When a University of Rochester student or faculty or staff member is pursuing research or working on a project, one of their best assets is their subject librarian. In recent years, anyone taking classes or teaching in the Departments of Biology, Biomedical Engineering, and Brain and Cognitive Sciences who needed assistance has been able to turn to Moriana Garcia, a STEM librarian in Carlson Science and Engineering Library.
To back up briefly, a “subject librarian” is exactly what they sound like—a dedicated librarian for a specific subject. They are liaisons between Rochester’s academic departments and libraries, providing support for research, learning, and teaching through expert consultations, instruction on how to identify, evaluate, and use information and resources, and general collection development. And that’s the 1000-foot view. Befikadu Mekonnen ʼ22, a biomedical engineering major, can offer a closer look.
Over the last three years, Mekonnen benefited from access to Garcia. In his classes, Garcia demonstrated easy-to-use library resources and highlighted how to identify credible sources, cite resources, and expand on searches. Mekonnen also met with Garcia in a one-on-one setting to discuss his research plans for the fall 2021 semester, culminating in him winning the grand prize for the 2021 Research Initiative Awards.
“Her guidance was essential to me finding and saving multiple articles on PubMed and through DiscoverUR,” says Mekonnen, “and that helped me find specific experimental protocols."
There are undoubtedly dozens of other testimonials from students and faculty members that Garcia guided through research as a subject librarian. But that’s not the focus of this check-in.
Garcia is embarking on a new library journey of her own making, but it began close to her arrival at the University in November 2015.
Starting April 1, she will be the scholarly communication librarian. This position is meant to provide scholarly communication leadership, including the creation, registration, dissemination, preservation, evaluation, and use of Rochester researchers’ scholarly and creative outputs. Garcia will also be responsible for maintaining awareness of national and international publishing trends, intellectual property rights, copyright, and information technologies that affect access to scholarly information.
We wanted to know more about what it means to do, so we talked to Garcia.
Tower Talk: It’s not often a position is created in response to the work someone has been doing. How did this happen?
Moriana Garcia: Two weeks after I started at Rochester as the biology librarian, I met with Professor Amanda Larracuente. She was a new professor committed to publishing open access, but the article processing charges were a barrier, so she requested help creating an open access fund. Her initial request is where all my scholarly communication work started.
In 2017, I was awarded a fellowship by the River Campus Libraries, which allowed me to dedicate 10 percent of my time to open access initiatives. The knowledge and institutional connections acquired during that period empowered me to become the go-to person for open scholarship on the River Campus. So, it was a natural progression into the full spectrum of scholarly communication.
TT: Is this a common position among academic libraries?
Garcia: Yes. Academic libraries have always strived to make the universe of knowledge available to their communities. The role of scholarly communication librarians is to make sure that the scholarly and creative outputs created by Rochester’s researchers are also shared with the world in the most impactful way possible. Their work is almost a mirror image of the traditional collection management duties of most subject librarians.
TT: It must feel great to be recognized in this way for work you’ve been doing for so long.
Garcia: I am elated by the opportunity to dedicate all my attention to this type of work; there is so much to do. More sustainable academic practices based on openness and equitable access to information are becoming prevalent everywhere. Just look at the new UNESCO recommendations on open science, for example, or the National Academies toolkit for fostering open science practices. We are living through unprecedented change in academia, and I could not be more excited about supporting our faculty, students, and staff along that path.
TT: How does it feel to be leaving the community you’ve been supporting for all these years?
Garcia: I do not feel that I am leaving them at all. I will continue collaborating with them in this new role while expanding my support to researchers working in other areas, such as social sciences and the humanities. We are not subtracting; we are adding.
TT: Well said. So, let’s wrap up by talking about the future. You said you’re excited to dedicate all your time to this work. What are your goals?
Garcia: I hope to engage with the University community on topics from across the scholarly communication landscape, including selection and evaluation of publishing venues, emerging models of information sharing, open scholarship, copyright and author rights, compliance with public access requirements for federally funded research, and evolving trends on research assessment, all topics close and dear to my heart.
In addition, I will continue to inform the library’s resource acquisition strategies, emphasizing institutional support for open scholarship, exemplified by our new open access agreements with publishers. A lot of this work will have to be done through close collaboration with other librarians and library staff from across the University or even through shared initiatives with other campus units or community groups.
My goal is to become a resource our researchers can turn to when they need additional information about strategies or tools to make their scholarship, which is already outstanding, shine even brighter, and go further. We have come a long way since Professor Larracuente’s initial request, and since then, I have had the privilege of working with dozens of Rochester’s researchers with similar aspirations. I hope to make all of their work a little easier and this world a little better. ∎
For more on scholarly communication or Moriana Garcia’s work, ask her yourself. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.