs arise—and the authors, who coordinate personal librarian programs at their own institutions, demonstrate how well they work.


  • Provides librarians with the background they need in personal librarian programming variations in order to implement a native program that is targeted to local goals, needs, and resources
  • Covers various best practices that work toward implementing or improving outreach efforts through relationship development, communications efforts, and programming
  • Clearly ties content to university goals, library goals and services, and student success
Lynne Bisko is outreach librarian at Carol Grotnes Belk Library, Elon University. She holds a master of library science from Texas Woman’s University and a bachelor of arts from The College of William and Mary. She has worked in higher education since 2003, before which she worked in software development project management. She created and manages Belk Library’s personal librarian program, for which she won Elon University’s 2013 Phoenix Innovation Award. She has previously published on a library-class collaboration to produce library how-to videos and on a project to identify FRBR data in moving-image MARC records.

Heather Buchansky is student engagement librarian at the University of Toronto Libraries. She holds a master of information from the University of Toronto, a bachelor of arts (with honors) from Queen’s University, a postgraduate certificate in education from the University of Exeter, and a post-diploma certificate in corporate communications from Seneca College. She has worked in the education field as a teacher, as a sales consultant for a large educational publisher, and in communications and publishing as a freelance writer and researcher. Since 2012, she has worked as an academic librarian and in library administration.

Brian C. Gray is team leader for research services for the Kelvin Smith Library, Case Western Reserve University. He cochairs the library’s implementation of its personal librarian program. He cochaired the first two national conferences focused on personal-librarian and first-year-experience programs. He taught technology courses for Kent State University School of Library and Information Science. He has held leadership positions for the Library Leadership and Management Association (LLAMA) and for the Academic Library Association of Ohio. He holds a BS in chemical engineering (University of Akron), an MLIS (Kent State University), and an MBA (Case Western Reserve University).

E. Gail Reese is associate director for public engagement and library administration at the Kelvin Smith Library, Case Western Reserve University. She holds a BS from Spelman College and two master’s degrees from Case Western Reserve University, one in library and information science and the other in management of nonprofit organizations. She has given presentations at the International Conference on Learning, the Association of College & Research Libraries, and the Academic Library Association of Ohio Conferences. She cochaired the first two national conferences focused on personal librarians and first-year experience programs. She is an ALA 2010 H.W. Library Staff Development Grant recipient.


"All librarians will find useful ideas here, particularly library administrators marketing their institution’s value to the community. Essential for every collection."—Library Journal, Starred Review, October 1, 2019

"Personal Librarians: Building Relationships for Student Success presents clear pathways to engage students, particularly first year students, apart from the more traditional reference interview paradigm. Bisko, Buchansky, Gray, and Reese provide frameworks, not just ideas, to implement broad programs that in fact can help strengthen institutional collaboration as well as increase student retention. Regardless of institutional size, Personal Librarians offers new modes and ways of thinking in support of student success."—Ian Singer, General Manager, Credo Reference

"This book is an excellent resource for academic and research libraries seeking to build personal librarian services programs from scratch. Drawing on the extensive experiences of three academic libraries as case studies, the coauthors provide the valuable perspectives of faculty and administrators, a variety of resources and readings, and practical steps in establishing and marketing such programs collaboratively for student populations including first-generation, commuter, transfer, distance-learners, and more. This book is highly recommended for all academic libraries interested in developing an innovative, proactive, and responsive library service to support student success."—Raymond Pun, Librarian, Alder Graduate School of Education, and Coeditor of ACRL’s The First Year Experience Cookbook

Personal Librarians: Building Relationships for Student Success enjoyably walks readers through all aspects of these programs. The authors, representing very different types of academic libraries, share what has worked and what has not as their successful programs continue to evolve through regular assessment. These insights are useful beyond personal librarian program creation and management. Many of the lessons shared in this book will be valuable to librarians with outreach, engagement, and student success roles in all types and sizes of colleges and universities.—Beth Black, Undergraduate Engagement Librarian, Ohio State University

"Pragmatic and comprehensive, this guide will be equally valuable to those libraries developing a personal librarian program and to those that already have a program but are seeking ideas for innovative strategies and collaborate approaches. The case studies bring real-world detail to general advice and recommendations. Approaches to planning, communication, marketing, and assessment will also inspire those who manage subject librarian liaison programs."—Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe, Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

"This comprehensive, scholarly work written by four experienced librarians focuses on the timely topic of student success by addressing the many types of students and their backgrounds in relation to the higher education environment and the need for retention improvements and graduation rates. The authors have applied both common sense and groundbreaking approaches to developing, delivering, and evaluating student success strategies within a framework of personal attention and diligent patience. The book’s strengths includes discussion and examples of the many kinds of students—traditional, international, online, etc.—and therefore provides to interested librarians and libraries methodologies and processes that can be initiated on the local level."—Douglas F. Hasty, First Year Experience Librarian, Florida International University
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