Q&A with Virginia Pannabecker, assistant dean and director, research collaboration and engagement for University Libraries
In August 2014, Virginia Pannabecker joined University Libraries at Virginia Tech as a scholarly communication and life sciences librarian. She grew into a role coordinating health sciences services and then into leading research collaboration and engagement as director.
As assistant dean, she will guide and support strategic actions to improve the library’s embedded role in research, affiliated policies, and related public engagement, leading the University Libraries’ research services and its One Health approach to a comprehensive health sciences library system with the Veterinary Medicine Library, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine Library and the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute Health Science and Technology Library.
“This change communicates the strategic importance of these areas within the University Libraries, across the university, and to other universities, nationally and internationally, providing increased opportunities for success in supporting all areas of research at the university,” said University Libraries Dean Tyler Walters.
What can your areas bring to the table to help Virginia Tech meet its strategic goals?
The University Libraries has so much to offer in services and partnership areas! Key areas in research collaboration and engagement that I encourage readers to explore are evidence synthesis which informs future research, policy, and decision-making with comprehensive, systematic reviews; research impact services which helps us understand and communicate Virginia Tech’s research impact and engagement; strategic research and industry analysis that analyzes and identifies research trends, strengths, and impact; undergraduate research services; and health sciences libraries and services that offers specialized spaces, collections, consultations, and support services.
How did you become interested in the areas of research services and in creating the robust suite of these services the University Libraries has today?
I love learning about new topics, areas, and ideas, and research is a great way to learn. I like to stay open to possibilities, including learning about different methods, ideas, and practices around what ‘research’ is. There are so many creative possibilities in how we can work with partners in different roles - within academia and broader communities, how we can generate ideas, how we can approach research goals, how we can decide and adapt what we create through results of research processes, and how we can engage and work with others to share findings, implement new ideas, or explore further. In particular, I appreciate opportunities to collaborate towards mutual goals.
Much of my professional development and a significant source of ideas for the services we have today comes from active involvement in professional organizations like the Science and Technology Section of the Association for College and Research Libraries and the Medical Library Association. I’ve been deeply engaged in supporting and developing library research services broadly and in particular for health sciences programs and professions, which focus on research, education, and outreach to and for people. However, increasingly, health sciences takes a broader, more holistic approach, through One Health, Health Humanities, and integration of multicultural knowledge and experiences of overall wellness. These purposefully focus on connections between individuals, society, non-human animals, and the environment in which we all live together. Doing so successfully often requires both deep experience and training in one area, such as immunology or public policy development, along with collaborative, transdisciplinary work with partners in oral history, nutrition, community organizing, environmental engineering, performing arts, public humanities, and more.
While I have spent the majority of my working life in science, engineering, and health sciences libraries, my educational background is in the humanities and social sciences. I also spent three years teaching English as a foreign language in France and Japan. Experience in and exposure to different disciplinary approaches, cultures, and societies can lead to a broad view of what ‘research’ means, why it’s important, and how we can engage with local and global partners to increase its effectiveness for our work and for our communities. This is especially important when working in a public research university with a commitment to local and global outreach and engagement.
How does your position fit your professional passions?
Academic environments and research universities like Virginia Tech are exciting and inspiring places. We also have a lot of work to do towards learning more and acting to increase access to and fully inclusive engagement with university opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds. I’m passionate about increasing access to and opportunities within Virginia Tech and for community members towards engagement and partnerships in research, scholarship, and co-learning. I also love to support transdisciplinary collaboration, international collaboration, and shared access to, engagement with, and impact of scholarly and creative works, as well as programming and events, so that we all have more opportunities to learn from and build with each other.
Leading research services and health sciences libraries with so many experienced, enthusiastic colleagues means I’m continually involved in supporting initiatives that fit my professional interests and passions.