by Beth Sattur
Dr. Amanda Watson has worked as a subject librarian specializing in English for the past five and a half years at NYU. After receiving her PhD in English, her postdoc fellowship took her to an academic research library for a few years, moving her away from the career as a professor that she had originally planned. She went back to earn her Masters in library science. “Most academic libraries will require a library degree and an additional subject Masters [at least], if you’re going to be a subject librarian,” she says, explaining a different career path than one might imagine of someone with a graduate degree in English.
What does a subject librarian do? Mostly Dr. Watson assists students, both graduate and undergraduate, in researching their term papers, theses, or dissertations. She can be reached at email@example.com or at her office on the mezzanine above the first floor of Bobst, where one can arrange a consultation. Alternatively, you can go to the reference desk in Bobst and ask for the subject librarian. (She is the one for English, but there is one for every subject!) Subject librarians can help you find the right materials for your research project, whether it be print or electronic, and they can even suggest that you to go to Fales Library and Special Collections or use one of NYU’s other special collections. Dr. Watson urges students not to be afraid to ask questions, especially upperclassmen. “Inevitably, people show up at the reference desk embarrassed to be a senior,” she says. “If you’re starting to focus on more advanced coursework, is it easy to think, ‘I know all this stuff; if I ask a question it’ll make me seem like I’m stupid for asking a question.’” She reassures that the subject librarians are there to help out with many aspects of research, including topic development or background research, regardless of how far along the project is or who is asking.
Dr. Watson hopes that all the students know about the resources that are available to them, but that it is difficult to ensure on a campus the size of NYU. She is also well versed in many of the resources that students should take advantage of; for example, she says even if you are simply Googling a scholarly article and hit a pay wall, don’t pay for it because a subject librarian can likely get you that same article for free. NYU also has resources such as Interlibrary Loan or EZ-borrow that allow students to have a book sent here from another library at no cost. Moreover, at the beginning of every semester, she and some of the other librarians offer tutorials on introductory library research, which are usually nearly full. For your next term paper, expand your research with the help of one of NYU’s incredible subject librarians.