Meet Sarah Drerup, STEM Librarian, RAI
New librarians who enter the profession after working in another career typically have backgrounds in teaching, journalism, or law. What’s a bit unusual is when their former vocations seem worlds away from librarianship, for example, water quality monitoring, public outreach with FEMA, or chemical decontamination in the Army National Guard.
However, that unique background dovetails nicely with the requirements of a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math librarian, like the role filled by Sarah Drerup, recently hired to work at Ekstrom Library. While her education and expertise in the profession are solid and impressive – for instance, as a graduate student she built a SQL (Structured Query Language) database of digitized historic personnel images for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – she has also had quite a diverse background in scientific and technical pursuits.
After earning a BA in human ecology at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, she served in the AmeriCorps as a hydrology technician in Ohio and Massachusetts, and later interned with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a water safety specialist. After earning her Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Washington in 2014, she worked as a program specialist for the Federal Emergency Management Agency near Seattle, WA. At the same time, she served in the Army National Guard as a chemical decontamination platoon leader.
All her education and training will help her in her new role, helping students conduct research in the STEM disciplines. To drill further into Sarah Drerup’s background and expertise, we conducted this brief interview:
How do you feel your diverse background fits in with your work as an instructional librarian at Ekstrom?
I think most of my previous positions have in some way increased my instruction skills and I often create a scientific component if one doesn’t already exist. A perfect example is working as a natural resources intern by day while bartending during the evenings. The natural resources position satisfied my desire to work in the sciences and bartending helped develop my interpersonal skills and made me a more empathetic person. I have been fortunate to be able to travel and work across the country and meet a diverse workforce in the sciences.
How did you ultimately choose librarianship as a profession?
I had worked for my hometown library and college library for a total of six years and focused my undergraduate education on marine science. It really hit me I wanted to be a librarian when I was working as a hydrology technician out at the Cape Cod National Seashore and my supervisor loaned me out to the fire crew for a controlled burn. I was sitting on the back of a tailgate during lunch and the sawyer I was working with for the day asked me if I had a dream job. I told him I think my dream job would be a science librarian and he became unnaturally upset. He told me (in a loud voice) that most people say president, movie star, or CEO of a multi-million dollar company, but my dream job is easily obtainable. I thought about it and agreed and less than six months later I applied to get my masters degree in Library and Information Science!
What did you like most about working with FEMA? With the National Guard?
The thing I liked most about working with FEMA is traveling to so many interesting and wonderful communities. Unfortunately, I was meeting people right after a disaster had devastated their community, but I was always impressed with the strength and fortitude of the survivors. The thing I like most about being in the National Guard is it makes me a better person and I’m able to positively influence my soldiers. As a platoon leader, I set the example for them and it made me strive to be a better person in every aspect of my life from professional development to physical fitness. I am also thankful that I am able to influence my platoon by developing engaging training plans, prioritizing their welfare, and being a supportive and reliable point of contact when life isn’t going as expected.
What drew you to UofL and Louisville?
The job posting initially drew me to UofL. When researching the University and the city of Louisville before submitting my application, I quickly understood that this is a vibrant and progressive community. I am from London, Ohio, which is only three hours away, but somehow had never made it down to Louisville. I didn’t know what I had been missing!
How are you settling in?
I feel like I am finally getting my feet under me at the University and I am looking forward to starting instruction and research appointments this fall! I attended my first drill with my new unit, the 299th Chemical Company this past weekend, joined a volleyball league, and started at a new crossfit gym on Friday. I think once I finally unpack my last few boxes of kitchen stuff, I will officially feel settled!
“Which bridge did Muhammed Ali throw his medal off of?” and other interesting questions answered by the Research Assistance & Instruction DepartmentPosted: October 10, 2017
By Anna Marie Johnson
Imagine a job where you were able to learn about all kinds of different and fascinating topics in the process of helping someone answer a burning question that they have. That is part of the work of the Research Assistance and Instruction (RAI) office. Librarians, professional staff, and peer research assistants answer questions like these (and much more prosaic ones such as “Why can’t I access this journal article I need?”) via e-mail, chat, phone, or face-to-face:
- How many buildings are there on Belknap Campus?
- How did St. Paul come to be a Roman citizen?
- What is the childhood address of Hunter S. Thompson?
- What was the roll call vote for the Kentucky senators and House members for the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
- Can you help me research design for justifying the excavation of a privy?
