Category Archives: Ask a Librarian

Tips & Tricks For Getting Through Finals

The Libraries are here to support you throughout the end of the semester! Here's how: 

  • Stressbusters will be in Butler 203 on Wednesday, December 12, giving backrubs, and offering tips for reducing stress and more. Librarians will also be on hand to answer questions and hand out healthy study snacks. Check out Facebook for more info.
  • Research Librarians and Subject Specialists – find them at the Butler Reference Desk or contact a staff member directly.

  • Librarians are available to answer questions through email, text, and chat.
  • Keep up-to-minute with Library news by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

Anything else we can do? Let us know! Happy studying! Go get 'em! Roar!

Text, Chat, Email – There Are So Many Ways To Ask A Librarian For Help!

Do you have a reference question?

Do you need research assistance?

There are so many ways you can ask a librarian for help.

Librarians are available for everything from quick resource tips to in-depth guidance on research papers and final projects and it's easier than ever to have your questions answered! 

You can call, send an email, reach out with a text message, or chat with a librarian through instant message.

You also have the option to schedule a one-on-one research consultation with a subject specialist librarian in your subject area

Librarians are here to help!

Enter To Win A Kindle Fire!

Enter our IM/text a Librarian poster contest and win a Kindle Fire!

Design a poster about the Libraries’ IM/text a Librarian service! The poster content will also be used as an ad in the Spectator appearing in November!

The best one will win a Kindle Fire. Up to ten other contestants will win an awesome, library approved water bottle!

Deadline is October 15! More information about contest details and how to submit.

Tips for Study Days and Finals!

The Libraries are here to support you throughout the end of the semester! Here’s how: 

  • Extended hours in Graduate Rooms in Butler from December 13-23.
  • Stressbusters will be in Butler 203 on Wednesday, December 14, giving backrubs, tips for reducing stress and more. Librarians will also be on hand to answer questions and hand out healthy study snacks. Check out Facebook for more info.
  • Research Librarians and Subject Specialists – find them at the Butler Reference Desk or contact a staff member directly.

  • Librarians are available to answer questions through email, text, and chat.
  • Keep up-to-minute with Library news by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

Anything else we can do? Let us know! Happy studying! Go get ’em! Roar!


Meet the Librarians: Jeffrey Lancaster

Name: Jeffrey Lancaster

Title: Emerging Technologies Coordinator

Contact Info:

office404 Northwest Corner Bldg,
Science and Engineering Library
mailcode: 4899
phone: 212.851.7138

Library: Digital Science Center, Science and Engineering Library

@ Columbia Since: August 2006 (Ph.D. in Chemistry), with the Libraries since June 2011 

Education Info: 

B.A. Chemistry, Art History – Washington University in St. Louis
B.F.A. Sculpture – Washington University in St. Louis
M.Sc. History of Science, Medicine and Technology – Oxford University
Ph.D. Chemistry – Columbia University

About me: I’m generally interested in the role of technology in scientific research and how the transition to digital media is changing the way libraries are used and conceived.  I’m also interested in information design (infosthetics), taxonomy, emerging uses of social media, and the incorporation of technology in the classroom. 

What’s new at my library: Well, the whole thing is new, really, as of January. We have over 50 PCs and Macs that have a broad range of high-powered software installed. We also have several high-end scanners, a huge flatscreen TV, and Joe’s coffee is right downstairs. 

Personal favorite: Lately I’ve been teaching myself processing.js – a javascript-based platform for visual animation and design. 

Recommended Resources: Anything paper – get it while it lasts!



Librarian Highlight: John Tofanelli

Name: John Tofanelli

Title: Research Collections and Services Librarian for British and American History and Literature

Subject Specialities: American History and Literature, American Studies, African American Studies, Asian American Studies, Latino/a Studies, British History and Literature

Contact Info:

Library: Butler Library

@Columbia Since: 2000

Education Info: PhD in English, Stanford University; Masters in Library & Information Science, University of California at Berkeley

About me: I enjoy working at Columbia where student and faculty research is so varied and interesting and library collections are so extensive. It’s really a pleasure to learn about the research that people are doing and to suggest to them resources that will be of use.

What’s new at my library: American Antiquarian Society (AAS) Historical Periodicals Collection This is a wonderfully vast full-text and full page image database providing access to thousands of periodicals from the collections of the American Antiquarian Society. Coverage begins in 1691 and currently extends to 1852. When the database is complete, coverage will extend to 1877. For nearly any topic that falls within the time range covered, you are likely to find something of interest here.

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Librarian Highlight: Anthony J. Elia

Name: Anthony J. Elia

Title: Public Services Librarian

Subject Specialities: Bible; Historical Theology; Church History; Theological Education, Technology, & Pedagogy; History & Sociology of Reading & the Book

Contact info:, (212) 851-5608, (sorry, no Twitter)

Library: The Burke Library (inside Union Theological Seminary)

@ Columbia since: September 2010

Education info: A.B. St. Lawrence University (Religion); M.A. Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Religion—Bible focus); A.M. University of Chicago (History of Christianity); M.S.L.I.S. University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign (Library Science); Non-Degree work: Study Abroad in Kenya; Gregorian University (Rome); Charles University (Prague)

About me: As a kid I wanted to be either a train engineer or the Pope.  But I was both color blind and not Catholic, so somehow that disqualified me from both.

Later on I dabbled in music and wrote an opera called Silas (1995) about New York Governor Silas Wright and U.S. politics in the 1840s.  Sorry, no Spitzer-drama here—the most exciting part of the piece was an aria with Martin Van Buren and a recitative about a heart attack!  After that, I stuck to religion and travel; I lived abroad, sipped Sprite with an Armenian Patriarch, climbed Mt. Fuji, pressed my luck with Serbian border guards averse to Croatian cheeses, and studied with the Pope’s Latinist (as close to my childhood dream as I’d ever get).  These days I occasionally blog (“On Books and Biblios") and am involved in building a theological library in Guyana.

