ACRL Member of the Week: Alison Scott Ricker

Alison Scott Ricker is a science librarian and head of the science library at Oberlin College in Ohio. Alison has been a member of ACRL for 37 years and is your ACRL Member of the Week for July 25, 2022.

Describe yourself in three words: Science-curious nature lover.

What are you reading (or listening to on your mobile device)? I am reading How the World Looks to a Bee, and Other Moments of Science edited by Don Glass; very brief illuminating ruminations! On my Libby app: The Witch Elm by Tana French. It’s getting both tense and weird. Great escapism with a twisting plot.

Describe ACRL in three words: Profession-enhancing colleagues.

What do you value about ACRL? Opportunities to learn, to share, and to develop collegial relationships that enrich one’s understanding of what it means to be an academic librarian in the ever-shifting environment of higher education. ACRL-sponsored programming in the form of workshops, conference sessions, leadership institutes and social occasions have all contributed  to renewed appreciation for librarianship, and what we as library professionals offer the academic community. ACRL publications likewise increased my skills and knowledge, while opportunities to serve on committees and councils helped develop leadership capabilities.

What do you as an academic librarian contribute to your campus? As a member of the General Faculty, I served as Chair of the Committee on the Status of Women for a number of years. I also served multiple terms on the Administrative and Professional Staff (A&PS) Council, as Chair and Secretary, and as Chair of the A&PS Grievance Committee, plus other committees for the benefit of the A&PS. I am an academic advisor for first- and second-year students, until they declare a major and choose an advisor in that department. My primary contribution to the campus is as science librarian; particularly my efforts to make the science library a place where all feel welcome, such that the facility and collection support study and research, and help to develop an affinity for science that leads to lifelong learning.

In your own words: My MLS degree was conferred on September 1, 1977 – nearly 45 years ago. I never imagined how much librarianship would change over those decades, nor how long I would stay at Oberlin College after arriving in July of 1983. I have often said that it was like having a new job every few years, transitioning from catalog cards, huge indexing tomes, and massive journals to one spiffy electronic system after another. The opportunities to keep learning never stop and work was (and is) always interesting. What has not changed, thank goodness, is the dedication of faculty to impart a real appreciation for science and a zeal for scientific research in students. I am honored to be a part of that enterprise! I feel a huge sense of satisfaction when a student shares their excitement over finding just the right book or online resource, something that answers a burning question or will be critical in continuing a research project or simply delights the reader intellectually. Likewise, the sight of dozens of students scattered around the library, curled into window seats or scribbling on white boards, heads bent over a gnarly problem in a group study session or staring intently at computer screens while a printer jumps to life, all reinforce my belief that the library is central to academic life. What we do undergirds what they do, and that is why I proudly display “I Support Advancement of Science” and “Be the Force for Science” in my office – both gifts of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. A favorite quote on my office window is from Rosalind Franklin, who said, “Science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated.” I would add that science and democracy should not be separated, and the role of librarians for educating voters is very much aligned with our academic mission.


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