Staff profile: Liz Brown

09/23/14

Who she is: Liz Brown, Outreach Support Specialist at Mann Library.

What she does:  I coordinate, promote and curate exhibits in Mann Library as well as the events that go along with them. I also help at Mann’s reference desk.

Why it’s important: The ideal exhibit doesn’t just highlight the collection, it also highlights how research done at Cornell relates to Cornell’s library collection and encourages collaborations between students and faculty members.

Where she comes from: I’m from outside of Boston.

Education: I earned a BA in English from Harvard; while I don’t technically use this knowledge it informs my whole life and has focused my love of books.

Years at Cornell: I’ve been at Mann for five years, before that I worked at Cornell Plantations for five years as a gardener. Many people think this is a big switch, but I see it as doing the same thing: creating exhibits – whether plants or books – to draw the viewer in and make them want to learn more. At Plantations I was taking care of plants, but also creating an experience for visitors.

Background: I’m a self-educated gardener. I believe gardening is about the way that humans respond to the garden and that is very much analogous to thinking about how our users respond to the library. By creating a visual experience, we are exposing library users to things they didn’t know.

What she’s most proud of: I’m really proud of the history that we have here at the library. When I was working on my very first exhibit, I was in the library’s Rare and Manuscript Collections looking at ornithological drawings by Edward Lear. We have John Gould’s “The Birds of Europe” with lithographic plates that Lear pulled himself. To handle those plates knowing that Lear had touched them made the hair stand up on my neck.

 Another time I was in the archives researching for a limnology exhibit, and we found a letter from Charles Darwin in Professor James G. Needham’s papers. It was really incredible to hold that and realize what it was!

Best part of her job: The best part of my job is that by collaborating with such a diverse group of people, I am always learning. Every exhibit means a chance to learn something new, and that is exciting!

I get to see elements from our collections that are historic, yet I’m also working with students doing research now. Those connections make the library seem very alive.

In her spare time: I have no spare time! My husband and I run Wide Awake Bakery in partnership with a local organic grain farmer and a local organic miller. It is a wood-fired bakery, and I use a big draft horse to haul wood for the bakery oven. I also raise Katahdin sheep, an American heritage breed developed in Maine in the 1950s.

Dream job: This is pretty close to my dream job right now! Each week I spend 30 hours immersed in the library and then I go home, where I am immersed in home. The only thing I’d like to add is a micro-dairy where I produce cultured butter.

In this LibeScope series, interviews with library staff reveal their skills, talents, interests and backgrounds.