Though some might think of summer as a time when university faculty relax and recharge for the fall, in fact most are busy conducting research, learning new skills, or establishing relationships with partner institutions. This summer, Kris Jacobi at Eastern Connecticut State University’s (ECSU) J. Eugene Smith Library heads to the Grand Canyon where she is lending her expertise to the Grand Canyon National Park Research Library as part of a sabbatical.
It is Jacobi’s first trip to the landmark since 1974, and she is excited to serve as a volunteer librarian during the National Park Service’s Centennial year. According to Jacobi, working at the Grand Canyon National Park Research Library provides an opportunity to learn new skills while digitizing an essential national resource: over 400 books, reports, and other research materials. “These items are being scanned and digitized because they are either fragile, rare, or heavily used,” explains Jacobi, and will “provide online access to reference documents for National Park Service personnel and beyond.”
Jacobi started her career in 1970 as a student-worker at the University of Connecticut Libraries. She received her Master of Library Science degree from Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) in 1986 and has built her career behind the scenes, ensuring that library materials are properly organized and secured. “I always worked in the technical services side of the house – as opposed to the public services side – in many libraries before landing at Eastern,” says Jacobi. To date, her CV includes Trinity College, UConn School of Law, Travelers Corporate Library, and Mitchell College.
Since arriving at J. Eugene Smith Library as the Head of Cataloging in 1996, Jacobi has overseen everything from staff training and management to developing new and existing collections. An early challenge was a major 55,000-item Dewey Reclassification Project. “I was the project manager,” recalls Jacobi, charged with overseeing a “cadre of part-time professional librarians and library student assistants specifically hired to remove all books and other materials cataloged in the Dewey Decimal Classification book stacks and reprocess them” to the Library of Congress Classification (LC) system. “Essentially, J. Eugene Smith Library had its library holdings split into both Dewey and LC,” says Jacobi. She explains that “this 2-year project was funded to combine the book stacks into one classification scheme before the move from the old library to the new library building,” which opened in January 1999.
While Jacobi maintains that, for her, a typical day at the library truly doesn’t exist, she does mention one constant, detail-oriented and unglamorous duty: creating and updating data in the shared Online Public Access Catalog, CONSULS. This will soon combine the Connecticut State Library, CSU system libraries, and Connecticut’s community college libraries into one very large shared online catalog, set to debut in 2017.
As part of her library faculty duties, Jacobi introduces and demonstrates the breadth of the library’s resources to students. “I interact with students when I give Library Information Literacy demonstrations to a class because the professor has asked me to present to their students,” says Jacobi. This presentation is useful for the students, according to Jacobi, because “there is a vast amount of information resources available to them in the Library or online.”
If trading Willimantic, Connecticut for Grand Canyon Village, Arizona seems like a leap, it’s not the first time Jacobi has plied her trade in far-flung locales. In 2008, Jacobi spent a sabbatical in the Galapagos, working for the Charles Darwin Research Station Library as an International Volunteer Librarian.
“My experience in the Galapagos at the Charles Darwin Research Station Library was also an amazing opportunity for me,” Jacobi recalls. She was assigned as the “cataloger” to help the permanent librarian with the backlog. “By the time I got there, she had moved on to Samoa,” says Jacobi, adding “I definitely learned what it was to be in a one-person library, where I did everything from opening and closing the building, to emptying the dehumidifier!”
Jacobi is thankful for the CSCU resources underwriting her sabbatical. “I think that it is important to mention that library faculty have creative projects that are reviewed by their faculty peers and have been deemed worthy of support,” says Jacobi, who was awarded a CSU-AAUP Research Grant to cover most of the costs of her leave. Jacobi plans to be in Arizona through October. Upon her return, she will complete her sabbatical by researching and writing a manuscript for publication. She will then resume her position at J. Eugene Smith, continuing to improve the online catalog that makes information easier to access, navigate, and understand.
Ultimately, Jacobi believes this research sabbatical will prove beneficial to all parties. “My cataloging knowledge will expand and I will experience firsthand the new world of the metadata cataloger,” says Jacobi, who vows to “bring new cataloging skills back to the CSCU libraries” after her sabbatical.