It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…the librarian?

Comparing Butler University librarians to Clark Kent may seem like a ludicrous analogy.

After all, librarians are commonly thought to simply stand around, sort books and read all day.

Upon closer inspection, however, Butler University librarians prove to have a capacity for learning, teaching and assisting in research that straddles the line of being superhuman.

While they may not don capes and fight injustice, the librarians do many jobs beyond the basic stereotypes.

“We don’t just sit here and put books on shelves or wait for people to ask us where the encyclopedias are,” said Josh Petrusa, associate dean and head of technical services. “I have to negotiate licenses, look at legal terms, navigate copyright and interpret U.S. copyright law for faculty.”

Butler librarians wear many hats.

They serve as tools for student and faculty reference that also work with legal business matters and catalog books in the library.

In addition, they serve as teachers who work with students to help them do research and collect accurate information efficiently in both the physical and digital realms.

As the library is becoming more and more digitized, librarians are working harder to integrate newer research techniques, specifically for online sources.

“We’re getting to that point where access is more important than having something on a shelf,” said librarian Sally Neal, associate dean and head of public services.

“You may be doing all of your research online, but you still need to be a good searcher,” she said. “You still need to be able to evaluate the information you’re looking at, and you need to be in the right databases.”

Neal said Butler librarians obtained faculty status three years ago and hold a “liaison-librarian relationship” with colleges.

Individual librarians are assigned to work with particular departments or colleges to assist with finding course-specific materials, offer in-class instruction and support faculty and students with research.

Senior Kate Langdon, who works as the supervisor of Irwin’s circulation department, said the librarians’ positions as liaisons create a sense of intimacy with students in their particular colleges.

Students can seek help from these specialized librarians within their majors and forge relationships.  Many larger institutions cannot acheive this same level of student-faculty contact.

“I think it makes the librarians special,” Langdon said. “I wish that more Butler students knew about the librarians’ specialization in specific departments and colleges and knew to take advantage of it, because they really are super helpful. They can take research time and cut it in half.”

Such helpfulness with research isn’t exactly catching a freefalling plane, but for many students, it’s enough to save the day.

Though Butler is a smaller institution, its librarians do their utmost to provide assistance with the resources available.

In this sense, Butler librarians are Renaissance men and women with their information literacy.

“We’re small,” said Sheridan Stormes, performing and fine arts librarian. “Butler has to do the most it possibly can with the resources it has because our resources are limited, and we know that.  We kind of try to be all things to all people.”


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