Cynthia Tysick and Tiffany Walsh

A library evokes a sense of tranquility and reflection. It’s a place one goes not only to find an answer but to nourish the soul. Over the centuries people have come to libraries to quench their curiosity. The quest for knowledge and the chance to add to the body of knowledge for posterity has driven scholars to declare, “Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life” (Sidney Sheldon). In higher education libraries have been the de facto place students and professors went to feed their intellectual curiosity; however, today, with the advent of so much digital content, it is not just the library where that curiosity can be assuaged. Thus, librarians have become burdened with the task of articulating the library’s value to the established, budding, and new scholars.


What we would like to declare in this collected work is that intellectual curiosity is nurtured, molded, and birthed through our patrons’ interactions with our spaces, collections (both physical and digital), and people. Throughout these chapters you will see how the first and second year undergraduate is encouraged to explore the information ecosystem with an attitude of curiosity. Without intellectual curiosity our new and budding scholars will find it difficult to stay the course and follow the footnotes, quotes, and data that make up the breadcrumbs of their searching.


What is intellectual curiosity? When we refer to intellectual curiosity we refer to a desire or deep need to learn more about some aspect of the world or your surroundings. Being intellectually curious means wanting to know why things are the way they are, and how one can contribute to what they are exploring. If you are intellectually curious you see everything as an opportunity to creatively solve the problems you engage with. Through this exploration you are able to think beyond current ideas and propose new and novel theories and approaches.


How does one become intellectually curious? The approach is similar to how librarians teach good topic development to their students. Ask good questions. Follow topics that interest you. Acknowledge what you don’t know and see everything as a resource towards delving deeper to find answers, sometimes to questions not yet asked. As you will see throughout this book, librarians encourage our students to explore a plethora of resources in creative ways. We ask students to expand their intellectual curiosity through games, music, movies, projects, mixed use library spaces, librarians, and our collections.


Why is intellectual curiosity an important trait for librarians to encourage? Employers need employees who are agile in their thinking and adaptable to change. Intellectual curiosity increases the likelihood an employee will be able to think critically and creatively problem-solve. According to a 2021 SAS survey, 72% of managers agreed that intellectual curiosity was a top trait necessary for success. Furthermore, they found an 87% growth in curiosity as a listed skill in job postings. If librarians want to help our students succeed post-graduation, we have to do everything we can to foster intellectual curiosity.


These fourteen chapters have been written by academic librarians who are taking up the challenge to grow the intellectual curiosity of their students. Their programs, theories, insights, and curricular designs push the boundaries of academic librarianship. In this way, they encourage students to live a life, both in the classroom and outside, that desires deep knowledge and acknowledges the wonderful journey ahead through a curious mind.


You are about to read stories of how intellectual curiosity was cultivated through library spaces, relationships between librarians and students, collaboration between librarians and faculty, teaching and learning, and even through the dreaded assessment. You will be presented with open houses, research awards, podcasts, escape rooms, learning commons, virtual browsing, compassionate pedagogy, ungrading, and more. We wanted to put together a book that we ourselves treasured reading, a book that is engaging and compelling. We hope that the creativity and innovation of our colleagues inspires you to find new ways to weave intellectual curiosity into your library practice.

About the Authors

Cynthia currently leads the Education Services team at the University at Buffalo Libraries. The team is charged with delivering library instruction to first year undergraduate students through their signature undergraduate general education program, UB Curriculum. The team reaches almost 4000 students each academic year and is embedded in the required Writing and Rhetoric course, delivering four library sessions to each section of the course.

Cynthia also works with students and global non-profit organizations to create applied learning experiences that help NGOs working within the SDG ecosystem to scale up their ideas with assistance of UB students eager to make an impact through learning and innovation.

A 2023 Fulbright Specialist, Cynthia works internationally with colleges and universities around the world to incorporate digital dissemination and creation tools to deliver instruction to a generation of media savvy students.

Cynthia can be reached at

Tiffany Walsh is currently a Student Support & Engagement Librarian at the University at Buffalo, and provides library instruction regularly within the UB undergraduate curriculum. She has a BA in political science, a J.D., as well as a background in religious studies. She is the author of “Exploring the Catholic Classics: How Spiritual Reading Can Help You Grow in Wisdom,” published by Our Sunday Visitor in 2019.

Tiffany can be reached at


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

Intellectual Curiosity and the Role of Libraries Copyright © by Cynthia Tysick and Tiffany Walsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book