February 17, 2018

Vibiana Bowman | Movers & Shakers 2005

Personal Trainer for the Mind


Vibiana Bowman enjoys spending time with young adults – which is just as well since she has a few of her own, has done her time as scout leader, and now teaches proper research methods to students at Rutgers University – Camden.

She first discovered how much this instruction was needed when she noticed her own kids cutting and pasting copy from the web into their papers. They weren’t using a single resource other than the Internet and had no idea they were supposed to credit their sources. “It clicked with me that this was what the students I was working with at the university were doing as well,” Bowman says.

When none of her students recognized the iconic picture of Lee Harvey Oswald she’d used in one of her first tutorials, Bowman realized that she couldn’t assume she and her students shared the same cultural knowledge. She now tries to keep abreast of pop culture. Though she still admits to being “hopelessly lame” in the eyes of her children, she uses them, as well as student focus groups, to try out her lessons.

As a result, her “clever interactive tutorials like Cite It Right engage participants, play to our pop culture sensibilities, and solidly convey important lessons,” says Michael Kelley, an editor at Neal-Schuman, which published her book about plagiarism.

As library liaison for the Rutgers University/Rowan University/Camden County College Urban Campus Library Project, Bowman had to design bibliographic instruction sessions and produce web-based and print instructional materials to meet the much more varied needs of a wide range of students: 18-year-olds, senior citizens, and single moms going to school at night after a full day’s work. Her prelibrary experience as a writer/ editor of technical manuals and as a LEXIS trainer taught her to speak and write clearly and “to be in tune with people’s apprehensions about learning a new skill or subject area and their anxieties about appearing incompetent.”

Gary Golden, director of the Paul Robeson Library, says she’s a “perfectionist,” with an “infectious laugh.” “When she sinks her teeth into something, she doesn’t let go until it’s done – and done right,” says Golden.

Bowman is frequently invited to speak about bibliographic instruction and web-based learning. She’s published articles on several topics, including how to get published (some hints: “Publishing is like dating. The more people that you know, the better your chances are for making a connection. Rule One: Learn To Schmooze.”).

Bowman doesn’t worry that the profession is threatened by the Internet, because, for her, librarians are more than mere dispensers of information. “The mind is a muscle that needs to be exercised,” she says. Who better than librarians like her to be the personal trainers?



Current Position Reference Librarian and Web Administrator, Paul Robeson Library, Rutgers University – Camden, NJ

Degree MLS, School of Library & Information Science, Drexel University, 1981

Cocreator Cite It Right (http://library.camden.rutgers.edu/robeson/cddev/quiz.html#)

Editor and Contributor The Plagiarism Plague: A Resource Guide and CD-ROM Tutorial for Educators and Librarians (Neal-Schuman, 2004)