Friday, November 28, 2014
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Librarian named to college's top faculty honor

If you're afraid of computers, get out now.

That was the message delivered to Carolyn Burrell as a graduate student in the library science program at the University of California, Los Angeles 30 years ago.

It was the outset of the "computer revolution." Personal computers were an oddity. Yet educators could see a day when those computers would be to the modern world what the invention of movable type printing was to the world in the 1400s.

Carolyn Burrell
Carolyn Burrell

That embrace of computer technology has secured a place in Antelope Valley College's own history for Burrell as she was named today to the college's highest honor, Scholar in Residence for 2009-10.

Burrell's use of computer technology to help students was one of the factors behind her selection for the honor by her colleagues.

A single faculty member is chosen each year for his/her ability to increase knowledge for a specific discipline, open insights for students, and demonstrate dedication to innovation and excellence in education, among other factors.

Burrell was recognized during the college's annual Faculty Recognition Day held in the campus Board Room.

"I was very surprised. It was unexpected," said Burrell. "It's a huge, huge honor from people who are scholars in their own right."

Burrell holds the rank of professor as a reference/electronic resources librarian for Antelope Valley College, a full-time job she has held since 2001. Prior to that, she worked more than a decade as a part-time librarian on campus.

While computers today are a part of everyday life, that wasn't the case when Burrell was pursuing a master's degree. To even have access to a computer, she and fellow UCLA students in one of her classes were taken to an office in Santa Monica where they used a personal computer for the first time.

"It was like Star Trek," Burrell said laughing. The computer didn't even have a monitor, just printouts on paper.

Burrell got hooked on computers. She immediately recognized their value in research with their ability to quickly identify relevant information.

"Computers revolutionized library science. They revolutionized how you search for information," she said. "Once you make something like that available to the public, information can be spread so much faster and so much wider."

Her first full-time job after graduate school led her to work for an oil company in Los Angeles, where she was tasked with building a corporate library.

"They bought me any electronic database I wanted. I had the opportunity to become very familiar with things."

That foundation proved useful after she started working at the college's library.

"When the Web came out, I wanted to get that to students. I wanted to be able to reach them. I developed a Web site for the Library. I think it was one of the first Web sites on campus," she said.

Other work for the library included development of online tutorials for students --an experience she was asked to write about for her colleagues statewide -- and streaming videos. Fellow librarian Scott Lee assisted with the projects.

In addition to technology, modern college librarians have come to play a greater role in teaching research methods to students.

"I've done hundreds of workshops for classes teaching research methods to students," Burrell said. "I like the students. I like the work. I was actually going back to what I wanted to do in the first place, which was teach in the college environment.