When on a dig, archaeologists have one clear purpose: uncover history. The where, how, and what may be different, but the goal remains the same. Reaching that goal requires a variety of tools, each unique to the job that needs to get done. Much like archeologists, librarians have their own set of tools to dig-up the best resources, books, articles, data and more for student research. UCI Libraries sat down with former archeologist turned library assistant, Natalie Marquez, to unearth more.
Digging for Answers:
Natalie spends hours every week on the Ask Us Reference Desk at Langson Library. As a former archeologist, she knows that the most challenging part of the process is to get started. Whether identifying the excavation site, or starting with a research topic, the key to a great project is to determine the best place to dig in.
“Archaeology starts with the same goals-asking very basic questions about what you want to find or know.” Says Marquez. When a student approaches the Help Desk for assistance, a quick reference interview determines how far a student is in the research process and helps identify their area of interest. When a student isn’t sure, Marquez uses simple questions to draw out the student’s curiosity to lay the groundwork of a project.
Tools Assisting the Search:
Archeologists have a number of tools they use to excavate sites - from ground penetrating radar to miniscule brushes and picks. Libraries offer tools – large or small – to assist students with research. From interactive workshops and library instruction classes, robust subscriptions and online search tools supporting research, and new technologies, including the opportunity to chat live online with a librarian, students have access to both personal and technological resources that support their research journey.
As a UCI Alumnus, Marquez reflects on how things have changed from her time as a student. “When I was a student, we didn’t have subscriptions to New York Times or eScholarship and ebooks. Open access and eScholarship were concepts that most students were not familiar with. If we (students) needed a research item that UCI Libraries did not have, we could order books and articles through Inter-Library Loan – now there are a great deal of articles and books that are Open Access and easily accessible to students. I wish we had these resources when I was a student” says Marquez.
Archeologists follow specific steps when recovering an artifact; Marquez recommends library patrons follow a similar procedure to interpret the data, articles and books they read. Sometimes it takes time and flexibility to dig deeper on a topic in order to retrieve helpful information. Sometimes the best support is assisting students with the basics of how to save their searches and articles, and encouraging students to ask for help when needed.
Whether it is the uncovering of an ancient artifact or rich research topic, the discovery is often just the beginning. The support students receive at the library includes more than just reference materials for research. Students are often referred to a subject librarian who can lend expertise in a specific area, or they may visit to Special Collections and Archives to dig deeper into a topic with primary source materials. Marquez says, “I always encourage students to keep searching and share what they learned.”
Her best advice is don’t be afraid to ask. For Marquez, there is always more to uncover.