Resource Description Librarian Alayne Mundt is driven to help others. In her work at AU, she strives to make information more accessible to researchers, but before settling down in the DC area, she explored a number of avenues for her interest in service. While working on her BA (as a double major in English and Religious Studies) at the University of Oregon, Alayne’s interest in Judaic Studies led her to study abroad in Israel for a year. Her time there was deeply “enriching,” allowing her to learn Hebrew and more about the architecture and history of Israel. Later on, Alayne joined the Peace Corps and was assigned to Nepal. While there, she taught English to 4th and 5th graders and helped to train primary school teachers. The experience was eye-opening for this Oregon native: “the poverty was intense, child labor was common, and I wanted to help.” Although the culture shock was initially overwhelming, Alayne developed close ties to the friends she made in Nepal, including the members of her host family, “the warmest, most wonderful people on Earth.”
Upon her return to the U.S., Alayne moved to San Francisco and took a job making swords for an armory. As a part of this job, Alayne learned to fence, a hobby that she would love to pick up again. She spent some time making and repairing epees, foils, and sabers, before realizing that she wanted to become a librarian. Alayne switched coasts to attend Simmons College in Boston, where she received her M.S. in Library & Information Science and then relocated to the DC area. She “never expected to stay on the East Coast” but discovered that she likes “living in a place with such a rich history.”
Where can you find her?
When she isn’t speaking at conferences, working on committees, or researching her next article, Alayne can be found in the Technical Services unit within the Library. The behind-the-scenes work at libraries is a mystery to many. Books, films, databases, and journals are added to the AU Library collection all the time, but from the time an item is requested to when it arrives on the shelf, there is an unseen process that must take place. Part of that process is ensuring that our users are able to locate these new materials. Alayne strives to make all of our resources easier to find. Resource description work can encompass a variety of important tasks, such as creating entirely new catalog records for unusual resources such as board games and data sets, making library metadata (information about data) easier for researchers to find by employing web technologies to connect resources across institutions, and maintaining consistency between name changes using controlled vocabularies. Alayne uses this example “if someone is searching for information on Cary Grant, search results should also include materials associated with the actor’s birth name, Archibald Leach.” Conversely, this work allows users to better differentiate between people, places, and things with the same name. For example, if a researcher is looking for information about former president John Adams, it will be easier for her to separate that data from material concerning minimalist composer John Adams. Alayne’s attention to detail and thoroughness mean that the materials in our collection are easier to find through the catalog for anyone doing research at the AU Library.
Why she loves her job
While Alayne was drawn to librarianship initially because of her love of reading, she does not shy away from the increasingly digital aspect of the job. In fact, she finds it exhilarating to be in the profession during a time of great change and growth. The specialization of resource description is “changing very rapidly, which makes it an exciting time to be in the field.” Her attraction to helping others is evident in Alayne’s enthusiasm for improving access to information. She describes her work as “helping to provide broader, better access to Library services and making Library resources more easily searchable and discoverable.” In addition to the satisfaction of sharing information, Alayne “is so grateful for the collaborative nature of this Library; the openness about sharing ideas and working together to improve services. The people here are dedicated to making our Library the best we can for our students.” In addition to the joy she finds helping students, Alayne even finds the fun in her commute which she spends listening to Mötley Crüe, getting pumped up to start cataloging books!
In the community
Alayne serves on a number of committees, including the Senate Committee for Information Services, the WRLC Metadata Committee, the library’s Digital Strategies Group, and as the Vice Chair of the University Library Faculty Committee. She works with Acquisitions Librarian Stacey Marien to write a regular column for Against the Grain, a journal about libraries and publishers. Their column, "Let's Get Technical," addresses practical solutions to technical problems, and they presented together at the 2014 Charleston Conference. All of her work in the broader academic community helps to give Alayne a fresh perspective on solving the puzzles of resource description. The types of materials found in the modern library are changing, as are the methods that library patrons use to find information. Alayne’s expertise and capacity for inductive reasoning make her a perfect fit for the challenging field of resource description.