HFC welcomes Kate Harger, the new director of the Library and Learning Lab
CAPTION: Kate Harger (left) is the new HFC director of the Library and Learning Lab. HFC reunites her with Tessa Betts (right), with whom she worked at Baker College in Clinton Township.
Kate Harger found her calling working in a library by chance.
When she was a student at Hope College in Holland, MI, Harger worked as a student assistant in the Van Wylen Library. It wasn’t a job she applied for; it was a job assigned to her by Hope’s student employment office.
“It wasn’t anything I sought out, yet it was life-changing. I did not expect it to become my profession,” said Harger, HFC’s new director of the Library and Learning Lab, who lives in Detroit’s Lafayette Park neighborhood.
As an undergraduate, Harger had aspirations to become an attorney, but working in the library changed that. She was torn between going to law school and going to graduate school. As it turned out, her supervisor, Carol Juth-Gavasso, was both a lawyer and librarian. She advised Harger to become a paralegal to see if law was the right career path.
After earning her undergraduate degree in communications, Harger earned her paralegal certification from Lansing Community College. For half a dozen years, she worked at the law firm Varnum, Riddering, Schmidt, & Howlett, LLP in Grand Rapids.
“I didn’t mind the work, but I knew right away that I would be going to library school,” recalled Harger. “That’s where my heart was.”
Her big break
Harger earned her Master of Library Science at Wayne State University. She completed the majority of her coursework at Wayne’s satellite campus in Grand Rapids while working as a paralegal. Currently, Harger is working on her doctorate in business administration from Baker College. She’s taken the majority of her coursework online, and is slated to complete her degree in the spring.
Harger had several jobs in the library field, but her big break was working at Baker's Clinton Township campus from 2002-11, where she held three positions: the first as reference librarian, the second as asst. library director, and the third as library director.
“At Baker, I began my leadership track in the library field. My supervisor, David Miller, knew he was retiring and mentored me, with the idea that I would be qualified for his job,” said Harger.
She did just that, serving as library director from 2005-11. At Baker she also met Tessa Betts, HFC’s User Experience Librarian.
“I worked with Kate at Baker College from 2007 to 2011,” said Betts. “It is great to have her heading the Library and Learning Lab here at HFC, because I know she is committed to providing excellent service to students, faculty, and staff. She is known for having innovative ideas and implementing them,” said Betts.
“My soul has always been in library leadership”
From Baker, Harger went to McHenry County College in Crystal Lake, IL, an hour north of Chicago, where she was the library director from 2012-18. McHenry was a medium-sized community college per the Carnegie Classification. Harger wanted to hone her leadership skills at a larger community college.
Harger applied for the director of Library and Learning Lab position at the College. She now reports to Dr. Michael Nealon, HFC vice president of Academic Affairs.
The library directorship has been vacant since mid-2016. After HFC’s academic framework was restructured, the current version of the position now includes supervision of the Learning Lab.
“Kate’s vision for the Eshelman Library and the Learning Lab mirrors the mission of the College. I am confident that the library will reach great new heights under her leadership,” said Nealon.
Harger says she’s up to the challenge.
“My soul has always been in library leadership. HFC just fit into my own personal career trajectory,” she said. “My vision for the Library and Learning Lab at HFC is to become the top community college library in the state, and one of the top community college libraries nationwide. Both the Library and the Learning Lab play key roles in student success; the resources and services we offer here support that. We will be forming partnerships across campus and within the Dearborn community to continue our role in student success and excel in meeting the needs of our stakeholders.”