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Building collections to support climate change research

By September 5, 2017September 16th, 2023No Comments

By Jon Jeffryes

Mary Schoenborn

Mary Schoenborn

The University Libraries subscribes to over 114,000 journals and databases and has more than 8 million books. The materials that the Libraries selects, negotiates, processes, catalogs, and manages play a key role in the success of the research and education mission of the University of Minnesota.

Access to these collections educate, inspire, and empower. 

Librarians are now turning their attention to strengthening collections to support the University’s emerging grand challenges research. Mary Schoenborn, a subject librarian supporting the Carlson School of Management and Humphrey School of Public Affairs, has been doing important work in bolstering the Libraries’ coverage of climate change materials.

‘Proactively acquiring new resources’

Schoenborn explains that as students and researchers tackle the highly interdisciplinary grand challenges they often encounter new subject areas and need to learn about available resources in those new areas,

“They’re looking for resources and so they come to the Libraries and they know that we are able to not only acquire the resources but also help guide them to other resources,” she said, adding that she tracks demand for different journals, books, and databases. “If I hear from more than one student then that perks my interest and I start asking more questions and will reach out to colleagues.”

“Mary has impressed me by proactively acquiring new resources on topics related to my research,” said Gabe Chan, an assistant professor in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs whose research focuses on climate change policy. “I have worked with Mary to gain access to critical climate change news services that I now rely on every day.”

Schoenborn recently has worked on getting the libraries access to diverse materials that support climate change research, including: 

‘Continuous engagement with faculty and students’

Schoenborn’s collection work starts with “continuous engagement with faculty and students.” Through that contact she hears about research trends and information gaps. She combines that understanding of researcher needs to her expansive subject expertise and begins to investigate potential journals, databases, and other information products that will have the widest impact on campus.

“Creativity is important in terms of finding the information and finding which sources are available but also how to use those sources and who might benefit from those sources,” Schoenborn explains.

After a product is selected, Schoenborn will negotiate with vendors to get a good price and find terms of use that fit the needs of a large research university. 

“Budgets don’t change very much so we have to work with the same amount of money,” Schoenborn said, adding, “it’s again another level of creativity.” An example of that creativity is finding partnerships to fund resources. The Bloomberg BNA product came about by a licensing collaboration between the University Libraries and the Law Library.

After finding a workable price, Schoenborn works with colleagues in Electronic Resources Management where contracts are reviewed and the resources are processed locally.

Once a product goes live, Schoenborn’s work continues. She learns the mechanics of tools so she can help researchers navigate unfamiliar resources and she works to advertise the Libraries’ access to researchers across campus who might benefit from the new tools.

‘A critical resource for my research group and for my teaching’

Schoenborn’s work directly impacts the research and teaching of the faculty whom she supports. She’s driven to make the information landscape at the University as comparable as possible to what students will experience after they leave. She wants to provide students with “real world learning” when it comes to information use.

“They’re working with the same tools that individuals in the marketplace, in industry, in government are using as well.”

Professor Chan speaks to the positive impact for his students resulting from his collaboration with Schoenborn.

“Access to this service has been a critical resource for my research group and for my teaching.” he said. “Thanks to Mary, I can expect my students and research assistants to have access to the most critical climate change information, which elevates the depth of our conversations and the relevance of our research.”

Mark Engebretson

Author Mark Engebretson

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