Get to know: Elyssa M. Gould, MA, MSLS
Electronic Resources Librarian
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
“I love seeing folks get it.”
We’ve all heard the adage “change is the only constant in life,” from Greek philosopher Heraclitus. But for librarians seeking to find a balance between what new resources patrons want and need, constant change has added an additional layer of complexity to an already demanding workload. University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), Electronic Resources Librarian Elyssa Gould, MA, MSLS, works hard to ensure that their resources are relevant to library patrons. “No matter what technological change will occur next, the library needs to be prepared to implement changes that will serve our patrons and enhance their research experience,” she said.
Read more in our exclusive interview below.
As Electronic Resources Librarian, what are your daily and top priorities?
I see my role as a conduit of information for patrons, liaison librarians, and other library employees. I’m constantly using information from one interaction to inform other interactions. For example, I need to parse out what information from a vendor will affect a collection development decision, or require an adjustment in the proxy server so our patrons won’t experience loss of access.
In order to do my job well, I need to know a little about a lot of things, especially how knowledge bases, catalogs, discovery layers, and link resolvers all work together (or don’t). I’m constantly absorbing information, figuring out how it relates, and telling others how it might impact them and their work. My top priority is learning as much as possible about the needs of our patrons so that I can best interpret incoming information to serve their needs.
UTK serves students studying a range of disciplines—from nursing, to business and veterinary medicine. How do you stay up-to- date on the latest resources and technologies available for each field?
Our liaison librarians are primarily responsible for knowing what resources and technologies are available for each field. As they learn about and subscribe to new products, my unit (Resource Management) comes alongside them and determines how to best implement access for our patrons. Have you experienced any difference in how students from the various colleges might locate and/or interact with digital content? I really haven’t – the biggest difference seems to occur when transfer and new graduate students come from another academic library background. We get a lot of questions at the beginning of the fall semester about how they can access articles and databases. It really drives home how direct our lingo needs to be on our homepage, as well as helps us spot where information is unclear. It’s also amazing to consider how each institution might describe the same information in different ways.
How do you track the consumption and use of digital content and resources? Does this help inform your acquisition strategy?
Yes, our Research Collections unit tracks usage. They’re implementing the SUSHI feature of the Alma integrated library system this semester. They are hopeful that it will save staff time, as well as provide real-time information that liaison librarians can use while selecting resources for their subject areas.
How do you promote new electronic products and services?
At UTK, our liaison librarians are primarily responsible for reaching their subject area with news about new products and services. However, my department works with vendors to organize trainings applicable for librarians and/or library patrons. Most recently, we’ve arranged four webinar demo sessions to be held while we are trialing a new database. Our hope is that by helping our librarians understand how to best use each product, we are better able to help our patrons.
Budget cuts are having a negative effect on access to content in many libraries. Have you faced similar cuts and how did you handle them?
UTK has been very fortunate in that we have not suffered budget cuts. However, we have experienced a flat budget for several years. It has forced all of us to be creative in how we think about filling purchase requests.
Is your library ever tasked with proving its value to the university? If so, how has this been handled?
Yes, I think every library has faced this challenge. Our Assessment unit tracks various kinds of data – the kind that is reported annually to large organizations, but also information that shows how our library measures against our own strategic plan. This information is shared widely.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?
I love seeing folks “get it”. I recently had a public services librarian shadow me for about five hours. It was rewarding to see how much she understood after I explained how information from our knowledge bases, catalogs, discovery layers, and link resolvers feed into each other, and where the hang-ups can occur. “Aha” moments like that are always rewarding.
What is the most challenging aspect of your career?
Keeping up with all the changes! Right now we’re in the throes of many vendors switching from HTTP to HTTPS connections. While it’s a great move in regard t Internet security, each move creates some back-end work on our part. I rely relevant listservs like ALMA-L and Ezproxy-L to help me stay on top of current trends and their implications for electronic resources work.
What do you think will be the biggest changes/challenges to your field in the upcoming years?
One of the biggest challenges will be supporting the increasing acquisition of digital products by the library, in both purchase and subscription models. Electronic resources account for well over half our collections budget, but the relative staff dedicated to supporting this content remains small. Another challenge will be changing as technology changes. The library wants to stay relevant to the patron, as does the vendor. No matter what technological change will occur next, the library needs to be prepared to implement changes that will serve our patrons and enhance their research experience.
I worked in my college library when I was completing my undergraduate degree in English literature. I knew I didn’t want to go on to be a teacher, but I really liked the environment and work of the library, so I asked the librarians how I could be like them.
I graduated from library school in 2011 and have been working in academic libraries ever since. I began as a cataloging/metadata librarian and morphed into an electronic resources librarian in 2014. This career shift was somewhat accidental – I was moving to a new town with my new husband and wanted/needed a job – but I’ve enjoyed the shift so much that I’ve committed to the electronic resources field for the foreseeable future.
My hobbies of reading and sewing scream “stereotypical librarian.” I started actively paying attention to my reading habits in 2016 via an extensive tracking spreadsheet. The goal was to diversify my reading in genre and author background. It’s helped so much that I’m still tracking my reading in 2017. My favorite read so far this year is “Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly. My current sewing projects are skirts for myself (complete with pockets to hold my office keys) and baby quilts for friends.