We are constantly using Columbia’s libraries. We love to pick our favorite study spots, be they in Dodge or Butler 209. There’s a certain thrill that comes from finding just the right dusty books in the stacks for our essays. And no lie—there’s something special about that midnight shot of espresso in ButCaf. But beyond books and caffeine, one of the most valuable—and underappreciated—resources in the Columbia Libraries are the librarians themselves.
We have over 40 librarians in the Columbia University Libraries—not even counting Barnard’s. They all specialize in specific research areas—from East Asian film studies to graphic novels to the history of science—in order to better curate collections and help researchers who come to use their resources. But one of the biggest parts of a librarian’s job, and passion, is helping students.
Librarians are the human arm of a collection, and consequently the best way for students to connect with the myriad of resources Columbia offers.
Every librarian has their own experience working at Columbia and engaging with students. Connecting with the broader student community seems to be their priority. Jocelyn Wilk, the University Archivist, is charged with the documentation of Columbia’s history—this includes an awareness of student life, which, although ever-changing, is a constant priority of the Libraries. Elizabeth Davis, the head of the Music and Arts Library, has overseen the evolution of her department by expanding the library’s collection, making it accessible to a broader range of students. Jen Brown, the emergent technologies coordinator, tries to acquire resources that are useful to a plugged-in student population, and programs with extant systems of oppression—in order to try and dismantle them.
Most importantly, their work does not exist in isolation. Just as we are being impacted by rapidly changing technologies and a 24-hour news cycle, so too are we being challenged by the task of accessibility, documentation, and preservation. From the way we archive student life (now most clearly represented through memes) to the way we grapple with intrinsic systems of injustice in technology and education, the work of librarians is on the front lines of how we engage with culture and change.
Librarians have us in mind all the time, even as we browse the stacks without knowing what we’re looking for. So get to know them.
Hannah Barbosa Cesnik
Editorial Page Editor