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Meet Stacey Wahl: New Research and Education Librarian brings years of science experience to post

October 15, 2018

After several years in the VCU Department of Biology, Stacey E. Wahl, Ph.D., joined the faculty at Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences in fall 2018. As a research and education librarian, she focuses her outreach and teaching efforts on students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty in the basic sciences at the VCU School of Medicine. She offers researchers a unique mix of information management and research knowledge combined with hands-on expertise in laboratory research.

What strengths do you bring to VCU that will help you serve schools/programs you are assigned to work with?

My experience with basic science research is a huge asset. I trained as a developmental neuroscientist for my doctoral work and expanded into orofacial development for my postdoctoral work. Those experiences enable me to speak the language of scientists and talk about targeted areas of their research or classes and determine ways that the library can supplement their work.

In addition, I have written successful grants (here at VCU and elsewhere) so I am familiar with grant writing processes in general, and the administrative side of grant writing at VCU specifically.

What are your goals for the 2018-19 academic year?

My goals for this academic year is really to get to know scientists and researchers and build relationships. So much of what we do as liaisons is specific to our groups and the best way to understand what the needs of basic scientists are is to network with them and ask! In addition to that, I would like to continue to grow my skills as a librarian and learn more about the services we have at VCU for our patrons.

Can you share an example of how VCU Libraries develops custom content for specific courses or groups?

VCU Libraries developed a series of talks for postdoctoral fellows to give to general audiences called the “How-To Talks by Postdocs.” This series has two different, and equally important, purposes. First, the presenters are postdoctoral fellows. This series,  different from the traditional seminars that they would give on their research topics, provides the fellows a platform to develop the ability to talk to a wide audience and to teach that audience. Often, postdoctoral scholars have little opportunity to do this kind of teaching within their research setting so this is a wonderful opportunity. Secondly, these open-to-all talks serve the broader VCU community with presentations on topics that are applicable to a many departments and schools. This enables people to come and to learn about something that they might not have been exposed to previously, and to network with peers who share a common interest in the talk’s topic.  

How do you hope to become actively engaged with the school/programs you will be working with?

I hope to work with the students in my departments to use the library for their research. I hope to work with the postdoctoral fellows to refine their skills and use their knowledge to advance their research, and to effectively mentor the students in their lab in conducting high quality, thoughtful research. I hope to assist the faculty in developing their research skills as well but also help them to develop course content that introduces their students to library resources and helps them to effectively perform literature searches, data management, citation management and developing research questions that are effective.

Please share any observations you have about the unique nature of the programs and people you work with about their unique research/materials challenges its diverse interests present?

Researchers I’m assigned to work with occupy space in several departments throughout the MCV campus. And, basic scientists from the MCV campus also work on the Monroe Park campus. Because the programs are widely dispersed, it will be a challenge to build relationships with everyone, and determine the best points to access folks in order to work with them. Basic scientists usually are versed in search methods, so initiating contact or providing insight into how the library can enhance what they already know how to do may be a challenge. In addition, laboratory space is often inaccessible by the public for security reasons, so getting access to scientists outside of classes may be a challenge in itself!

What are the most common questions or issues researchers face at VCU?

I think the most common questions researchers face at VCU are:

  • How do I make my research questions/methods innovative and collaborative?
  • How do I identify potential collaborators in different schools/departments?
  • How do I identify funding sources that may be interested in my research interests? 

Are there particular services or opportunities VCU Libraries provides that you want to stress?

I would like to stress how useful our webinars are on search techniques. I would also like to show researchers how much information is available in Scholar’s Compass. I am also interested in finding a way to provide useful resources to basic scientists for grant writing. VCU Libraries has several resources already in place for that area. I would like to enhance those resources or adapt them specifically for the basic sciences and publicize them to the students, postdocs and faculty that I will work with.

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