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Nanoscience and Nanotechnology - the liaison librarians' challenge

The latest buzz-word in scientific, medical and engineering research, or should I say buzz-prefix, is "nano". Nanostructures, nanotubes, nanoparticles, nanocrystals, nano-optoelectronics, nanoscale, nanofabrication, nanotribology - as Aaron Brown might say, "and the list...goes on." In recent nanotechnology news, research on carbon nanotubes has resulted in a way to make the nanotubes emit light. Nanotechnology is emerging on our campus as a major area of research and study. NINT, The National Institute for Nanotechnology was established in 2001, and anticipates housing over 400 staff, faculty, researchers and students in the near future.

Providing information and research services to users and faculty working in nanoscience and technology is a challenge for librarians, as the subject field crosses so many traditional boundaries. At the U of Alberta, researchers in the following areas are working on various nano projects: Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Chemical and Materials Engineering, Genetics, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Physics, Oncology, Chemistry, Biological Sciences, Rehabilitation Medicine, Law, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Pharmacy, Business, Biochemistry, Medical Genetics, Computing Science, and Physiology. Traditionally, liaison librarians work with one or two departments, sometimes three. Nanoscience and technology is a rapidly emerging cross-disciplinary subject, and one or two librarians may find it overwhelming to liaise with professors and researchers across many faculties, keeping them abreast of the latest developments in library services to this area. One solution is to produce a subject guide based on the discipline itself. Traditionally, most of our guides are created to serve the subject needs of a department.

What has the experience been in your libraries when dealing with cross-disciplinary subjects such as nanotechnology?