Karen Sobel

Karen Sobel photo


Associate Professor/ Teaching and Learning Librarian


University of Colorado at Denver



Graduation year:

"People I met at SILS are one of my main sources of advice and ideas for my work."

How did I get here? I ended up at CU-Denver pretty much by chance. In 2007 when I went on the job market, the economy was headed downhill. My husband and I needed to make sure that we both had jobs lined up before we moved anywhere. Denver was the first place that worked out. And do you know what? I have never, EVER been bored here. I work on a tri-institutional campus – CU-Denver shares the campus with Metropolitan State College and the Community College of Denver. The library provides services for all three schools. It isn’t unusual for me to help a graduate civil engineering student, then a community college student who’s taking an adult literacy course back to back.

I’m a small-town girl, and it took a lot of learning to adapt to an inner-city campus. A surprising number of my students at the community college are former gang members. One of the biggest surprises of my career has been how much I love working with them. Most of them truly want a fresh start, and they’re dedicated to learning. And I’ve become a stronger person.   

One thing I tell people about working at university branch campuses is that you always feel needed. You are often the only one in the library or on campus who has various training. It’s exciting, and you learn so, so much. On the other hand, you don’t have all the resources or support that a main campus typically does.

I have many opportunities to participate in university-level operations at CU-Denver. For example, I participate in outcomes assessment – basically, making sure that our degrees really prepare our students for the working world or future studies. I also helped with a major assessment and re-vamp of our students’ freshman experience last year. Librarians tend to know the student body well, and collect a lot of institutional knowledge. It’s exciting to get to use that in ways that really benefit students.

I’m working toward tenure. Last month I found out that I’m officially a quarter of the way there. Right now, my main project is a book for new library instructors. It’s based on training I provide for future library instructors at the University of Denver. The book is currently at the editor’s office…fingers crossed that the next stages go well!

My experiences at SILS prepared me to jump right into my career. I took a reference course with Suchi Mohanty, then worked for her for a year and a half at the Undergraduate Library. I learned and practiced many of the skills that I use every day in my teaching, reference work, Web design, and so on.

Dr. Moran also helped me prepare to conduct research and navigate the publication process. While she served as my advisor, she made sure that my analysis was rigorous, and that I understood how to go from idea to research to manuscript to publication. She has helped me out several times since graduation when I needed advice, too. She truly ensured my success.

SILS also gave me a network of friends and colleagues that I rely on every day. People I met at SILS are one of my main sources of advice and ideas for my work. I also made many of my most wonderful lasting friendships there.

Got questions? Ask a librarian! Sorry, that just slipped out. Seriously, though, please do feel free to get in touch if you want to talk about tenure, library instruction, or anything else.