Subject specialist librarians support faculty and student success

(SEPTEMBER 25, 2023)

With the beginning of a new semester, librarians are busy connecting with students and faculty to help with classwork and research. UTSA Libraries has 16 librarians who serve as subject specialists to over 60 academic departments and programs, including Academic Inquiry and Scholarship (AIS), the UTSA Writing Program, Entrepreneurship, and Data Science.

UTSA subject librarians
UTSA Libraries Subject Specialists (seated:) Emily Johnson, Rita Wilson, Diane Lopez. (Standing:) Natasha Arguello, Esteban Cantu.

The liaisons directly support the success of UTSA students and faculty by nurturing relationships with each academic department, informing the university community about library services and resources and learning about the needs of students and the university’s departments. The subject librarians hold one-on-one consultations to help students find resources for their assignments and assist faculty with research and publishing initiatives.

The Carnegie R1 and National Research University Fund (NRUF) designations recently attained by UTSA create new opportunities for library services and resources to meet faculty's needs. Both of these designations place the university among the top research universities in the nation. UTSA Librarians are expertly poised to assist faculty with open access requirements for grant-funded publications and datasets, research data management services, research impact reports, and more as required by these news statuses.

Each semester, UTSA librarians teach classes that show students how to use the library more effectively and utilize the information available. Librarians also offer workshops on using citation managers, copyright, publishing, managing a scholarly digital presence, and documenting research impact.

“Our librarians have such a strong desire to help,” said Posie Aagaard, UTSA Libraries assistant vice provost for collection and curriculum support. “As expert investigators, they know how to help faculty and students navigate the vast information landscape quickly and confidently, contributing to excellent assignments and research.”

Melissa Wallace, associate professor of Translation and Interpreting Studies, needed a Catalan language book that was only held by Yale University in off-campus storage. Modern Languages subject librarian Rita Wilson located an inexpensive, used copy of the book in Spain. She passed this information along to Wallace, who purchased the book for her research collection.  

Wallace wrote in a note of thanks to Wilson, “You are such a detective! Actually, you totally solved my problem, … and you found a great deal that I didn't come across, so thanks a million!”.

College of Sciences Professor Emeritus Bill Van Auken acknowledged the contribution by the subject librarian for Sciences Charles Wu, in his published research paper, writing, “Mr. Charles Wu found some obscure literature that was very useful.”

In a library survey, one faculty member wrote, “You have enabled me to do a lot of research on an esoteric topic. Anything I need you make available within a week. I cannot say enough about how helpful and professional our library and its employees are… Most of the sources I need are from South American libraries and you never fail me. Thank you for such tremendous dedication.”

Posie and Veronica
Posie Aagaard, UTSA Libraries assistant vice provost for collection and curriculum support; and Subject Specialist Veronica Rodriguez.

While the liaison program has always been about connecting faculty and students to the information they need, it has evolved to include more non-traditional initiatives that take the university into the community.

“When we’re able to cultivate relationships that lead to projects that benefit both UTSA and San Antonio, it doesn’t get any better than that,” Aagaard said.

For example, the Head of Reference and Instruction and the subject librarian for Music, William Glenn, is working on “The History of Music in San Antonio,” a book that will delve into the city’s treasured musical history. This project grew from a friendly discussion about music in San Antonio between Glenn, Mark Brill, associate professor of Musicology and World Music, and Stan Renard, former associate professor of Music Marketing. The book will be UTSA Libraries’ first venture into publishing and is due in Fall 2024.

Head of Digital Humanities and User Engagement and the subject librarian for Race, Ethnic, Gender and Sexualities Studies, Veronica Rodriguez, recently produced a podcast, “Becoming Texas,” with John Phillip Santos, who has served as a distinguished senior lecturer in the UTSA Honors College and holds an honorary title of Distinguished Professor of Mestizo Cultural Studies. The podcast takes numerous untold stories of post-1836 Tejano life beyond the classroom and into the digital realm, where everyday people can find, hear and indulge in them.

Head of Research Engagement & Scholarly Communication and the subject librarian for Business Natasha Arguello said, “We’re always happy to help. The best part of the job is receiving a request for help, delivering on the request and then witnessing the patron’s appreciation (and sometimes relief).”

Knowing the value of subject librarians, instructors often encourage their students to take advantage of the librarian expertise in all disciplines offered at UTSA. Mary Dixson, professor of instruction in the Department of Communication, said, “One of the things I love about having a liaison is the ability for our students to get instructions and support from the same person.”

Other times, questions will come in from both faculty and students via the library’s chat service. One student said, “I just wanted to say thank you for your help on the research. Received a B+ on (my) essay. Couldn’t have done it without you, thanks again! You helped a lot.”

Another student wrote, “Hello, I just received my grade for the internship paper, and I made a 94. I just wanted to take a moment to say THANK YOU for your help. I really appreciate it.”

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