- What are the cultural reactions regarding American Indians during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (1870-1929)—particularly in how American Indians and the related federal policies were represented in the media?
- Where can I find industry and consumer data for Gillette Fusion?
- What are the general prosodic characteristics of English and Spanish?
Over the years, we have helped with questions that ranged from the esoteric (journal articles on the dead Sabaean language, from someone wanting to piece together the language and write a book about it) to the downright impossible, such as the patron who wanted a copy of the WHAS Radio broadcast license from 1927, or the patron researching obscure magicians and street performers from Europe.
“What’s the best book you’ve ever read?”
While we go to great lengths to track down an answer, sometimes there’s a little luck involved. One day, a call came in to Rob Detmering, the librarian responsible for Film Studies. The caller was looking for one of the original copies of a 1972 film called Asylum of Satan. The film had reportedly been shot here in Louisville and the out-of-state caller thought that the university might have a copy. Rob asked around to the Archives, the Art Department, and a few other campus contacts that he thought might know something,
“How many theaters exist in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel?”
but to no avail. Rob did some digging in the online database for the Courier-Journal that the library subscribes to and discovered the film had been shown at a film festival in 2008 at Baxter Avenue Theatre. Rob called the theater and spoke with someone who not only knew the film but knew the location of the copy that they had used in the showing.
We often learn a lot as we’re helping. Our former Libraries Diversity Resident George Martinez received a question from a faculty member asking about the history of the African American Theater program at UofL. He looked through some microfilm and consulted with our colleagues in the Archives & Special Collections to find articles that traced the history of a controversy over how money generated by the Fiesta Bowl was being used for scholarships. The results of that controversy was the increase in hiring and scholarship distribution to increase the diversity at UofL.
Got Questions? Ekstrom’s RAI Department can help you track down your answer! Oh, and there is some doubt as to whether Ali ever threw his medal off any bridge, but the closest answer is the Clark Memorial.
Several faculty and staff will represent the University of Louisville Libraries at the upcoming Kentucky Library Association Conference this weekend at the Galt House in downtown Louisville. Following are some of the presentations and presenters at this year’s event, which runs from September 21-23.
ETDplus: Guidance for Graduate Students’ Research Output
Rachel Howard, Digital Initiatives Librarian, and Dwayne Buttler, JD, Endowed Chair for Scholarly Communication
The IMLS-funded ETDplus project has produced guidance documentation, workshop materials, and software tools for students and staff to use in managing complex digital objects such as research data sets, video installations, websites and music recitals. These intellectual works cannot be captured in words alone and implicate copyright, metadata, file formats, versioning, and other research and practical challenges. We will demonstrate these freely available resources and their potential uses.
Renovations and Innovations: Merging Departments and Unit Cultures
Matthew Goldberg, Head, Access & User Services, Ekstrom Library; Ashley Triplett, Student Supervisor and Social Media Library Specialist, Ekstrom Library
This is the story of Ekstrom Library at the University of Louisville and its renovations during 2015 and the experiences we had merging nine separate sub-departments into a single unit called Access and User Services. What may seem like a challenging process turned into an opportunity for growth and development. We will explore how we reexamined how the public desks prioritized our patrons and how we grew from several disjointed departments into a single unit with a unified department culture.
Kentucky and the Great War: Filling and Operating Military Camp Libraries
Jonathan Jeffrey, Department Head, Manuscripts Coordinator, Western Kentucky University; and Delinda Stephens Buie, Curator of Rare Books, Archives & Special Collections
The American Library Association provided library services in U.S. military camps during WWI. To fill those libraries, Americans donated 3 million books in 1918 with Kentuckians contributing generously. Louisville’s Camp Zachary Taylor was part of the ALA’s work to provide wholesome activities in the training camps. They also sought to show the value and even “manliness” of libraries. Perhaps ironically, much of the work at Taylor was done by women from the Louisville Free Public Library.
Research DIY: Enhancing Online Learning Through Strategic Planning and Collaborative Professional Development
Robert Detmering, Information Literacy Coordinator, Information Literacy Coordinator; Amber Willenborg, Online Learning and Digital Media Librarian
We enhanced and expanded our online instruction program, while building buy-in within a departmental culture that was not enthusiastic about this work. Through strategic hiring, staffing reallocation, and collaborative professional development, we created general and customized online tools and services, including course-embedded content. We will share our team-based creative process, promotional activities, and initial assessment data for our homegrown research DIY site, Discover It Yourself.
