Special Project Assistant
Cornell University Physical Sciences Library
Chemistry, Pacific Lutheran University
M.S. - Library
and Information Science, University of Illinois,
Assistant to the Associate University Librarian for Science
"When I was an
undergraduate, I was the only chemist in my research group who liked to go
to the library, says Patricia O' Neill, physical science librarian at
Cornell University. That was probably the earliest indication of my
interest in this field." She says that generally, individuals attracted to
library science are ones who would rather work with other people than work
alone or in a lab.
But O'Neill's career has not taken her far from the lab after all. "At a
big research institution like Cornell, librarians can be very involved in
research projects by making critical information accessible," she says.
Chemists come to her for the information they need to plan an experiment
or long-term research project. This includes current periodical
literature, patents, and information stored on computer databases. Her job
is to help them sift through the vast quantities of material available to
find the one piece of information they need.
"I use my chemistry training daily," she says. "When I talk to chemists, I
may not need to know how to name a compound, but I need to be familiar
enough with the nomenclature to ask them the right questions and get a
sense of what they want to find out."
O'Neill comments that she is usually involved in scientific research at
the beginning of a project and, again, at its final stages. "But," she
adds, "I do not have to do all the repetitious laboratory work in the
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