The second SLA library crawl of the quarter took us to downtown Seattle. Our first stop was the EPA Region 10 Library on the 10th floor of the Park Place Building, overlooking Freeway Park. We first checked in at the Public Environmental Resource Center (PERC) where a wide variety of non-technical environmental publications are available free to the public. Liz Doyle, the librarian, met us there and gave us a tour of the library.
The library has been open since the EPA was established in the early 1970s. Liz works with two assistants: Adam specializes in interlibrary loans, and Kara deals with serials and reference. The main patron base consists of about 600 EPA staff members in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska, including those in remote locations. It’s also open to the public. Liz tries to encourage people to come in to the library. Although electronic access has become the most frequent mode of library use, some people do like to come to the library for a quiet work environment.
The library’s technical systems may not be state of the art, but they serve their purposes well. Items are bar coded and checked out with cards issued to each patron. The library uses Inmagic’s DB/TextWorks catalog as well as an agency-wide union catalog. They also have a regional intranet with a library portal listing free and fee-based information. Patrons appreciate the simple interface.
They’ll be moving down to the first floor soon, which will locate them next to the PERC and make them more visible to the public. As often happens with moves, many print documents will be weeded. Liz looks at demand patterns and the possibility of printing on demand when making weeding decisions.
Reference requests through an Ask a Librarian online form have remained steady, and improvements in the searchability of EPA’s webpage and digititization of many EPA documents have further increased access. Liz told us about a recent question where a staffer needed a new handbook on output-based emissions and was unable to find it. She located it quickly for the patron. Liz also enjoys training people on research locally and through webinars. She often answers small questions but is better able to convey the big picture of the research process through training sessions.
Liz’s prior work experience helped her get hired for her current position. She had worked at law firms after graduating from library school at the University of Michigan, so when the EPA was looking for someone with experience in legal research and cataloging she had the right combination of skills. It pays to learn new things!
From the EPA we walked to Callison, a nearby architecture firm. Cindy Davis served us Halloween cookies and showed us the library. Cindy started in marketing at Callison in 1995 after working in a combination marketing/librarian position in Dallas. She pitched the idea of a library and got the green light to start one. Over the years she has worked with many interns and DFW students from the iSchool, so if you’re interested in architecture let her know!
Cindy and her assistant Erin Williamson support a staff of about 400. They get a wide variety of research questions. One day they might find examples of architectural projects using faux and live interior landscapes for comparison, and the next day look up the water systems and climate in a foreign city.
Architects tend to be very visual and often don’t want a lot of text. They like to see what their peers around the world are doing and keep up with current trends. Print materials are still the norm in the library due to the focus on visual information. This keeps the library back from the cutting edge technologically, but focused on the particular needs of those it serves. However, they do have an Intranet site for accessing collections and checking out materials.
The library supports code compliance by making sure the company has complete and up-to-date codes and product standards, often via online access. International projects often are designed to a US-based international code, generally more stringent than local codes. They can also be handed off to overseas firms who handle code compliance. The firm is less involved in the construction phase, but does focus on sustainability. The collection includes resources on sustainable products, and both Cindy and Erin are LEED accredited and understand standards and product requirements.
Cindy developed a cataloging system for the library modeled after the company and its own products and services, putting herself in the architects’ shoes and making materials easy for them to find. Categories include monographs about particular architects, materials, and specific types of buildings.
We also got to see the Design Resource Center, a gallery of resources for interior components and finishes. Anything you can imagine covering a wall or floor or topping a counter can be found there. Lindsay, the center’s manager, works with sales reps on projects and stays abreast of current trends. She puts on product showcases, bringing in vendors to display new products and meet staff members.
Cindy suggests that special librarians understand the library and company’s purposes, and ask lots of questions. Working with different kinds of people, from designers to project managers to IT staff is another key to success. People are often willing to shed their egos with librarians and get our help because they know that we can make them look good. We’ll be challenged to show the value of what we do, but it’s also where we can shine.
We concluded the tour with a happy hour at Pike Place Market’s Alibi Room. Thanks to our hosts, our organizers, and all who came along!