Diversity Resident brings new perspective to Penn State Libraries

Last month, we profiled Rachel Smith, one of two librarians appointed under the University Libraries Diversity Residency Program in August 2013. This week we profile Mohamed Berray. Like Smith, Berray graduated from the Library and Information Studies program at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro (UNCG). Both Berray and Smith have been rotating through different units and areas of the Libraries during the course of their residency program in order to build a broad portfolio of experience for their future career development.

In addition to his MLIS Degree, Berray holds a Master’s Degree in Political Science (with specialization in international human rights law) and a postgraduate diploma in Migration and Refugee Studies (with specialization in refugee law), both from the American University in Cairo. Before joining Penn State, Berray was a Fulbright Scholar, and an ILEAD (International Librarians Enhancing Access and Development) Fellow at the Department of Library and Information Studies, UNCG. In addition, he was the Regional Coordinator of IFLA’s International Comparative Librarianship Communitas. His previous appointments include assistant director and later, head of the Law Library at the American University in Cairo. He currently serves on many ALA/ACRL Committees.

Berray and son

Berray in his office with his son Malik

Please talk about some of the activities that you have been working on over the past year.
The past year saw a continuation of my duties in the Social Sciences Library and in the Research Hub, where I started my residency. Earlier this year, I stepped in for Helen Sheehy when she was on sabbatical—providing instruction, reference, research and collection services in political science and international affairs. I also worked with Bob Alan and the electronic resources team on electronic resources management. As an offshoot of my rotation in Acquisitions Services, I served on the Libraries’ E-Books Task Force to review options for acquiring e-books and to recommend best practices for moving forward. The experiences gained in Acquisitions Services and in the Social Sciences Library will enrich my career for many years to come.

Outside of my departmental duties, I served on the Libraries’ Strategic Planning Working Group on Advancing University Research, and on the University Libraries Awards Committee. I also represented the Libraries on the university-wide planning committee for the 2014 Constitution Day celebrations, and organized the events that were sponsored by and hosted in the Libraries.

What responsibilities are you currently assigned to?
I just finished co-teaching a three-credit-hour class in Research Methods for Law and Government Information. As part of my liaison responsibilities, I assist Helen Sheehy with management of collection funds for law, political science, and international affairs. I also prepare research guides in these subjects. Additionally, I work with Library Learning Services in providing Eng015 instruction when requested. Given my interest in collections, I continue to participate, with Bob Alan’s permission, in the CIC Collections Development Officers monthly meetings.

Committee work has been a significant part of my assignments this semester. Currently, I serve on the Libraries Assessment and Metrics Council, the Collection Services Advisory Group, LFO’s Curricular Affairs Committee, the RCR Group, the Open Access Committee, and the Diversity Committee where I chair the Collections subgroup. It has been a true blessing to work with colleagues serving on these committees.

What have you learned about yourself during this appointment? Has it changed you, and if so, how?
Coming from a small private institution, moving to Penn State was initially overwhelming, and yet, after my first semester, the community felt so small. I was astonished to see myself becoming an integral part of this complex machinery. Here, I have realized the true potential of an environment with adequate resources and expertise. My experiences at Penn State have propelled me and increased my engagement in the field more than ever before. The terms of the residency and the support received from the library administration have also opened many new doors, and have provided me with leadership experience and training.

At the completion of your residency in 2015, what will you hope to have accomplished? What impact do you hope to have made on Penn State Libraries?
I hope to have provided enough critical insight and outside perspective to add value to activities at the Penn State University Libraries. Also, given that this is the inaugural residency program, I hope to have fulfilled the expectations of the program so it can be continuously funded over the years. Finally, I hope that through my activities in professional associations, I will have helped shape the positive image of the Penn State University Libraries.