A day in the life of a university news office librarian

Universitiy news offices with librarians are quite rare. There are only four such positions I know of in the United States: one at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, two at Stanford University, and one at Harvard University, where I am currently employed.

My entry to this niche came at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The position was for a library and information science student. Before that job, I knew nothing about about news librarianship. I worked there while earning my master's degree. The position focused on duties related to the collection of thousands of files of news clippings and other ephemera.

After graduating, I began working in Harvard's Office of News and Public Affairs as their first librarian. The duties in this position are quite different from my previous job at UW-Madison primarily because I'm not spending most of my time caring for a physical collection. Since I'm the office's first librarian, there's a lot of flexbility because the office doesn't have a set role for a librarian. Many of my duties match my skills and interests instead of being part of a standard definition or concept of what a librarian is and does.

Until recently, I would begin each day by finding, formatting, and sending citations for news clips to the Office of the President. Now someone else in the office does that and creates and distributes a set of citations for news articles of university-wide interest. I help with that occasionally. I run our ISDN booth for radio interviews and coordinate some scheduling for the facility. I answer the e-mail that's generated from our Web sites, which include the Harvard Homepage and sites for some of our publications. I contribute to many of our publications, as well, including indexing Research Matters, a Web site about research at Harvard. I answer inquiries from the media and the public. (Numerical information is my beat.) I help maintain a number of our Web sites, have created several new pages with them, and give input during redesigns. I am the administrator for most of our FileMaker databases, which include ones for tracking media inquiries, basic facts about the university, and the clip citations.

I regularly do research for our office's director, the president's staff, and others on the news office staff. I also assist with many other office functions, like credentialing media during big events at the university.

Jessica Baumgart
Information Resources Specialist
Office of News and Public Affairs, Harvard University

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Last Update: 08/30/05
Amy Disch
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