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About the Library: Mr. Harry Nuttall

This guide introduces you to the Houston Cole Library.

Mr. Harry Nuttall

Q & A with Mr. Harry Nuttall

Q: How did you get started working in libraries?

A: Let me begin by saying that there never was a time when I was not comfortable in libraries. I’ve always been at ease in them, always felt at home in them, and always appreciated the possibilities they offered for intellectual and personal growth. To answer the question specifically, when I began library school, in addition to a research assistantship I had an internship at the main branch of the East Baton Rouge Parish public library, which served the entire southern half of the parish. I interned a year and a half. The supervisory librarians there trained me well.

Q: What is your background?

A: B.A. in English with a minor in history, M.A. in English, M.L.I.S. in librarianship.  Between the two Master’s degrees I got in all the coursework and the minor field examination toward a Ph.D. in English (external minor, education).  By then the glut of Ph.D. s that already was afflicting history had begun to be felt in English as well, so I course corrected into library science, at that time a much more marketable degree.  I knew that some academic libraries subdivided their public service/reference librarians into the broad academic disciplines of sciences, social sciences, and humanities, while a few went even further and specialized within the disciplines; for example, art, business, history.  Because the building drives the collection arrangement and almost forces subject specialization among the reference faculty, Houston Cole Library and JSU were a perfect fit for me.

Q: What do you do in your role as … at the Library?

A: I am a reference/teaching librarian in the Public Services Department of Houston Cole Library and also am the literature subject specialist, which means that in addition to my reference/teaching duties I am responsible for coordinating with my campus liaison departments -- primarily English, but also drama.  I communicate with faculty regarding curriculum support for the classes they teach but also make them aware of new publications which align with their research interests.  I teach students, mostly in freshman English classes but also in other classes as well as individual consultations, how to use information tools and sources for their research assignments.  This is everything: print, electronic databases, internet.

Q: What is your favorite thing about (or most memorable experience) working at the Houston Cole Library?

A: Favorite thing: working with students!!  Always, that’s the best.  Solving problems.  FINDING STUFF!!!  Turning up something for faculty that will assist them with their research.  (I like challenges.)  Best of all is helping students obtain the knowledge and skills that enable them to do for themselves and become independent, self-directed learners long after their formal educations have ended.

Q: What do you like to do when you are not working?

A: Put old, abused, neglected stringed musical instruments on a workbench to try to get them playable again and give them back their lives.  I am a Beatles brat, but my current musical preferences run to Americana/roots/traditional string band music.

Q: Describe yourself in three words.

A: Curious. Enthusiastic. Tenacious.

Q: What are some fun facts or interesting things you would like us to know about you?

A: In library school at LSU, I was my Dean’s research assistant, and as such helped her with editing the American Library Association division journal RQ.  Issues of RQ I worked on wound up being a set prop in the first “Back to the Future” movie, in the scene where Marty wakes up in his bed after his return to 1985.

I’m not going to say anything about the Emmy

Q: In your own words… (tell us what you think about our profession, our Library, our University)

A: So far the 21st century is less the digital age than it is a transition period where digital and analog technologies must learn to co-exist, and researchers and students must learn to efficiently and effectively navigate both formats. Because so much information is so easily accessible now, the challenge is less to find information than it is to find the right information. This, and the current emphasis in education on teaching students critical thinking skills, makes it difficult to understand the move to marginalize libraries.  One of the things librarians excel at is the teaching of critical thinking skills, and libraries are ideal laboratories for this.  There is almost no activity that library users can engage in that does not involve some degree of critical thinking, from simply choosing a book for leisure reading to working out a research assignment.  But teaching these skills properly requires extensive interaction with students, a continuous process which ideally would begin as a coherent program advanced incrementally through the school and public libraries, to be refined by the academic libraries: a sustained initiative which would equip students to find the answers to questions they will encounter in both career and life.  That these critical thinking skills for the most part are transferable is an added benefit, as they help students develop learning agility -- the ability to apply what is learned in one situation to another -- a skill which can be a powerful predictor of success. In preparing students for career and life, libraries are an underutilized resource.