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UIC Library Faculty Profile: Paula R. Dempsey, Associate Professor and Head Librarian, Research Services & Resources: About


I joined the Library Faculty in February 2014, charged with shaping the library liaison program to provide innovative, user-centered services in collections development, reference, and information literacy instruction.

Previously, I served in a number of capacities at DePaul University Library, including management of reference, instruction, inter library loan, reserves services, circulation, and the library assessment program at both the John T. Richardson Library in Lincoln Park and the Loop Library. During my service at DePaul, I also earned a PhD in sociology at Loyola University Chicago, with special interest in the sociology of religion and work and occupations.

At DePaul I also taught Sociology 101 and graduate courses in research methods for the School of Public Service.


Core questions for my scholarship on research services and information literacy (IL) include: How can academic librarians most effectively inhabit our educational role? How can we know whether our teaching strategies make a difference in IL outcomes? And how can we successfully bridge the physical and virtual library as sites for teaching and learning?

I have used conversation analysis theory and techniques to examine transcripts of online interactions between librarians and students in several studies. The first examined opening exchanges between students and librarians and showed how they influence the ability of librarians to teach effectively in online interactions. The second focused on the number and types of resources librarians recommend to students and whether providing more specific resources leads to more effective teaching. A third examined how frequently questions are referred to librarians with subject expertise, what prompted referrals, and how they were conducted. Non-librarians are often the first point of contact for students, so proper referral training is key to good library service. The study showed that patrons responded positively when librarians conducted a thorough interview to understand the underlying research need and when they framed the referral as a positive service. The findings contributed to enriched staff training at UIC and were disseminated at a national conference on virtual reference.

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