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Changing With The Times: The Role of the Librarian

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Balmore Ruano | New University

Lorelei Tanji begins her post as the University Librarian with many initiatives and responsibilities.

Converting print library collections to digital formats, exploring technological advances and overseeing student research initiatives are no small feats, but for UC Irvine’s newly appointed University Librarian as of Oct. 1, Lorelei Tanji, these tasks are all just in a day’s work.

Although Tanji is just starting out in this position, she already has years of experience and accomplishments behind her. Tanji first came to UCI in 1990 and served as a fine arts librarian. She later became the Associate University Librarian (AUL) for collections in 2002 and then took on the Interim University Librarian position in April of last year.

Tanji’s start as a fine arts librarian relates back to her undergraduate studies at UC Davis, where she received a bachelor’s in music. She was initially on the path to pursue music, but working as a student in campus libraries inspired her to look into a career path as a librarian. After her time at UCD, Tanji went to UCLA and received a master’s in music and M.L.S. in Library and Information Science.

“I did a number of jobs in the library system, and after a while I began to realize that I liked this environment and I was fascinated by the work that people are doing,” Tanji said.

“The culture of librarianship is sharing knowledge — it’s all about sharing and working together. I liked that very much, so that’s why I made the switch … I kind of woke up and realized that I enjoyed working in libraries, so why not make it a career?”

As the University Librarian, Tanji is in charge of the four different UCI libraries — Langson Library, Ayala Science Library, Gateway Study Center and the Grunigen Medical Library. This role allows her to move forward with various initiatives in order to make what Tanji calls a “21st Century library.”

Some of these initiatives include looking into placing resources on mobile devices in response to the prevalence of smart phones. Because not all library products are available through phones, library employees are working to create a new mobile website so people can go directly to that and see what resources they can access.

Another project Tanji and her colleagues have been working on is increasing the number of study rooms in Langson Library.

“People are finding that this is a quiet, safe study place, but it is also a place for collaboration,” Tanji said.

“So we’ve been trying to add more group study rooms so people can get together with their colleagues and work on projects together so they can talk and discuss what they’re doing without disturbing others.”

The additional study rooms in Langson Library will be located on the third floor and will be available soon.

Aside from providing more spaces for students and making library resources more advanced, Tanji and staff have also been working to preserve born-digital materials, and converting print collections to digital formats in order to keep up with the goal of a “21st Century library.”

“Some of the things that we’re dealing with are materials that are born digital — that is, you don’t have it in a letter or printed format — are emails or documents that are using old versions of Word,” Tanji said.

“So we have what we call digital information forensic equipment to convert that born-digital material into a standard to be utilized, because otherwise you’d have to keep the old computers or software to utilize it.”

Tanji hopes to use her appointment as University Librarian to continue these initiatives and assist the research and educational needs of students.

“I think that the role of the library is changing quite a bit — it’s very exciting. We’re helping students to help facilitate the creation of knowledge, to provide the ability to disseminate that information and make sure that it’s discoverable,” Tanji said.

“We want to continue to be innovative, be creative, to try to be in sync with the campus strategic goals and initiatives, and to support that as much as possible.”