USU librarians come from all disciplines
When students think of a librarian, they may picture a old woman with gray hair in a bun, glasses placed halfway how her nose with her finger to her mouth in order to keep silence. This couldn’t be further from the image of the librarians at USU’s Merrill-Cazier Library.
If anything, they are the different from the stereotypical figures portrayed in movies and TV.
In the lower level of the library is the Special Collections Department where the library houses and curates a number of different collections of artifacts, manuscripts, photographs and other valuable items that have been purchased by the library over the years or even donated by various patrons. The oldest items kept in Special Collections are three Sumerian stone tablets, written in cuneiform. The tablets date back about 4,000 years.
“Those are exceptions because they are from the Middle East, so obviously they aren’t from around here,” said Clint Pumphrey, manuscript curator in special collections, about how the majority of the items in the libraries collections typically deal with regional culture, and folklore.
“There wasn’t a record of this area until the 1800s, so most of our stuff is from the 1800 to the 1900s, especially in my area,” Pumphrey said.
In the manuscript area, Pumphrey and his colleagues collect items in three major categories: regional history, Mormon history and environmental conservation history. Under each of these categories, the collections include old pioneer diaries, collections of letters, financial records from early businesses and even old canal documents and the Sierra Club papers.
Among the most used of the collections is the Leonard Arrington collection.
“Arrington was an LDS church historian for a number of years,” Pumphrey said. “He taught at Utah State University, and so his papers came here and they mostly consist of his personal journals and research files, so a lot of Mormon historians will come to see what Leonard Arrington had collected about whatever topic they are researching.”
Special Collections plays host to a number of different historians and students who come from USU and Utah, but also from places such as the University of Colorado and even Yale.
“We have a very broad range of patrons that use our collections.” Pumphrey said. “A lot of undergrads do come in a use our collections, but we also have a lot of graduate students who are going research for their thesis or dissertations.”
All of the departments at the Merrill-Cazier Library make it their purpose to help students to learn how to research as effectively as possible. In order to make this process as accessible as possible, the library has assigned a specific librarian to every department to give special help to students in that department.
“Most of the library faculty has subject liaison responsibilities, meaning we work with different departments to select appropriate materials,” said Sandra Weingart, agricultural sciences and veterinary medicine librarian. “We work with students in those departments to help teach them information and literacy skills. We work with the faculty members to help integrate that into the curriculum to assist them with their research.”
Weingart is responsible for working with the students and faculty her department and is available to meet with students in one on one sessions to help them research effectively. Weingart and the other reference librarians are assigned to help students navigate the library in a general sense.
“We all teach rather intensively with the English 1010 and 2010 sequence general information and literacy skills, whereas the stuff we do in the majors is tool specific to that major,” Weingart said.
With a staff of eight librarians working specifically in the reference department along with four student peer works, the library’s front desk is generally always staffed to help students find what they need, Weingart said.
“Everything we do in the library comes down to serving our patrons,” Weingart said. “That includes faculty, staff, and students. So whether you’re in charge of overseeing the collection development, all of the materials or you check in serials, or we have our fastest growing department which is digital initiatives where we are digitizing a lot of our print materials to make them a lot more available. So all of those things are to make information available to people.”
The library has made it a priority to be on the cutting edge of communication so students can always get a hold of a librarian during office hours, according to Erin Davis, a library coordinator for Regional Campuses and Distance Education and an English subject librarian.
“The nice thing is there is almost always someone sitting at the desk,” Davis said. “There is also, if you go to the library website, there is a little chat widget. Then a librarian will write back really quickly.”12
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