Subject librarians, an overlooked academic resource for students

The first floor of the Kraemer Family library near the south exit holds the subject librarian offices. Each librarian specializes in a subject to help students with academic pursuits, making them an excellent resource for research.

Ella Gibson, subject librarian for anthropology, history and women’s and ethnic studies, says her job involves “a little bit of everything.”

The subject librarians’ tasks include maintaining their subject’s collection of books and working with faculty and students to find useful resources.

Liz Brown, subject librarian for communication, film, music, philosophy and religion, said, “There’s a 10-minute rule: if you’ve been searching for something for 10 minutes, and you feel like you’re not making any progress, reach out to us. You don’t have to waste your time floundering and feeling lost.”

To reach out to a subject librarian, students can visit the Kraemer Family Library UCCS website page. From there, look for “library services for UCCS students” and click the subject librarian section. Find the subject librarian focusing on the correct subject, then click on their name to schedule a meeting.

“One of the questions that I ask in my form is ‘What do you want to talk about?’ so that I can prep for it,” said Larry Eames, a subject librarian for art, dance, English and theater. “If you tell me what topic you’re interested in, I will do some tests… to kind of see what’s out there. And, hopefully, in the 30 or so minutes that we have together, [I can] really get you the resources that you need.”

Gibson says meeting with students usually involves helping them talk through their topics to figure out what they need to research. Some of her favorite moments involve finding sources together with students through exploration.

UCCS requires a master’s in library and information science to become a subject librarian. In this program, students learn how to collect, organize and preserve materials, understand library databases, how to use the information to inform others and much more.

Liz Brown, subject librarian of communication, film, music, philosophy and religion. Photo by Josiah Dolan.

Brown says she’s more interested in academic libraries than public libraries because they develop special collections, meaning there’s more time to research and connect with scholarly works.

“I’m interested and curious about a lot of different things. I’m not an expert in anything,” she said. “That’s very much sort of what librarians do. Most of us don’t have expertise in the areas we cover, but we do have a little bit of knowledge about a lot of different things.”

Several of the subject librarians are part of the learning research and engagement department involved in the first-year writing and rhetoric program, ENGL 1410. They also work with other classes if requested by professors. In these classes, the librarians meet students and help teach the research process by showing them where to find resources.

By collaborating with faculty and their classes, subject librarians often purchase books to add to their collection based on feedback.

When it comes to purchasing new material, Brown always asks the question: “What are the recent trends that are happening in that field that you need materials for students to do research?”

“Get your tuition money’s worth. If we don’t have what you’re looking for, let us know that as well. Because, chances are, we can,” she said.

Maintaining the large collection of books the library holds means keeping up with what materials are useful in the library, and what books are just collecting dust on the shelf. When the librarians decide to get rid of unused books, they work to recycle the books as much as possible.

“We’re here to help,” Eames said. “Sometimes, people’s only interaction [with us] is in a one session class and then that’s it. I want people to know that and use the resources that we have. You’re not bothering us if you’re reaching out for help.”

Brown, Eames, Gibson and the other subject librarians want to help students with their academic prospects. They care for their collection of books and materials and are ready to dive deep into a subject for any student in need.

The El Pomar library at UCCS features a rich selection of books and knowledge. Photo by Josiah Dolan.