Friday, September 18, 2015

"So What'd I Miss?" #1 - How Your Subject Librarian Can Help You

Quick story! Real quick, I promise!

The other day, I noticed an interesting suggestion on an assignment sheet that an undergraduate brought in: "Seek out your specialist librarian to help you navigate library resources."  So, I sent the theater specialist librarian, David Bell, an e-mail requesting we meet up and go over my (fictitious) assignment. David has been a specialist librarian at Booth for 16 years, and says more students would benefit if they would seek out their specialist librarians: “We know the sources—you’ll be able to write a better paper because you benefit from our expertise.”

I picked two prompts from the assignment sheet. David says students often come in with only an assignment sheet or a vague topic, and he “doesn’t expect students to come in knowing everything already." In fact, he shares that students "often start off looking for one thing, but discover another.”

For my imaginary assignment, I told David I was deciding between writing about Noh theatre and possibly the history of mimes. David walked me through the process: We looked at some articles, where I learned that Noh theatre is a Japanese theatre art, and I discovered Kabuki - another kind of Japanese theatre. He suggested I might write about the relationship between Kabuki and Noh. The more I learned about Noh Theatre, the further I got from thinking about the history of mimes.  David cautions, however, that you, as a writer, should “be persistent in looking up stuff about your topic,” and to “not give up too quickly just because you can’t find anything.”

Making an appointment with a specialist librarian will benefit you. You’ll do some background reading, get a feel for your topic, and then they can help you navigate the vast amount of resources that are available to you both electronically and in print. David says that rather than thinking that you should “write this, or that,” you should find something enjoyable to write about because “it’s an easier process if it’s something you’re genuinely interested in.”

You can find the specialist librarian for your major or topic here:

Hopefully you have Noh trouble finding something that interests you— thanks for reading, and good luck!


  1. Thanks for providing this good advice.

  2. Your local subject librarians thank you (a lot)!

  3. Big shout out to Sarah Johnson, who created a research guide to help my English 1001G class find professional reviews of books, movies, performances,...! And Karen Whisler, who provided a list of resources to each student in my Harlem Renaissance class last Spring! And Ann Brownson of the Ballenger Teacher Center in Booth Library, who--with expert backup from Jeanne Goble--has provided specialized resources and insights to countless youth literature courses!