Student Ben Eagle Co-authors Journal Article with SLIS Faculty Member
Ben Eagle

Student Ben Eagle was surprised but honored when an instructor asked him to co-author a journal article during his first semester in the Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program.

The article by Eagle and faculty member Dr. Susan Maret, titled “Situating the Customer: The Genealogy of Customer Language in Libraries,” was published in fall 2013 in Progressive Librarian. It was translated into Spanish by librarian Edgardo Civallero and writer Sara Plaza on their blog Bitácora de un Bibliotecario.

For his first course in the MLIS program, in fall 2012, Eagle took Maret’s LIBR 200 Information and Society course. In a class discussion forum, the word “customer” came up in reference to library users and a business model of libraries.

According to Eagle, during the discussion, he asked where usage of the term “customer” came from, and Maret’s idea for the paper grew out of that discussion. “Dr. Maret wanted to explore it further, and she asked me to co-write a paper,” Eagle said. “I felt honored for sure. Probably a little intimidated too, but mostly I felt honored.”

Their article explores how the use of customer language crossed from the business world into library practice. Eagle’s role mainly involved researching the use of customer language in current books and journal articles, while Maret did the bulk of the historical research. While Eagle helped find occurrences of the word in books from the late 1800s and early 1900s, he said Maret “did the work of bringing it together and making sense of it.”

Eagle said it was interesting to see customer language and customer-driven business methods of running a library at the turn of the 20th century. “The most interesting thing is seeing some of the development of business models from Dewey and the scientific management principles,” he said, “but also early critiques against this model -- that this debate about how a library should be run isn’t new.”

Maret did some preliminary research for the article through spring 2013. Then she and Eagle worked on the paper together that summer, finishing up in the fall as the publication date neared.

Eagle admits the project was a huge undertaking, on top of his coursework and his job. A graduate of Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, with a degree in philosophy and a minor in music, he has worked since high school at the Carnegie-Stout Public Library in Dubuque. In his 10-plus years there, he has worked his way up from library page to library assistant, and worked in various areas like the reference desk and circulation. These days, he spends more time working at the library’s Internet kiosks, helping people with such tasks as setting up email accounts.

He wanted a master’s degree, but wasn’t sure what direction to go in. Inspired by the librarians he worked with, Eagle decided on an MLIS degree with an eye toward working in an academic library someday. He expects to complete the MLIS program in spring 2015.

For the spring 2014 semester, Eagle is interning at the archives of the Iowa Historical Society, where his duties include helping with research, inventory and cataloging. He sees a lot of opportunities in Iowa to work in archives, so he’s keeping that option open as a possible career choice.

Influential Instructors

“Dr. Maret and Dr. Virginia Tucker are probably two of my favorite instructors. They’re very knowledgeable in their subject area, spend time with their students and seem to enjoy what they’re doing. I took Tucker’s LIBR 202 Information Retrieval course, and then LIBR 244 Online Searching. Dr. Linda Main and Dr. Debra Hansen are really good too. This semester, I’m taking LIBR 280 History of Books and Libraries taught by both of them, and they've done a great job at organizing the class and providing really interesting lectures.

“It’s hard to limit what teachers I talk about, because I’ve had a lot of great instructors at SJSU. I should mention Dr. Johanna Tunon too. She taught LIBR 285 Research Methods in Library and Information Science. She was very personable, open to student input, and had her class extremely well-organized. ”

Tech Tip

“I started doing basic WordPress in Linda Main’s class. Looking at blogs and the information websites built by librarians, I think that will be really helpful down the road.”

Favorite Blogs and Websites

Progressive Librarians Guild, The British Museum