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The “undergraduate” part of a science librarian

April 30, 2009

I keep up with my professional colleagues through blogs, listservs, twitter and social networking sites. Many of the science librarians I connect with have the advantage (or disadvantage) of being the library liaison to just one or two academic departments. As the sole science librarian at a largely undergraduate institution, I am the liaison to many academic departments:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics and Astronomy
  • Geological Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Computer Science

I can’t be an expert in everthing, and the past few years have been a learning experience. I have a masters degree in Geology, so I am the most comfortable with the subject matter in that department, but I have been doing most of my library instruction sessions in the Biology and Chemistry departments.

In addition to learning about organic chemistry and vertebrate zoology, I am slowly learning about the culture of the various sciences.

For example, the emaphsis on primary, peer reviewed literature is stronger in Biology than in Geology (where technical reports make up a large part of the literature). Physicists are more receptive to Open Access models of publication (as seen in the dominance of the arXiv.org preprint server) than their counterparts in Chemistry (which has strong disciplinary ties to the chemical and pharmaceutical industries). And I just read a very interesting article discussing the tendancy of Computer Scientists to publish via conference presentations more than peer reviewed publications.

Learning about the publication cultures of the various scientific disciplines has been one of the most interesting parts of this job, and I feel as though I have only skimmed the surface.

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