What’s new at my library: I was new 5 months ago!  But newest is our colleague, Matthew Baker, our new Collection Services Librarian at Burke.  We’ve also re-started a program of exhibits featuring our rare and special collections.  Our first exhibit this year features 19th century hymnals published by NY composers associated with Union Seminary.  We’re organizing a community hymn concert at Burke in April to highlight the collection.

Personal favorite: (Is this where I put my kids’ photos?)

Recommended resources: My colleagues both at Burke and the whole Columbia system, NYPL, Librarians in general.  People ARE resources!  If you have questions, ASK!  You can’t have a conversation with a database!  Well, at least I can’t.

IM a Librarian Extends Evening and Weekend Hours

Welcome back to the Spring semester! To assist with your research needs, IM a Librarian is back and with new, extended hours providing IM support weekday and Sunday evenings!

IM a Librarian Hours:

Sunday: 4:00pm – 10:00pm
Monday – Thursday: 10:00am – 9:00pm

Friday: 10:00am – 5:00pm

Last semester over 1300 questions were answered over IM. Check out all the ways a librarian can assist you.

Librarian Highlight: Mary Cargill

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Name: Mary Cargill

Title: Reference Librarian

Subject Specialities: British and American government documents, all areas of history and the humanities

Contact info:

Library: Butler History and Humanities Library

@ Columbia since:1983

Education info: BA in history from  Beloit College, MA in modern British History from Boston University, Masters in Library Science from the University of Western Ontario.

About me: I take great pride and pleasure in assisting students and faculty with research projects. This email from a professor sums up the librarian I try to be:

I hope you realize that seniors in my section wrote with great affection in their acknowledgments about the help you gave them on their senior essay. "Ask Mary Cargill" became a refrain of our group, and they truly did appreciate your accessibility and guidance. I will be seeing you around and doubtless sending many more queries your way over the summer. Thanks, Betsy Blackmar”

 What’s new at my library: Oxford Bibliographies Online has very good introductory surveys of a number of topics, with references to both print and online sources.

 Personal favorite: Anything that will answer the question, really, but I have found the U.S. Army Heritage & Education Center a great source for all kinds of military history. 

 Recommended resources:

  • The Index-catalogue of the Library of the Surgeon General’s Office, both in print and online is a rich source for all kinds of 19th century social history.
  •  American foreign relations since 1600 : a guide to the literature (Butler Reference Desk,  R016.973 Am3547) is a model bibliography, and very useful for identifying both primary and secondary sources.


Librarian Highlight: Kenny Crews

 Kenneth Crews

 Name:  Kenny Crews

Title:  Director, Copyright Advisory Office

Subject specialities: Copyright and related issues as they are important to the work of libraries and universities.

Contact info: or just drop by if you see the door open in Butler Library, room 507.

Library: Columbia Copyright Advisory Office (CAO)

@ Columbia since: 2008

Education info:  My family taught me how to fend for myself and fight for whatever I am going to get.  Years of sparring over the law have taught me how to endure blows and try to be diplomatic.  I also went to college.  I studied history at Northwestern University, law at Washington University, and I earned a Master’s and a Ph.D. at UCLA in library and information science.

About me:  I’m a copyright lawyer and librarian, working with Columbia University Libraries. The CAO has a central mission to address, in a creative and constructive manner, the relationship between copyright law and the work of the university in order to best promote research, teaching, library services, and community involvement.

I like to work hard and have adventures in travel and ideas whenever I can.  I like rock and roll and Broadway musicals.  I am married to Elizabeth Crews, and we have two grown children and a little fluffy dog.  I like to learn more about my colleagues, so please feel free to introduce yourself. I also recently completed the manuscript for the third edition of my book, Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators: Creative Strategies and Practical Solutions.  It should be available in early 2011.

What’s new:  Each day in copyright brings a steady flow of new things, and I find the change and dynamism of the work to be exciting.  Here is a brief list of some things on my desk right now:

  • Meetings and communications around the University to encourage open access of scholarly works.
  • Reviews and recommendations about publication agreements.
  • National initiative to include “author rights” language in agreements for the acquisition of journal databases.
  • Supreme Court ruling this week affecting the importation of foreign copyrighted works.
  • Copyright bill that actually made its way through the lame-duck Congress and was signed by the President.
  • Meeting about the digitization and access to sound recordings.
  • Meeting about digitization of maps.
  • Proposed language for a possible international treaty on copyright law for libraries and education.
  • Court ruling from the Netherlands that affects access to and downloading of materials there from the internet.
  • Inquiry about the lawfulness of a work of art that is actually made up of lines of computer code that is executable (I am not kidding).
  • Wondering if the court will rule today on the Google Books settlement and what that ruling might mean for us.

Personal favorite:  I refer regularly to some of the extensive treatises on copyright law, especially Nimmer on Copyright. For more provocative thinking, I have enjoyed The Soul of Creativity by Roberta Rosenthal Kwall and The Public Domain by James Boyle.

Recommended resources:  If you have questions about fair use, permissions, publication agreements, the duration of copyright, and more, try the CAO website: I am always happy when people have taken a look at the materials on the website before asking the a question. I welcome your comments!

I also refer frequently to the website of the U.S. Copyright Office ( It provides easy access to informative "circulars" about copyright issues as well as the current Copyright Act, historical materials, and a trove of background materials about the latest developments in the law.