Taking teaching to a new level.
Who she is: Meghan Sitar, director of research and learning services for Olin and Uris libraries
What she does: I lead the librarians and staff who help users with their research and provide reference assistance. I also teach research skills and build collections — meaning, I make purchasing decisions — in the social sciences.
Why it’s important: We contribute to the success of Cornell’s researchers, partnering with them in their quest for answers. I enjoy trying to simplify a complex world of information and helping people get to what they need, whether it’s on the reference desk or in the classroom or during one-on-one consultations.
Where she comes from: I grew up in Michigan, outside of Detroit.
Education: I went to DePaul University in Chicago, and I have a degree in English and a minor in comparative literature.
After I graduated, I started working at the University of Texas, Austin, and I did my master’s degree at the School of Information there.
Years at Cornell: One.
Background: While I was an undergraduate, I worked in the library for three years — I may have sometimes skipped class to work in the library! I was in special collections and doing things that were complicated for student work: processing collections, doing reference work, coding the finding aids in HTML.
I got to work with the papers of Philip Berrigan — a former priest who was involved in the Catholic Workers Movement and nuclear weapon protests — and I spent a lot of time reopening his mail and kind of reliving his experience. It was very intense and I learned a lot about the Berrigan family, and I got hooked.
DePaul’s special collections also housed a lot of neighborhood collections from Chicago and documented a lot of issues around social justice and gentrification. That was also compelling, because as an undergraduate, I’d never thought about libraries and archives dealing with that kind of topic. It really set off a spark for me.
Most memorable moment: At the end of last spring semester, two of our librarians were teaching Writing 2100, which is a research-skills class. I came to the final presentations, where the students spent three hours presenting their research proposals. I was so moved by the incredibly wide range of interests that these Cornell undergraduates had.
It made me realize the caliber of students that Cornell attracts, and also appreciate that research is still challenging even when you have students who excel in academics. You don’t learn to do college-level research in high school, no matter how advanced you are, and that course gives students such a great chance to develop a better idea of what scholarship is.
I enjoyed every moment of those three hours. The fact that our staff can be that involved in the education of the students is something I really appreciate about our department’s work.
Best part of her job: I’m really passionate about helping librarians become confident and effective instructors. We find ourselves teaching so many different things, and some of us are never taught how to teach.
In her spare time: I like going to see live music, and I’ve been going into New York City a lot to do that. I like vegetarian cooking. I also have a basset hound named Heidi, who requires a lot of attention.
Dream job: I once saw a job posting for an archivist for the Lisa Frank Company — that would be amazing! Or maybe an archivist for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.… I’m always drawn to those weird niche library gigs.
In this LibeScope series, interviews with library staff reveal their skills, talents, interests and backgrounds. Want to suggest a staff member for a profile? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.