Mazes, swing ropes, and teeter-totters are not part of a typical librarian’s work environment. The work of Veterinary Librarian André Nault, however, is anything but typical.
Nault came to the Health Sciences Libraries in 2005. His background in wildlife research and veterinary practice management made him a perfect fit to serve the information needs of the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM).
The broader picture of student success
Soon after he joined the Libraries, Nault became involved in the CVM’s professional skills courses where he helped students learn non-clinical competencies such as information searching and evaluation.
It was through this work that Nault’s skills in supporting a broader picture of student success were recognized. As a result, he was invited to serve as a mentor to incoming veterinary students for the CVM’s Gopher Orientation And Leadership experience (GOALe).
The goal of GOALe
GOALe is a year-long program that uses monthly meetings to teach life skill competencies -- teamwork, communication, professionalism -- that will enhance the students’ clinical learning.
GOALe begins with a 2-day intensive training session at the St. Croix YMCA campground in Hudson, WI, where nearly 100 new CVM students experience camp life to its fullest. This includes bunk beds, campfires, and librarian-led sing-a-longs.
Nestled in the days’ events are team-building activities led by Nault and the other GOALe mentors. In addition to the mazes and swing ropes, students are taught dance routines and experience a “group sit” where they form a circle and simultaneously sit, using each other as chairs.
These exercises are used as learning experiences, guided by the mentors. As Nault explains, “The team-building exercises are followed by a debriefing on what was learned, the communications styles used to tackle the problem, and how these might translate to a clinical setting or challenges in veterinary school.”
New skills, lasting impact
Nault’s work as a GOALe mentor helps students enhance and build upon skills that will help them find success as students and as practicing veterinarians.
The impact of his work has been felt across the CVM. Dr. Laura Molgaard, the College’s Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and GOALe instructor has seen the value of his involvement.
"Andre has truly integrated into our faculty community and our curriculum. The perspective he brings is invaluable and his contributions in course development as well as in teaching within quite a few courses has really opened our eyes to the role a librarian and the libraries can plan within a college."
Nault’s involvement in the CVM’s GOALe orientation has also enriched his own work. “It was a wonderful experience that allowed me to create new relationships with faculty, and improve on those that already existed,” Nault said. “I’m now on a first-name basis with many new students and they can put a face with the Veterinary Library,” he said.
The opportunity to build strong relationships with students, faculty, and researchers is the greatest gift for a librarian. As Nault affirms, “The experience turned out to be the highlight of my first 4 years at the library.” Five years and five GOALe sessions later, this sentiment continues to hold true.
Out of the library and into the pasture
It is clear that Nault’s involvement with the CVM makes his job description stand out from his librarian colleagues. What else could you find on Nault’s calendar? A visit to a 6,000-head dairy farm, of course!
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