Students may know her best as the coordinator of “Paws for a Study Break,” the popular animal therapy program held in Lied Library each semester, but Rosan Mitola has had a long career at UNLV.
Mitola (’04 History) joined the UNLV Libraries staff in 2010 as a library technician I, coordinating course reserves. In the years since, she has been a student and staff supervisor in the circulation department, has earned her master of library and information sciences degree from San José State University, and has become the outreach librarian and a tenured member of UNLV’s faculty. She recently was promoted to head of educational initiatives, overseeing much of the Libraries’ instruction programs.
In this interview, this Dodgers fan shares more about her work in the Libraries, travel rewards, and what “very Vegas thing” she’s relieved to not have to watch anymore.
What inspired you to become a librarian?
I was a bit of a nontraditional student as an undergraduate at UNLV. I graduated from high school in Las Vegas and went out of state for my first year of college. I moved back and transferred to UNLV as a second-year student. I also worked full-time while attending UNLV. By the time I graduated (it took me five years to finish), I already had a career in sales and marketing, but I knew I didn’t want to be in such a high-stress role in 10 years. I always valued education and really wanted to find a career that would contribute to student learning. I sort of stumbled on librarianship as a way to do that and went back to graduate school in 2009.
You’re new in your position. How do you define this role in the Libraries?
As the head of educational initiatives, I have the opportunity to lead educational and co-curricular programs within the University Libraries and integrate information literacy learning outcomes into the undergraduate curriculum. This work is particularly important to support our students in their learning and ensure they are developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills related to how they find, evaluate, and use information sources. This role provides leadership for not only our instruction program, but also our faculty development efforts, assessment of student learning, and the Libraries’ support for online learning.
Why is it so impactful for librarians to provide instruction for students?
Information literacy and critical thinking skills are so important — especially as we all have to evaluate information on a daily basis. These days, finding information is not hard, but the ability to access, critically evaluate, and effectively use quality information sources is a lifelong skill that students need to develop and take with them beyond their studies. The strategies we teach contribute to students’ academic success, but also help them master concepts and gain skills that will contribute to lifelong learning for personal research goals, democratic participation, and community engagement.
You’ve managed the Flora and Stuart Mason Undergraduate Peer Research Coach program for a number of years. How does this program benefit students and the libraries?
This is a really special program and it has been the highlight of my career to be a part of it. The Mason program is a wonderfully enriching and mutually beneficial experience in which undergraduate students (peer coaches) and teaching librarians work together to support student learning and student achievement.
The program offers peer coaches meaningful employment opportunities where they co-teach library instruction sessions and lead student engagement activities, while also receiving mentorship and guidance that assist them in completing their college degrees in a range of majors. So the program not only benefits the peer coaches, but also the students they support in the classroom, in the library, and on campus. I know in our library instruction spaces, peer coaches change the dynamic in the classroom and their presence, experience, and expertise encourages and fosters deeper engagement and connection with students.
What research project are you currently working on?
Along with two esteemed colleagues, I recently wrote a book on dismantling deficit thinking in academic libraries which provides alternative strategies and interdisciplinary educational principles that guide us to work more effectively with students. This project has been a big focus and it’s exciting to see it come to fruition and for folks to begin reading and using it in their work. I hope to keep building on this work this year!
Outside of your research, what are you passionate about?
The pandemic really put a lot of things in perspective for me. It reminded me about how important my friends and family are, how much I love (and miss) traveling, and that time is limited. In my free time, I love a good movie and long lunch with friends or jumping on a plane to catch a day game at Dodger Stadium. I’m a pretty big Golden Knights fan. I’ve loved hockey since I used to play street and roller hockey as a teenager.
What is the most Vegas thing you’ve done?
I’ve lived in Las Vegas since I was a teenager, so I feel like I’ve done all of the Vegas things — from the days when my parents dragged me to so many buffet dinners on the Strip to seeing all of the Cirque du Soleil shows with out-of-town friends and family. I was really glad when they ended the Phantom of the Opera show at the Venetian because I had seen it so many times.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I’m not sure this is wildly surprising, but in addition to being an expert in information literacy and co-curricular learning, I’d also consider myself to be an expert at accumulating and using travel rewards. It’s one of those things that I could probably talk too much and too long about, so I just say nothing!
What are you currently reading?
I’m slowly working my way through Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, but because I am easily distracted, I have to dive back into it. I’m also just starting to read Stealing Home, which tells the history of how Dodger Stadium uprooted and stole land from the communities living in Chavez Ravine. The book tells the story of the Aréchiga family, which became the face of the last holdouts before their forcible eviction.