By Aric Haas and Hannah Lee
For the third Interview at the Library series, we are with Maggie Clarke, a Sr. Assistant Librarian Faculty and roles as Reference Services Coordinator and Subject Librarian to the Humanities at California State University, Dominguez Hills.
I definitely did not! The public library was right next to my mom's work so growing up I spent quite a bit of time there and I knew that the people that worked there were librarians but I didn't think about pursuing a career in libraries myself until I was near the end of my undergraduate degree.
Like a lot of librarians (that I know), I was first exposed to librarianship as a career when I got a job at my own University Library as an undergraduate. Getting to do a little bit of everything- from helping students find articles to repairing books- was a great introduction to the profession and all the kinds of work someone with an MLIS can do.
I love that research is a part of my job and I have a lot of research interests- probably more than I could ever pursue. Right now I am really interested in epistemology, or the study of knowledge, and how it applies to our work in academic libraries. I strive to always pursue research through a critical, anti-oppressive, anti-racist lens and I think there is a lot of room for reflection on how libraries and librarians have and continue to privilege certain types of knowledge (especially those from a white, upper class, male perspective) over others. Something I’m continuing to learn about and want to explore in my research are the huge variety of ways humans construct and communicate knowledge and how we as librarians and educators can better reflect and make use of the breadth of knowledge available to us.
On a more practical level, I’m always interested in research projects that can help me work with my colleagues to improve our services for students. We often present research as a purely analytical process, but in my experience it can be highly emotionally charged and gaining a better understanding of how students feel during the research process is essential to being responsive to them in our services. I’ve just begun collaborating with a colleague to use machine learning to analyze sentiment in our reference chats which has been fascinating so far!
As liaison to the Humanities, which includes English, Communications, Modern Languages, Africana Studies, Asian Pacific Studies, Chicana/o Studies, History, Philosophy, Women's Studies, and Negotiation, Conflict Resolution & Peacekeeping, my main goal is to be there for my students and faculty to help make the library as useful for them as possible.
This can include anything from selecting books and other materials that reflect our curriculum and the kind of work students do in their classes, to working with faculty to design to support assignments to help students grow their research skills.
Probably my favorite thing to do as a liaison is work one-on-one with students on their research projects during research consultations. It's always so interesting learning about what students are researching and helping to connect students with library resources they haven't used before is a fun challenge.
So much! I think one of the most important things I’ve learned is that there is no such thing as a “typical” college student. The students I’ve gotten to know have so many different interests, experiences, challenges, and skills that I’ve learned to really let them lead any reference interaction before I assume I know what’s best.
As a reference librarian I’m also constantly learning interesting things about the topics my students are researching! I majored in English and Anthropology in college so working with students from different disciplines is often a huge learning experience for me. Since starting at DH I’ve gotten to deep dive on research topics from sustainable farming to African history and beyond. I’m always learning from students about the topics they are passionate about.
I have two cats, Minnie and Bear, and they are perfect! Probably what I miss most about working from home is getting to hang out with them all day.