It’s a six-floor trek up to the Birds Library at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Becca Greenstein, a Master of Science in Library Science (MSLS) student who interned at the Smithsonian Libraries in the summer of 2016, found the journey surreal as she travelled up the stairs and back in time to retrieve Ornithologische Berichte. She slowly opened to page 118 and located the first ever mention of Stresemannia bougainvillea — the Bougainville honeyeater.
That’s the sort of experience that affirms Greenstein’s desire to become a science librarian. One day she’s finding obscure German references to tropical birds, and the next she’s cataloguing the humorous titles of various books concerning ferns. The work is diverse, intellectually stimulating, and benefits both institutions like the Smithsonian and the people who count on them for information.
“I have always taken great pride in helping people, especially when I can see the direct impact of my work,” Greenstein said. “So being a science librarian and helping doctors, scientists, or students find that one answer they need for their research or work appeals to me.”
Greenstein received external confirmation that she is pursuing the right career path late last fall when the North Carolina Special Libraries Association (NCSLA) selected her as the winner of the Sarah Aull Student Award. Presented to just one master’s student per year, the honor includes a paid student membership to SLA and an opportunity to participate on the NCSLA board.
A native of Boston, Greenstein attended Carleton College in Minnesota for her undergraduate studies, majoring in biology and minoring in Chinese. After graduating in 2013, she worked as a lab technician in a biology research lab at the University of Minnesota before moving to North Carolina in 2015 to begin her studies at the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS).
Greenstein said the LIS field appealed to her because she has always enjoyed finding new information.
“I love to read, I love to do research, and I love to do puzzles, from jigsaws to crosswords to Boggle,” she said. “I majored in biology because I was drawn by the attention to detail and organization skills required to carry out successful experiments, the way cellular pathways fit together like pieces of a puzzle, and the broad scope of the topic and relatedness to other fields.”
In recognition of her potential as an MSLS student, she received a Master’s Merit Assistantship from the UNC Graduate School and a Sarah Rebecca Reed Scholarship from Beta Phi Mu, the international library and information studies honor society. In addition to the NCSLA award, her honors during her time at SILS include a Continuing Education Award through Association of North Carolina Health and Science Libraries.
Greenstein worked in the SILS Library during her first year, spent the summer with the Smithsonian Libraries, and this academic year has been working for the EPA Library in the Research Triangle Park.
“Becca has done outstanding work for us as an intern,” said EPA Library Director Susan Forbes. “She’s really made the most of the opportunity, getting practical experience with EndNote, scientific literature searching, and library instruction. With her biology background, eagerness to learn new skills and dedication to serving patrons, I expect to hear great things about her future career in science libraries.”
For her master’s paper, "Fixing a Hole: Discerning Usage Patterns of Datasets in an Open Access Data Repository," Greenstein built an SQL database of the Odum Institute's datasets to discern if there were patterns in the number of times datasets from particular years and from different time periods were downloaded.
Though she enjoyed the research and her classes, Greenstein said the work experiences have been the best part of her time at SILS.
During her professional development internship at the Smithsonian Libraries, she refined the collection assessment methodology for the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), a project she said demonstrated “the things you learn in library school really do apply to the real world.” The post also gave her insights into how institutions without students operate and the workflow behind digitizing some materials. [Click here to read a blog post about her work.] Her internship with the EPA Library has been just as rewarding.
"The EPA Library has really shown me how a special library functions," she said. "Although we're called interns, we work and have the same responsibilities as staff members.”
UPDATE 4/27/2017: Greenstein accepted a position as STEM Librarian at Northwestern University Libraries, starting in July.