Emma Moore MLIS’12 is Librarian for Mathematics and Natural Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. SC&I was proud to see her appear on the popular game show Jeopardy! and took the opportunity to check in with Moore. She shared the following candid reflections with us, and we couldn’t be more pleased.
Moore on Her Educational Path:
“I’m a Jersey girl by choice if not by birth; born in Boston, I grew up in Lawrence Township, Mercer County. I’m a higher ed staff kid, and some of my first library memories are sitting on the public internet computers in the Princeton University Libraries, exploring the Internet on (this will date me significantly) Netscape Navigator web browser.
“I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do when I was finishing high school. I had been thinking about medical school, or politics (two very different paths), but I also wanted to keep learning as much as possible. I applied to a bunch of places, nearly all in the Northeast, where my family is, but ended up falling in love with Harvard. From being a bigger fish in a medium-sized pond, I became a very small fish in a big prestigious pond; this took a little getting used to.
“In my first few years, I thrashed around a little, but found a home working as an Interlibrary Loan (ILL) student assistant. Meanwhile, I figured out what to do. I also spent four years as the volunteer music librarian for the Harvard Pops Orchestra. By graduation, I had decided that librarianship was the path for me. It struck me as a career that would let me help people directly in big and little ways, while also allowing me to have a fulfilling life outside work.
“To afford library school, I spent three years as a union library assistant with the Princeton University libraries, saving up while living at home with my mother in Lawrence. Again, I thought of going further afield than New Jersey, but the broad, vibrant culture at Rutgers SC&I attracted me. It provided the chance to stay where I loved (plus affordable in-state tuition!). After graduating in 2012, I spent five years as a small-college librarian in lower Manhattan, learning the trade from soup to nuts. I then got the chance to come home in 2017, joining the small community of big minds at the Institute for Advanced Study.”
Moore on Her Career:
“In my current position as the librarian for Mathematics and Natural Sciences, I’m serving a community of several hundred mathematicians, astrophysicists, and theoretical physicists in myriad ways, big and small. My primary duties address collection development and reference service, but I occasionally describe myself as a ‘concierge librarian.’ For the postdocs (they’re here for one, three, or five years) and for the permanent faculty as well, I spend my days trying to make their research journeys and intellectual life run as smoothly as possible. I started out here working with an assistant, from whom I absorbed valuable knowledge and 20+ years of Institute culture. After the pandemic, I became a solo librarian. Six years in, I am still learning something new about this job every day, and figuring out how I can integrate the distinguished history of the IAS into an even more vibrant future.”
Moore on SC&I:
“I came into SC&I a 25-year-old bibliographic specialist, pugnacious and thinking I already knew a whole bunch about librarianship. The MLIS program [now the Master of Information] showed me, in its combination of big-picture classes and deep practical projects, how much more I had to learn. You will not fit everything into a few years, but the program can give you frameworks to organize (or try to) all the things you will then go on to learn in your first or fifth or tenth job.
“In the summer of 2011, my brain had to accommodate both the broad knowledge of Professor Emeritus of Library and Information Science Daniel O’Connor’s Collection Development class, at the same time as I was learning the fine points of humanities and social science reference from the late Mary George. Knowing that many professors had come from the front lines was also a great advantage.”
Moore’s Advice for Future Librarians:
“Make good friends with your classmates now; they will be your network throughout your professional life, however far you travel. You will learn from them, commiserate with them, and they will have your back in good times and bad.
“Even if you go into your library program with a specific idea of what ‘you as a librarian’ will look like, give yourself space to be a generalist; use your internships or part-time jobs to test out other versions of yourself. I thought I would stay in cataloging and metadata, but in the past ten years, I have done much more teaching or instruction than I expected. Sometimes you’ll get lucky, and that job you imagine will be there waiting for you, but much more often, you will have knit things together from multiple jobs or bounce through a few.
“Keep being open to new knowledge and possibilities. I think of myself as an idea magpie (even have a tattoo of one!), accumulating shiny and sometimes eclectic ideas. But I was much more practical-minded in my MLIS program, deciding not to take Human Information Behavior, which I regret now, having paid attention to it in the wild.”
Moore on ‘Jeopardy!’
“In the summer of 2022, my friend (IAS archivist Caitlin Rizzo) mentioned that the ‘Jeopardy!’ qualifying test was now online. As a teenager, I had tried out once in our school tournament, and ‘Most Likely to Be on Jeopardy!’ was even my senior superlative at Lawrence High School. But as someone who struggles with social anxiety, actually being on the show had fallen into the back of my mind. However, after qualifying in the first test, the producers were so friendly and helpful as I made it through the final cut into the contestant pool. I never expected to be called as quickly as I was, and especially not to get “the call” the day my dear grandmother passed away last November at the age of 95. But my family insisted that Gramma Nancy would have plotzed to see me on the show, and it sounded like a great adventure. It is a whirlwind, which goes as fast as you see it on the show, and facing a master competitor like Troy Meyer, I had to be bold, which I think I was, for better or worse. I dug myself into a big hole but was very proud to dig myself out again. The best things about filming (then and afterward) has been the sheer love of my family, friends, and community. Hanging out and then texting with my filming day buddies, and joining the post-contestant groups (Women of Jeopardy!, etc.) is a little like going to SC&I for my master’s: finding ‘my people’ all in one place.”
Photo credit: Andrea Kane, Institute for Advanced Study