SLA Library Tour: EPA Region 10 Library

By Lydia Bello

EPA Region 10 - image1On Wednesday, October 8, almost 20 iSchool students from SLA-UW joined the Pacific Northwest Chapter for a tour of the Region 10 EPA Library.

Created in the 1970s, The Region 10 library holds an interesting position in the EPA. Contractor operated since the 1980s, the library has moved between the public affairs, IT, and Infrastructural and Operations Departments before recently moving back to IT. Liz Doyle, the supervisory librarian and current SLA-PNW President, works with a staff of two other librarians to serve both the employees of the EPA and the general public. The library materials were barcoded in 2000, and the library uses Inmagic’s DB/TextWorks catalog for the local database.

Two months ago, the Library moved from the 10th floor into a beautiful new space on the first floor of the Park Place Building in downtown Seattle. The staff of the library is currently focusing their efforts on weeding, digitization, and creating the idea of “library as place.” Three fourths of the known collections are digitized and online, and the library maintains a collection of Region 10 documents. The library is in the process of encouraging EPA staff to use the library as a collaboration space, with places to work and monitors that can be hooked up to libraries, similar to the UW’s own Research Commons. The library has already gotten more foot traffic as passers-by see the stacks and other materials from the ground floor windows.

Although the quantity of reference questions have declined over the years, Liz notes that they have become increasingly complex. These questions often include background research for enforcement projects.

EPA Region 10 - image2If you missed this tour but are still in the Seattle area, the EPA library is a great place to visit. And as Liz said during her presentation, like with all special librarianship, “everything you do is with the help of your colleagues,” and there are some pretty fantastic ones here in the Pacific Northwest.

Have you seen or worked in any neat special libraries as of late? Want to share your experiences with the SLA UW and the iSchool? Write for the blog!

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How to present yourself at a conference while still figuring out your career path

By Stefanie Ramsay
Images courtesy of Lydia Bello

Vancouver Conference CentreMy first year in the iSchool was full of uncertainty about where I fit within the vast field of librarianship. I felt very fortunate to find a niche in special libraries by the end of the year, and luckily enough, the Special Libraries Association annual conference was being held in nearby Vancouver, BC this last June. This was my first professional conference and I enjoyed so many events, from the First Years and Fellows meeting to a session on geofencing to a discussion of working in museum librarianship. But one of the biggest challenges I faced was how to answer the inevitable question: “So, what do you want to do when you graduate?”

As students, we have to strike the tricky balance between keeping an open mind about potential career trajectories while also working towards narrowing our focus, and honing particular skills that complement this intended career path. Juggling this in our own minds is difficult enough, however, when those in the field, whom we are hoping to impress, ask where we see ourselves in a year (or three, or five), this question becomes particularly challenging to answer. I didn’t want to box myself in by mentioning a specific organization I was interested iSLA Badgen working for, but I also didn’t want to be perceived as indecisive if I rattled off a few areas of interest (e.g. “Well, I like working with rare materials and enjoy interacting directly with users. But I also want to know how to build systems that house information. And I see myself special libraries, like a museum, or historical society, or special collections. Oh and I like American history too! But I am still open!”) I also didn’t want to be left out of an interesting conversation about, say, taxonomies just because I didn’t mention it as a particular career goal. What if it is and I just never knew it?? These thoughts filled my mind during and after the conference, so I began to reflect on what I could do at the next conference to present myself in a way that felt authentic while also avoiding painting myself into a corner.

While I do not necessarily have the perfect answer to this question (this was only my first conference, my friends!), I did draw upon a lesson from the Special Librarianship course I took this last spring quarter. In this course, we were tasked with writing an “elevator speech” to describe our fictionalized role in a particular library as part of a larger assignment. An elevator speech is designed to be a succinct but memorable way of discussing your role and responsibilities to colleagues, administrative staff, or future employers (here’s a great link that describes this further: Using this concept, spend some time before your next conference (or meeting, or interview, or family gathering) and write down a list of areas in which you are interested, particular classes you’ve enjoyed, past job experience, or a defined path you’ve already discovered. Maybe you see some common themes you can combine or notice a pattern you didn’t see before. Then write your elevator speech! This is a great way of collecting your thoughts before presenting them to others. Keep your speech in your back pocket if you need a refresher or to make some edits. It’s also a good exercise in reminding yourself what you are passionate about—and, really, that is what people want to hear from you.

