Episode two: Is There a Librarian Available?

Thursday, May 14, 2020

"You ask a question, you'll get an answer." — adapted from Alice the housekeeper

Written by Mary Lynne Bartlett (pictured left, second row)

The virtual library bunch collageWe are back for episode two, "Is there a librarian available?" Yes! Librarians are available and want to connect with you! They have embraced working in an entirely online environment, remaining flexible and collaborative when assisting users in finding and accessing reliable information. Librarians are available to assist any way they can.

Subject librarians in Information Services & Resources (ISR) have always had a strong foundation for online collaboration. Their strategic and creative approach to delivering services has allowed them to pivot quickly to a completely virtual environment. Kate Mercer, PhD (pictured right, third row), subject librarian for Systems Design Engineering (SYDE) used her expertise in navigating and critically thinking about information to transition her course and research support online. Librarians have been working hard supporting partnerships with labs, design studios, and collaborations with faculty to bring classes and research support fully online. They are excited to work with these new opportunities available to the Library to collaborate in this virtual learning space. As a STEM librarian, Kate and her colleagues have been exploring multimedia online resources like JOVE, Fluid Mechanics, and Knovel. Matthew Borland, a faculty member in SYDE described his collaboration with Kate:

"SYDE sees the Library as a partner in the education of our students. By integrating Kate directly into the classroom [we can ensure] that our digital native students understand the value of the Library is not just a place to study or borrow books. Information literacy is a priority for evidence based decision making in the design process we teach, and since we're systems we focus on a holistic perspective that crosses disciplinary boundaries. Integrating with the SYDE librarian helps demonstrate to students the value outside of the engineering silo, and encourages stronger interdisciplinary collaboration. Kate's subject matter expertise from different domains also helps students in their design courses to see the problems they are solving from new perspectives."

Librarians are continuing to offer instruction and research consultations virtually, both individually and in groups. Librarians are eager to work with faculty to explore potential innovative collaborations, such as co-instructing courses and new research partnerships. Even though we are all at a distance, librarians continue to provide the campus community with high quality service and support. 

Imagine getting ready for your comprehensive exams for your PhD and pandemic strikes. The bulk of the material that you need to prepare for your exams exists in hard copy in the Library, which is closed. This nightmare happened to some graduate students, but librarians stepped in quickly and methodically to assist and mitigate the situation. Lauren Doyle (pictured centre, fourth row), subject librarian for English and Gender and Social Justice was one of those librarians. Lauren collaborated as a team with two other library units, Collection Development (CD) and Interlibrary loans (ILL). Many of the titles needed were in print, so Lauren partnered with ILL staff to find digital resources in OMNI (our library catalogue) or from online library archives such as Internet Archive, HathiTrust, and Project Gutenberg. Lauren then worked with the CD acquisition team to place rush orders on titles that needed to be purchased. Working in a virtual environment isn't new to Lauren. She, along with the other subject librarians are building online modules for instructional content to be used in classes, prioritizing electronic collections, and providing increased hours for online reference assistance through chat and email reference. Like all librarians, Lauren is available to answer any question and find the resources our users need. She can help users understand how to find the best sources for research efficiently.

I hope you're reassured to know that subject librarians are still here to assist with research and instruction over various communication platforms. In next week's episode (part three of our series), Cindy and Bobby write a letter to the Library asking about some of the behind-the-scenes services in: "Dear Library."


Read Episode one: The Undergraduate | Episode three: Dear Library | Episode four: The Show Must Go On? 

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