Matt Kochan: The Helping Hand of Canisius
By Julia Barth, Editor-in-Chief
If you were to ask Canisius students what their favorite place on campus is (or at least the place they spend the most time at), many would immediately say the library. The library is multi-purpose, serving as a space to get work done but also as a spot to socialize with friends and peers. And if you go frequently, you probably know Matt Kochan, library access services coordinator. Kochan, a staff favorite among students and faculty on campus, plays an integral part in the library and its functions.
Kochan never expected to be a librarian. Some students may find that surprising, given the fact that he’s a natural at the job, but his only experience with libraries throughout his college experience was working in one. He, like many students on our campus, worked in his school’s library at Fredonia.
“I liked it, but didn’t really know yet that I wanted to do it,” Kochan said, “The librarians would let me sit at the reference desk, which I liked.” After working for over 20 years in various restaurants and bars, as well as at Wegmans, Kochan decided to take library science classes at University at Buffalo. At first, they didn’t let him in the program, Kochan said, but when he proved to be a good student by getting A’s in his classes, they let him in. After he got his graduate degree, he got a few part-time jobs working in public libraries around the area, until he landed a part-time job with Canisius.
“I always wanted to be an academic librarian and I’ve always had an interest in people and what they do.” Anyone who knows Kochan knows that this is true. Extremely personable and outgoing, Kochan connects with students without even realizing it, and many of the students end up keeping in touch with him after they graduate.
Shannon Maroney, who graduated last spring, said that Kochan was always a bright light in her life when she was at Canisius. “He is such a testament to someone who is there for you for so many reasons. I can genuinely say that he made my day every single day,” she said.
Maroney has fond memories of her times in the library with Kochan and says she’ll never forget when he kept the library open for her so she could take her law school entrance exam. “He is a huge reason why I’m successful today… I ended up using that exam that I took in the library to get into law school,” she said.
But one of his main goals as a reference librarian is to help current students figure out the world of the library. Since becoming full-time at Canisius in 2012, Kochan has made his mission to be approachable and accessible to students. “I enjoy talking to students and helping them navigate everything. When they come back and say, like, ‘Hey! I got an A on that paper!’ that feels really good,” he said.
Hannah Nelson, a Canisius alumna who graduated last spring, said that “Matt is the heart and soul of Canisius College.” Nelson, who got to know Kochan during her long hours in the library as a student, said that she’ll always remember the times where Kochan helped her with small, school things — such as a time when she was struggling with a homework assignment on Excel. “He remembers the little details about each person, in ways that truly make them feel valued and seen,” she said. “That’s the type of person he is.”
Helping the students over the years is how he gets to know them better as well. He talked about how he has seen students go from being “scared stiff” to “totally different people” as they go through their four years. And then through social media and other platforms, Kochan has been able to stay in contact with students from years ago. “To see students come in and then graduate and then to see them doing well and finding their way is awesome,” he said.
He has also enjoyed getting more events, clubs, organizations and departments to go to the library. They’ve had everything from club tables to watch parties for Canisius sporting events to game nights every Thursday to different speakers and educational programs.
If there’s one thing Kochan wants students to know about him and the library, it’s that they are always there for them. “We’re available to help. Please come up and interrupt us. We’ll help you with research, we’ll get you to where you have to go,” he said, adding, “this is your space and I’m just a steward of it.”
And when he says that, he means it. Going from being a college kid who didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life to having a job that he loves in a field that he loves, Kochan shows up to work every day ready to serve the students.
He hopes that he is changing people’s preconceptions of what a librarian or a library is, and he will continue to connect with students to show them all of the benefits to the library. He summed it up by saying, “This is where the students are. The whole reason why I do this is for the students. People think I work too much, but to me it doesn’t seem like work.”