Librarian Aditi Gupta finds balance between family life and work

Librarian Aditi Gupta

You are the Engineering & Science Librarian. What does your work from home look like nowadays?

We are a multigenerational family, so it’s a lot of juggling between family life and work at the moment! My typical day of work, in fact, has not changed much now that we are amidst a pandemic. With the exception of not coming to campus, most of my work is still being done remotely and owing to the fact that instructors had to quickly switch to online instruction, I have been working closely with instructors and faculty in answering their questions about our online collections, acquiring eBooks or offering library instruction sessions.

I usually start my mornings early and try to get as much done before my kindergartener's day begins. Most days, my calendar fills up with research consultations, internal library and university meetings, including committee meetings for associations that I serve on. Like most people, I’ve had to adapt swiftly to using a variety of technologies and offering my library instruction sessions synchronously and asynchronously in an online environment. On a busy day I try, however, to use chunks of my time to schedule some free play/reading time with my daughter and working on my research and writing projects that have been on a back burner for a while.

For National Engineering Month, you invited students to participate in digital scholarship workshops like 3D printing and design. What are the direct benefits that engineering students get from taking these library courses?

The Engineers and Geoscientists of BC (EGBC) marked their 100th anniversary this year. So, to mark this occasion, I wanted to do something special for students and faculty during the National Engineering and Geoscientist month in March.  Most of the courses that we planned to offer focused on developing critical thinking skills in students. However, due to the pandemic, we had to cancel most of the Digital Scholarship Commons sessions. Engineering students are already gaining some of these valuable skills through their coursework, however, at the library, students can learn in a dynamic environment. They can get hands-on experience in a variety of technologies that will ultimately be applicable and help them in their current research projects and course assignments as well as future careers.

What are the responsibilities that librarians undertake when they are on the reference desk?

Being at a reference desk is very rewarding. One never knows the kind of question a student or researcher may ask. Librarians at the research help desk connect students, faculty or researchers with appropriate resources for their research, teach students to apply critical-thinking skills and find information for their assignments, formulate search strategies, and articulate their research questions. I’ve had some of the best conversations with students, faculty, researchers, alumni, and community members at the desk. I am always surprised by how much more I learn by assisting them!

You have created a LibGuide for standards for making PPE during COVID-19. Is there anything else you are pursuing concerning the pandemic?

The members of the engineering and science faculties are very engaged in trying to align their research to address issues related to COVID-19. At the moment, I’m providing support to researchers who are writing grants or require valuable information resources for their research related or unrelated to COVID-19.  I am currently part of a team from engineering and science that has submitted an innovative proposal to secure funding from the recently announced NSERC Alliance COVID-19 grants.  

You were recently on study leave. How will your collaborative research under the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute benefit international students at UVic?

During my study leave, I was privileged to spend a few months as a Scholar-in-Residence at one of the premier institutions in India (India Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar). As a scholar, I was able to make more progress on my current research project. Most of the findings from the research project will benefit librarians to adopt more inclusive teaching practices and tailor their instruction to international students. Preliminary findings of my project suggest that in India, students depend on peers for support, proving collectivist cultures in learning as opposed to individualistic cultures.  Hence, librarians must adopt more strategies to understand the different cultural dimensions that impact international students. Through this study, I am hoping librarians at UVic and globally can make changes to their instructional strategies, and adopt different universal pedagogical methods at the same time.

What everyday ritual do you like doing to start your day?

I usually start my day early by meditating for 30 minutes. My parents follow an ancient method of meditation, and I have been meditating off and on for 15 years now, but lately, I’ve rediscovered the benefits. Meditation is wonderful for your emotional wellbeing, and several studies have shown how mindfulness and meditation can reduce stress and anxiety levels. I feel emotionally and physically better these days. On a bright spring day, I also like to take a quick stroll in my backyard to check on the now fully weeded garden!

Was there a random compliment that a student or faculty member gave you that really stuck in your memory?

I always get humbled by the comments I receive via the UVic Libraries Communications Office’s social media posts! It’s always a pleasure to see how the community at UVic reacts to the assistance I provide. I guess all compliments received are humbling, but I do remember a graduate student in engineering who was looking for proprietary information for his patent. We communicated every day for a week to find answers to his questions, and he was so ecstatic at the end of the process that he added me to his list of acknowledgments. I will take that as a compliment any day!!

What’s your best advice to first-year students new to the academic library experience?

First-year students have to juggle a lot of different things simultaneously, including handling a heavy course load, dealing with the stress of adapting to campus life, and for the most part being on their own for the first time. UVic Libraries offer numerous opportunities to connect with subject liaison librarians who can help students develop critical information literacy skills. However, there is more to the library than books these days! Libraries are no longer only meant to take out a book or find answers to your questions. Libraries are fun, and there is a lot more happening at UVic Libraries now than anywhere else on campus!

When we are not in a pandemic, students can tap into several free cool workshops in-person in the library, relax and unwind on our comfy couches or use the group study rooms while doing their assignments, check out the silent piano, or the multiple multimedia devices to make their first-year life easier. While the library will always serve its primary purpose of finding and identifying the right resources for students, faculty, and researchers, students will probably find that UVic Libraries is a vibrant and fun social space beyond the BiblioCafe. And that piece of information can be useful to get over their first-year anxiety and stress!


Interview conducted by Zehra Abrar