February 16, 2018

Elaina Norlin | Movers & Shakers 2002

Bionic Librarian

“With our profession struggling for respect, relevance, and a younger hipper image, we could use more role models like Elaina Norlin”

Reading Elaina Norlin’s resume you might wonder if her many talents include adding several extra hours to the day. In four short years as undergraduate librarian at the University of Arizona, she has worked the reference desk, conducted usability studies of the library’s web page, created an online reference page, and worked on increasing her library’s minority recruitment and retention and on improving the information literacy of minority students. In her spare time, she’s been active in her university’s Council on Diversity and has worked with national library associations on strategies for achieving diversity.


Current position: Undergraduate Services Librarian, University of Arizona Library, Tucson

Degree: MLIS, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 1997

Active in: ACRL, Black Caucus of ALA, RUSA

Norlin has also made a name for herself as a researcher, coauthoring a book on web site usability, delivering conference papers, and writing articles on such varied topics as interface design, evaluation of reference service, gathering decision-making data, and preparing libraries of historically black colleges for the 21st century.

A marketing major as an undergrad, Norlin thinks our profession doesn’t market itself well because librarians underestimate their own importance. We don’t dream big enough, she says; we don’t ask for pie in the sky because we don’t understand that “we deserve pie!”

All her accomplishments may suggest that efficiency is Norlin’s most outstanding quality, but her colleagues at the reference desk say Norlin is “charismatic. She has a commanding presence.” She has even made converts–at least one student from her Peer Information Counseling program is now working on an MLIS degree. With the profession struggling for respect, relevance, and a younger, hipper image, we could use more role models like Norlin.