Ask the librarian: Sarah Wingo

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This is the first research librarian I interviewed. I know who I am calling when I have homework questions.


Name of Library: Falvey Memorial Library (Villanova University)

What kind of librarian are you? I’m an academic research librarian, or some libraries would call me a subject specialist. At my library there is a subject specialist that works with all of the major departments on campus. I am the librarian for English and Theatre, which means I work directly with the students and faculty in those two departments to help them use library resources and do research for papers and other assignments.

How long have you been a librarian? I have been a professional librarian for 3 years. I started working at Villanova right after finishing my Masters of Science and Information (library degree) at the University of Michigan in 2013.

What lead you to wanting to be a librarian? Like most librarians I’ve always been a voracious reader. I’ve also always been very good at helping people find information, which is a very important part of being a librarian. However, my plan wasn’t always to become a librarian. After finishing college I went to graduate school for my master’s in English. After finishing my M.A. I took a few years off to work and apply to more graduate school. I had planned to pursue a Ph.D. in order to become a professor, but over the next couple of years things changed for me and I realized that all of the things that I wanted out of being a professor were things I could get out of being an academic librarian so I went back to get my library degree. What I love about my job is that I get to work in a collegiate environment, I get to teach, and I get to work with faculty and students to help them find information.

How do you pick books for your library? Picking books for an academic library is very different from picking them for a public library. We don’t have a lot of general fiction, though we do have some, instead we have scholarly books to help support students and faculty in their research. I work with the faculty in my two departments (English and Theatre) to select the kind of books that support their independent research, and the curriculum for their classes. Because I am familiar with the scholarly work being done in both English and Theatre due to my own educational background, I keep an eye on new scholarly publications and reviews to select new books, but I also purchase books suggested/requested by faculty.

However, because I am the English librarian I do get to purchase books just for fun sometimes and then I like to buy popular reading books that I know students will enjoy having access to when they get a bit of free time from their studies. For example I recently purchased The Cursed Child (the new Harry Potter book) for the library, and we haven’t been able to keep it on the shelf.

Do you have a favorite author? It would be hard to pick just one, but a few of my favorites are Margaret Atwood, Hilary Mantel, and Virginia Woolf.

When I was closer to your age Philip Pullman, Susan Cooper, Lloyd Alexander, Patricia C. Wrede, and Tamora Pierce were some of my favorites.

How do you decide what book to recommend to a specific kid? Nowadays I mostly recommend books to students to help them with their research, but when I used to work in a bookstore (Borders) I would usually help kids pick out books to read by having a conversation with them about the kinds of books they liked and didn’t like in the past. I liked to ask what the most recent book they read was, whether they liked it, and if so what they liked about it. I would try to help kids pick books with elements that I thought they would like based on what they had told me, and maybe a few new things that I hoped would be interesting to them.

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