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Meet Linda Crook, CAHNRS Science Librarian

Posted by struscott | October 5, 2012

Linda Crook and her pug, Viola, enjoying a day at the Hamilton Aquatic Center in Moscow.
Linda Crook and her pug, Viola, enjoying a day at the Hamilton Aquatic Center in Moscow.

The Fischer Agricultural Sciences Library may have closed last May, but WSU agricultural, students, faculty and staff are still well served by reference librarian Linda Crook. Crook has been working as a science reference librarian for over a decade — and she’s been fascinated by science for much longer than that.

“My father was a chemistry professor at Western Washington University, so I grew up visiting him in his office and watching him do experiments. He wrote computer programs as aids for students studying general chemistry back when personal computers first came on the scene. I got to help test those programs, which is where I gained some of my first chemistry knowledge. This was before I took chemistry in high school, so it must have been 1987 or ’88, when ‘high-tech’ meant an IBM 8088!”

High-Tech Libraries

We’ve come a long way since the 8088, which came with a whopping 16k of memory. Crook likes to point out that she regularly fields questions (as do all her reference colleagues in the WSU libraries) online via http://libanswers.wsulibs.wsu.edu, by chat, email, and even Twitter at @WSULibraries. “Or people can text us,” she pointed out. “Let’s say you’re up there on the fourth floor and are unsure where you need to go to find a book – just text us at 509-428-2325, and one of us will get right back to you. We can also answer your questions using a screencast, so you can get a lot of assistance without leaving your home or office. We welcome reference and all sorts of questions via email, text, or our website.”
Libraries are no longer all about books (if they ever were — libraries have always served us as focal points for accessing information). “We see folks get interested in librarianship because they love books,” Crook said. “But that’s not all we are! For me, it is the online services that are really important. One thing that is becoming more and more true is that ownership of books and other materials is no longer as important as access to materials.”

Better than Pizza

“Especially because of the Summit consortium,” Crook said, referring to the multi-institution “mega” library of which WSU is a member, “we have access to a vast number of items we don’t own. WSU library patrons can use Summit to make a request online and we can get books or articles in just a few days, at no charge to the patron. We can also deliver items from Owen or Holland/Terrell or any of the other WSU libraries to a campus zip. We deliver!”
Crook explained that she and the team of WSU reference librarians offer a wide range of services. “We can help with individual research, answering questions, and creating library assignments. We offer information literacy instruction, emphasizing the critical thinking skills needed to evaluate information and the sources of information. And because our physical facilities have become more limited, we have worked very hard to improve our availability through the web. Virtual reference services available via Skype, live chat, SMS, and email, are staffed the same hours as the Holland/Terrell Reference Desk [10 a.m. to 8 p.m Monday-Thursday, 10am to 5pm on Friday]. We are adopting and adapting to new technology all the time, so if there are other ways you want to interact with us, just let us know!”

A Dissertation on Dissertations

Graduate students conducting literature reviews may avail themselves of reference services. “We help develop search strategies,” Crook said, “and can help students select a citation management system. We offer classes in using EndNote, Zotero, and other systems. There is even a wide range of classes on-demand.”
Crook went on to explain that, “While graduate students certainly would benefit from our services in their particular subject areas, they can also come to us to explore the whole process of scholarly communication. For instance, we help students decide where to publish. Open access to information is key issue for the WSU Libraries.”
Crook has a rich life, with her four dogs and four cats, and her husband, Al Cornish, who also works in the libraries. She is very involved with the American Library Association, especially the New Members Round Table, where she currently serves as past-president. “What I really love,” she said, “is the moment when I’m explaining something to someone, and they get it. There’s this moment of connection and it is all worth it!”

–Brian Clark