When Ben King started working for the University Libraries in 1977, conveniences like computers, printers and scanners hadn’t yet made their way into the workplace. For instance, identifying labels with call numbers affixed to books’ spines had to be typewritten, and King remembers doing so painstakingly, on an old Remington typewriter.
“I’m so sorry I got rid of it,” King said. “It would be worth something now.”
Now, book labels are generated automatically, students and researchers access books and materials online, and a Robotic Retrieval System in Ekstrom Library, installed in 2006, houses seldom-used materials to free up study space. And, following a satisfying and storied career with the Libraries’ Technical Services department, King is retiring. Sometime this Friday, it will have been exactly 40 years to the minute since he first started.
He’s seen many changes, from Belknap campus infrastructure, to library service, to Ekstrom Library, which opened in 1981, and to the faces of student assistants who helped him sort books and stock shelves over the years.
“I’ll leave with a ton of memories,” he said.
By far the best part of his job has been working with student assistants, King said. “I feel uniquely honored to have worked with some amazing students. The students were my life.”
As a supervisor of shelf preparation, he has worked with UofL student assistants from over 11 countries, including India, Bangladesh, Libya, the Philippines, France, Iran, Belarus, South Korea, Viet Nam and Armenia. Some have become like family.
“We’ve played laser tag, board games. I get invited to a lot of stuff, like birthday parties, graduation, etc. That’s why I came to work. A student said to me, ‘You’ve been more like a father than my real father.’”
One young student complained to King that her vacuum cleaner had broken. He had an extra one and brought it to work to give to her. Five students made a tribute to him on YouTube.
“I probably have worked with a couple hundred students over the years.”
Stacie Alvey, a former student assistant who worked alongside King for over six years from 2010-2016, now works as a librarian for McFerran Preparatory Academy. Her choice of career arose largely as a result of having worked with King.
“I knew after working here with Ben that I wanted to do this as a career. Anybody who has ever worked for Ben remembers Ben. He’s a storyteller extraordinaire. I could repeat his life story. I loved it! He’s like family to me.”
“I feel the same way,” said King. “I was so glad she came to see me. I was so sorry when she left but really happy that she was able to work with JCPS, and nearby, too.”
Technical Services held a retirement ceremony for King on Monday morning, with donuts, coffee cake, fruit and lots of memories. Paying tribute to King, Technical Services Head Tyler Goldberg said, “We’ve all worked with you for many years, and we’re truly grateful for your many, many years of service.”
“And we want to welcome you to come back and volunteer with us at any time.”
“If I’d known we were going to have a ceremony, I wouldn’t have taken down all the stuff the students have given me over the years,” he said.
King said Alvey, the last student assistant he’s worked with, helped him research some of his family genealogy. While he knew much of his mother’s history (she is one of 13 kids), he knew little of his father’s background until Alvey’s research uncovered some interesting facts, including that he is one of six other paternal relatives named Benjamin Franklin King.
“I’ve been here through many natural disasters,” including the 1981 sewer explosion when Ralston Purina leaked hexane from its former soybean processing factory into the sewers around Old Louisville and the Belknap campus; after a car’s engine ignited the gas in the early morning, major explosions along the sewer lines decimated cars, streets, and buildings, but surprisingly left no casualties.
The Libraries administration gave King several gifts for his service: two vinyl record albums: one the newly remastered Sgt. Pepper’s album by the Beatles (first released the year King entered high school, 1967), Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, and, in an apparent reference to King’s timeliness, a UofL clock with the Cardinal bird’s wings pointing to the time.
King’s future plans include volunteer work with the Parklands of Floyds Fork and traveling with his family.
Perhaps nothing terrifies a college student like the research paper: finding a topic, creating an original thesis, searching and vetting sources, reading thoroughly, writing meaningfully – all difficult, time consuming tasks requiring focus and perseverance.
However, today’s technologically transformed library offers students tools that vastly simplify the research process. Sources emerge with a finger swipe, and incorporating them into a paper is simpler with an online library catalog. Compared with 30, even 20 years ago, searching and finding sources today has never been more streamlined, and academic research has benefited.
