Faculty profile: Being a librarian is about more than books for Tabby Farney

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of faculty profiles highlighting the diverse and innovative faculty at UCCS.

Most nights, Tabby Farney tucks her two daughters into bed, then joins her husband on the couch for video games. This is better than TV or books to her.

“It’s like reading a story, but you get to play it. I get to decide what the characters do,” said Farney, 34. “It’s the same with movies—you’re a voyeur. But in games you decide what happens.”

She describes her current favorite role-playing game — The Legend of Zelda: A Breath of the Wild — as beautiful and soothing. She first tried gaming in her early teens after watching her brother play. She was hooked.

“It was the storyline,” she said. “I used to read fantasy novels, and it was a natural transition going from reading to playing fantasy.”

Gaming even led to her future husband. She was 16 and working in the video game section at Toys R Us when he was as a customer. And now, 18 years later, it’s how they spend their nights.

Finding out she’s an avid gamer — sometimes gaming means slaying zombies — isn’t what people usually expect if they know her first as a UCCS librarian. Instead, she’s used to hearing, “You must like to read books.”

But being a librarian is about so much more than books to her. Connecting with students. The technology. Endless learning.

“There are stereotypes for librarians like the shushers. But to me, it’s all about access, making content accessible and making sure it’s available to you,” said Farney, associate professor at Kraemer Family Library and director of web services and emerging technologies.

“There’s never really a dull moment in the library.”

Her tasks include managing the library’s website and helping students find the information they need. One recently asked for help with how climate change impacts wildlife migration in Colorado, so they researched it together.

“I learn something new every day,” she said. “There’s never really a dull moment in the library.”

In 2016, Farney was one of 10 librarians nationwide to win the I Love My Librarian Award from the American Library Association. She was commended for reaching out to students, many of whom are unfamiliar with the vast library resources.

“Overall, Tabby makes learning fun. She engages students — and faculty and staff, for that matter — in a cooperative process of discovery and imagination,” Donald Klingner, UCCS distinguished professor and former director of the public administration master’s program, said when nominating her for the award.

Farney grew up in Illinois in a town with a population of 1,200, surrounded by cornfields, with little exposure to libraries or the internet.

She thought she’d be a high school English teacher. But it no longer felt like a good fit her junior year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She took a coding class through the library program and loved it so much that she pursued a minor in information technology.

“It really changed my life,” she said.

Farney became immersed in technology, something she hadn’t even known she enjoyed until then. In 2007, she received a master’s of science in library and information science from U of I before joining Kraemer Family Library the same year.

She has authored nearly a dozen publications, including two books, with her research focusing primarily on digital and web analytics and making websites, and libraries, more user friendly.

Farney didn’t start using a library regularly until her junior year as an undergrad.

“I remember stepping into one of those libraries. It was complex,” she said. “The person at the desk always looked so busy that I didn’t want to bother them. That stuck with me.”

Now that she’s the one behind the desk, she makes eye contact and says hi. She encourages students to research smarter, not harder.

“They shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions. I feel it’s my job to help them succeed,” she said. “It’s so encouraging to see them graduate. I sleep very well at night knowing I helped with that.”

— Photos by Anslee Wolfe

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