SLA Vendor HallI would also advise that you ask many questions when you find yourself in conversation with others at conferences. The people I met at SLA were warm, friendly, and all too eager to discuss their careers with me, while also inquiring about my interests. Though I took time to answer their questions, I concentrated on inquiring about their career paths or past experiences. Not only did this give me insight into a colleague’s background and potentially a new facet of librarianship, but I also paid attention to how they presented themselves in a professional setting. This gave me a better sense of what topics to cover and how best to present myself going forward (and in some cases, what to avoid talking about, too!).

Lastly, whenever I doubt myself or feel uncertain about where I’m headed in this field, I remind myself that I am hardly the only one who has felt this way. I brought this particular topic up with several classmates after the conference and found that many others empathized. It helped me to hear how my colleagues have handled this situation. Of course, most people respond differently to issues and not every solution will be right for you, but knowing you are not alone is helpful on its own, isn’t it?

Anyone else have tips to share on how to answer this question? How do you present yourself while still in school or after graduating? Any other lessons learned from your conference experiences?

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Welcome to SLA-UW

Hello everyone!

It was wonderful to see so many new and returning faces at the SLA-UW events during iWelcome Week! We’re excited to work with you and explore the different aspects Special Librarianship can take over the next academic year.


But what makes a “special library” special? Special libraries are a diverse, broad group containing any information setting that has a highly specific user group and/or focuses on a particular collection or subject. Special libraries often exist inside other institutions, from aviation museums to zoos, and there are special libraries as from law to engineering and technology, health care, business, advertising, government, and more! The possibilities are endless.

As to us, we are the University of Washington Student Chapter of the Special Libraries Association. We are a student chapter of the global Special Libraries Association, and we work closely with the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the SLA (SLA-PNW) to put on library crawls and other events.

With that in mind, we’re pleased to announce the next SLA-PNW Library Crawl on October 8, 2014 at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Library. Library Crawls, or tours, are events where we tour a special library and get to ask questions about how that library operates with our hosts. This Crawl is being hosted in collaboration with the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Special Library Association. Here are details from the SLA-PNW website:

EPA Library Crawl
October 8, 2014, 4:30 to 6:30 pm
Register Here: www.surveymonkey/s/8XFM3M7

The schedule:
5:00 – 5:30 pm Social hour
5:30 – 6:30 pm Tour of EPA Region 10 library collection, with a presentation on the EPA Desktop Library content, Region 10 Library page, and digital EPA publications
EPA Region 10 via Google:

Special instructions about entering the building: Enter the building on 6th & University. You will need to go through security before being directed to the library on the 1st floor.

We hope to see you there! Library Crawls are a great way to meet your fellow classmates and professionals in the area, network and to learn about all the different career opportunities available in the world of information professionals.

On a closing note, we asked everyone who stopped by our table during the iWelcome Fair to name their favorite special library. Here’s what everyone shared, and we think this is a great list:

The mini free library in my neighborhood
Suzzallo-Allen Library, University of Washington
Seattle Public Library, Central Branch
Huntington Library
Library of Congress
Museum of Natural History
Amsterdam’s public library
New York Botanical Garden Library
Swem library (college of William and Mary)
UW Engineering Library
Too many to list here
Burlington Public Library
Edmonds and Everett Public Libraries
Bellevue College LMC
MIT science library
King’s College, Cambridge
LBJ Austin forever
Seattle Central/Rainer Special Collections
Folger Shakespeare library
Any Pacific NW library!
Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt
Vancouver, BC public library
Reading Room at the British Museum

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Harnessing the Data Whirlwind at WMLA 2014

By Liz Morris

WMLA logoConfession of an aspiring librarian #1: I love a good conference. Meeting new people, working through innovative ideas together, and exploring topics that may not regularly come across our radars makes me excited about the future of information. As the iSchool representative for the Washington Medical Librarians Association (WMLA), I was thrilled to represent our community at their annual conference in Ellensburg, WA on July 18, and am happy to share some of my learning here.

