Alex Pfundt ’03 Embraces New George School Chapter as Director of Library Services

When Alex Pfundt ’03 was a student at George School, he could have never imagined that he would one day become the Director of Library Services. He’s always appreciated education, literature, and libraries—especially his experience with them in his formative years—and he was excited to attend George School as a student. He admired the way students carried themselves: self-assured, expressive, and genuinely invested in learning—a sentiment that remains true to this day. His journey to becoming a library director was not linear, and he prefers it that way. It is this kind of flexibility and openness to explore that he embraced at George School, and which ultimately led him back to this community three years ago.

He was familiar with George School when he first applied—his grandfather, G. Nelson Pfundt, was a graduate of the Class of 1948, and Alex also knew other students who attended the school at the time. While he was a student at George School, Alex was even the library co-op on campus when the library was still housed in McFeely before the Mollie Dodd Anderson (MDA) Library was built.

Alex went on to attend and graduate from Ithaca College, and accepted a position with Thomas Reuters reading science and pharmaceutical research studies where he was able to apply his literary and research skill-sets. Encouraged by the work he was doing and inspired by colleagues, he decided to pursue his master’s degree in Library and Information Science—and later a M.A. in Educational Psychology as well—and worked at a few medical libraries before he became an academic librarian at Bryn Mawr College. While there, he focused on information literacy instruction in collaboration with faculty and knew he had found his niche.

“My favorite thing about being a librarian and educator is faculty collaboration and working together on a shared vision for a learning outcome, and the creativity involved in the process,” Alex shared.

“I’m interested in the science of learning and libraries’ role in teaching and learning,” he continued. For Alex, the skills surrounding research, retrieving information, and evaluating it, are crucial to both academic success and personal growth and he believes it should be a part of every student’s learning experience.

When the opportunity for the Director of Library Services at George School presented itself, Alex welcomed it and was confident he could help continue the important work that MDA Library does for the George School community. Alex works closely with his staff to advance literacy and research instruction, advocate for equitable access to information and intellectual freedom, and provide a diverse and inclusive collection of both print and digital materials to help enhance visibility for a variety of voices and cultivate a culture of lifelong learning and love of reading.

“We strive to offer our community reading materials that reflect multicultural perspectives in both our fiction and non-fiction titles for academic research and reading for enjoyment,” commented Librarian Peggy Karaffa.

As the Director of Library Services, you will find Alex in the library assisting the community with their research needs and you will also find him in the classroom providing library instruction or teaching his own courses which includes the elective Information & Human Rights. One of his recent collaborations includes working closely with faculty member and department head Ben Croucher to support the History Department’s initiative to incorporate more project-based learning into the curriculum and help break down the inquiry process for students into more manageable pieces.

“It’s a scaffolded and student-centered approach,” shared Alex. “Students need to understand the research process before they can become effective writers. They need to learn how to find sources, be comfortable reading them, interpreting them, and understanding them.” Some of this involves helping familiarize students with subscription resources and using databases.

One example of this is the inclusion of Statista and Zotero—resources and tools often utilized at the college level— in Alex’s library instruction for Human Geography where students create a Google Site on population data of a specific country. By encouraging exploration and use of one specific library resource, it “opens the world of library subscription resources for students” and “leverages technology to facilitate the learning process,” Alex commented.

“Alex has been a tremendous asset since returning to George School from higher education and bringing back such a wealth of knowledge and experience,” shared Associate Head of School Scott Spence. “The library director plays a crucial role in supporting and fostering a positive academic environment throughout George School. Through teaching students valuable research skills and information literacy in an engaging and effective manner, Alex is really enhancing the scholarship of our community.”

Recently, Alex was published in the journal Social Psychology of Education for his article “Self-efficacy and Attitudes Associate with Undergraduates’ Library Research Intentions: A Theoretically-grounded Investigation” which was researched and written in collaboration with Laurel M. Peterson, PhD, from the Department of Psychology at Bryn Mawr College.

Alex’s publication stemmed from his graduate work in which he explored how social cognitive theory can help us better understand the connection between information literacy and academic achievement. His interest in student self-efficacy beliefs and attitudes inspired him to think about libraries from a different light: what is the reason that some students develop an affinity for libraries while others may display avoidant behaviors, and what is the impact on academic success?

Ultimately for Alex, the role of self-efficacy is critical for helping empower students and building more positive dispositions around learning and research. “Every student is capable,” shared Alex, and libraries play an essential role in advocating for and instilling positive learning habits which help shape overall learning experiences for students.

This work cannot be accomplished by the library alone and is the reason why Alex values meaningful campus partnerships across departments that help support student learning and wellness, including the Learning Center.

“The MDA is a true learning commons,” Alex said. “While the library provides the resources and space for independent study and research, the Learning Center [in MDA Library] offers structured and personalized learning experiences. Together, they create an environment that promotes the development of those essential skills for academic success and lifelong learning.”

Director of Learning Center Services Evonna Bruner ’99 agrees: “The work that the library and Learning Center do together to support students is vital to the George School community. The goal of our continued collaboration is to collectively address the current needs of students while also equipping them with the tools and knowledge needed for success in their future endeavors.”

Library and Learning Center staff member Caroline Sipio is excited about what’s ahead for the library under Alex’s leadership. “MDA Library continues to evolve with the research, instruction, and learning needs of our community, and Alex’s commitment to librarianship, attention to detail, and his understanding of George School contribute to this growth in an impactful way.”

When it comes to the future of MDA Library, Alex envisions continuing the important work of aligning library instruction, literacy pedagogy, and programming with the curriculum; expanding resources and nurturing a reading culture; and embracing opportunities for growth including the new Student Library Leaders Program being piloted next year.

“[At MDA], all are welcome,” Alex emphasized. He invites the community to remain curious, humble, and ask questions during the research process. The library staff is equipped and ready to help.

His advice as both a librarian and an alumni for students echoes the published books and stories that surround him daily waiting to be read: “Don’t be afraid to try.”

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