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Eyes on Earth Episode 92 – EROS 50th: The Library and Science Support

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Detailed Description

The Don Lee Kulow Library has been supporting scientific research at EROS since before the facility opened its doors in 1973. In this episode of Eyes on Earth, librarian Carol Deering explains how, rather than becoming obsolete with the advent of instant access to online journals, libraries are even more crucial for the discovery of previous studies and for gauging the reach and real-world effects of research done by EROS scientists. She also talks about the history of EROS and describes a one-time quest for documents that stretched from UC Berkeley to the Library of Congress to Australia and Kenya.




Public Domain.



Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of Eyes on Earth, a podcast produced at the USGS EROS Center, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Our podcast focuses on our ever-changing planet and on the people at EROS and across the globe who use remote sensing to monitor the health of Earth. My name is Sheri Levisay, and I'll be hosting today's episode. EROS is a scientific hub, home to dozens of scientists interpreting imagery in ways that benefit all of us. When it comes to publishing their work, the researchers, already immersed in data, often turn to Carol Deering, the librarian at the Don Lee Kulow Memorial Library at EROS, for help in combing through the existing literature. Carol, who has been at EROS since 2004, is the seventh caretaker of the library since it opened its doors 50 years ago, and she's here to share its history, as well as talk about her current mission of science support. Carol, welcome to Eyes on Earth. 


Thank you. 


Let's get started with this. Why don't you tell us a bit about the origins of the EROS Library and Don Lee Kulow. 


Sure. Don Lee Kulow, for whom the library is named, was appointed by the EROS program office in 1972 to head the professional services section at the EROS Data Center. He had taught photo interpretation at the University of West Virginia, so he was especially skilled for his task to provide professional assistance and training for potential users of remotely sensed images from space. He organized the first training courses in remote sensing across agencies of the DOI [Department of the Interior]. He also taught an evening class in Sioux Falls, introducing the local business and community leaders to the possibilities for resource management and community planning. He initiated a very warm relationship between the center and the community at that time. Sadly, he was at EROS for less than a year. He passed away in 1973 from complications related to juvenile diabetes. And when the new facility was completed later that year, his wife, Joan, donated his personal collection of remote sensing books as a foundation for the new EROS library. 


Was publication support always a part of the library's mission? 


Indeed, it was. Back in the old days, the focus was on facilitating access to journal articles and other research publications. Scientific journals weren't online yet like they are today, so print journals filled the shelves of the EROS library. Photocopies could be made if the library didn't have a journal that a researcher needed, a photocopy could be requested via a printed form sent to a library or another journal access center. Photocopies and books would arrive each day at the library, I'm told from one of the old librarians here, and they would be distributed to staff throughout the center. Now, of course, we have access to journals online, either through subscriptions or open access. So putting your hands on a journal paper is typically quick and easy, and science staff can typically handle that for themselves. However, the library still assists staff with that access sometimes, but library publication support has shifted in a big way from access to discovery. Staff look to the EROS library for help scouring the scientific literature for finding studies that they need to move their research forward, for helping them stay current in their fields, things like that. And fortunately, just as journals have moved online, the tools used to dig into the literature and find that kind of stuff are also web based, so it makes research and discovery a lot easier than it was back in the old days. 


Give us just a brief overview of your background and how you ended up at EROS. 


I worked in my junior high library in eighth grade, so maybe my career choice was destiny. I don't know. I taught junior high social studies for a year while I worked on a master of arts in history, and while in my graduate program, a fellow student in a class of mine was a librarian, and he talked to me about working in libraries. Just conversations that we had made him think that I would be interested in that and good at it. And I took him up on that. I had the opportunity in the early '90s to return to school and tackle another graduate degree, and I earned that in library and information studies and so began my career as a librarian. I worked first in a public library, and then I worked in a couple of school libraries before finding my dream job-and I say that from the bottom of my heart-my dream job here at EROS. 


What was the library like when you arrived? 


When I arrived in December of 2004, the librarian position had been open for nearly a year, I think, and I remember walking into the library and finding a lot of mail to go through, A lot of returned books and other resources to put away. And I remember finding, too, just a lot of print materials on the shelves and in drawers, in nooks and crannies, that really wasn't inventoried. So what good is having that kind of stuff around if you can't find that stuff? I set about doing a lot of cleaning up in the library. I also took my work manager's words to heart; he told me shortly after I arrived: "Make the library yours." But to do that, I needed to know what staff here at the center needed and wanted. One staff member who has long since retired, he was not shy at all about telling me what his team would like from the library, what they needed: publication discovery to support their research, to help them stay abreast of new research and new developments in the fields they were working in. And as it turned out, other staff and projects were eager for just the same kind of support that he was asking for. What was new in their field? What could I find in the literature to support a manuscript they were working on, that kind of thing. They were really eager for assistance with discovery in the science literature. 


