Friday, March 13, 2009

Meet Jane Rutherford

Most people (which actually means me) tend to think of Wisconsin as the land of cheese and beer.

It's more than that, says Jane Rutherford, the Instruction & Reference Librarian we'll be meeting today. Apparently there are also cows. Vast, rolling plains of Holsteins and Anguses teeming all the way into the sunset. It works for me -- nothing goes better with a beer than a nice cheeseburger.

Anyway, you've probably seen Jane from time to time on the Service Desk; it's very likely you've asked her for help more than once. Still, there's much more to her than the lady with the ready smile: she was into computers before they were computers, and has seen some of the most important events in Gallaudet's recent history. Keep reading to find out more!

1) Where are you from, anyway?
I was born and raised in Stevens Point, WI.

2) How did you get here?
I got a job at the Stevens Point Public Library while I was a freshman in college and LOVED it -- I'd finally found what I wanted to do in life. After I got my B.A. degree from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, I attended the State University of New York-Geneseo for my Master's in Library Science. While at Geneseo, I met my future husband. After getting my MLS, I worked at a small college library (Keuka College) in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of New York. My husband got a job with the federal government, so we moved to Virginia. After some temping and clerical work, I got a job as a computer programmer, doing database design work. About a year and a half into that job, a job for "library systems analyst" came up here at Gallaudet, and it needed many of the skills I had from my education and work experience. I had NO experience with the Deaf community.

3) How long have you worked here, and can you give me an idea of some of the more interesting things you've seen in your tenure at Gallaudet?
I got the job here at Gallaudet in 1981 (28 years in April!). As I mentioned above, I was originally the "library systems analyst," but about 15 years ago, the Library did a big reorganization and I became a reference librarian (the exact title has changed several times). So even with 28 years here, my job has changed so much it doesn't feel that long.

In the library, I saw some wonderful changes in how we access information. When I arrived, we produced the catalog on microfiche (what a pain!). We then moved to a locally-produced online catalog, and then to the wonderful ALADIN system. With each change in format, it became easier and easier to find our books, videos, etc. Through the same period, we went from journal (magazine) articles on paper and microfilm, identified through paper indexes, to online indexes (but still paper and microfilm text), to where we are now with all indexes online and over 15,000 journals with full-text articles.

At the University, I witnessed changes in communication. Originally, much communication was "simultaneous communication" -- signing in English order with signs indicating things such as "ing" or "the." We now use much more American Sign Language. I was also here for the "Deaf President Now" movement, and then the more recent presidential protests. Deaf people have really made their mark on this university and the rest of the country.

4) I don't think a lot of people know that the librarians here at Gallaudet tend to specialize in specific subjects. What are your specialties?
Because of my initial position here, I purchase books for "computer studies" (the Management Information Systems part of Business Administration, and the Computer Science portion of Mathematics and Computer Sciences). I also am the specialist for education-related departments (Education, Educational Foundations and Research, Administration and Supervision, Family and Child Studies), even though I have no background in any of those areas.

5) What can you do for students or faculty in these fields?
Well, in addition to purchasing materials (books, videos, etc.) to support the course work and research in these subjects, I can do class presentations in which I will teach the class how to do research or how to use a particular database or similar topics. During these presentations, I always emphasize that the students can make an appointment with me for one-on-one training or research assistance. I have dozens of these each year and find them to be one of the best ways to help the students.

6) Can you list some of the resources that you use the most in working with students and faculty? Why are they good resources to use?
Because I work so much with graduate students in education-related departments, the database I use most is ERIC ( ERIC has thousands of listings for journal articles, book, book chapters, etc. It is easy to limit searches to research, which is something all the graduate students will eventually need to find. And, finally, ERIC has many deaf-related entries. ERIC is not ideal, though, because it has so little full-text, but it does have a link to find out if we have the article or not (clunky but effective).

The other databases I use most are Proquest Research Library (my favorite) and EbscoHost Academic Search Premiere. These are always a great place to start as they have information on virtually any topic, are quite easy to search, and have many thousands of full-text articles.

7) What do you like the most about working here?
Especially since I became a reference librarian, I enjoy working with the students. I do this in several ways, but mostly at the Service Desk, helping a wide variety of students find information on a wide variety of topics using a wide variety of tools. Do you see the theme? VARIETY! I love that feeling when the light goes on and the students find what they need and understand what they can do with all the resources we provide here in the Library. I also love when former students come back and the connection we made years before has evolved into meeting their spouses and children -- I feel a part of a big family here. Also, in addition to this, I really enjoy being able to sign. I'm far from a perfect signer, but I think I am a good communicator, both one-on-one and in classes. I think the physicality of signing was good for my personality.

8) There's been some talk about a new library building in the works over the next few years. What's the one thing you'd most like to see change from the old building to the new one?
I think I'd have to say I'd like the new building to be easier to navigate. The octagonal/spaceship design of the current building is interesting to look at but unwieldy to "live in." It should not be a challenge to find the materials or areas that the students need. Curves, hidden hallways, dead-ends -- not nice! Secondly, I hope the new building can be designed so it will be timeless -- this building was outdated in design and functionality soon after we moved in in 1980.

9) Last question, I promise: What's your favorite color?
Blue, most of the time.

Question of the Week
I see the word "Consortium" used a lot in the Library, like when I search for a book or journal and there's a picture of a yellow Post-It note in the record saying "Request through Consortium Loan Services." What does it all mean and how can I take advantage of that?
The Washington Research Library Consortium (WRLC) is a group of eight universities in the DC area that pool their resources in order to benefit all their students. The seven universities other than Gallaudet are Georgetown, George Mason, Marymount, George Washington, American, Catholic, and University of the District of Columbia.

The main benefit you'll get from this collaboration is the access you have to every book and journal article in all eight universities, including some electronic titles. This means you have over four million books at your disposal, plus 25,000 journal subscriptions! This is an astronomical amount of information!

If Gallaudet doesn't have the book you're looking for, but, let's say, Georgetown does, you can check out their copy in one of two ways: you can go there in person and use your Gallaudet ID, or you can request the book you want through Consortium Loan Services (CLS) by using that little Post-It note. All you need to do is fill in a few blanks -- such as your ID number -- click "Submit," and, if a Georgetown student doesn't get to the book before your request goes through, it'll be on its way to you within a couple of days. A courier comes here every morning to pick up and drop off books coming in or going out, so turnover time is pretty quick.

You can also request specific journal articles from other WRLC libraries, but that part will have to wait until next week; I'll be discussing how to search for journal articles as well as how to use our databases then, because both things go very much hand-in-hand.

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