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Monday, Sep 25, 2023

New Science Data Librarian Blends Info and Academics

This fall, the James I. and Carol Aymar Armstrong Science Library has a friendly new face working behind the circulation desk. Wendy Shook, the library's new science data librarian, replaced the former librarian, Carrie Macfarlane, in early August this year. Macfarlane is now the Head of Research and Instruction at the Davis Family Library.

Shook boasts an extensive science background. Prior to coming to the College, Shook served as a volunteer librarian at the Hawai'i Academy of Arts and Science, and she was also a data analysis specialist at the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy's Gemini Observatory.

She holds a Master of Information Studies degree from Charles Stuart University in Australia, and a Bachelor of Science in the Physics Cooperative Program, from University of Victoria.

Indeed, Shook's prior experience in the sciences more than qualifies her as a respectable and knowledgeable science data librarian.  For Shook, the transition that took place between her science-intensive background and working in information services was fluid.

"My background is in physics and astronomy," said Shook. "After my BSc, I worked at astronomical observatories in Arizona and Hawaii, supporting not only telescope and instrumentation operations but also data reduction, analysis and archiving. The latter led, almost by natural progression, to information studies, and in 2011 I graduated with an Managment Information System from Charles Stuart University in New South Wales, Australia."

Shook commented on the nature of her rather unique position, emphasizing the vast range of information available to both herself as a librarian, as well as to the general public.

"Academic librarianship is a surprisingly dynamic and diverse career, spanning everything from researching ancient texts to developing research apps," Shook said. "Yet it is, and always has been, all about connecting people to the information they need."

On the topic of information processing and connection, Shook also highlighted the differences between the culturally-traditional view of an academic librarian with that of a science data librarian.

"More particularly, a science data librarian blends academic librarianship with liaison activities within the sciences, and assistance with data management," she said.

Despite relocating from faraway places (and vastly warmer climates), Shook's first few months at the College have proved quite successful.

"As a librarian with a science background, Middlebury's thriving intellectual, artistic and environmentally responsible community is irresistible," she said.
"As a family, relocating from the tropics to Vermont is a grand adventure."