Thomas Perriard, Access Services Specialist
The library world – finding and acquiring knowledge to help people and the systems that make it work – I find it fascinating.
Thomas Perriard is an access services specialist at Harvard Graduate School of Design’s Frances Loeb Library.
Perriard grew up in Denmark and received a degree in business from the Copenhagen Business School. He worked primarily in logistics in Europe before moving to the U.S. with his wife in 2003. While living in Ann Arbor and struggling to find a job that suited his business background, Perriard took a job as a library assistant at Washtenaw Community College.
“The library world – finding and acquiring knowledge to help people and the systems that make it work – I found it fascinating,” Perriard said. “To be a librarian you have to be a researcher, a logistics manager, and you have to be good at handling the public and providing customer service. I really enjoyed it and it led me to Wayne State’s program.”
Perriard said that the Master of Library and Information Science at Wayne State seemed tailor made for someone like him. The classes he attended in person were available in the evenings and on weekends, allowing him to pursue his degree while working full time.
When he graduated in 2008 at the height of the Great Recession, library positions were hard to find but Perriard said that although he worked in other industries, he was always able to “find the librarian” in each role. For example, working as an inventory coordinator at the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy welcome center allowed him to effectively staff a reference desk in a national park. “We had people from all around the world and the country with questions and it was our job to know how to answer those questions or where to find the answers for our guests.”
Perriard’s advice to students who are starting out in the industry: “Keep a wide perspective on what makes a librarian. Don’t despair if you don’t land a job in a library right away. The skills you need to work in a library, museum or archive are present in any other industry. Focus on learning computer systems, operations, how to manage people, provide customer service and then hone those skills until you find your way to a library position.”
Perriard found his way in March 2022 when he was hired as the access services specialist at Harvard. Although he was one of many people to apply for the job, his wide range of skills helped him stand out from the crowd.
A major aspect of his new role includes hiring, training, supervising and scheduling the library’s student workers. While most of the students are studying in the Graduate School of Design, Perriard enjoys the educational element of the job and passing along to students the essential skills that helped him become successful.
“Everyone can benefit from studying library science,” he said. “I don’t want my students to feel like they just have to show up and mindlessly work a six-hour shift to fulfill their assignment. It’s my hope that it becomes part of their education, and they learn about the amazing things you can do in a library while also becoming advocates for the library and guides for their fellow students.”