AC Voice Appreciates: Research and Instruction Librarians

While racing to finish a term paper, consumed by the stress of last spring’s Finals Week, my citation engine crashed. I raced up from A-level to the reference desk, confronting the librarian on duty in a desperate state of distress. Missy accompanied me back to my computer where I watched in awe as she resolved my Zotero crisis in a matter of minutes. Many other Amherst students have equally melodramatic stories that involve our college’s outstanding reference librarians swooping in and performing super-clutch, last-minute saves—in short, Amherst’s Research and Instruction Librarians are my academic superheroes.

A few weeks ago, at the request of the AC Voice editors, three of them took time to meet with us and discuss editorial and style questions that we, as a young and exclusively digital publication, were interested in learning more about. Not only did they all offer relevant personal experience on such topics as copyright law, digital media, and the Associated Press (they all have substantial editorial experience themselves), they also compiled an original, comprehensive list of online resources for us to refer to for further research and future questions. Between their extensive educations and real-world experience, the individuals at Frost’s reference desk are easily among the most dedicated and effective employees at the College.

Posted across from Frost Café with very generous availability, they provide advice on how to begin a research assignment, answer citation questions, and help you find quality sources for highly specific research projects. In addition to their capacity as a “research and instruction” resource to students and faculty, they also serve as the College’s subject librarians. Acting as liaisons between the library and academic departments, each curates a selection of resources for relevant research in any major.

And they are all hyper-qualified for their jobs. For example, Sara Smith, the Arts and Humanities subject librarian, has an MFA in Dance and a Master’s in Library Science. Gretchen Gano, the Social Sciences librarian, has taught courses at UMass and NYU, has Masters degrees in Public Policy and Library Science, and is a PHD candidate in the “Human and Social Dimensions of Science and Technology Program” at ASU. The others are equally interesting, and have too many accomplishments to list here. These are the people who teach us how to use Chicago Manual and find non-Wikipedia sources for papers—we really couldn’t ask for any better, and I look forward to this academic crutch come thesis-writing season next fall.

By praising the reference librarians, I don’t mean to overlook the other phenomenal human resources in our library system. In dramatic contrast to the horrid building they work in, Frost’s staff has been, in my experience, entirely friendly and superfluously helpful.