Member of the Week: April D. Cunningham

April CunninghamApril D. Cunningham is Library Instruction Coordinator at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, California. April has been an ACRL member since 2005, is a facilitator for the ACRL Assessment in Action program, and your ACRL member of the week for September 23, 2013.

1. Describe yourself in three words:  Searching. Steady. Responsive

2. What are you reading right now (or listening to on your mobile device)? Reading: Learned Optimism by Martin E. P. Seligman (thanks to a talk by K. G. Schneider). Listening: WTF?, Marc Maron’s podcast (it’s good for strengthening my empathy).

3. Describe ACRL in three words:  Transformational. Purposeful. Engaged.

4. What do you value about ACRL? What I value about ACRL is the way the organization continues to come up with new ways to support librarians’ learning. Through the years, I’ve benefited from the variety of opportunities that ACRL creates for librarians to share their knowledge, which is why I feel so fortunate to now get to be a facilitator in the Assessment in Action program. Since joining ACRL when I was still in library school, I owe a lot of my professional growth to the formal and informal mentoring I’ve received from great librarians in the organization. I wouldn’t be the librarian I am now without these relationships, and ACRL made that possible.

5. What do you, as an academic librarian, contribute to your campus? I’m most interested in the contributions I can make to students’ success, where I use my roles as a professor and as the library’s instruction coordinator to help students make intellectual connections among their courses. In addition to directly teaching students in my own classes, I also build these connections college-wide by initiating projects focused on foundational academic skills and by highlighting the commonalities among students’ research assignments when I collaborate with professors.

Education reformer Tom Angelo has pointed out that to a great extent, professors live only in their own courses, whereas, students live in the curriculum and they suffer when we don’t pay attention to how our courses fit together. Academic librarians have the unusual advantage of looking at curricula outside the scope of a particular discipline because of the work we do throughout our institutions. When we share this perspective to help students see how they are building their knowledge base from course to course, they will be more likely to transfer their learning to new contexts.

6. In your own words: I’ve been a librarian for 10 years and I started young, so I’ve had to grow a lot on the job. Now, life as an academic librarian is more rewarding for me than ever.  Overall, I’m renewing the balance between my strategic focus on long-term educational initiatives and my daily focus on students’ immediate needs. Applying mindfulness concepts to my work allows me to deliberately cultivate a giving attitude toward students and professors when I’m working with them one-on-one and in the classroom. I sense a difference in students’ willingness to receive help from me, and I hope this openness translates into learning gains for them. I know it has for me.

Editor’s Note: Are you an ACRL member? Would you like to be featured as ACRL Member of the Week? Nominate a colleague? Contact Mary Jane Petrowski at for more information.