Students curious about library research methods pre-Internet – or promotional videos from the mid-‘80s – should see this quirky, parodical video, made in 1986 to feature Ekstrom Library, which had been built five years earlier. Unearthed recently by Anna Marie Johnson, UofL Libraries Head of Research Assistance and Instruction, the video is interspersed with tongue-in-cheek “ads” promoting various library resources (one features Cleopatra requesting information on asps, a large python curling nearby). It presents a pseudo-athletic event, held in Ekstrom library, in which two students compete to find information the fastest on an obscure subject (“squirrel cage motors” and “dancing mice”) using the various tools in the library.
In the video, students confront the difficult “athletic” challenge of conducting research, something intended as parody. However, compared with today’s research methods, the students’ tasks do indeed look athletic.
“Conducting research was very different from today’s methods,” says Johnson. “In fact, back then the process of finding a scholarly journal article involved several time-consuming steps in three separate locations.”
“First, you had to find the right subject index. So, if you were looking for articles in psychology, you needed to know that there was such a thing as Psychological Abstracts and that those were located in the reference section of the library. In addition, if you wanted all the articles on your topic for the last five years, it would likely involve paging through multiple volumes of the Abstracts.”
“Once you settled on some articles – which may have required you to also look up a journal abbreviation since the journal names were often abbreviated to save space – and wrote down the citations , you had to look at a printed list, which was often on a different table or shelf, of all the journals the library subscribed to in order to determine if the articles you wanted were in the library.”
“Remember, there were no cell phones handy to take pictures of your citations,” she added.
“Finally, you would take your list of citations upstairs to the journal stacks and choose the correct bound volume of the journal that you needed.”
“Contrast that with today,” Johnson goes on. “You probably are not even walking into the library, but you are accessing a database on the web that Ekstrom Library subscribes to, searching 50 years of those printed volumes, and with often one or two subsequent clicks, finding a PDF of the article you’re seeking, all without leaving your couch.”
So while we sympathize with students confronting their first college research paper, we can say this: researching a topic today is wildly more convenient than in years past, and as a result, the act of writing, research, and even thinking, can be deeper, better synthesized, and stronger.
You can see the video for yourself here.
On a recent rainy Thursday on the eastern steps outside UofL’s Ekstrom Library, a small group gathered, defying cold and noisy UPS cargo jets, to read and hear excerpts from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Beloved and Slaughterhouse-Five, books banned at some point in the past.
The event was led by George Martinez, the 2016-17 Diversity Residency Librarian for the University Libraries, to commemorate Banned Books Week at Ekstrom. Earlier in the week he’d staged a screening of Persepolis, an Iranian movie based on a banned graphic novel, and directed visitors toward the Writing Center, where they could create imaginative book covers.
These tasks were among those Martinez eagerly embraced as part of his diversity residency, a Libraries’ initiative that gives a deserving individual from an underrepresented group a foothold in a competitive profession, where minority workers are trending up, but remain relatively scarce.
Unlike most internships, which are unpaid, the diversity residency provides a salary and on-the-job training; in return, the Research Assistance and Instruction department, where Martinez works, benefits from his expertise and training as a librarian and teacher.
“He brings a fresh perspective and lots of energy and enthusiasm for his work,” said Anna Marie Johnson, head of RAI.
“There is flexibility in the position,” she continued. “The resident can attend meetings and participate in the work of groups across the library to learn about the various aspects of the academic library. In addition, the residency comes with a unique opportunity, co-authorship on an annually produced bibliography of articles on information literacy which allows the resident to gain knowledge in this important area while also getting his or her name on a publication which is important in the academic library world.”
“There are only a handful of these types of librarian residencies throughout the country. It’s a great way for me to get my foot in the door of academic libraries.”
– George Martinez, 2016-17 Diversity Resident, University Libraries
The fact that the position exists highlights the Libraries’ commitment to diversity, says Martinez.
“There are only a handful of these types of librarian residencies throughout the country. It’s a great way for me to get my foot in the door of academic libraries and I would not have relocated from California to Kentucky without this opportunity. It was also very helpful to know that the Libraries cares about diversity and serving the entire UofL community.”
In 2015, 166,000 individuals were employed as librarians in the U.S.; of those 83% were female; 84% white; 8.5% black or African American; 2.8% Asian; and 4.8% Latino, according to the U.S. Dept. of Labor Statistics.
There are various reasons for the imbalance, says Martinez.
“It’s complicated to pin down why exactly librarianship is not diverse. One factor is that librarianship is not viewed as a high paying profession and that could deter people from investing in a master’s degree in library science, which is a prerequisite for librarians. Some of the other factors relate to cultural competency within libraries.”
