The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

There’s no place like Grinnell: Kevin Engel, Kistle Citation Wizard

“The things you see on the shelves here are almost a collection frozen in time,” said Kevin Engel, pictured here. Photo by Alex Fontana.

If the admissions office ever needs another genuine Grinnell cheerleader, they need go no further than the Kistle Library office of Kevin Engel. As the College’s longtime science librarian, Engel works behind the scenes as the master of all things research.

“I never set out to be a science librarian,” says Engel. He graduated with a degree in psychology from the University of Iowa in 1986, and accepted a “temporary” job at Grinnell College. Engel has been here ever since.

Engel works with both students and faculty in the science division, often obtaining or purchasing access to databases, journals, e-books and more. Engel glows about his job, saying, “Here you can do a little bit of everything and kind of carve your own niche.” Engel adds, “Being in this environment is, well, exhilarating is not the word … but here no two days are the same.”

When asked about how he feels about his admiring title of “citation wizard,” Engel laughs. Though he is unsure how he got the nickname, he thinks it may be because when he talks to Grinnell classes about obtaining information, he always says, “if you can go to three clicks and can’t get the full text, then send it to me and I can get it for you.”

So why exactly did Engel decide to make his temporary job into a permanent one? His answer: Grinnell students. “I didn’t think I’d ever find another place like this,” Engel says. “The level of caring people have … wanting people to succeed, in my experience, is unique. I may sound like I’m working for the admissions department but it really is.”

During his time at Grinnell, Engel has seen vast changes in the ways information is accessed, used and made available. When he first started, almost all resources were not digital. Gradually, more resources rolled in and now, “very little in print form comes into this library.” In fact, Engel gestures to the Kistle Library bookshelves and says, “the things you see on the shelves here are almost a collection frozen in time.”

Engel notes that “the internet has changed information completely,” which means he has had to develop skills in information licensing, digital rights accessing, and electronic equipment needs and accommodations. Engel also recognizes the challenge for students of sifting through information amidst Grinnell’s wealth of resources. “We’ve tried to create tools to help people parse through information as much as they want,” Engel says.

Students who may perceive Grinnell’s vast library resources as daunting can rest assured that people like Engel are doing behind-the-scenes work to make the College’s array of information easily accessible.

The level of caring people have … wanting people to succeed, in my experience, is unique. I may sound like I’m working for the admissions department but it really is. – Kevin Engel, Kistle Science Librarian

For example, on Grinnell’s library page, students can find library subject guides to help them find information in more specific academic areas of study. Additionally, Engel encourages students using databases to use “facets” (like keywords) to refine their searches. “Those are great ways to make your search more precise,” he says.

Engel also recommends that students take advantage of Grinnell’s extensive catalog of streaming videos. According to Engel, video is a burgeoning area of information in libraries, and he hopes Grinnell students will use Grinnell’s access to over a hundred thousand films.

In a world where publishers can make it difficult to access information, “The goal is just to get the information that people need — faculty, students — into their hands so they can do amazing things with it.”

Now having mastered the ins and outs of literature, scholarships and citations in other fields, Engel says he enjoys “learning together” with inquisitive Grinnell students.

“Grinnell students,” Engel says, “are curious and you want to learn and you’re not always just concerned about the grade, and you ask questions and sometimes the questions can seem probing and inconvenient but they’re not.”

For Engel, these questions are part of the fun. “It’s kind of like learning to read all over again.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Allison Moore
Allison Moore, Staff Writer
Allison is a fourth-year gender, women's, and sexuality studies major from Granville, Ohio. In her spare time, she can be found crafting, cooking, and cuddling with her kitten, Koda. If you think her mini crossword is too hard, then too bad.
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *