What Does A Research Librarian Do?

By Kristy Borda

I became William & Mary Libraries’ Science Librarian on December 25th, 2017. In my first four months of employment I’ve had several people (including my family members) ask me: “So what exactly does a science librarian do?” It’s a great question! As libraries are changing, librarians are changing with them. Even as I sit down today to write about my daily work life, I know that it might be a different story in a year. In the words of Heraclitus, the only constant is change.

The most important part of my job is teaching information literacy -- whether I’m talking to a whole class at a time when they come in for a library session, sitting down one-on-one with a student to help them with their research, or corresponding with a patron over email. Because I’m the science librarian, most of the students and faculty that I work with are from the physics, geology, chemistry, biology, or applied science departments.

No single day looks like any other -- some days I teach multiple classes, some days I focus on ordering books, some days I get to write blog posts! But here’s a breakdown of what a Science Librarian might do in a day:

  • 8:00 - 8:30 : Got to work. Caught myself up on emails and read today’s news.
  • 8:30 - 9:00 : Prepped for a CHEM 404 class. The thirty minutes before a class is when I go over my lesson plan, arrange the seating in the room, make sure I have the right handouts, and set up the screens.
  • 9:00 - 10:00 : Taught a CHEM 404 class. Every class is different. For this one, because they were upper-level students who had a good grasp of the basics, we talked about some of the more advanced database features and citation management software. I made sure to leave some time for them to actually begin work on their project as well.
  • 10:30 - 11:00 : Had a meeting with a colleague who was observing my teaching performance. We compared notes about how the class went, what I might do differently next time, and what we thought the students got out of it.
  • 11:00 - 1:00 : Worked backup for the research desk. Our research desk is staffed by graduate students, but librarians are always around to provide back-up help. Today I helped a faculty member with a database issue over email and had an impromptu research consultation with a student who was looking for economics data.
  • 1:00 - 2:00 : Lunch break
  • 2:00 - 3:00 : I worked on finalizing a proposal that my colleagues and I are submitting to the 2018 Virginia Libraries Association conference. We’d like to discuss how we are working together towards successful marketing of our institutional repository, W&M Publish.
  • 3:00 - 4:00 : I had a research consultation with a student looking for articles for her biology course. She was in a large class that I visited earlier in the semester. Research consultations are one of the most rewarding parts of my job, because I get to help students one-on-one.
  • 4:00 - 5:00 : I set up a webform that faculty can use to sign up for a book group that we’re hosting, and I ordered copies of the book -- “Lab Girl”. Our hopes with this program are to create connections across disciplines.
  • 5:00 : Went home!