Zabel: ‘Students are my number one priority’


Zabel received her award from Penn State President Eric Barron at a recent ceremony.

Diane Zabel, head of Penn State’s William and Joan Schreyer Business Library, has received the President’s Award for Engagement with Students, in recognition of her dedication to students during her 30-year career.

The award honors a faculty member who has demonstrated deep caring and involvement with students’ learning in the academic, social and professional realms. Zabel received her award from Penn State President Eric Barron at a recent presentation ceremony.

Over the past decade, Zabel, who is the Louis and Virginia Benzak Business Librarian, has conducted 650 course-related instructional sessions, reaching 17,000 students, and 64 workshops and orientation events, reaching over 6,300 students. During the 2014–15 academic year alone, she worked with 669 patrons. For Zabel, students are her “number one priority.”

“The aspect of my job that I have always enjoyed the most has been working with students. Librarians have faculty status at Penn State, however, librarianship is what we value the most. It’s not sufficient to be producing research and scholarship or to be active in the national and professional associations, you have to focus on doing your primary job well,” she notes.

Zabel teaches students at every stage of their academic career—from those starting out in first year seminars, to others working on their capstone projects. She also provides consultation help to MBA and doctoral students. Whether providing one-on-one research help or instructing large groups of students, Zabel tries to ensure that enough time is devoted to helping her students understand how to find the materials they need.

“It’s important to be empathetic. I think that one forgets how large the University is and how complex it is, and it takes very little time out of one’s day to be helpful to a student. Rather than have them spin their wheels and spend hours looking for something, we can help find it for them. That is important to understand – they come first. In the Business Library, our philosophy is that students take priority, so it’s not uncommon for everyone in this unit to drop what they’re doing and help a student,” she notes.

The Business Library has been actively participating in on-site consultation sessions in the Penn State Smeal College of Business for several years, providing research help to students at their point of need. This dynamic collaboration now extends to coursework—in 2013, the Library developed a business research analysis component for the required entrance-to-major course MGT 301, where students are tasked with preparing a report on a company using five core library resources. Students who consult librarians on their projects receive extra credit. This collaboration has proven very successful and it is one that the Library plans to continue.

Zabel says that she is honored to have received the award. “It shocked me, because I had no idea I had been nominated, which makes it more special,” she adds.