Staff Profile: Reanna Karim Esmail

Who she is: Reanna Karim Esmail, outreach and engagement librarian at Olin Library.

What she does: I just started my new position at the beginning of June, and my primary responsibilities include: helping with orientation, helping with instruction, and assisting the College of Arts and Sciences seminar. More generally, I am responsible for building strategies and programs for outreach and communication with the College of Arts and Sciences and its student population.

Why it’s important: My position increases library visibility as well as creates an opportunity for dialogue and collaboration between the library and communities on campus.

One of the things that I want to accomplish in this position is to make sure that there are resources available for students who may not be as likely to ask for them. In particular, I want to assist first-generation students. As a first-generation college student, I remember my apprehension to admit when I needed help. Ultimately, I hope to create some programs that help all students feel comfortable, represented, and empowered while in the library.

Where she's from: I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Background: I have had a wide variety of jobs. In college, I did a lot of creative writing workshops and wanted to be a writer after my undergraduate degree. However, after a few years working as a legal assistant, working in admin positions, and customer service, I moved abroad and got my first master’s. During that time, I worked freelance as an English tutor and as a customer service agent at a call center for a food delivery app. After finishing my master’s in English, I decided that I did not want to pursue a PhD, so instead, I worked for a few start-ups doing recruitment, data management, and other administrative positions, before I decided to pursue my library degree. I enjoy how library work is somewhat a melting pot of all those other skills, as my job requires working with technology, managing meetings and deadlines, helping with research, and customer service.

Education: I have a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of California, Berkeley. I also have a Master of Arts in English from the Freie Universität in Berlin, where I wrote my master’s thesis on Deleuzian experimentation and cult films. I recently received my Master of Science in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

How long at Cornell: Before I started in my new position, I was a reference assistant in the fall of 2019—which was great because I got some hands-on experience working with students and learning from all the wonderful library staff members at Cornell.

Best part of her job: I love being able to work with students and facilitate learning. It’s very satisfying to work together with someone to answer a complex question. While I really enjoy problem-solving, ultimately, the real reward is being able to see the gratification and know that you’ve helped someone who was overwhelmed. Seeing that light bulb turn on and how, all of a sudden, students are charged with this new energy and ready to tackle the assignment is just really exciting.

What she likes to do in her spare time: I enjoy baking and cooking. I have started collecting cookbooks, so I’m trying to work my way through some recipes. I also enjoy reading, which I guess as a librarian is a bit of a requirement. I enjoy traveling and tend to approach travel in a very librarian fashion as I do a ton of research about restaurants and sites to see. Then, I create a map with all the recommendations. I also really enjoy watching films. I recently got a subscription to the Criterion streaming channel, so I’ve been trying to work my way through some of the collection.