Staff Spotlight: David Colwell

Library technician excels as a musician, poet and photographer

David Colwell serves as a library technician at the Inver Hills Community College Library. David started working at Inver Hills in December 2009. His main duties at the college library are centered on processing serials and acquisitions. Serials include magazines, journals, newspapers and other periodicals generally published yearly, monthly or weekly.

The Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS), a division of the American Library Association, defines acquisitions as the “process of selecting, ordering, and receiving materials for library or archival collections by purchase, exchange, or gift, which may include budgeting and negotiating with outside agencies, such as publishers, dealers, and vendors, to obtain resources to meet the needs of the institution’s clientele in the most economical and expeditious manner.”

Three words that describe you as a library technician:

David earned an Associate of Science (A.S.) in Library Information Technology from Minneapolis Community and Technical College in 2007. He also has a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Religion and Youth Ministry from Luther Theological Seminary (1980) and a Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) in Music Education from the University of South Dakota, Vermillion (1975).

More about the role of library technician…¹

Library technicians help librarians acquire, prepare, and organize materials and help users to find those materials. Library technicians usually work under the supervision of a librarian, although they often work independently. Technicians in small libraries handle a range of duties. Those in large libraries usually specialize.

The work of library technicians include (but is not limited to) directing library users to standard references, organizing and maintaining periodicals, preparing volumes for binding, handling interlibrary loan requests, preparing invoices, performing routine cataloguing and coding of library materials, and retrieving information from computer databases.

Training requirements for library technicians vary widely, ranging from a high school diploma to specialized postsecondary training. Some employers only hire individuals who have library work experience or college training related to libraries; others train inexperienced workers on the job.


David’s music…

David’s experience and expertise as a library technician are complemented by his passion for music, poetry and photography. As a musician, he is skilled on guitar, recorder and trumpet. He also composes concert band music, solo voice with guitar or piano, and music for small ensembles. He is currently working on an orchestral piece in memory of his parents and hometown.

David at Gettysbury

When asked about a favorite piece of music he has composed, David replied, “I wrote a piano piece called ‘Cool Stream’ in memory of my parents, Dr. Dell and Carroll Colwell. There is also a march, ‘March Dakota,’ which I enjoy. I also wrote a recorder duet, ‘Queen Ann’s Dance’ for alto and tenor recorders, for Ann Schroder [Inver Hills librarian], who retired in December 2018.”

David wrote the Alma Mater, “Forever Inver Hills,” for Inver Hills Community College and “Hallelujah – Ah, Dakota!” for the 50th Anniversary of Inver and Dakota County Technical College.

“The latter piece is written for SATB [soprano, alto, tenor, bass] choir with piano,” he added. “Hopefully, there will be a celebration where the song can be sung.”

Three words that describe you as a musician:

David’s photography…

“With my camera, I like capturing scenes and moments that tell a story, using shape, colour, line and contrast,” David said. “One of my favorite photos is of a canoeist in the early morning hours on a lake near the BWCA with the mist rising.”

David Colwell gallery

“David loves to make connections with students. He always goes out of his way to help.”
Julie Benolken, MLIS
Inver Hills Community College Library

David’s poetry…

“I write poems about nature,” David said. “I write poems for anniversary cards and birthday cards. My poems usually rhyme; I make use of metaphors and rhythm.”

String Duet

by David Colwell

like the strands of a spider’s web;

like the fence’s wrought-iron bar;

like the Spirit’s Soul at rest;

like lights that help us see so far;

Thus, the fragrance fills the room
and settles on the ears of those who choose to see –

Enlightening the corners, dark and doleful;
Bringing us to all the places where we’d rather be.

Can’t you hear?

by David Colwell

Can’t you hear the running, gurgling water?
rushing down the stream
to the river and off to ocean’s shore.

And yet here is calm Serenity;
here is quiet call of Quail
calling us to hear Love more.

In the placid evening, listen, won’t you?
hear the voice of Nightingale –
“Rest my friends; Love, I implore.”

And day to day, hope helps us heal
and the Cuckoo bids us sail
along the water’s Metaphor.

I hear the rain

by David Colwell

I hear the rain on metal roof,
though dry and safe inside;
I marvel at Earth, how she cares for Herself,
Giving Life where I abide.

I hear the rain from inside my tent;
painting colours of yellow and red,
purple and orange, blue and green –
Life springing from what seemed dead.

I hear the rain as it begins,
Then grows louder as faster it falls;
its Melody lingers to calm our fears
and gives Faith to Reasons’ calls.

I feel rain upon my slicker
As I wander through affable rain;
Walking and splashing in sidewalk puddles,
I recognize how Love does maintain.

I hear the rain on metal roof,
Hear songs of finch and redpoll;
Tender rain brings us Life and Joy
As only Love soothes the soul.

“David is a pleasure to work with; we are lucky to have him on our staff. Along with writing poems for birthdays and other events, he also serves as our go-to grammarian.”
Brenda Besser, MLIS
Inver Hills Community College Library

More about David…

Originally from Vermillion, South Dakota, David graduated from Vermillion High School in 1971. David has been married for 43.5 years. His wife, Liz, retired after 37 years of teaching. David and Liz’s daughter, Lauren, is a geologist. Lauren’s husband, Kevin, is an archaeologist. They have a daughter, Roslyn, who is a toddler.

