Keep rolling out the welcome mat! In addition to new staff members Mariel Murray and Tommy Pickering, Irma Qavolli (she/they) also recently joined our team. Irma is a member of the Scott Library on the Center City campus, and is eager to work with students, researchers, instructors, and staff to support their academic, scholarly, and clinical work. Read our Q&A with Irma to learn about her background, what she loves about libraries, and how she spends her free time (hint: with her cat).
What is your title – and what does that mean to you in terms of who you will be supporting and what type of work will you be doing?
My official title is Information Services Librarian. To me, this means that I will be supporting students, faculty, and all those who use the Academic Commons as they pursue the part-daunting, part-exciting task of research and scholarship!
I see myself as a translator between the information needs of the human world and the digital ecosystem of databases and software. This encompasses helping users with their research inquiries, navigating various databases to retrieve relevant information, ensuring proper citation management, teaching users how to evaluate and effectively use information, and more. Whenever someone is curious or confused about how to dive into any part of this ecosystem, I am willing and eager to be your trusted guide!
What excites you most about joining Thomas Jefferson University and the Academic Commons team?
What truly excites me is the prospect of collaborating with a team of exceptionally talented and intelligent individuals. Each team member at the Jefferson Libraries brings unique expertise, and I’m eager to learn from them. Being part of this dynamic group means contributing to a vibrant academic community. Moreover, the opportunity to support patrons in the health sciences is particularly meaningful. By assisting in research and filling gaps, we play a crucial role in advancing knowledge and improving patient care.
Has anything about Jefferson, Scott Memorial Library, or the Academic Commons surprised you so far?
Absolutely! One delightful surprise has been the wealth of archival materials. These historical treasures offer glimpses into the past, and I was really excited to see some of the very old books when meeting archival staff in the Mezzanine. As we transition to the new Siegman Archives space, I anticipate even more exciting discoveries. The blend of tradition and innovation at Jefferson creates an inspiring environment—one that fosters curiosity and fuels my passion for librarianship.
What is something you wish more students (or library patrons in general) understood or knew about the library? What can you help them with? What do you wish they’d take advantage of?
I wish more students and patrons understood that the library is not just a repository of books—it’s a vibrant hub of knowledge and support. As a librarian, I’m here to assist in ways beyond locating resources. I can guide patrons through the maze of databases, help decipher which citation resources are best for them, and teach effective research strategies. But what I truly wish patrons would take advantage of is our personalized consultations. Whether it’s refining a PICO question or exploring specialized databases, these one-on-one sessions can be transformative.
What made you want to become a librarian? What’s the most rewarding part of the job for you?
Becoming a librarian was a path that I found my way into after college. I’ve always been drawn to the intersection of information, people, and learning. I majored in Linguistics as an undergrad and loved learning and researching about language and our social uses of it. Once I graduated, my first job was a fellowship at the Free Library of Philadelphia. While getting a glimpse into public librarianship was a wonderful opportunity, it made me realize I had an itch for supporting research that I wanted to scratch.
When I went to library school, I found myself more interested in academic librarianship, and I’m grateful that I’m able to explore that path here at Jefferson. The most rewarding part of the job for me is those “aha” moments—the spark in a student’s eyes when they uncover a hidden gem in a database or the satisfaction of helping a researcher untangle a complex question into a search strategy. Being part of their academic journey and witnessing their growth—that’s what keeps me passionate about librarianship.
When not working in the library, how do you like to spend your time?
When I’m not immersed in library duties, I find joy in a few delightful pleasures. I’m a mixed media collage artist, so I love cutting into old National Geographic magazines and pasting together little worlds. I’m currently engaged in a month-long challenge known as ‘Februllage’ (portmanteau of February and collage), where every day is a different prompt for which you create a collage. I’ve been partaking every day and am always excited to share my work!
When the weather is nice, I like to rollerblade by the Schuylkill – in full protective equipment because gravity is not a force I am willing to trifle with. Finally, most morning and evenings you can find me primally playing and cuddling with my cat, Gigi. Did you know that cats purr at a frequency that heals their bones and promotes healing for humans as well? I’ll take any opportunity to interject cat facts!
What is something you’re binging right now?
With humility, I must admit that I have fallen prey to The Bachelor franchise. Last year, I watched my first season ever with Charity as the Bachelorette. I was completely enamored by the Shakespearean timelines and figuring out which plotlines were producer-manipulated. It’s truly an anthropological project for me. I’m currently watching Joey’s season of The Bachelor and loving the same patterns of drama that appear again and again. I perch in front of the TV and gawk at the episodes as if it’s a sports game. To me, it is!
Aside from this guilty pleasure, I’m currently reading Martyr! by Kaveh Akbar. He’s one of my favorite poets, and this is his first novel! So far, it’s a really incredible story filled with beautiful prose and striking characters. Highly recommend!
Is there anything we didn’t ask you that you’d like to ensure your colleagues know about you?
As a librarian, I’m passionate about student outreach and how the library can exist as a supportive ecosystem for students beyond academic purposes. Once I get more of my bearings in my position, I’m very interested in developing creative workshops for students and collaborating on study breaks with student groups. If this is something that sounds like an exciting point of collaboration for anyone in the Academic Commons, let’s get in touch!