Ingrid Ruffin wants the Libraries to be a place where students feel a sense of belonging, find community, and invent or reinvent themselves as many times as they want — much like she did.
As associate dean of the Research and Education Division within the University Libraries, she is uniquely positioned to nurture the services that support students as they embrace their creativity, connect with other students, and find their place on campus and in the world.
How did you become interested in a career in libraries?
When I was discharged from the U.S. Air Force, I returned to college to finish my undergraduate degree. My first semester back, I just went to class and studied all day because I didn’t have to work due to the Montgomery G.I. Bill. One day I realized that I was bored, so I walked over to the library with my resume and was hired on the spot to be a student worker. I worked there while I completed my degree in English with a business minor, and then while I worked on my master’s in English. I had plans to become an English literature professor. I worked in the libraries for four years with no consideration that I’d ever work in the libraries professionally.
Then, as I was nearing graduation with my first master’s degree, one of the librarians who I’d worked with encouraged me to consider applying for graduate school to become a librarian. At first I was uninterested, but she pushed me to meet with faculty in the department to learn more about the profession. What I learned is that at its core, librarianship is about service and supporting people’s dreams. For all the jobs that I have had, the best parts were helping others, and that made me take the idea of becoming a librarian more seriously.
How do you define your role in the Libraries?
All of the most public-facing services fall under my leadership portfolio. That includes access services; safety and loss prevention; educational initiatives; liaison programs; research, innovation, and creation; and the various branch libraries.
I am lucky in that I have department heads who are absolutely brilliant and good leaders. So, I get to serve in more of a supporting role, developing a vision for operations, working with library leadership to get access to resources for our libraries staff and faculty, essentially facilitating and guiding our collective work.
I am also a sounding board for criticism and praise of the libraries, and I hear mostly praise. Any critique of the libraries I receive, I take to heart and work with my team to make sure we work together to improve your experience of the libraries. My hope is that if I am doing my job well, most people will never see me, but rather experience the love that I have for my work via their experiences of the libraries.
What role do you see the Libraries playing in holistically supporting student success at UNLV?
A wonderful student reminded me the other day that our libraries create and support a robust community of scholars who will not only go out into the world and make it better for us all, but who make UNLV a better place to be.
Since I was a child, libraries have always served as a place to discover how things work, and to explore the many expressions of what it means to be a human being. When students come into our libraries, I hope that they are able to learn about themselves, as well as to broaden and refine their worldview. I personally feel that a person who has plumbed the depths of their own mind, who has come to terms with their own perspective, and who recognizes that others have perspectives too, becomes someone who knows what it means to live in community. Ultimately, that leads to success in the classroom, and helps students to define success for themselves.
In libraries, a student can create, co-create, and recreate themselves as many times as they want and still belong. Much research into student success has shown that belonging supports student success, and I believe that the libraries can and have contributed heavily to cultivating belonging here on campus.
What makes UNLV special to you?
The students are so vibrant and just a joy to be around. The diversity of the student body makes coming to work a treat. Our students really are the most special thing about this place. And secondly, the campus is like an oasis in the heart of this cosmopolitan city.
What is the most Vegas thing you’ve done since moving here?
I have gone to a few magic shows and have more I’d like to attend. The last one that I went to was The Magician’s Study. The cool part of the show was that the location was a secret until the morning of the show and then the audience was super small. It created the ultimate up-close magic experience while also being absolutely funny. It was a great experience.
What is something that people would be surprised to learn about you?
That I dropped out of college my first time. I struggled those first two years, even though I graduated high school with honors and had all the markers for academic success. And I am so glad that I took a break from my formal education journey. I learned so many things and was able to explore the world in the six years I was out. When I returned, I had a much better learning experience that informs much of my work and research today.
Outside of work, what are you passionate about?
Bringing more love, light, beauty, and peace into the world. I have experienced an abundant share of trauma, loss, sadness, and disappointment in my life, but I have been able to make it this far because of the people who brought love, light, beauty, and peace to my life. I hope to pour out what has been so generously poured into me.
For me, that looks like creating art, dancing, singing loudly and poorly, making a cozy home that my friends and family can enjoy, being quick to laugh at myself or the absurdity of human existence, and building community. I am trying to learn how to roller skate better, so that’s going to be a fun adventure.
What are you currently reading?
Audiobooks of a lot of historical cozy mysteries set in the English countryside. Listening to books is still a form of reading.