It’s important that libraries diversify, to “properly serve their patrons and show that they welcome a variety of backgrounds and perspectives. If we can foster diversity in librarianship, then we can more easily connect with a wider range of communities.”
“The profession is aware of it and is working on it. The residency program is one way the UofL Libraries is tackling this,” he said.
The program began in 1999 as an internship that offered participants paid tuition to complete their master’s degree in library science. In 2008, the program changed to a post-MLS residency that supports librarians from underrepresented groups early in their careers, after they’ve finished their MLS degrees. In this way the Libraries align with the UofL 2020 Plan’s overarching goal of supporting diversity within the student body and solidifying its position as a nationally recognized metropolitan university.
The residency is designed to be limited in duration, to allow a greater number of participants. Martinez will be leaving in summer of 2017.
“I’m in a place of learning right now, I do more listening than talking. I can explore in this new part of the country. My family is on the west coast, so I do intend to go back after the residency is up.”
Martinez grew up in Salinas, California and lived there for many years. He worked as a K-6 substitute teacher in the Los Angeles public schools, and taught English and writing at New York University where he received an M.A. in Educational Theatre. His 2015 M.L.S. is from the University of Maryland.
“The ability to grow into my first position has been so important, just seeing how the library functions, learning the different responsibilities of my job, and getting concrete skills in teaching and library instruction has been huge.”
“I feel supported and fostered,” he said. “Everybody’s been extremely welcoming and helpful.”
The fact that he has been so well supported reflects well on Ekstrom’s environment: “A library has to be in a place where they can create that kind of atmosphere. This has given me a space to collaborate while I’m learning.”
The Margaret M. Bridwell Art Library played a pivotal role in Elizabeth Douthitt Byrne’s life. Before she became its second director in 1970 – one of only four women to lead the 53-year-old library – she immersed herself in art, history, and librarianship, met her future husband in the slide library, and embarked upon an auspicious career.
This summer, Byrne (BA Art 1968) and her husband, Chuck (BS Design 1972), visited Art Library and toured the facilities, which have vastly changed. Not only has the library (named for its first director) been relocated, renovated and rebranded in the intervening years, but the collection has grown exponentially. When she left four decades ago, the library only contained 24,000 items; it now has more than 90,000.
Her connection to UofL began in the 1960s when she enrolled as an art student and served as a Hite scholar from 1964-1968. During this time she worked as a student assistant in the Library, and after earning her MLS from Indiana University, she was hired as the director of Bridwell Art Library.
In an email, Byrne reflected on her history in the art department and with Margaret Bridwell, the Art Library’s first director:
Both Chuck and I were students in the Art Department many years ago when it was in the old administration building, and it was THE place for everyone in the Department—art, design and art history students, as well as faculty—to meet and hang out. Even after the Library moved to the basement of the then ‘new’ University Library (editor’s note: now Schneider Hall), it continued to be the gathering place for everyone, and Margaret Bridwell made it a welcoming and wonderful place.
I resigned in July 1971 when Chuck and I married and I moved to Detroit, where he was working, to join him. Chuck worked as a graphic designer and taught design for many years. I was an art/architecture/design librarian for 42 years. Our experiences with Mrs. Bridwell, the Art Department and the Art Library shaped our careers.
Byrne’s career included librarian positions at Detroit Public Library, the University of Cincinnati, and the San Diego Public Library. She concluded her distinguished career as the head of the University of California at Berkeley Environmental Design Library, a role she held for 30 years until her retirement in 2011.
During Byrne’s short tenure at the Bridwell Art Library, she made a significant impact. In the late 1960s, much of the Art Library’s collections had been developed through personal gifts from faculty or alumni. According to her annual report to the University Libraries’ head in 1970, Elizabeth initiated an intentional book purchasing plan in support of the expanding art department curriculum. In particular, she purchased books on American art, architectural history, and photography. The library is still known for its strengths in these areas today.
As the couple completed their recent tour of the Bridwell Library, they stumbled into an old friend and colleague, Dr. Dario Covi, retired Professor Emeritus of Fine Arts with UofL’s College of Arts and Sciences, who had stopped in for his daily visit (in his 90s, he still maintains office hours on campus). The couple had corresponded with Dr. Covi over the past 50 years but they hadn’t seen each other since they left Louisville. Long-time friends and colleagues were reunited in a pivotal locale that has held a special place in their hearts – the Margaret M. Bridwell Art Library.