Student Nick Velkavrh Wins CLA Reference Fellowship

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Velkavrh, who is in his first year in the MLIS program at San José State University School of Information, has known he’s wanted to be a reference librarian since he started working in the library during his sophomore year at Occidental College in Los Angeles. “I really loved working with students to help connect them to information,” he said.

Velkavrh became interested in librarianship thanks to two internships offered by the Mellon Librarian Recruitment Program, which provides in-depth exposure to the field of librarianship for students from diverse backgrounds. The program allows recipients to work in their areas of interest, and Velkavrh gravitated toward electronic resources and online searching. As a self-described “very techy person,” Velkavrh took on tasks such as testing databases and linking them to Occidental College’s library website.

As he neared graduation, Velkavrh applied for a Mellon fellowship that allowed him to study federated search, which allows for the simultaneous search of multiple online databases. During the fellowship, he also focused on revamping the library website, gaining experience in technical services, and providing reference and instruction services. “A lot of the work focused on trying to improve the user’s search experience, and I tried to tie it to how students actually search,” he said.

The CLA fellowship will help reimburse Velkavrh for reference services courses he takes at iSchool. The program’s administrator is “very open to non-traditional courses,” he said, and he hopes to take classes like INFO 246 Advanced Tech Tools and apply the skills he acquires to reference librarianship.

The fellowship helps ease some of the financial pressure on Velkavrh, who also works full-time at Occidental in a new department called the Center for Digital Learning & Research. In his job as Digital Scholarship Specialist, one of Velkavrh’s main responsibilities is overseeing a digital publishing platform that Occidental licensed from Berkeley Press at The platform combines traditional educational publishing with digital formats which include video, audio and other multimedia dimensions. “It’s reinvigorating what scholarship is in the new millennium,” he said.