The Man Behind the Books

UCSD Librarian Brian Schottlaender shares his views on the importance of libraries to students and his plans for UCSD campus libraries. Photo used with permission from UCSD Library.
UCSD Librarian Brian Schottlaender shares his views on the importance of libraries to students and his plans for UCSD campus libraries. Photo used with permission from UCSD Library.

Brian Schottlaender discusses his role as the University Librarian and changes he hopes to bring about in the campus library system.

 

UCSD Librarian Brian Schottlaender shares his views on the importance of libraries to students and his plans for UCSD campus libraries. Photo used with permission from UCSD Library.
UCSD Librarian Brian Schottlaender shares his views on the importance of libraries to students and his plans for UCSD campus libraries. Photo used with permission from UCSD Library.

Winner of the Melvil Dewey Medal in 2010, the Audrey Geisel University Librarian Brian Schottlaender is an innovator of ideas who looks to provide the best for UCSD students and faculty. He has plans to transfer all physical resources into a digital space and to build a cof- fee shop inside the library by Fall Quarter 2015.

Schottlaender has worked hard with his staff to make great resourc- es available to students and faculty with the overall theme of keeping it safe and open for as long as possible. Geisel Library formed its first Library Student Advisory Council this year in order to get a full sense of what students would like to see in the library. According to the council, the two main needs of the students are longer hours and cof- fee available inside the library. Providing longer hours was possible through the opening of the 24/5 Study Commons located on the main floor in the East Wing, which includes more than 500 seats.

“I have security guards who make sweeps through the [Geisel Library] building … just to give me a sense of how many people are here, and apparently 300 to 400 kids are here at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning. That’s amazing,” Schottlaender said.

Currently, Schottlaender is also in the process of planning a coffee shop which will be available during late hours. He hopes to open it by Fall Quarter 2015.

“So we’ve been talking to a couple of people on campus who are kind of in the coffee shop business about possibilities, and I think we’re zero- ing in on a possibility,” he said. “We’d prefer to work with a local coffee vendor, rather than a national chain. We would prefer to have as much Fair Trade coffee and tea as we can get.”

Growing up in Germany where his father worked for the American government in military bases, Schottlaender visited the base libraries where, as a passionate reader, he could borrow countless books and other forms of media.

“ I have this very vivid memory of going to these military base librar- ies and not only checking out books because I was a really avid reader, but they had really cool record collections as well,” Schottlaender said. “And I can remember [that] the first Bob Dylan record I ever heard was from a military base library, and I think it was that exposure … to those libraries that really made me think about becoming a librarian.”

Schottlaender, a collector himself, is personally involved in the Herman Baca archives, which document the Chicano labor movement, and the archive for New Poetry.

“I’m kind of personally interested in [the archive for New Poetry] because I’m a collector myself and I really like modern literature, and that’s where the modern literature lives,” Schottlaender said.

He has also worked at the California Digital Library, UCLA, the University of Arizona and Indiana University, but has decided to come back to UCSD for a second five-year term. Schottlaender says that the reason he has stayed is the innovation of UCSD and how technologi- cally advanced the campus is.

“This campus has an unbelievable amount of technology resources, and so we have really been able to capitalize on those [and] the San Diego Supercomputer Center, [and] we have Calit2 here,” Schottlaender said.

New projects capitalizing on the advanced technology UCSD pos- sesses are also underway. Schottlaender talked about installing a visu- alization wall in the library, which would allow students to picture all kinds of scientific data physically. For example, the wall could visualize data sent by astrophysicists studying the Big Bang — data which would otherwise look like dots meaning absolutely nothing to most people. Schottlaender also wishes to develop digital media laboratories that would allow students to create digital media and have specialists pres- ent to help them do it.

With around four million archival resources available in the library, Schottlaender wishes that students would make more use of the library’s resources.

“So some of that’s on us [librarians], in the sense that we got to make sure you know it … and then some of it is on you, in the sense that you want to want to use that kind of material. It’s really cool stuff,” Schottlaender said.

Schottlaender believes “general information tools” like Google and Wikipedia fail to provide the same rich quality of information that primary research material — like cassette recordings of poetry — does. Geisel Library’s special collections contain an impressive amount of primary research material, including work that has never been and most likely never will be published.

“It’s kind of a cliche, but I believe it, to say that libraries are essen- tial to the learning experience,” Schottlaender said. “We know because there have been a lot of studies done … that the first place students go to when they’re looking for information is Google … and then often, the second thing is Wikipedia … But both of those things are just jumping- off points.”

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