ACRL Member of the Week: Russel Peterson

Russel Peterson

Russel Peterson is a research and instructional services librarian at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Russel, a 2020 ALA Emerging Leader, has been a member of ACRL for 4 years and is your ACRL Member of the Week for March 30, 2020.

Russel Peterson

Describe yourself in three words: Attentive, enthusiastic, determined.

What are you reading (or listening to on your mobile device(s)? I am reading Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow and Algorithms of Oppression by Safiya Nobel. I also love listening to podcasts, and some of my favorites right now include Ologies with Alie Ward and Dolly Parton’s America.

Describe ACRL in three words: Supportive, engaging, influential.

What do you value about ACRL? I value ACRL’s commitment to providing opportunities for early-career librarians like myself. Whether it is an early career scholarship to attend the biennial ACRL conference or being a sponsor for the ALA Emerging Leaders program, I am incredibly grateful for the support that ACRL gives to me and other librarians like myself, because it leads to building a more dynamic and well-connected profession.

What do you as an academic librarian contribute to your campus? When family, friends, and even faculty on campus ask me the perennial question, “So, what do you do?” I tell them two things. First, I say, “I teach people how to do research.” This entails teaching undergraduate students in the First-Year Writing program how to conduct searches in our databases and how to evaluate the sources that they find. It also means helping students outside the classroom. I regularly hold workshops for graduate students on using research tools and I have one-on-one reference sessions with first-generation college students in the Capstone Center for Student Success.  In addition, I tell them, “I support researchers and their needs.” This is my way of describing my liaison relationships. I am the liaison to the Modern Languages and Classics department, so I purchase materials for the collection that benefit the faculty and I field any questions about the services and policies of the University Libraries. I often have faculty ask me to come to their classes and teach citation practices or searching strategies. I do extensive outreach in order to cultivate these relationships in my liaison areas.  As I’ve grown into my role, I’ve found that my small contribution has allowed people to see the University Libraries as a place where you can receive assistance whether you are seeking knowledge or creating it.

In your own words: My journey to becoming an academic librarian has manifested a lot of full-circle moments. When I first started college as a TRIO/SSS student, I had a lot of trouble finding scholarly sources for my history and literature classes. Neither of my parents had the opportunity to go to college, so I couldn’t ask them for advice. Instead, I went to the library and asked a librarian for help. Their support and encouragement made me a better researcher and inspired me to go to library school. Now, I’m the academic librarian that supports TRIO/SSS students. I consider myself very fortunate to have that responsibility. And it’s thanks to the librarians that have helped me along the way.

Editor’s Note: Are you an ACRL member? Would you like to be featured as ACRL Member of the Week? Nominate a colleague? Contact Mary Jane Petrowski at for more information.