Living the Life Sciences
Katherine O’Clair was roaming the halls of Arizona State University’s life sciences complex and chatting with faculty before the end of her first week on the job as science reference librarian. She was eager to get to know every single member and their research interests so she could serve them well. Perhaps that’s why someone suggested she might be too much of an eager beaver – a designation O’Clair considered a compliment. She immediately posted a cartoon on her office door of a bustling beaver carrying a briefcase.
Wandering through faculty offices paid off. Colleague Jennifer Duvernay says O’Clair ‘singlehandedly developed the positive high profile the libraries now enjoy within that academic unit.’ Along with Robert Page, director of the School of Life Sciences, O’Clair has integrated information and technology literacy into the curriculum. She coteaches the first-year seminar with Page, is active in the information literacy portion of the introductory biology course, and is a consultant to one of the college’s learning communities. She also collaborates with faculty on grant-funded projects to improve the quality of undergraduate education in the life sciences. The school’s newsletter even published an enthusiastic article about her presentations, saying, ‘She will happily share stories of her undergraduate experiences studying birds.’
In fact, O’Clair had planned to be a practicing biologist but discovered that she hated being pinned down to any one narrow specialization. Instead, she says it’s ‘really cool to be a liaison to a school with faculty doing all sorts of different things in biology. I get to interact with so many great scientists.’
O’Clair is every bit as eager to contribute to her profession. When she volunteered to cochair the Arizona Library Association College and University Divison, she brought in the division’s first ever nationally recognized speaker, attracting an unusually large audience of academic librarians, and made the presentation available as a podcast for those unable to attend.
According to colleague Duvernay, ‘If every librarian were only half the eager beaver that Katherine is, our profession would be very well served.’