Meet Carmen Cole, IST Research Consultant

We recently chatted with Carmen Cole, a research consultant for IST at the Penn State University Libraries. Here’s our conversation:

Please give our readers a sense of your background and educational interests.

I have a BA in English and Creative Writing from Penn State, an MFA in Creative Writing from Bowling Green State University, and an MLS from Clarion University. My educational interests have diverged greatly from what I originally set out to do; however, I learned much from my original educational path. I taught Composition while at Bowling Green, and I believe that gave me a good grounding in acquainting students with the research process and ethically using information.

What first interested you in the field of library science?

After some time away, I knew I wanted to get back into academia.  I knew two people that are currently employed as librarians, had followed their careers trajectories on social media, and had always been intrigued by their jobs.  That, combined with my passions for helping others and being a believer in people having equitable access to information ultimately led me to pursue getting an MLS.

What topics do you find that students research the most in the field of information sciences and technology?

This is a difficult question to answer. Because the College of IST is so interdisciplinary, I have received questions about Java, bioinformatics, human computer interaction, artificial intelligence, cyber ethics, moving target defenses, and Enterprise Architecture-related questions. Typically, students tell me what their topic is, and we brainstorm search terms for the databases to retrieve relevant articles or materials for their needs. The College of IST has a robust Penn State World Campus presence, so I feel fortunate to get to work with a large number of students with a diverse range of research interests.

What would you like our Penn State World Campus students to know about library resources that are available to them?

Penn State World Campus students have all of the same library resources available to them as resident students. When I am purchasing resources for students enrolled in programs in the College of IST, I make sure to purchase the electronic version of materials when possible. That way, Penn State World Campus students are able to instantly able to access material rather than wait for physical materials through InterLibrary Loan. Of course, InterLibrary Loan is always an option. If World Campus students have questions about how to obtain materials (articles, book, eBooks, etc.), they can contact me at any time!

Can you tell me about a story where you’ve helped a Penn State World Campus student access library information?

I have students enrolled in programs throughout the College of IST contact me from all over the world with questions about how to access materials, how to best search for articles on a particular topic, or on to simply how to get started with a research project. Students are welcome to share their assignment guidelines with me, and together we can consult about how to leverage the library’s resources to best support whatever they’re working on.

Do you remember your first library book or library visit?

I’ve always been a huge reader. Even now, I typically read (for fun) an hour or so in the evening. That’s how I like to relax. Although I don’t remember my first time going to the library, I know my parents often took my sister and I to the public library when we were growing up. One of our favorite books was The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher. There aren’t any words in the book, but we enjoyed looking for the Strawberry Snatcher on each page. I recall that being a book we always wanted to borrow!

What is at the top of your reading list right now?

I have an enormous “Want to Read” list on Goodreads, but I’m excited to read Swing Time by Zadie Smith, The Underground Railroad by Colson Underwood, and Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime.

What’s your favorite thing about being a Penn Stater?

I grew up in State College, AND I’m a Penn State alum, so I am passionate about the university and all that it has to offer students. One of my (many) favorite things about being a Penn Stater is that you run across Penn State alums almost everywhere you go. Because there are so many of us, you really are hooked into an amazing network. I find that Penn State alums have a passion for their alma mater, and are committed to helping out their fellow alums whenever possible. For Penn State World Campus students, try to interact as much as possible with your fellow classmates. You never know what those connections may lead to down the road.

What is the best way for our students to reach to you if they need help with a library topic?

The best way to get in touch with me is via email ( I monitor my email closely and typically respond fairly quickly. If I am traveling or on vacation, I put up an “out of office” message stating as such and will give alternate contact information. If students want to communicate via phone or Zoom (Penn State’s video conferencing platform—like Skype), we can set up appointments via email. My mission is to ensure Penn State World Campus students receive the same level of attention and service as our resident students!