Employee Spotlight: Jessica Kohout-Tailor

Moving from working with middle schoolers to college students might seem like a big leap, but Jessica Kohout-Tailor says the two age groups aren’t all that different. Kohout-Tailor made that leap in 2018 when she went from being a middle school librarian to being undergraduate experience librarian for Clemson Libraries.

A native of Easley, Kohout-Tailor came to Clemson partly to get closer to her hometown, but also because she was looking for a new challenge in her career. After earning a bachelor’s in religion from Wofford College, she moved through several different jobs looking for her career path. One of those jobs was teaching English in China, and it was there that she discovered a passion for working with young people. She decided she wanted to teach through working as a school librarian, so she went back to school at the University of South Carolina, where she earned both a master’s and a specialist degree in library and information science, as well as a Doctorate of Education in curriculum and instruction.

She worked for a year as an IT and media specialist at an elementary school before moving to the new Meadow Glen Middle School in 2012, where she was able to open the library as its first librarian.

“I really enjoy working with young people and helping them have positive associations with libraries and teaching them how to conduct research using the library,” she said. “I miss middle school, but I love working with undergraduates — both are at an age when they are facing really big transitions in their lives.”

As the undergraduate experience librarian, Kohout-Tailor’s job is to introduce students to the Libraries and help familiarize them with the resources and services available.

“I work with first-year students and undergraduates in general to provide engaging ways for them to interact with the library and to learn about our resources,” she said. “I want students to have fun in the library, and I try to make it a welcoming environment.”

One of the ways she does that is by coordinating the annual Arcade at the Library event, which includes games, food and prizes, while allowing students to explore Cooper Library and learn about services. She also teaches courses and workshops on how to use the Libraries, and she holds individual consultations with students seeking help.

Kohout-Tailor has also recently become the interim director of the Libraries’ new Learning Commons, which is located on the third floor of Cooper Library. The Learning Commons is being designed to provide a central learning hub where students can get peer research assistance from trained student staff members, consult with students and staff from different support services across campus, and attend workshops and other activities offered by campus partners. Learning Commons partners include the Writing Lab, the Center for Career and Professional Development, CAPS, the Center for Student Leadership and Engagement and the Academic Success Center.

The space is being designed based on data and feedback from both students and campus partners, and Kohout-Tailor says the space will be “iterative,” meaning it will change to meet students’ changing needs over time. Kohout-Tailor said the space is also being designed to align with the goals of the new Clemson Elevate strategic plan — specifically to deliver the #1 student experience.

“The Learning Commons is all about empowering students, connecting students with the support and services they need, and providing a sense of belonging to the Libraries and ultimately to the University,” she said.