February 17, 2018

Academic Movers 2014: In Depth with Alicia Virtue


Photo by Sherrie Rochelle Blondin

In the latest of our In-Depth Interviews with Library Journal Movers & Shakers from academic libraries, sponsored by SAGE, we spoke with Alicia Virtue, electronic services librarian and department chair of learning resources at Santa Rosa (CA) Junior College. Virtue not only manages the website and ILS for both campus libraries and teaches a course in Introduction to Information Literacy, but in 2013 she and a colleague created Art Talk, an online multimedia gallery “enrichment zone” for the Doyle Library’s extensive art collection. She has also worked with EBSCO on its “Curriculum Builder” LMS plugin and developed a set of Guide on the Side tutorials for online search tools.

LJ: What was your path to becoming an academic librarian?

Alicia Virtue: By rare good fortune I started my exposure to librarianship by working at the Xerox PARC corporate library, at a time when the Ethernet, personal computers, and Graphical User Interfaces were projects in development. I saw how active the librarians were in supporting this exciting R&D and the wide perspective they had of cutting edge research. I thought librarianship was incredibly innovative and glamorous! After graduating from library school my first job was at Information Sciences Institute, where DARPA contracts were funding work on key components of what would become the Internet, including development of the TCP/IP communications protocols. It was exciting to be in these libraries, supporting aspects of world-changing research.

I’ve worked in libraries in both the public and private sectors. My experience included managing embassy libraries in the Foreign Service, with side steps out of the profession to work in new media publishing in the Caribbean and in the private equity sector in California.


In this interview series, sponsored by SAGELJ goes in depth with this year’s Movers & Shakers from academic libraries, delving into just how and why they pulled off the projects that brought them recognition as innovators, change agents, and more.

How have your experiences teaching and working with the students informed your projects?

Many California community college students are lacking in information literacy competence and in familiarity with academic libraries and services. These projects give us the opportunity to bring them up to speed. The tools we developed foster awareness and encourage students to become more nimble in their skills through access to online material.

What motivated you to focus on the library’s art collection?

The Doyle Collection is positioned throughout the multiple-story building, in the stacks—I can see students interacting with the art. My colleague Loretta Esparza and I were able to leverage [its] accessibility…to develop an e-learning tool designed to reduce student apprehension toward the physical building, while increasing information literacy skills by encouraging exploration of the art and related works in the library collection.

Art Talk delivers a positive library experience for students and reinforces student perceptions of the value of the library in both physical and online use. It highlights resources, provides a jump-start for research, acquaints students with primary and secondary sources, and involves students in a manner that breaks down barriers to library use.

Art Talk uses videos of the artists themselves discussing their work—were they enthusiastic about the project?

Having access to so many of the collection’s artists was a natural bridge to that online enrichment zone. The artists we worked with were overwhelmingly positive. They understood that you have to reach most of these students through the media they’re most comfortable with. We had 100 percent participation.

My sister is an art historian, and I know how walking through the museum with someone who can explain everything is so much more enriching.

How did you get involved with EBSCO?

When EBSCO introduced its discovery service we were the first community college in California to be beta testers. EBSCO was wonderful about it, and listened to our feedback—it was a fabulous working relationship.

What advice would you give new librarians who want to be library leaders?

Don’t be afraid to look at innovations in other industries and leverage them for use in the librarianship and information sectors. I’ve worked in various industries and sectors—the fusion can be very powerful.

So many of us are drawn to the profession because we’re naturally inquisitive and innovative, but sometimes we don’t carve out the time to share our products, and create awareness of what we’re doing outside our field. We need to be published outside library journals; I’d like to see us being broader in the scope of our communication.

Who were your mentors?

Most were excellent bosses who green-lighted all the projects I brought them, and encouraged innovation.

What are you working on now?

It’s hard to develop and market at the same time. I’m currently focusing on projects that communicate and share information about recent developments, including working with my colleagues to host two local and regional conferences.

I have to ask: How did you get to be the liaison librarian for automotive technology?

I just volunteered! I have a great relationship with the department chair, they’re a great group of students, and it’s a field with a huge amount of innovation.

Lisa Peet About Lisa Peet

Lisa Peet is Associate Editor, News for Library Journal.

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