A passion for reducing barriers and serving others
January 15, 2021
Rob Bohall ’91 began his library career at the age of five. He still has the paper mache duck he made in kindergarten while serving on his elementary school’s library committee.
“For me libraries have always been a space for intellectual discovery and a sanctuary to explore,” said Bohall. “My father always said there are so many books, so little time.”
While a student at Virginia Tech, his need to intellectually explore was especially strong. He began as a Spanish major, changed to forestry, then geography, then decided to pull all of his broad interests together through a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal arts and sciences. He also volunteered for the student newspaper and was a student member of the University Libraries’ periodical team, transitioning and refreshing periodicals for patrons.
Upon graduation, he became a temporary employee for the National Archives and the World Bank in Washington, D.C. His interest in library science was piqued even more. “I had a chance to get to know many reference librarians and learned what they do,” said Bohall. “I was intrigued by their work so I decided to earn my master of library science degree.”
After earning his master of information and library science degree, the World Bank hired him full-time as a reference and education librarian. While in that position, he became involved in a project moving library materials to a common content management system and presented during a week-long workshop in Nairobi, Kenya, for staff members of World Bank Information Centers on conducting reference interviews, outreach, strategic dissemination of information, and setting effective boundaries in information service. These experiences firmly established his interest in librarianship and web development.
After meeting his wife Penny, Bohall decided to look for employment opportunities beyond the capital city. He accepted a position at Indiana Wesleyan University’s library as an adult education librarian and managed the library’s website. Later, Bohall took an opportunity to expand his knowledge and skills in web development by working for the Fortune 500 company Western & Southern Financial group’s web development department. But, he missed the library.
His wife is an Oregon native and they wanted to move their four children closer to her family. So in 2011, Bohall accepted a faculty position with George Fox University Libraries in Newberg, Oregon. He is now a research and instruction librarian, manages the libraries’ website, and serves as the university’s Director of Assessment and Institutional Research.
Bohall said his dual career in library science and web development offers him the opportunity to make a difference.
“In my mind, one major role of libraries in society concerns closing equity gaps,” said Bohall. “Core to library ethos is serving all constituents regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender identity, age, etc. I’m currently doing research on transparent design of library instruction in Christian higher education and the impact on closing equity gaps. This can certainly be extended to public and special library contexts as well.”
In true Hokie spirit, Bohall’s life’s goals reflect Virginia Tech’s motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve). This includes promoting equity and serving others. “With the heart for the marginalized, I volunteer locally by helping distribute food to needy residents and bringing communion to residents of nursing homes,” said Bohall. “My goals essentially boil down to living out the classical virtues of justice, perseverance, prudence, and temperance and helping others overcome barriers.”