Copyright, Knowledge Networks, and Data Visualization…Oh My!

WMLA serves the needs of health information professionals in Washington State. Like information professionals in many fields, health information specialists and organizations are rapidly evolving their capacity to use digital content and data in a way that leads to more informed decision-making and end-user engagement. The theme for this year’s conference was Harnessing the Data Whirlwind, and in addition to beautiful sunshine, great networking opportunities, and yummy food, provided stellar context for emerging strategies to make information meaningful for diverse audiences.

Rachel Bridgewater, a faculty librarian at Portland Community College, presented on Copyright Basics for Librarians, and shared the fascinating insight that “copyright is the story of technology outpacing policy and law.” As we think about the very complex machines of policy and legislation working to keep pace, the role of information professionals to influence these shifts is clear.

iSchoolThe iSchool’s own Jevin West shared current perspectives and research on emerging systems for Mapping Knowledge Networks. We know that turning information into action requires much more than access. Tools and competencies to encourage data literacy and decision literacy must be able to operate in real-time, with often “noisy” inputs, and in support of complex inquiries. Collaborative efforts like the University of Washington Information School Data Lab seek to create the infrastructure to make high-level analytics useful for organizations of all types, building off of the fundamental principle that all information is ultimately connected.

One of my favorite take-aways from a presentation by Nate Wilairat of EMI Consulting  was the great distinction that infographics are explanatory, while data visualization is exploratory.  Through his presentation on Data Visualization: What’s the Big Deal?, I learned about the power of visual imagery to convey compelling stories, using information on the spectrum of very basic to incredibly complex. Cost effective tools like Piktochart  are available for those among us (myself included), who may not have a natural talent for graphical creation, but believe in the power of data to inspire ideas and new ways of thinking, doing, and being.

Library of HealthConfession of an aspiring librarian #2: I’m still figuring out what “type” of librarian I want to be, and relish the opportunities for self-discovery that the iSchool provides. A personal commitment to public service and previous professional experience in that area led me to librarianship. I truly believe that social equity requires more than equality, and that knowledge drives social change. The more I learn about the field and the varied professional paths that people navigate in their careers, the more I appreciate the roles all types of libraries play in making information meaningful for diverse individuals, professionals, and communities.

For example, the University of Washington is home to the Pacific Northwest Region of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, and provides excellent resources for health professionals and the public to support community well being. Public outreach and engagement is core to their mission, and they are a great resource to explore for Directed Fieldwork opportunities. The UW student chapter of SLA provides many opportunities for you to learn more about this and other unique library organizations and resources. As the upcoming academic year approaches, let’s keep the conversation going about what we’re discovering in the infinite world of information!

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Rijksmuseum Research Library: A Special Library

By Jennifer Lam

RijksmuseumThis past Christmas break, I vacationed in Amsterdam and had the opportunity to visit the Rijksmuseum and its supporting library, the Rijksmuseum Research Library.  It’s a special library because it’s neither academic, school, public, or national in nature. It is, rather, an art history library and the largest of its kind in the Netherlands.

The Rijksmuseum Research Library has been collecting items since 1885, including catalogues, museum collection-related books, annual reports, and periodicals.  Among its many special collections, it houses the A.N. Godefroy collection of architecture books and periodicals and Frits Keers collection of museum catalogues. Altogether, the four storeys of the library contain one kilometre of items, and its underground storage facility houses a further five kilometres of items.

