Today at Berkeley Lab

Old, New, Digital or Print, Lab Librarians Can Likely Find It With Just a Hint

— By Keri Troutman

Did you know that in Building 50 there is a Berkeley Lab library filled with thousands of books and access to countless scientific journals and publications? They’re all there for your reading pleasure, available to Lab employees with the swipe of a Berkeley Lab badge. And if what you’re looking for doesn’t happen to be “in stock,” there are two excellent staff librarians who can help you find it.

Michael Golden (right), senior reference librarian, and Peter Palath, librarian and scientific publications coordinator, maintain the Lab’s library in Bldg. 50-4030 in addition to the Library Reading Room in the lower level of the cafeteria (Bldg. 54-002). They help employees navigate access to online scientific publications, locate obscure library materials, maintain the collection of hard-copy books, manage inter-library loans, and conduct outreach. Palath also handles the Lab’s scientific publications database, facilitating the collection of scientific reports from the Berkeley Lab community.

Palath came to Berkeley Lab as a library science graduate student assistant and liked it so much that he stayed after he received his degree six years ago. Golden has been a science librarian for more than 20 years — he has a background in chemistry and worked at Texas Tech University and the University of Missouri before coming to Berkeley Lab 11 years ago. Over the course of his career, Golden has seen a major shift in the way scientific library materials are catalogued and accessed.

“I’ve seen libraries move in large part away from paper and toward digital publications over the years,” says Golden. “As a librarian, of course I do love actual books, but there are things you can do electronically that you just can’t do with print. Mass searches are a lot easier to do electronically!”

Golden says that nowadays, most scientific journals have digital catalogues of their collections that go back to their first publication date. The Lab library has digital subscriptions to many thousands of journals. There are some drawbacks to having everything so easily accessible though, notes Golden. “People just come to expect it and don’t always realize or appreciate the costs involved,” he says.

Within the past few years the relationship between the UC Berkeley and Berkeley Lab libraries has deepened. Lab employees now have access to UC Berkeley library collections—and vice versa, as the Lab’s library provides UC with publications that they wouldn’t otherwise have. It has greatly enhanced Golden and Palath’s ability to find what Lab scientists are looking for, both in breadth and speed. All Berkeley Lab employees can check out materials from UC Berkeley campus libraries with their badges. Go here for more details.

While digital communication has become the main way that people “visit” the Lab library, Golden still adds about 100 books per year to the library collection. “I look at what research we’re doing or we’re going to be doing and back it up with everything from introductory material to more in-depth publications,” he says.

Palath says that even though much of his contact with library users is through digital communication, he still gets the librarian’s thrill of tracking down obscure requests. “Recently someone was looking for articles published in the 1950’s and ‘1960s in a Russian-language scientific journal, and it was tricky to navigate through the language and library catalogs to find the articles — it was an interesting challenge, but I was able to find them,” he says.