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 Maggie Nunley, who is a Teaching and Learning Librarian.
- Computer Science
- Engineering & Society
What are some of the specific ways you can help people learning and working in your subject specialty areas?
I love helping scope a project. The first discussion about what someone is interested in doing, figuring out what research exists, what resources there are at UVA that could help, who they need to talk to, etc., is something that I don’t think a lot of people expect for the librarians. And having that conversation with a librarian can help you save hours of time at the beginning of the project because we’re not only aware of the resources the Library has but those available at the University, if there are similar projects, and what are the resources that could help kick start a project.
What’s a key message you’d like people at UVA to know about the Library?
Librarians are here and we want to help.
If someone comes to you for help, what does that look like?
I usually consult either through email or by meeting. It really depends on the person and how complicated their questions are. For something straightforward like you’re starting a project on drones and you’re interested in resources about x, y, z then I’m happy to put together a quick resource guide with a few key databases and some suggestions for keywords.
For in-person consults, it’s usually for more involved challenges. These are great if someone has a lot of questions or wants to not only talk about what resources they could use but how to use them. I’m also happy to sit with a student or faculty member and help them get set up with a search, software, or platform if they need.
I’m also happy to meet more than once if the project is over a period of time or to check in. I’ve worked with faculty over the course of months with regular meetings or whenever they run into the next challenge. With students, it’s entirely up to them. Some students I see once, others a few times, and I’ve had a few students that set up regular meetings with me to help create accountabilities for themselves. I’m happy to do that for students. Most of the time, they just need someone to confirm they’re on the right path.
And I don’t set a time limit for consults or in-person sessions. Most are 30 minutes, but I always tell students that they can schedule as much time as they need, and if they’d like to knock out all their research in one day then to just email and I’ll find a day that works for both of us. No one has ever taken me up on that though!
What are some research challenges you enjoy?
I love the ones where nothing useful comes up immediately. I think a lot of people doing research get frustrated if they don’t find something in the first 15 minutes or so but I love a good challenge. If someone in for a consult can’t find something and then I also can’t find something then I can’t let it go. I’ve definitely sent folks away to work on a particularly tricky challenge and reported back after I feel satisfied that I have a good sense of the information landscape for a particular question or topic. I know students feel bad if I have to spend an hour or more on a research question but those kind of challenges are my favorite part… and probably part of the reason I became a librarian.