Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I was lucky enough to be able to inteview Mary Ellen who works with a virtual library. She works at Hess, which is an oil company. Her duties include maintaining virtual technical library collection, provide technical reference to geotechnical communt; manage information resource orientations and training for new employees; collaboration with internation team members on research and reference topics and projects; support development of content management and image capture project and maintain vendor relationships.

Mary Ellen has no physical library space beyond a few shelves in her cubicle. There are some books available, but not place to put them for easy access for the researchers. Her job is mostly negotiaion. Negotiation with researchers such as: "Find me anything you can on ..." She finds abstracts and sends them to the researcher, and they contact her back and say yes or no. She also spends time in negotiation with vendors.

Mary Ellen stated that while being in a virtual library is new to her, she enjoys it. She finds that many of the newly highered researchers straight from college are not used to the virtual library. The company is moving into a new building and she is hoping to be able to set up a place where researchers can physically browse the books she does have.

When asked about if she thinks her job will become unnecessary, she replied, "As long as the people who make the money by finding the oil need me, I'll be there." Her number one priority is making sure her value is noticed. She stated, "If I become obselete, it is my fault."

She always makes sure to pass on whatever information she finds along with the phrase, "I didn't find this by Googling!"


  1. I applaud Mary Ellen's attitude that, "If I become obselete, it is my fault." That is so true, even in a library with books. It sounds like she wears many hats, not only of reference librarian, but engineering researcher, human resources and collection management-that's a lot of hats! Also seems to me that this is definitely one of those positions that best benefit from a strong science background. I also find it interesting that the newbies a confused by the virtual-only set up, since we oldies expect them to be totally emersed in electronic resources and would prefer it above actual BOOKS!

  2. I also thought Mary Ellen's statement "If I become obsolete, it is my fault" was right on target. It was interesting to read about your interview with her. Explaining to patrons and managers how you add value ("I didn't find this by Googling!") is something we all should learn to do.

  3. Mary Ellen is certainly in a difficult job situation where she really has to promoted her librarian skills in her own virtual library. As difficult as her job situation may be ( Becoming obsolete ), she able to project the high value of her information seeking skills to be noticed and as she states "I didn't find this by Googling" I guess you can say that she found her niche in a nontraditional library setting.

  4. I was so glad to hear that someone actually interviewed a virtual librarian. At this point I think that this might be the direction I am headed. I would love to work from my B&B/home with possible "office hours" at another location. Mary Ellen's comments truly inspired me and gave me a better idea of what a virtual librarian does. (More than "googling"!)

  5. Great interview! I do a great deal of my work electronically, but I do have a physical library to utilize and for my patrons to browse. Being completely virtual presents some interesting challenges. I'm happy to read that Mary Ellen has such a fantastic attitude about it.

  6. I have to agree- what a great attitude. I also like the description of reference services being a negotiation between the librarian and the user. You mentioned it in the pros and cons section- but not in the interview proper... I wonder, does Mary Ellen have the oportunity to do outreach? Say, advertise a new vendor or database purchase? or teach user-centered classes about database searches?