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One Day for Iowa 2024: Support advanced student employees like Luke with the University Librarian’s Student Employee Fund

Lizzi Ayers is a student worker in Conservation and Collections Care.

For One Day for Iowa 2024, we’re highlighting the new University Librarian’s Student Employee Fund, which will create more opportunities for advanced student employees to enhance skills, bolster career-development goals, or pursue special interests. These are students like Luke Ayers, whose job in Conservation and Collections Care at the University of Iowa Libraries has set him on a path toward a career in library science.

Ayers first began working at the UI Main Library two years ago, early in his undergraduate career. Like many incoming students, he wasn’t certain where his career path would lead, and library science wasn’t yet on his list of options. But as Ayers worked closely with the UI Libraries staff, he soon realized that the field was far more expansive than he’d first thought, and he became confident that the School for Library and Information Science (SLIS) Undergrad to Grad program was the next step for him.  

Ayers is one of the advanced student employees at the UI Libraries, meaning that his work requires specialized training within his field that can often only be achieved with practical experience outside of the classroom. Because he’s enhancing these skills alongside his degree, Ayers will be especially prepared to succeed after graduation. That’s exactly what these roles are designed to do, and the University Librarian’s Student Employment Fund will enable the Libraries to expand that support to more student employees.  

Ayers marks new acquisitions for circulation.

“This fund came about naturally because we observed the creativity and enthusiasm of our student employees,” says Jack B. King University Librarian John Culshaw, who was once a student library worker himself. “So many of them are eager to grow their skillset and apply it to more specific and challenging aspects of library work. The future of libraries and archives really belongs to them, so we’re happy to give them the chance to follow their curiosity.” 

On an average day, Ayers spends his time in collections care, marking new acquisitions to prepare them for circulation. It’s satisfying work, he says, to know that he is beginning a book’s journey into the hands of an interested reader. Each book’s edges are stamped with “University of Iowa Libraries,” and the item is officially welcomed into the catalog. Those already reserved go straight to the hold shelf to be picked up by the campus and local communities. Print books are still used heavily by some disciplines even though the majority of Libraries’ resources are digital.

For the past two years, Ayers has been selected for different UI Libraries’ student employee scholarships, the Judy and Mike Greer Scholarship in Memory of Mary E. Greer and a UI Libraries Employee Scholarship, in recognition of his contributions to the department. Ayers says that these scholarships have taken some financial pressure off his undergraduate experience, enabling him to focus on his studies without needing to consider a second job.

Ayers hopes that he’ll have a chance to work on cataloging next, an area that interests him as he looks ahead. “It’s been really cool,” says Ayers. “Getting the job here, I was able to see all the different positions you could have in a library, places where I could fit.”

To support more advanced positions for students like Ayers, consider donating to the One Day for Iowa University Librarian’s Student Employee Fund at

This photo contains Hawkeye history—now, Virginia Eichacker reflects on her aunt’s impact

This photo features the five undergraduate women who integrated Currier Residence Hall in 1946: Virginia Harper, Esther Walls, Nancy Henry, Gwen Davis, Leanne Howard, and Pat Smith. Their story lives on in the Iowa Women’s Archives and in Currier, where a mural commemorates their achievements at the university and beyond.

We are especially fortunate to have Harper’s (furthest right) niece and namesake, Virginia Eichacker, as a member of our Libraries Advancement Council (LAC). To mark the transition from Black History Month into Women’s History Month, we asked Eichacker about what this image and her aunt’s legacy mean to her.

As I look at the picture of the young women who integrated Currier Hall in 1946, the first thing that strikes me was that they were not looking into the camera but at something that appeared to be in the distance. In that same vein, I also noticed their smiles. It seemed they were smiling almost knowingly, aware that this was a significant moment in time…I know that, whatever my aunt was thinking and smiling about when the photographer took this picture, she did not imagine that 75 years later (2021), it would be part of a mural in a room in Currier Residence Hall—which she had been excluded from the year before.

Following her time at the University of Iowa, my aunt spent the next 50 years working to fight racial prejudice as a member of the Fort Madison branch of the NAACP. She was the first Black woman on the State Board of Public Instruction, where she championed the move for multicultural, nonsexist requirements in Iowa’s education.

If you’re looking for a local history of civil rights activism, the University of Iowa Libraries is a vital resource. The Main Library houses the Iowa Women’s Archives (IWA), filled with the papers and records of many remarkable individuals and organizations devoted to the ongoing struggle for civil rights and social justice. My aunt’s papers, the Virginia Harper Papers, are one such collection.

When approached about serving as a member of the LAC, I was honored to devote my energies toward actively championing the Libraries. And I want to encourage everyone to consider supporting the Libraries and the IWA as we close out Black History Month and start Women’s History Month.

I know that if my aunt could see this post, the same smile on her face in the picture 78 years ago would reappear.

Virginia Eichacker