academic librarianship

My life as an engineering librarian thus far

I became the liaison librarian for the Engineering Sciences department on the not very auspicious week of March 9. I had a meeting with a student on March 10 and shook her hand with thinking about. “Oh my, I’m so sorry!” I said. “I forgot we can’t do that any more. But I just sanitized my hands.” We then proceeded to sit close together in an enclosed space for 30 minutes. The naivete of March. In any event, it was a hard week to take on a set of responsibilities I hadn’t had for years.

The engineering students were lovely to work with in remote learning, in truth, since they were used to problem solving and adapting and comfortable with technology. Flipping them to remote research appointments was easy, and the major work I did with the students in late spring was social justice in engineering. This mostly involved finding public datasets, which is more or less second nature to me, and talking through systemic inequality with students. Not exactly prescient, but let us say, a perennial topic of relevance.

Over the summer as the research projects were less pressing, and into the fall where the students were some of the few back in the physical campus labs, it felt more pressing to me to go back in time and figure out exactly what skills I actually needed to succeed at working with engineering students in particular. I worked in a science library all through college and was trained to do basic reference there, so I don’t feel uncomfortable with science librarianship, but I knew there was more to learn.

My first step in trying to figure this out was reading blogs and trying to find “day in the life” posts so beloved by librarians to explain what their days look like. I made a nice long list of bookmarks, and set a few initial learning goals. These were:

  1. Read Naimpally, Ashok, Hema Ramachandran, and Caroline Smith. Lifelong Learning for Engineers and Scientists in the Information Age. 1st edition. Elsevier, 2011. While slightly out of date, the overall messages are still relevant and it’s the only thing I have easy access to through work.
  2. Join the public ASEE Engineering Librarians Division mailing list, with an eye to joining the association in the future. I was quite impressed with the outreach from this group, and having been on the list for several months now I think I will put some money down on this. (I did join the Science and Technology Section of ACRL as well when I was renewing).

I’m still working on a new set of goals for the next few months, but this small amount of research and participation has helped me to feel more comfortable with this role. As long everything is still hybrid, outreach is going to feel strange, but that will probably be the most important thing to figure out.