Q&A: Katie Hagen – Berntsen… | University of Northwestern, St. Paul
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Q&A: Katie Hagen – Berntsen Library

By Linda LaFrombois on Tuesday, December 14, 2021

portrait of Katie Hagen

University of Northwestern – St. Paul welcomed four new full-time faculty for the 2021–22 academic year. Below is an excerpt of our interview with Katie Hagen, cataloging librarian.

Katie Hagen's depth of experience and expertise in research and resource cataloguing provides a foundation for the study and scholarship of the thousands of students that visit Northwestern’s Berntsen Library each academic year.

What is your position at University of Northwestern?

I am the Cataloging Librarian in Berntsen Library. It’s a faculty-level role that involves work in the library and some teaching. I am also a part-time piano teacher in the Academy of Music.

What does a cataloging librarian do?

I organize all the materials we have in the library and evaluate records for the titles we own to be sure they are correct. This helps students find what they need for their research. I want our materials to be well organized so students can go to the shelves and find books they need on a particular topic—and on similar topics nearby.

I also help students with research at the reference desk and offer one-on-one research assistance as needed.

Have you always been interested in library science?

I worked in the Berntsen Library before graduating in December 2005. In 2006, a position opened for an evening supervisor position. I enjoyed my time here as a student employee, so I applied and was hired. I’ve held various roles in the library since. More recently I was cataloging coordinator.

This fall my position was upgraded to a faculty-level librarian position. My roles in the library gave me good knowledge, but earning my master’s degree in library and information science helped me take it further. That’s what qualified me for my current position.

I’ve added more faculty-level responsibilities in my current position as cataloguing librarian, including teaching and instruction in classes.

What courses do you teach?

Each of Northwestern’s librarians has specific departments that they support. I work with the Department of Music; the Department of Physical Education, Health, & Kinesiology; the Department of Computing, Mathematical, and Data Sciences; and the Department of World Languages. I step in to teach when professors need a general “how to” research session in a class or research instruction based around a specific assignment.

My fellow librarians and I also teach sections of the required English research writing course. The ability to research and find accurate information is a skill everybody needs in this day and age.

Did you aspire to work in Christian higher education when you were in college?

My skills as a learner and teacher that became apparent during my college years. I’ve always been a lover of knowledge. My role in the library is perfect for that; I’m surrounded by knowledge all the time.

Looking back now, it’s easy to see that this is a good role for me. I may not be an expert in everything, but I get to help students with many different research questions. I get to learn bits and pieces on the topic as I help them—little glimpses into very different fields than I have experience with.

What experience or knowledge are you most excited to bring to Northwestern students?

Having been at UNW for so many years and having been a Northwestern student, I can sympathize with students. I’m familiar with the classes they have to take.

I’ve also had many years to develop relationships on campus. As a new faculty member, I get to go back and renew relationships with professors that I took classes with. I get to be their colleague and help their students do their research and learn how to research well. That process is enjoyable for me.

I’m very happy to bring those skills to help students in what may be a frustrating piece of homework. I and my fellow librarians are here to help make that process easier for students. I love helping students research. (I love research!)

Why did you choose to work at Northwestern in particular?

I have fond memories of working here as a student, so when a staff position opened, it was a no-brainer to apply for it. It was a good fit.

Also, Ruth, my boss, specifically said, “You need to apply for this job, because we want you back here.”

What is your favorite part about working in Christian higher education?

I remember what it was like to go to college where I could focus so much on my faith. Taking biblical classes was also transformative to me as a student. Northwestern was a great environment to be in as a college student, and I love being a part of creating that environment for new generations of students.

College is a great time for students to learn about themselves and their faith, to develop skills and gain knowledge, and get ready for what this life has in store for them. I love that faith gets to be a big part of the process for students here.

What is your favorite part about working with students?

Students have such great energy. Their zeal for life, learning, and questioning—that’s motivating to me. The students inspire me to keep learning and developing and questioning beliefs and views I’ve always held.

You’re a UNW alum. What made you choose Northwestern as a student?

I grew up in the country in small-town Minnesota—on a dairy farm, doing all the farm stuff from a very young age. (Growing up on a farm was the best upbringing ever!) So it was a big deal for me to leave what I knew and come to the “city.”

When I visited Northwestern, I felt really comfortable, which was very surprising to me. Northwestern is such a beautiful, peaceful campus. I didn’t realize that was something I needed until I got here and saw it—the campus and Lake Johanna. It was surprisingly impactful for me.

Meeting professors and fellow students was also wonderful. The people I met on my visit day are people I still am friends with to this day—all these years later.

Were you involved in extracurricular activities at UNW?

I was involved in a few clubs. I was in music my first year and was also in the handbell choir; that was super enjoyable. (Northwestern’s Academy of Music is reviving the handbell choir!)

And I was a student employee in the library. It’s a joy to be back as a staff person. 

Did you have a favorite class?

Western Civilization with Dr. Charles Aling. Dr. Aling probably taught the class hundreds of times, and yet he still taught it in such an engaging way. Talking about the history of western civilization can be dry at some points, but Dr. Aling brought life to it. That was the class that convinced me to become a history major.

Do you have a proudest accomplishment from your time at UNW?

Something that was very fulfilling for me was earning a Music minor and taking private piano lessons. It was incredibly difficult, but it was also incredibly fulfilling.

My music teachers pushed me well beyond what I had studied in high school. I had no idea what I was capable of. The pieces I was able to learn and perform would have been mind blowing to my high school self.

I still use those skills today when I teach piano lessons in the Academy of Music. I get to instill my love of music in children that are just starting out. I get to teach students of all ages and abilities—including a newly retired gentleman. It’s really enjoyable.

What have you been reading or listening to recently that you’d recommend?

I am of the digital age; I am an audio book listener. Something really entertaining that I read recently is Project Hail Mary: A Novel by Andy Weir. It’s a space Sci-Fi novel. It’s an incredibly entertaining space mission book even if you’re not into Sci-Fi.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love to go camping and hiking and take advantage of beautiful Minnesota summers. And I volunteer in the kids’ ministry area at Eagle Brook Church; that’s really fun.

I also like to spoil all my nieces and nephews. (By spoil, I mean spend time with them).

What advice would you give to incoming freshmen?

There are so many different ways that you can make your college experience your own. It’s a great time to try different clubs and activities.

You’re also going to meet many new people. Make a point to meet people who are different from you and have different experiences from you. Listen to them talk. Ask them questions. Have good conversations with them. That can be eye opening and educational; it can help you understand the perspective of people who are different than you. That’s a really good thing. We all need more understanding of each other in this world.

What would you say to outgoing seniors?

Cherish your time and experiences at Northwestern.

I hope that Northwestern helped you grow in many, many different ways. And I hope you use that experience in your careers to do whatever it is you are trained to do but in a different way: to do it through Christ’s eyes.

Be a light for Him! Choose to be different so people notice and question why—so that you have an opportunity to reach out and tell them your story.

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