With a thick white mustache and goatee, Erhard Konerding is Olin Library’s reference wizard—and he can do The New York Times crossword puzzle in three minutes straight. Konerding has been the University’s Government Documents and Reference Librarian for the past 36 years.
Over the years, Konerding has interacted with students through his work with the library, trips with the Outing Club and his membership in Alpha Delta Phi (Alpha Delt)—Konerding serves as faculty advisor for the co-ed literary society. An Alpha Delt member since 1994, he attends meetings and participates in house activities.
“I was asked to [join] and I did,” he said. “It was a student who worked in the Library and knew me from her job.”
Konerding is not the only non-student member of Alpha Delt. Various professors and staff, commonly referred to as graduate members, are involved in the society. Konerding, who can often be found eating at Alpha Delt’s dining club Star and Crescent, also organizes presentations for the society—one such presentation compared the fraternity system in the United States to the system in Germany, where he once took a summer course.
“One thing I’ve discovered is that belonging to an organization with students in it and being a member of it helps you see students in a different light than you do in the academic interactions,” he said. “I think it’s a lot deeper.”
His relationship with Alpha Delt is both personal and professional. He admires the society for its commitment to learning in all areas of thought. This, he believes, makes the society different than other organizations on campus.
“We’re a coeducational literary society—I think that says it all,” he said. “’Literary’ is really defined as anything that’s knowledge-based…it could be the arts, it could be the sciences, it could be all of those things.”
In addition to his involvement with Alpha Delt, Konerding has kept up on the trends when it comes to student involvement. Thanks to a suggestion from an Alpha Delt member a few years ago, Konerding discovered a whole interface for student interaction—Facebook.
“Most of my Facebook friends are indeed Wes students, alums, faculty, and staff,” he said. “I don’t know how many exactly, but it is in the several hundreds.”
Since signing up, however, he has become puzzled and disturbed by some of the site’s attributes.
“People I knew years and years and years ago have popped up,” Konerding said. “Obviously they looked for me—I don’t know if that’s creepy or cute. People send you invitations to do all these weird things…enough is enough.”
Despite his heavy involvement in campus life, Konerding never forgets his work. He particularly values his position at the library because it allows him to help students on a more personal level; he is one of several library staff members who run personal research sessions to guide students with specific topics or projects. He reminds students, for example, that there are resources beyond Google—and it’s Konerding who can personally help students find them.
“The world of knowledge is at your fingertips,” he said.
In addition to his work as a librarian, he sometimes serves as a faculty advisor to help students plan and decide class schedules. Evelina Pierce ’10 is one of three transfer students who were assigned Konerding as their faculty advisor. She described him as very conversational, more of a friend than an advisor.
“I think we chatted more than we talked about my schedule,” Pierce said. “We chatted about his grandchild and his vacation—I remember him musing about things. He would just want to chat and explore the different ways of looking at things I brought up.”
Although he is no longer her advisor, Pierce appreciated his personable nature.
“He was very pleasant, always interested and ready to joke,” Pierce said. “He talked to me on my level.”