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I Am MLA: Alexander J. Carroll, AHIP

Submitted by Alexander J. Carroll, AHIP; edited by JJ Pionke

Become an “I Am MLA” ambassador today by completing the I Am MLA profile form.

Institution: Sarah Shannon Stevenson Science & Engineering Library, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

Title: Librarian for Science Technology, Engineering, Mathmatics (STEM) Research

Brief description of responsibilities

I help Vanderbilt students and faculty navigate complex information systems in order to find and access the data they need for decision making. In practice, this includes things like helping biological sciences graduate students find relevant journal articles for their dissertations, helping undergraduate biomedical engineering students find relevant engineering standards for designing new medical devices, or helping physician-scientists look up existing clinical trial protocols.

Why is MLA important to you?

The breadth and depth of expertise of MLA’s membership is unparalleled in our profession, and being a member of MLA has provided me with opportunities to work alongside of people whom I previously looked up to as impossibly accomplished information professionals. Thanks to MLA, I can now call these people colleagues and friends.

What was your first library job or first professional position?

I started my career as the agriculture and natural resources librarian at the University of Maryland–College Park. In this role, I worked with students and faculty in animal science, nutrition, and veterinary medicine, which was part of what got me started with MLA!

What has been the most interesting project you have worked on?

Designing and developing a lab-integrated librarian program that embedded librarians into campus research groups. Participating in this program deepened my empathy for principal investigators by highlighting all the multiple priorities researchers have to balance at all times. For example, learning more about the competing demands on researchers’ limited time helped me understand why principal investigators may not comply with things that we as information professionals think of as fairly straightforward (e.g., data availability statements, open access mandates, etc.).

What do you consider to be the most pressing issues or trends in librarianship?

We need to reconsider our service models, which are often still overly informed by legacy, place-based services. To do that, we need to investigate how we can integrate our expertise and services into the work flows of our user communities, rather than expecting them to adjust their practices to fit with our library work flows. The disruption to many of our physical spaces and services due to COVID-19 could present an opportunity to do this by reflecting on ways to separate “what we do” as information professionals from “where we work.”

Bucket list

I would love to visit the national parks out in California! Joshua Tree, Redwood, Sequoia, and Yosemite are all on my list.

What do you do in your spare time?

I love spending time with my wife and our toddler daughter, who these days occupies most of our spare time! For fun, the three of us like going on hikes and trying to identify what animals we see while out in nature.

Five words to describe you

Curious, empathetic, optimistic, loyal, chummy.

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