Staff Profile: Julia Gardner

Who she is: Julia Gardner, head of research services for the library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections

What she does: The bulk of what I do is work with researchers. That includes the people who come to do research in our reading room, the people who can’t visit but have questions about our collections, and the people who want to order scans of materials. During the school year it’s mostly folks on campus, faculty, undergrads, graduate students. In the summer, most of our visitors are from outside Ithaca. We have had people travel from literally the other side of the world.

I also participate in our active instruction program. Classes from a wide range of departments come to RMC. I recently taught a first-year writing class on Jane Austen, looking at materials contemporaneous to her era, to provide a greater sense of context for the novels the students are reading.

Why it’s important: Cornell has fantastic special collections, and I think all of us believe really strongly in the value of making them accessible to as many people as possible who need to use them. Sometimes people aren’t sure if they can come if they’re not a faculty member or a staff member. It’s important to us to get the message out that we are open to the public.

Where she’s from: Chicago, most recently.

Education: My undergraduate degree is from Swarthmore College. I have a PhD in English from the University of California, Riverside, and my master’s in library science is from the University of Michigan.

Background: I did my dissertation in Victorian theater history, and in the course of doing my research in England, looking through archives, I realized this was what I wanted to do. I worked for more than 10 years at University of Chicago with their special collections in a pretty similar role.

How long at Cornell: About ten months.

Best part of the job: What I get the most satisfaction from is connecting people with the materials they need, or maybe with what they didn’t realize they needed. I love the excitement they experience, working with those things, finding that thing they’ve been looking for. It’s especially rewarding to work with students, when they’re exposed to special collections for the first time – that never gets old.

In her spare time: I’ve been exploring Ithaca and the surrounding areas.