Rijksmuseum Research LibraryThe library has many employees, including a head librarian, a library coordinator, a library application manager, and multiple library assistants and volunteers. Imagine working in Europe for one of the most renowned art history libraries in the world–a library that’s in the same building that houses great art from masters such as Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Vermeer. The Rijksmuseum Research Library is truly special, especially with its cast-iron spiral staircase and brick-red and gold polychromed colonettes. Who knew special libraries could be so grande?

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Recent Events with the SLA-UW!

SLA_panelOne of the goals of the SLA-UW is to provide professional development opportunities for students interested in Special Librarianship. The past week and a half has seen a flurry of activity!

The SLA Student Night was a great introduction to the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Special Library Association. It was a fun night of meeting peers and colleagues old and new, and getting to know the local chapter. We also got to hear from a great panel of professionals in the field currently working for library vendor companies. The panelists, representing companies such as LexisNexis, ProQuest, Smartlogic, and Softlink, described what it’s like to work for a vendor company and the many different career paths the MLIS can take you!

The following Thursday, SLA-UW partnered with sALA to host a Conference Prep Panel for the upcoming SLA Conference in Vancouver, BC, and ALA Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. The panel of four spoke about their experiences as both professionals and students at both SLA and ALA, and provided tips for having a great conference experience. You can watch the entire panel here through Adobe Connect or take a look at the top ten pieces of advice to take with you to your next conference:

  1. Attend any and all conferences you can, especially when there are volunteer opportunities available! Conferences show you the breadth of the field and are a chance to discover new interests.
  2. Conferences are all about meeting new people and making connections. These connections happen anywhere, from sessions to happy hours to the line for the bathroom.
  3. Branch out! Attend a session you may have not previously considered. You can go to any session that isn’t marked “closed,” so go ahead and try something different. You may find your next career, or at least learn some new fun facts to share with your friends and family.
  4. Not enjoying a session? Leave! Your time is valuable, and if you are not getting the most of your experience, try something else (see lesson #3!).
  5. Follow social media, especially Twitter and Tumblr, to hear the latest buzz around popular sessions, speakers, and social events. Conferences often create a particular hashtag, Google Doc, or Facebook group for attendees to follow (see sALA and SLA’s Facebook pages for more info on this!).
  6. Having trouble picking a session? Find a speaker you’ve heard good things about, or professionals from a library system you’re interested in (see #5 for more info on how you can keep up with other sessions).
  7. Don’t just talk to people you came with or know. Chat with new people; you never know where it could lead! You will get the chance to meet a wide variety of people you might not otherwise get to meet. Side note: SLA’s “First Five Years” group and ALA’s New Members Round Table (NMRT) are great places to meet recent grads/alums who surely have great advice to share.
  8. Notice the set-up of session rooms. Round tables mean you’ll be conversing with those around you while rows of seats mean it will be a lecture-style session.
  9. Its okay to take a half-day or day off from the conference. You may need some time to process all of the information coming your way, plus you may want to explore the city in which the conference is taking place. There will be librarians everywhere you go, so you never know who you may meet outside of the conference walls.
  10. Unsure of what to wear/bring? Comfort is key! Our panel recommended “comfortable business casual.” Think of how you want to present yourself. Bring a bag, but consider what you would want to carry all day. Lastly, take your conference badge off at social events. A different atmosphere calls for a different way of introducing yourself.

Hope these tips come in handy in your professional development endeavors!

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Update: SLA’s Student Night, Thursday, May 8

Get ready for the SLA Student Night on May 8 from 6 to 8:30! The event is a great opportunity to hear from a panel of information professionals working with vendors in the area, as well as network! There will also be the SLA PNW board meeting from 5:00-6:00,

The event is $20 for students, and includes wine, beer, and heavy appetizers.You can pay by check or PayPal when you register or pay in cash at the event. SLA-Pacific Northwest Chapter will be covering the registration fee for the first 20 iSchool students to register (you will be reimbursed at Student Night).

Sign up here:

More details about the event can be found below, and at Hope to see you there!

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