Brains among all the books

Aug 242010
Authors: Erin Udell

Cathy Cranston, a CSU librarian, found a small stack of papers slid under her office door one summer day in 2008. It was a research paper from a student she had helped that previous school year.

This is rare, but rewarding for Cranston.

“I love seeing that tangible outcome of helping a student,” Cranston said. “I might frame it.”

Almost 1.3 million students came through the library doors in the past year, according to CSU libraries, making librarians like Cranston essential to students in search of research materials.

Jenika Howe, a CSU graduate history student, learned of additional research tools when a librarian came in to speak to one of her classes. But many students remain unaware of the nearly 200 databases and thousands of electronic books available through the Morgan Library website.

“I’m here everyday, and I rent a lot of books for research,” Howe said, stressing the importance of using library materials.

Cranston said librarians also instruct entry-level composition classes.

The online collections of electronic journals, research guides and articles can also be considered hidden resources.

“The biggest thing to get a handle on is the range and depth of electronic resources,” said Tom Moothart, the assistant dean of Resource Delivery Services at CSU libraries. “Usually until you need to find something you don’t know that these things exist.”

Matt Weiderspon, a freshman landscape architecture design and art major, was aware of online materials, but did not know he could contact a librarian for specific research guides.

“It’s better to do something like that instead of using Google,” Weiderspon said.

Ten librarians on staff, experts in subjects ranging from civil engineering to musical theater, are available for one-on-one meetings. These librarians can help students navigate overwhelming online databases, creating research guides on certain subjects.

While Cranston enjoys her job, a career as a librarian wasn’t always on her mind.

She studied at the University of Iowa and received her bachelor’s degree in anthropology before receiving her master’s degree in library science from the University of Northern Iowa.

“I got my first degree without knowing exactly what I wanted to do with it, but with librarianship you get such a variety of things to work on by being on the information end of things,” Cranston said.

After working for Morgan library for more than eight years, Cranston still speaks of her job with a kind smile on her face.

Staff Writer Erin Udell can be reached at

*Meet the Librarian: *

  • *Name: *Cathy Cranston
  • Years at Morgan Library: Eight
  • Departments Represented: Anthropology, Music, Theater, Dance, Political Science and Sociology
  • Favorite Book: “Middle March” – George Eliot
  • Favorite Author: P.J. Wodehouse
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