Science librarian Kathleen Makarewicz is here to help

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Kathleen Makarewicz, science librarian at the Mary Norton Clapp Library, at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Nov. 3, 2022. Anna Beatty/The Occidental

Behind the library’s familiar bustle is a team of staff who maintain library resources and directly support students in their research. New to this team is Kathleen Makarewicz, Occidental’s resident science librarian. Formerly a medical doctor, Makarewicz now specializes in advising students and faculty working in the sciences.

John de la Fontaine, senior supervisor at Occidental’s Mary Norton Clapp Library, said the staff is eager to help students access the resources the library has to offer.

“Our most valuable offering is a trained staff eager to help the Occidental community find what they need for their research needs,” de la Fontaine said. “Whenever Occidental students access scholarly materials, library staff have worked hard in the background to ensure they get what they need.”

As the science librarian, Makarewicz said she meets one-on-one with students and faculty members to discuss research projects, locate sources and teach them more about library resources. Makarewicz said she transitioned from working as a pathologist in a community hospital to a librarian in 2020 in large part because she missed working with students.

“As I got to a point in my career where I felt I was doing more administrative work than patient-centered work, I thought ‘Is this really what I want to be doing?’” Makarewicz said. “I started thinking about libraries. One, because I worked in a library in college and it was one of my favorite jobs. The other thing was that, like a pathologist, a librarian has to keep thinking about things and researching things and giving information to other people.”

Makarewicz said her son was about to graduate from college, and that she felt it was the right time to try a new career. She said she got her Masters in Library Science online while continuing to work as a pathologist.

“At the end of 2020 I said, ‘Well, I’m going to try this!’ I quit my job as a doctor and started applying for jobs,” Makarewicz said. “It took a while because of the pandemic, but I found this position and thought, ‘Science librarian sounds awesome!’”

Erin Sulla, the Arts and Humanities librarian at the Occidental library, said Makarewicz is a great collaborator on all projects, and is truly dedicated to making the library more welcoming to students.

“Kathleen is a fantastic resource for the community in her roles of researcher, instructor, and mentor,” Sulla said. “Anyone needing research help, especially in STEM, should take advantage of Kathleen’s excellent research consultations!”

Makarewicz said in addition to working individually with students and faculty members, she enjoys connecting with the Occidental community. Makarewicz said she is involved with several on-campus organizations, which means much of her day is spent in meetings.

“As you get older, you find out that you spend about half your life in meetings. I’m on an archive committee and the Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion committee here at the library,” Makarewicz said, “I also try to go to events on campus to try and keep abreast of what’s going on. I’m new here, so I like to know what people are talking about and getting up to.”

Outside of work, Makarewicz said she enjoys going on hikes and working in her drought-resistant garden. Like many librarians, though, Makarewicz said her favorite hobby is picking up a good book.

“I just really like to stay on top of new knowledge, which is part of why I like to read. I read fiction for fun, but I also like to read biographies and keep up with all of my medical journals to make sure I’m on top of the different fields,” Makarewicz said. “It’s helpful to be able to have conversations, especially since I still have a lot of friends who are doctors.”

More than anything, Makarewicz wants students to know she and the other library staff are here to help with any research projects or class assignments that may require accessing resources within databases or archives, she said.

“I have several appointments a week, but I wish I had several appointments a day because I think we have a lot to offer as far as helping you access the resources you need more efficiently,” Makarewicz said. “I’m not unusual from other librarians in this, but we all like to continue learning. Having conversations with students allows us to learn and makes the day more fun.”

Contact Eliza Kirk at ekirk@oxy.edu.