Meet Lori Lysiak, Librarian at Penn State Altoona

Lori LysiakPenn State World Campus students have access to a wide variety of valuable library assets and services. Among the most helpful library resources are the librarians and research specialists. These staff members can assist students in finding information or materials they need for their courses.

We recently chatted with Lori Lysiak, a reference and instruction librarian based at the Penn State Altoona campus. She shared details about her background and how students can enlist her help.

Tell us a little bit about your background and educational interests.

I have an MLIS from The University of Texas at Austin and an M.A. in history from the University of Texas at San Antonio. I love academia and my educational interests are centered on helping students, especially FYE students, become confident and critical thinkers and learners.

What interested you about being a librarian?

Originally, I set forth to be in technical services as a cataloger. I like handling and analyzing materials. I have great organizational skills and absolutely love to create orderly collections. However, my first employment opportunity was in public services where I taught classes and provided reference support. Being somewhat of an introvert, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed public services. I decided to stay on that path and earned my second master’s degree in history for more opportunities to teach.

What are your research specialty areas?

At Penn State Altoona, librarians are generalists. This means we liaise in multiple subject specialty areas. In addition to history, I am responsible for business and economics, criminal justice, environmental science and resource management, political science, rail transportation engineering, sociology, and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies.

What topics do students research most often in those areas?

Topics vary greatly in all of our discipline areas. Whether in the classroom or at the reference desk, I help students think through their topics to formulate a research question. Then we focus on how to construct effective search term strategies to ensure good results in LionSearch or specific databases. I’m embedded in a Penn State World Campus political science course and regularly see topics related to world economics. We also have local students enrolled in World Campus programs. One is enrolled in the homeland security program and typically needs help with topics related to terrorism, human rights, etc.

Are there any library-related memories that stand out for you as a reader? Did you enjoy going to the library as a child?

My grade school didn’t have a library. Each month, a bookmobile from the public library would visit, and we enjoyed release time to explore the books. We also mail ordered books from scholastic. I really liked browsing the scholastic selections and saved my money to buy many books that I still have today.

What are the most random or unusual questions or topics that students have asked you to help them research?

The most unusual questions I get are typically related to patents. Students often want to know how to file for a patent, how much will it cost, and can anyone claim their ideas? I’ve been fortunate to receive patent and trademark training at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and have wonderful colleagues who are also trained. We have a plethora of resources to assist students interested in patent research.

Any specific student interactions that really stand out?

The students who stand out to me are those serving in the military. My husband is a veteran and I used to work as a librarian at an Air Force base. So, anytime I encounter a military student, I go out of my way to make sure they get the best library service and research assistance possible.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I most enjoy when students email me or stop by to let me know how they did on their assignments. One time I was approached by a former student working at a rental car agency to express how much their library instruction helped them. Receiving unexpected feedback like that is when you know you’re making a difference.

What’s on your reading list right now?

I’m way behind on my reading! Titles in progress are Abigail Adams, by Woody Holton, and Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West, by Stephen E. Ambrose. Neither of these titles are new, but that just goes to show how far behind I am!

Favorite thing about being a Penn Stater?

Am I a Penn Stater? A few years ago, a nontraditional student explained to me that a true Penn Stater was someone who was an alum. If you were employed at Penn State and/or married to an alum, but not an alum yourself, then you couldn’t call yourself a Penn Stater. Well, I’m employed at Penn State and married to an alum, but I’m not an alum myself. So, am I a Penn Stater? If I am, then my favorite thing is the fact that our library is consistently ranked among the top 10 in the country. “You can’t have a great university if you don’t have a great library!” (Joe Paterno)

What’s the best way for students to reach out to you for research help?

The best way to reach me is via email at I monitor my email daily even if I’m on vacation. If the nature of a question cannot be answered effectively through email, I’ll invite students to a virtual video-conference appointment via Zoom.

Any tips for how students can best get the most out of Penn State’s library services and resources?

Students should be aware that our Online Learning Librarian is available to assist them with any unique needs or situations they encounter. Her contact information and other valuable information can be found on our web page for Penn State World Campus. It’s a good idea to bookmark this page and become familiar with how to request library materials as well as link to our virtual reference service via our “Ask a Librarian” chat widget. I hope if I’m the librarian that answers questions from students who have read this post, they’ll say “Howdy!” and that they enjoyed the blog!