Albert Einstein once said: “The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.” One of the things that most attracted me to UIUC in 2016 was its library. It was later that I would come to learn about its impressive Slavic collection and the outstanding Slavic Reference Service, and even later that I would graduate from the iSchool and learn by heart that the Slavic Reference Service, now a part of the International and Area Studies Library, has been providing reference and research assistance in all subject areas related to Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies since 1976.
Encouraged by my professors to expand my work experience after many years of teaching Russian, I found myself working at the library— first as a cataloger and then as a reference librarian. It was summer 2018, a busy time for the Summer Research Laboratory, when I started working at the SRS and since then I’ve gained experience not only in answering reference questions but also in conducting instruction sessions, holding one-on-one research consultations, creating LibGuides, organizing and hosting workshops and panel discussions, and much more.
Fast forward to today amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and the SRS has been able to launch the Meet the National Libraries Series and host the Virtual Open Research Laboratory in conjunction with REEEC. This has shown me that being a part of the SRS team truly gives me opportunities to build relationships while learning more about the projects and initiatives of libraries across the world and helping REEES scholars continue their research during times where borders, libraries, and archives are closed worldwide.
To summarize, what I like the most about working at the SRS is the same as what attracts me to librarianship in general— the sense of community and service. Being able to help patrons with the research they are passionate about is a source of true joy.
Olga Makarova is a graduate student in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures and is a Graduate Assistant in the Library's Content Access Management unit at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.