How This Librarian Uses New Tech to Promote STEM

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As an emerging technologies librarian with a background in academic health sciences, I draw on both traditional areas of practice and new information tools. This way, I provide just-in-time instruction and research support services to complement the work of science students and researchers.

I provide support for research and academic activities by developing instruction for established and emerging information organization and data visualization tools. These include EndNote, Excel, Microsoft Teams, Covidence, Faculty of 1000 Workspace, and Scopus.

Virtual Reality

In addition to my instructional activities, I am currently leading the development of a virtual reality studio and 3-D printing space in Lister Hill Library of the Health Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. These spaces are designed to provide faculty, staff, and students with a foundational introduction to virtual reality and 3-D printing. Providing these tools and related instruction in the library enables users of these spaces to explore and establish new applications for these technologies in their areas of expertise.

Boosting Internal Innovation

Libraries are the original shared resources core in academic communities. They have a critical role to play in supporting innovation, and can facilitate access to the tools and training needed for researchers and students to quickly explore and solve problems in new ways.

Librarians have long been the information professionals most closely connected with teaching and understanding the complexities of information creation, storage, retrieval, and use. Because of their training in multiple types of information resources, librarians are uniquely positioned to provide insight into the development of new information and knowledge resources (including tools that utilize machine learning and tactile virtual spaces).

The 3-D Library

Librarians already have the training needed to instruct in the appropriate uses of established and evolving information management tools and technologies related to metadata and research data management, data visualization, virtual reality, and 3-D modeling and printing.

To introduce and support the use of 3-D printing on campus, I am planning an introductory workshop that will use the web-based design tool TinkerCad. This tool can create simple digital models of objects that can be created using a 3-D printer. This is the next step in the emerging technologies program facilitating learning and knowledge expansion in this area.

Librarian Tradition Helps STEM Future

This new workshop series will draw on both my traditional instructional experience with resources such as Embase and PubMed — as well as the funding opportunities provided by my institution that allowed me to begin exploring library applications for 3-D printing and virtual reality.

When managed by librarians as a shared resource, virtual and augmented reality tools and 3-D printing tools benefit the activities of faculty and students by helping to create efficiencies in the data storage, management, and retrieval process. Through their work with students, faculty, and staff, librarians providing access and training for these tools provide robust support for knowledge creation at every stage of the research lifecycle.

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