What is your role at Columbia University Libraries, and what is your day-to-day work like?
I answer questions all day! I am Research Support and Digital Services Librarian at the Thomas J. Watson Library of Business and Economics and work closely with the Business and Economics staff to provide research support to our patrons. In the past, the primary clientele have been Business School affiliates; however, as a result of the ever-changing nature of cross-disciplinary research, we are seeing a larger trend of new researchers from other schools and departments from across the Columbia community. In one day, I may have questions from an engineering student, a journalism student, or a future lawyer, and more recently, students from the School of Professional Studies. It keeps me on my toes and feeds my curiosity. My primary role revolves around investigating and researching new databases and datasets for Columbia’s researchers. Additionally, I develop outreach opportunities for MBA and Executive MBA students, some of which include on-site and virtual instruction (i.e. WebEx and YouTube sessions).
What was your path - both personally and professionally - to your current position?
I should have always known that I was going to be a librarian. I remember heading to the library right after elementary school and calling my mother at work to let her know that I would probably be late getting home because I was at the library. However, the journey to my current position was not as clear-cut. My dream was to earn an undergraduate degree at Penn State. I chose Human Development and Family Studies along with Educational Policy Studies as my major. In order to fund my dream, I worked as a part-time library support student. The position involved providing research in general reference and therefore every research question was a new challenge. Was the next question a humanities, sciences, or social sciences question? It was never a boring job! My career toured all of Penn State’s libraries. I worked in the general reference library, the Earth and Mineral Sciences Libraries, and the Humanities Library at Penn State. Finally, I decided to pursue an MLS at the University of Pittsburgh and found myself behind the scenes as an Assessment Librarian. Today, I’m all about business reference. Every step along this journey has helped me to approach each reference question from a completely different perspective and put researchers at ease when I help them start their process.
What's a common misperception about libraries today? How would you debunk that misperception?
I hear that I am too busy to provide faculty members or students support in their research endeavors. Not true! My purpose is to not only be a caretaker of knowledge but also guide researchers to the resources of the library. For example, many students schedule one-on-one consultations, then believe that they are done, and cannot do a follow up. False! Students and faculty may come back as many times as needed. I enjoy watching and cooperating with Columbia community members throughout the entire research process. It allows me to share my knowledge and contribute to their work.
Over the years, the term “library embeddedness” has been floating around in the library community. It encourages librarians to move beyond the walls of the library and computer screens, get to know our researchers, and join the research process. The goal is to actively take the pulse of current research in the university and increase face-to-face contact, as opposed to thinking of the library as a location. I achieve this through visiting faculty members at their offices, sitting in on classes, and actively understanding students’ assignments. There is a difference between providing a generic library session and creating a session tailored to the needs of a particular class or assignment.
What most excites you about your role?
Everything! The environment of the Business and Economics Library continues to change. Questions are no longer simple, but instead require time and preparation. Finding the answer can be about teaching myself a new tool or working closely with a student in learning about a new field, database, or dataset. Additionally, using data in the research field is a growing need not only for business but also for many other areas. Overall, there is a continual challenge to stay abreast of the increasing needs of researchers. Bring on the questions and challenge me!
What kind of partnerships with faculty or other campus entities do you see as crucial to your role, and to the role of Columbia Libraries, generally?
Our greatest partnership is with the Columbia community. We are members of the Provost’s Advisory Committee on the Libraries and Student Library Advisory Committee. Together we work to increase the Libraries’ effectiveness in the larger Columbia environment. A more focused partnership with these groups/individuals would allow us to have advocates for our initiatives such as student wellness efforts. I work closely with the Columbia Business School, which helps support many of the Libraries' resources for Business School students and faculty, and those resources in turn can benefit the Columbia community as a whole. It’s a great model.
What is your favorite little-known fact or story about Columbia Libraries?
I think the rich history of the Libraries’ collections is beneficial to our visitors. The Business Library has many “hidden” items that are treasures or hidden jewels. For example, Watson Library maintains the following collections:
● Disclosure microfiche: This collection contains annual Reports to Stockholders, 10Ks, Prospectuses and Proxies for NYSE and ASE companies from 1969 to 1994. The fiche are kept in the Periodicals and Microform Reading Room in Butler Library. Watson’s collection is unique because it is currently the only digital version available anywhere.
● Historical Corporate Annual Reports: Watson owns a unique collection of historical annual reports. The majority of the reports predate the 1934 Securities and Exchange Act which regulated and standardized reporting.
What is one thing - professional or personal - you hope to learn in the next year?
The library holds all the keys to knowledge and my job as a librarian is to be sure everyone has access. As a result, I have always striven to ensure that the library is accessible to everyone, especially individuals who normally cannot gain access to library collections, be it because of physical, socio-economic, and/or geographic limitations. The techie in me is always exploring solutions. It is my thought that a library website, in addition to the physical entrance to any library, should be welcoming and accessible. We accomplish this through virtual reference. A majority of the Executive MBA students are not at the Columbia campus often. Librarians make sure that they understand the vast resources available to assist them with their studies. We have and will continue to expand our online training offerings via WebEx and YouTube. This solution will help these students, but many other populations, such as returning adults, long-distance students, and any “non-traditional” students.