David and Liz’s son, Ben, is working on his PharmD in New York. Ben’s wife, Ashley, is a lawyer in Manhattan. They have a 1-year-old dog named Archie.

Along with his work as a musician, poet and photographer, David enjoys working on puzzles, snowshoeing, hiking and reading. David and Liz reside in St. Paul, Minnesota, with their cat, Indiana Jones, who joined the family on Thanksgiving weekend 2008.

Learn more about David by reading:

American Composers Forum > David Colwell > Biography
Potluck: Creative Works by Minnesota’s Library Workers > Contributor Bios > Horse Whisperer

Two words that best describe your experience at Inver Hills


David Colwell Q & A

Why should students take advantage of Inver Hills Library resources?
The library has some incredible resources. Our databases are available 24/7, along with our statewide chat reference service, AskMN. We have materials available on a variety of subjects and in both print and electronic formats. All of our materials maintain high library standards.

Our computer classroom is available as a lab when classes are not being taught. Our library space has group study rooms; all are equipped with whiteboards and some with large monitors and an Airtame connection. There is a quiet study room with carrels to help students focus on the tasks at hand, and there are plenty of study spaces tucked away throughout the library.

Many textbooks and DVDs are placed on reserve in the library, so students always have access to the materials they need. There are lots of books that can be checked out for both classes and reading pleasure, plus a nice collection of CDs and DVDs—all are available for checkout to staff, students and community users. We always have a jigsaw puzzle in the works, so everyone is invited to come in and de-stress with us!

Of course, the best resources the library has are our three librarians. They are the most helpful, most knowledgeable librarians around. They offer one-on-one student assistance with research, and they teach classes on library use and how to do research. They are available for reference consultations in-person, through email, phone, and these days, via Zoom.

The library staff is here to help, so I’d encourage everyone to come and see us, either in-person or virtually.

David is retiring July 1, 2021, after more than 11 years at Inver Hills.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job as a library technician?
Using the new integrated library system (also called Alma) has been challenging. Having to learn a new cloud-based system has been difficult, but I can pay invoices in the system, and do other of my responsibilities from home because it is cloud-based. We’re all learning.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job as a library technician?
I like receiving the Interlibrary loans (ILL) from other libraries and getting them on the hold shelf for students, faculty and staff. I enjoy the excitement on their faces when they come in to pick up what they have requested. Some faculty come in within 30 minutes after the notification email has been sent.

What is your favorite musical instrument to play?
Both the trumpet and the guitar I’ve played since elementary school; the recorder is an instrument that I learned in graduate school; I play the soprano and tenor recorders.

Who is your favorite poet and why?
My favorite poet is A. A. Milne, the author of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. He wrote two poetry books: When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six. I like the simplicity, the use of humor and the story in each poem.

I also like Robert Louis Stevenson, especially the Child’s Garden of Verses book, and Robert Frost. I am drawn to metaphor and the use of colour, mood and story in poetry—also in my photography and my music.

What is your greatest strength as a musician?
I think it is my ability to empathize and connect with others; especially the young and child-hearted.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?

Inver Hills Community College Library

Mission Statement

The Library at Inver Hills Community College serves the educational, cultural, and leisure-time needs of our campus community by providing a variety of print and non-print materials as well as information services. The Library staff strive to make the library a welcoming space that encourages a passion for life-long learning.

Library services during COVID-19

The Inver Hills Library is committed to serving our our campus community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Information on library services is LISTED HERE and will be updated as needed.


The library will be closed until further notice, but we are providing services remotely and online. Please reach out to us at or 651-450-3625 with questions.

We are ready and available to help you with this transition.

David Colwell 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: Tennis and hiking
  2. Place you would most like to visit: I most want to visit —County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, my ancestral home; we had a trip planned for this May, but COVID-19 knocked it out.
  3. The most exciting thing you’ve ever done: We visited Israel when our daughter did a semester abroad; we stayed in Haifa, drove to Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, and got lost in the ancient city of Akko.
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) I would pay off all our debts and our kids’ student loans 2) I would set up trusts for our children and grandchildren 3) Of course, donate to Inver Hills
  5. Favorite TV show you’re watching now: Outlander on Starz; also a few CBS shows on broadcast TV: Blue Bloods, NCIS New Orleans, All Rise
  6. Best movie you’ve seen lately: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: At my age, it is more about my legacy to my children; so being loving, being helpful, being supportive are all things I would like included in that legacy; the greatest reward in life is my family and seeing that my family is doing well; (my wife thinks my accomplishment should be to clean out our basement—and the 40+ years of stuff that I’ve accumulated)
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: Scarlet tanager
  9. Dream occupation: Band conductor
  10. Person you would most like to meet: John Williams, composer of Star Wars music and other pieces; I also would like to meet and talk to John Colwell, my great-great-great-great grandfather, who was forced out of Ireland—I would love to know why.
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Woodcarving
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Our climate change crisis
Learn more about the Inver Hills Community College Library by contacting:

Julie Benolken
Librarian: Instruction, Acquisitions, Music CDs

Brenda Besser
Librarian: Instruction, Acquisitions, Serials Purchasing

Molly Blake
Librarian: Instruction, Acquisitions

David Colwell
Library Technician: Serials & Acquisitions Processing

Alec Henry
Library Technician: Cataloging

¹ Courtesy of the American Library Association (ALA)

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