Profile of a Research Librarian

Rebecca Kohn

Rebecca Kohn is an Associate Librarian in the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library and a research specialist for Art and Design and Philosophy. She is also currently helping interim Provost Andy Feinstein with research in his field of Hospitality Management.


Like other research librarians, she loves learning new things. "When I am helping someone stay active in their field, I feel such a sense of accomplishment when I find what they are looking for. It is very satisfying knowing that I can help save people’s time by getting them to the right resources quickly." When she knows what professors or students are looking for, she can keep her eyes open on the horizon for new information. Research librarians are also in charge of collection development (purchases) in their subject areas.


Ms. Kohn commented that although the library looks slick and new, it is ten years old and the digital world has evolved in ways that were unknown. One of the things she could not have predicted was high cost of digital information. "I didn’t expect the publishers to be so greedy. For example," she explained, "when a journal is in several data bases, we end up paying for the same entry multiple times, especially if publishers embargo the most recent issues for a year or longer." She worries that students will feel they have to pay for information if they link to an article randomly on the Internet, instead of accessing the same information at no charge by going through the University Library webpage.


Rebecca also provides library instruction for her departments, especially the 100W courses. "These are like the first formal introduction to information literacy and library research for transfer students." As a subject liaison, she can create a web page/Libguide, or create a module to drop into Canvas, for a specific course. Research librarians can provide advice to faculty on what makes a good research assignment. Librarians are also able to partner with departmental faculty to develop relevant assessment tools to measure information literacy skills.


She enjoys taking diverse approaches to instruction. For example, she is working with art students and many of them are visual learners. From a design standpoint, the layout for footnotes makes them look unimportant. The font is smaller and usually below more important looking text. "That sense of scale and reference made me anticipate other areas where students may have difficulty." While information retrieval technology and gaps in digital holdings exist, students have to know how to negotiate print and electronic sources.


She is excited about working with graduate students in art and art history. "They have some wonderful topics, I help to start their research process and fill in the gaps as they develop their searches." In the art world, books are still very important sources of information and not everything is available digitally. Sometimes she relies on her network of librarians to get at information that is not available through digital sources, consulting the "collective wisdom" of the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA.)


Part historian, part resourceful detective and fully dedicated to student learning, that's Rebecca Kohn.