Meet Zachary Painter, Assistant University Librarian for Science and Engineering

In October 2023, Princeton University Library (PUL) welcomed Zachary Painter as the Assistant University Librarian for Science and Engineering. Before joining PUL, Painter worked as an Engineering Librarian, with a focus in Research and Teaching Support, at Leland Stanford Junior University, including serving as Head Librarian of the Frederick Emmons Terman Engineering Library. Prior to Stanford, he was Engineering and Data Services Librarian at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, a technology and scientific data contractor for the Office of Science Information Management at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and an instructional designer and high school social studies teacher in North Carolina.

Zachary Painter.

Photo credit: Princeton University Library Digital Studio

Can you tell us about your role as Assistant University Librarian for Science and Engineering? 

My role is to provide oversight of and vision for how Princeton University Library interacts with the STEM disciplines. We have a really incredible team of people serving these fields, both in my department and in other units of PUL, and I want to ensure that everyone within science and engineering at Princeton knows that they can connect with us for many of their research and teaching support needs. Of course, I hope to find time to pursue some of my practitioner interests around research computing and maker culture, among other things, at some point too.

Is there a specific area of this role you’re drawn to? 

One of the most impressive things I remember from the interview was the group of external stakeholders who were present for some sessions. I have rarely seen that in any academic library interview, and it said a lot about the opportunity someone in this role could have to work with the broader campus community. I was really drawn to that, and I really do hope to take full advantage of those kinds of connections. I also knew several of the librarians in the Data, Research and Teaching Services team prior to coming here, and the chance to work with them was also something I was interested in.

Are there any pieces in our collection that you are particularly interested in?

Right now we are in the midst of digitizing a large collection of technical reports from the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. I have been active in a group of librarians who are engaged in creating better access to government information from scientific reports such as these, and it is a keen interest of mine to work with. It is likely that some copies of these, or other similar documents, are either irreplaceable or are probably the only known copy in existence, and I think that is an extremely important preservation issue for the scientific record.

What types of students and researchers do you hope to serve in this role? 

A key strategic priority for Princeton is the investment and expansion into science and engineering; there are major national trends towards STEM research in academia. I suspect that I will be spending most of my time with the sciences and engineering, but I really do expect to broadly touch the entire campus community. The liberal arts require an understanding of the sciences in their most flourishing form, just as our advancement in technology is best served by applying the understanding we have from the study of the humanities.

What are your goals for your first year at PUL?

When I spoke to Dean of Libraries Anne Jarvis about the vision that I had for PUL and STEM, she reminded me that Lewis, Engineering, and the new Commons will be at the heart of the current rounds of campus expansion, and the first port of call for many people entering Library spaces at Princeton. There is a lot of power and challenge in living up to that potential. Everything I hope to do in this first year, from expanding the team, to evaluating user experiences, to making our collections more accessible and future-oriented, will be in the aspiration of that charge. Finding the best local pork roll will be a bonus.

Published on November 30, 2023

Interview by Brandon Johnson, Communications Strategist 

Media Contact: Barbara Valenza, Director of Library Communications