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Meet Your Library Subject Specialist: Elaine Lasda Bergman

Librarians at the Dewey Graduate Library are a friendly bunch with expertise about library research that they are happy to share. For the next few weeks we will offer the opportunity for you to get to know your subject specialist through a brief question and answer session. The first subject specialist is Elaine Lasda Bergman.

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What is your position in the Dewey Library?

My official title is the Bibliographer for Social Welfare, Gerontology, and Dewey Reference. This means I am the liaison to the School of Social Welfare, which includes the Institute of Gerontology . In that capacity I order and keep track of the materials purchased in support of the social welfare and gerontology programs and research here on the downtown campus. In addition, I maintain our collection of reference books here at Dewey, which includes reference books on topics in all disciplines taught on the downtown campus. In addition to those responsibilities, I teach the Social Welfare Research Seminar and the Resources for Evidence Based Practice seminar 6-7 times per semester. Finally, I am responsible for oversight of this blog and other outreach efforts of the Dewey Library

What does a typical day look like for you in your position?

During the academic year, I spend a lot of time working with the social work students, teaching classes, answering student and faculty emails, working at the reference desk, and so forth. In addition, I assign research for blog posts to our student assistants and edit and upload the posts when they are complete. I also manage any special projects - for example, this semester we created a video tour of the Dewey Library which should be on YouTube very soon. Other time is spent working on online research guides and work for professional librarian associations. Summer is the time for research projects.

How do you choose which resources to acquire for the collection? How do you manage your collections budget?
I take a look at the School of Social Welfare’s Research Guide to learn the areas in which social welfare faculty are conducting their research. In addition, I pay keen attention to the topics about which the students are asking so I can make sure our collection of books reflects their interest too. In addition, I scan an ordering database, oodles and oodles of book reviews, and publisher catalogs. Some purchases are “no-brainers,” affordable and on a relevant, and timely topic. I manage the budget by limiting purchases of textbooks, and saving information on items of interest all year but placing orders over the several months of our ordering period - usually August or so, through March in a given year.

What is typically included in the library seminars you teach?

I have recently switched to a hands-on , team or group based technique for helping students understand where to find the best articles and books for their topic as well as how to evaluate the information they find for quality and accuracy. This has been very successful and the students seem to get a better handle on how to locate journal articles, determine the scholarly nature of a document, find books and evaluate web documents for quality, validity and authority.

How do you manage your time and competing priorities? Do you use any tools or technology to keep yourself organized and on track?

I do certainly have competing priorities and many responsibilities, just like the rest of the librarians at the University Libraries. Luckily, I am fairly organized while still maintaining enough flexibility if something changes. As far as technology goes, every night before I leave work, I make a to-do list for the next day. I use Workflowy www.workflowy.com to manage both short-term and long-term to-do lists. I also am extremely diligent about putting appointments, classes, meetings, into my Outlook Calendar and blocking off time for in-depth projects when needed.

What is the most rewarding part of being a librarian? What is most challenging?

Far and away the most rewarding part of being a librarian is seeing that ‘ah-ha!’ moment in a student’s eyes, when they finally “get” how to locate the resources they need from the library. Also, because I work with social welfare students, I get to work with many individuals who are passionate about helping people - someone once told me that the help I gave him could lead someday to reducing the abuse rate of disabled children. Knowing that the students I work with are someday going out there in the field and working to better the lives of others is inspiring, and I am proud to be able to help them reach their goals.
The challenging parts are always about money. Budget cuts lead to reduced staff and less money for resources. We have been very good at “doing more with less,” but this remains an eternal struggle on a campus such as ours. Luckily, the people I work with, be they the other librarians, faculty, staff or students are all great and make the challenges worth the effort.

If you would like to contact Elaine Lasda Bergman please email her at elasdabergman@albany.edu or call 442-3695.