Support for Teaching and Research: Stories from Faculty

Faculty often tell us how vital our services are to their teaching and research and how integral a role the Library plays in their work. We wanted to share stories from a number of faculty that illustrate the myriad ways in which the Library does just that—from acquiring research materials, to borrowing needed items from other libraries, to working with them and their students in solving complex research or copyright problems.

For more information on the Library’s support for faculty teaching and research, please contact a research librarian.

Patrick Rael Professor of History

Prof. Rael talks about the Library’s support of his new teaching initiative for his Fall ’17 history class.

Sakura Christmas Assistant Professor of History and Asian Studies

Prof. Christmas spoke with Collections Librarian, Joan Campbell, in November, 2016, about her students’ use of Japanese and Chinese historical newspaper databases.

Brian Purnell

Brian Purnell Associate Professor of Africana Studies and History

Prof. Purnell appreciates the range of sources the Library provides, from microfilm to demographic and mapping databases.

"The Bowdoin H&L library is my research lifeline. It is the first place I go when I begin my research. I use the journal database to access and browse the key scholarship in my field. The dissertation abstract database gives me access to the latest scholarship produced in graduate programs and numerous unpublished studies relevant to my research. Two databases have been crucial to my current research projects:  Social Explorer and Black Freedom Struggle. Social Explorer is a demographic, mapping database. I can create statistical charts and compare demographic data in different places and across different eras. The Black Freedom Struggle database gives me access to several key digital primary source collections that are essential to my research on the civil rights and black power movements.

"Even better, these databases, and several others, have enabled me to assign primary source research assignments to my students. In several of my courses, students have used Social Explorer to study changes in urban demography; the Black Freedom Struggle database to conduct research on Martin Luther King, Jr’s life and the history of several organizations in the civil rights and black power movements; and African American Newspapers to do detailed research on moments of urban violence in the twentieth century.

"I should add too that I make use of the library’s microfilm collection, namely its holdings of the Congress of Racial Equality Papers. I’ve also had students use this collection in class project assignments.

"The resources that the H&L offers Bowdoin faculty are quite simply indispensable to the work we do here as scholars and teachers."

Emily Peterman

Emily Peterman Assistant Professor of Earth and Oceanographic Science

Prof. Peterman talks about the speed of interlibrary loan and the helpful assistance of Science Librarian Sue O’Dell.

"In EOS 2020, students conduct a literature based research project in which they select a topic, survey the literature about the topic and articulate a thesis statement about the topic that they can address using the data they find in the literature. This is not a literature review—instead, it asks students to examine datasets, compare findings among studies and pose scientific questions that they can answer by comparative analysis of data in the literature. I teach students to use GeoScienceWorld in this course because it has excellent capability to search by keyword, topic, author AND region—so if a student is focusing on rainfall patterns in the Bolivian rainforest, they can trim the search results to that specific region.

"In EOS 2145, students conduct a research project on a tectonic plate. They are responsible for searching the literature to find data to reconstruct the tectonic history of their plate. Review papers do not exist for this type of research, so students have to find and read in excess of 20 papers. I teach them to use GeoScienceWorld to help them locate materials that Bowdoin has direct access to and how to use ILL to obtain resources not located on campus.

"For my own research, I have yet to find a paper that I cannot have direct access to within 3 days. The new ability to scan papers from the physical collection will only improve the rate of delivery—which is exceptional at a small school. Although we don’t have the expansive (and ridiculously expensive) collections that Stanford has (my previous affiliation), I feel like I can easily access 99% of what I would normally access and that I can gain access to that 1% with a few simple requests.

"In addition to web-based resources, I have found Sue O’Dell to be simply the best resource for library needs at the College. She is happy, eager and readily able to assist my students both in class and out side of class. She has tracked down resources for me and she has great advice for locating key papers and books. She is an incredible asset—and her strengths have improved the caliber of my research because of the access to materials she facilitates."

Joachim Homann Curator, Museum Of Art

In the summer of 2016, Joachim Homann sat down with Anne Haas, Art Librarian, to talk about how the art collection supports his curatorial work.

Hadley Horch

Hadley Horch Associate Professor of Biology and Neuroscience

Prof. Horch talked with Joan Campbell, Collections Librarian, in the fall of 2016, about Science Librarian Sue O’Dell’s help with data management plans.

Ann Kibbie

Ann Kibbie Associate Professor of English

Prof. Kibbie discusses the wealth of early British primary sources available to her and her students.

"In a recent work on eighteenth-century literature, philosophy, and science, Wolfram Schmidgen states, simply, 'This study would not have been possible without the electronic databases that have transformed research in the humanities and social sciences over the past twenty years or so.' I know exactly what he means. My life as a scholar has been transformed by access to a number of electronic databases including, but not limited to, Early English Books Online, Eighteenth Century Collections Online, and British Periodicals Online. Without these databases, I could not even have envisioned, much less completed, my manuscript on the intersections between the medical and literary representations of transfusion in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Searching these databases allowed me to discover a mine of primary sources (such as newspaper and journal articles, novels, and short stories) that had remained 'buried' since the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Because of them, I am able to make new claims about the ways in which scientific and medical knowledge was disseminated in the nineteenth century, and to shed new light on the relationship between medical science and popular culture.

"In my classes, I also introduce my students to the wonders of electronic databases: showing them, for example, in a discussion of fashion in eighteenth-century England, what happens when we do a title search for the word 'petticoat.' How else would we find, and have immediate access to, the pamphlet, 'The Enormous Abomination of the Hoop-Petticoat'? Such minor works add so much to our understanding of the time period, and they also enter into dialogue with major works, such as Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock, which also has a lot to say about petticoats! With such electronic databases, all of my students can have the experiencing of conducting research in primary materials that they would not have had access to without traveling to the Houghton Library (at best) or, more likely, the British Library. There is nothing like this experience of discovery."

Rich Broene

Rick Broene Professor of Chemistry

Prof. Broene extolls the ease of searching SciFinder Scholar for his and his students’ research.

"The specialized resources that Chemistry has through the library allow me to carry out projects that would be impractical without them.  For example Scifinder Scholar, which we acquired at the expense of printed Chemical Abstracts, is making literature searching exceptionally easy for me and my students.  With a graphical user interface for drawing and searching structures, it allows us to search for the actual molecule we want to make as well as that structure as part of other molecules, which would be be practically impossible using the printed CA version.   Additionally, it makes light work of search for papers on a given topic.  I am writing a review with a colleague on hydroacylation in organic synthesis covering the past 8 years:  SciFinder generated links to >200 papers that were relevant, about 100 that I had not read previously, and allowed me to download each of them into my citation software. While this took a very full morning to finish, it would have taken weeks without the tool."