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A treasure trove of resources for every subject

Subject librarians have the tools you need for your research
September 29, 2014
By Tom Peacock

Concordia subject librarians Danielle Dennie, Katharine Hall and Éthel Gamache can help you dive deeper to find the information you need to succeed Concordia subject librarians Danielle Dennie, Katharine Hall and Éthel Gamache can help you dive deeper to find the information you need to succeed. | Photo by Concordia University

Every student in Biology 201 has to complete an experiment known as DNA electrophoresis. In her office at the Vanier Library on Loyola Campus, Katharine Hall, subject librarian for biology and exercise science, brings up a seven-minute video showing graduate students at the University of California, Los Angeles, conducting the experiment — essentially separating individual DNA strands — and explaining why it’s useful.

The video is hosted by the external video resource Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) — an online resource accessible via the Concordia Libraries website.

“If the students have never really done much lab work before, it’s useful for them to be able to see how the experiment is conducted,” says Hall, who recently purchased the subscription to JoVE.

Hall and Concordia’s other subject librarians spend much of their time seeking out new and useful online resources and adding them to their research guides. They also manage journal subscriptions, buy a lot of new books and participate in outreach.

Each one of the 50 subject research guides on the Concordia Libraries website is a unique creation of the librarian responsible for that field. They contain information on materials available in the library, and links to specific databases and online resources deemed to be the most useful for students. Hall’s Biology Research Guide, for example, features her latest acquisitions on a column on the left-hand side.

Subject librarian Danielle Dennie has created an entire page for students undertaking their Capstone Project and other design projects within the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science. It’s based on workshops she gives to students on how to effectively use the libraries to support their research.

“There are a lot of sources out there that you can't find in Google or on YouTube. This gives me a chance to say these exist. Please use them!”

She gives the example of a reference book available for consultation in the library, Yardsticks for Costing, which contains data on the price of materials and labour for the Canadian construction industry. 

“If you're building a bridge and you need to know how much it's going to cost to get a concrete beam installed — how much it’s going to cost for the materials, who you’re going to need to hire, how much it’s going to cost to hire them — all that information is in those books. When I show students that, their faces just light up,” Dennie says.

Making an appointment with a subject librarian is easy, via the Ask a Librarian service, and, as Éthel Gamache — subject librarian for religion, theological studies and philosophy — explains, no query is too large.

“If, for example, you’re working on your PhD, then we can sit down and help you hash it out. We can help you make sure your subject isn't being researched by someone else at the same time and that you're bringing something new to the field.”

Although a librarian may spend more time helping a graduate student with their thesis topic than with an undergraduate working on a two-page assignment, Gamache says it’s important for students to know that subject librarians are there to help all students.

“We take students as they come to us, and we don't take it for granted that they know something before they come to us. We assess where they are and just try to get a step further with them.”

Read more on how librarians can help develop your research skills

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