360 Degrees of Service
Research and Instruction Librarian, STEM Liaison
Hunter Library, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC
MSLS, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2002
Avid hockey fan Schmidt also collects obituary euphemisms (“shuffled off this mortal coil” is a favorite), sings classic American folk songs, and is known as “Brew Moll” to her friends: she brews beer from hops she grows on her property
Photo Mark Haskett, Western Carolina University
An intense academic curiosity, a pragmatic approach to problem-solving, and a keen analytic mind are the hallmarks of any great scientist—yet, fortunately for the students at Western Carolina University, those traits also belong to reference librarian and subject liaison Krista Schmidt. In fact, Schmidt earned a biology degree that led to early career stints at a soybean breeding and a biochemical testing facility before turning to library school, a better fit for her interests and inquisitive nature.
“I strive to find practical answers to problems,” Schmidt says. “Not everything needs a big fancy fix with lots of people, time, or energy involved. Sometimes it’s just…what is the easiest and most effective way.”
A good example of this approach according to colleague Becky Kornegay, also a Hunter reference librarian/subject liaison, is Hunter Library’s new Reference Call Button. The tablet-based app enables student patrons or harried colleagues to summon reference help using already existing chat mechanisms, and it allows reference staff time away from the reference desk to do independent work. Schmidt not only conceived of the app, she collaborated with Hunter’s web developer on its creation, identified the best hardware for its implementation, and found a company to make a custom-locked mount to secure the tablet at the reference desk. “Having the idea is one thing, but making it happen is another,” says Kornegay.
Among Schmidt’s other accomplishments colleagues cite a variety of initiatives, including a multisession information literacy instruction program that she developed for graduate students in engineering. She also overhauled Hunter’s expansive—and for many years largely uncataloged—collection of about 50,000 regional and historical print maps and devised better indexes to both the print and online map collections.
And though Schmidt is known as an early adopter (and sharer) of technology and a skilled database researcher, she is also surprisingly at home among those maps, other print collections, and seemingly antiquated indexes, Kornegay says.
“Krista approaches all research assistance from many angles, through back doors and side doors, using a mix of new and old reference resources,” Kornegay says. “I know how rare that combination is and how effectively it can move a library forward. She is, in essence, a 360° librarian who has significant positive impact on our library and the university we serve.” This combination of old school and new school is key to Schmidt’s success.