Describe what you do every day. What do you do as a librarian? 


I support all center staff here at EROS in their professional information needs all across the center. If you need help finding information, accessing it, the library is your place to come. Science is, of course, the biggest user of the library, but I assist throughout the center with discovery, access, and even in some cases with management of information. And really that support runs the gamut, day to day. I search indexes of scientific and technical literature. I locate information in other libraries and across the web. I stay current with new resources and technologies. I alert staff to new resources and technologies that are relevant to their work. I enable access through our library internal page and making things accessible here in the physical library, I promote the library and its resources, all that and everything in between-anything that has to do with putting the information that you need into your hands, the library is there. I have to say, though, that in the last few years, staff are also increasingly looking to the library for help understanding the reach and influence and impact of their work, of the work that goes on here, the science publication, the data products. They want to know, how is their published research being cited and used? How often is it being cited? Who is citing it, how, why? Is it being written about in the science news? Is it being cited in policy documents? That's become especially important lately. They want to know how EROS data products are being cited and used as well. Who is using data products in their science studies, and how is it being used? This kind of tracking can be tricky. It isn't as straightforward as determining how many times a specific journal article has been cited. That's pretty easy, but tracking impact and influence is tricky. But it's also very important because understanding how research and data products are being used and applied inside it is critical for staff in the assessment of their work, in determining how well it's meeting the needs of the science community as well as the real world needs of users, determining if that work needs to be reshaped or maybe if new directions need to be charted. So it's something that I'm eager to help with. I know it's important for them, and they're chomping at the bit to get more of it. 


So tell us one story that illustrates how you have helped scientists overcome research hurdles. 


Back in 2016, I had a big request-it turned into a big request. I didn't know it was going to be a big request at the time, but it turned into a big six- or seven-week quest to find four years of a document called the Economic Review of Kenya Agriculture. This is a biannual report. The request came from a staff member who was part of the FEWS, the Famine Early Warning Systems Project, and they needed 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, those reports. He sent me a link to a catalog page from the National Library in Australia describing this document. I set off looking in my resources to find those particular years. I found that the UC Berkeley Library had one year of the report. The Library of Congress, it appeared in the catalog record, had a couple other years. The last year, 2013, I didn't know what I was going to do. I reached out to Berkeley. They were a little bit hesitant to send the document; with a phone call, I begged and pleaded, and they copied it for me and sent it along. The Library of Congress-they're kind of slow to get things done sometimes. Big library, lots of requests. I understand that. Picked up the phone and begged and pleaded with them. They were able to send one of the reports. The other two, I just had to sling emails out there to institutions in Kenya. I contacted, I counted eight as I looked through my emails, but I know there were a lot more before it was all said and done. I sent out emails to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives, the Kenya National Library, the University of Nairobi Library, the National Museums of Kenya Library, their Archives, their Bureau of Statistics. I even reached out to the Kenya Embassy in Washington, D.C. In the end, I ended up getting those other two reports. Again, it took six or seven weeks, but the happiness, the satisfaction of being able to give those reports to the requesters and knowing that they got exactly what they needed-and they said so-was just the best feeling. 


As EROS expands its science mission past 50 years, what role will the library play going forward? 


Yeah, looking back over the last 50 years, the support role of the EROS library has certainly grown deeper, wider, from a focus on just providing access to publications to assisting science staff with discovery and management, and even assessment of information and research. Staff here, as I said, are increasingly looking to the library for help uncovering usage of the center's data products in science studies. Who is using our data? Are they getting what they need from our data? And staff want to know, is our science providing real-world help, assistance? Are we having an impact on people's lives? What can we point to that shows EROS science is addressing problems in our world? How are we impacting policy, and how are we making a difference? The support role, as I said then, is growing deeper, wider. That's going to continue. It's changing its shape, its form. But the role of the library is to provide information to staff-what they need at the time that they need it. Do I ever think about, worry about, the center deciding it no longer needs a library? Not really. And I say that not because I'm the librarian, but because I have common sense. The tools for science discovery, for access, for management of publications, for assessment of published work are many and varied, and they're growing. There's just a lot more out there today than there was five years ago. There's going to be more out there five years from now. And leveraging these tools effectively and efficiently takes skill and experience, but it also takes a lot of time, and the way I see it, it just makes sense to leave this task to the information professionals and thus allow and enable science staff, the researchers, to shine even brighter where they shine their best. And that's doing their science. 


Thank you, Carol, for joining us for this episode of Eyes on Earth, where we talked about the library's 50 years of research support. And thank you to the listeners. Check out our EROS, Facebook and Twitter pages to watch for our newest episodes. And you can also subscribe to us on Apple and Google Podcasts. This podcast. 


This podcast. This podcast. This podcast. This podcast.


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