Rebecca Coleman: Librarian for Architectural History & Preservation, Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Urban & Environmental Planning

Subject Liaisons are librarians who focus on specific topics. They have a robust knowledge of library resources and are happy to assist with research and answer questions, large and small!

Today we’re interviewing Rebecca Coleman, who is the Research Librarian for Architecture.

Subject Specialties

  • Architectural History & Preservation
  • Architecture
  • Landscape Architecture
  • Urban & Environmental Planning

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What are some of the specific ways you can help people learning and working in your subject specialty area(s)?

  • Rebecca Coleman

    Finding building and site plans;

  • Locating demographic and other place-related data;
  • Connecting you to design research, in addition to research from other fields that can inform your design work;
  • Organizing your research and citations;
  • Finding the right sources for your work whether that is inspirational imagery, building codes, scholarly articles, primary documents, or local experts.

What’s a key message you’d like people at UVA to know about the Library?

It is our job to connect you to resources that help you do what you need to do—sometimes that’s a book, sometimes it’s a tool, sometimes it’s a person. We’re happy to help with quick questions, but we also love sitting down with you to learn more about your research (or teaching).

The more we know about your assignment, research, or course, the more helpful we can be!

If someone comes to you for help, what does that look like? 

Sometimes, I meet with a student or faculty member once, and they’re off and running.  Other times, the research (and our relationship) is long term! I may pass along resources I see in the weeks or months that follow, and check in to see if I can help as a project progresses.

The more I know about what students and faculty are working on, the more invested I feel. I love when a quick coffee or request turns into a longer conversation. I’m currently PI of a federal grant with a faculty member because conversation led to collaboration.

What are some research challenges you enjoy?

I like hunting down esoteric references, including hard-to-identify images.  I also love local research that teaches me more about my community, and gives me the chance to teach others about Charlottesville and our region.

What’s something interesting (a resource, a behavior pattern, a community, etc.) you’ve found in the course of your work in this subject area?

In a thematic vein, I never thought I’d follow urban planning the way that I do now. I think at first I imagined Urban Planning to be the story of infrastructure and land-use.  It is—but it is the story of how those things shape communities, and play an essential role in where, when, and if people can flourish.  I really enjoy working with students and colleagues who are fiercely fighting for (and with) communities.

My most adventurous resource acquisition was a GIS data set from Ghana.  A faculty member knew the data existed following a Semester at Sea voyage. However, Ghanaian infrastructure and local policy did not allow for online purchase, use of a credit card, or other standard acquisition practices.  In the end, to get this faculty member what she needed, we worked with a local who physically went to the maps office and purchased the data, even negotiating the licensing so our faculty member could work with an international team of research collaborators.  When I say that the library is dedicated to trying to get you what you need for your research, I’m serious.

What’s a resource you think people in your subject area(s) aren’t very aware of, but would find useful?

PolicyMap is an amazing way to navigate a variety of US data spatially. If you’re researching a US city or region, it can immediately show you demographic, environmental, health, and other data that provide great insights. is like having a tutor available 24/7. Not only can it help with all kinds of technologies from Adobe Photoshop to ArcGIS to Rhino, but it also includes high-quality tutorials and courses on skills like public speaking, digital photography, and managing stress.

Zotero will help you keep track of all those articles, books and websites you’re using in your research AND makes citations and bibliographies so easy. IMHO, no one should start a research project without it, and it also works great for collaborating!

What’s a recent book you’ve read that you’d recommend?

I have a 4 year old, so I’m reading a lot of picture books. I’ve re-discovered the joy of A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh series, which is sweet and clever and the perfect antidote to the adult world.

What’s a place or an activity you enjoy in Charlottesville?

I’m usually found in a coffee shop, whether on the Corner or downtown. I also love visiting the farmer’s market on Saturday mornings to play “what will we eat next?”

What do you enjoy about your job?

I love that I work with people each day that are trying to make the world a better place, and that I get to be a part of that in small ways. I also love that each day is unpredictable, and I never know what kinds of new questions or projects might come my way. And finally, I love that librarianship itself is always changing—that it spans the gap from primary documents to electronic data preservation, while championing information access for all.

Is there anything else you’d want people to know about you? 

  • Likes: coffee, cats, terrible movies
  • Dislikes: wet socks, cake, misleading infographics


“Rebecca is patient zero in a knowledge epidemic.” – UVA student

“Your role in raising the level of research skills is invaluable.” – faculty member/co-teacher

Visit Rebecca’s staff directory page.



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