When great ideas meet reality, it takes a "can-do" spirit to achieve lasting progress. And maintaining great service throughout the cycle of innovation tests the mettle of people who focus on efficiency, quality, and compassion. We honor those who make our college great.
PEOPLE: THE HEART OF THE CVM
Andre Nault, veterinary librarian at the College of Veterinary Medicine, says he’s a lot like his dog, Luna, a German wirehaired pointer he has trained for hunting.
“They’re a versatile hunting breed,” says Nault. “I can hunt pheasants and ducks with them in the morning, and then hunt grouse in the evening. In a way they’re a lot like me. I know a little bit about a lot of things.”
A dual U.S.-Canadian citizen, Nault grew up in Quebec. He hunts, fly-fishes, and goes skijoring with his dog. He restores old motorcycles, is an amateur photographer, and a songwriter and musician.
He started his career as a wildlife biologist, studying seals on Anticosti Island in Quebec (while fly-fishing for Atlantic salmon) and Canada geese in the Aleutian Islands. He managed a veterinary practice in Minot, North Dakota, treating a mix of companion and production animals.
After a false start in statistics, he remained at the University of Rhode Island and obtained a degree in library studies.
“I’m not going to fall into that stereotype of librarians you probably have known,” he says. Most librarians have backgrounds in the liberal arts. Nault’s training and professional experience in biology “make me a little unique,” he says. “It gets me street cred.” He was hired at the College of Veterinary Medicine in 2005, his first library job. “I was lucky enough to be given an opportunity as a new librarian to be the head of my own library.”
Nault started his job just as libraries of all kinds were undergoing tremendous change. For thousands of years, he says, libraries were physical repositories of print in the form of scrolls or books.
“Then—boom!—everything changed to electronic media,” he says. “That’s a real challenge. So librarians have to think in new and creative ways to handle that significant paradigm shift. Libraries have become more virtual than physical places. Right now it’s all about access.”
To save money, and to cater to students and faculty who prefer electronic to print media, Nault purchases e-books and subscribes to electronic subscriptions. He’s slowly pruning his print collection.
“I can’t necessarily get rid of all the library’s print media, but that doesn’t mean it should be occupying prime real estate here in the Veterinary Science Building,” he says. “A lot of my print can move off campus or somewhere else. So now I’ve got this library of 2,600 square feet that needs to be repurposed. The question becomes, if I reduce the space previously taken up by print, what emerging space needs within the college can I help support?”
One possible answer is a “technology sandbox,” where students, faculty, and other staff can meet and collaborate in flexible spaces and “people can essentially play with new technologies to see how they might work for them.”
A variety of teleconferencing technologies are available right now in the library. In the near future, students might also have access to medical software that lets them study animal anatomy, peeling away layers of skin, muscles, nerves, and bone to study an animal in virtual 3D. Data-visualization software can bring data to life—for example, showing the spread of diseases under changing environmental factors.
“This new software can really enhance their education,” says Nault. “The library would be a good place to host those kinds of tools.”
Nault has positioned himself as a librarian-plus. He has a faculty appointment as an adjunct assistant professor. He helps with admission interviews and teaches in several courses. He is also coordinator of a professional development course, selecting instructors and content.
“I’m really happy that the college was willing to allow me to explore what I can do and to serve in a variety of roles,” he says. “There’s an upside to getting bored easily. I like reinventing myself and learning new things all the time.”