In April, National Librarian Day puts the spotlight on librarians: Did you know ODOT has a super-talented one? Meet Laura Wilt!
“I was working at a public library and decided to go back and get a library science degree,” said Laura Wilt, ODOT librarian. “The librarian position at ODOT became available as I was finishing my program in 2004. The idea of working in a ‘special’ library (school, government, etc.) was appealing, so I applied and was chosen for the position. It was a steep learning curve at first, but I’ve truly enjoyed my time at ODOT.”
Wilt said the most rewarding part of her job is working with such a great group of people — “both the ones that I’ve worked with directly, and those from other parts of the agency who come to me with requests. I enjoy being able to provide resources and services that can fill an information need or make someone’s work a bit easier.”
Wilt provides resources for Principles of Engineering, Fundamentals of Engineering and Surveying professional exams, creates literature searches and reviews, and provides interlibrary loans. She also does a fair amount of historic research, often done for members of the public, to provide information such as when sections of a highway were constructed near a relative’s property.
“It’s satisfying to be able to give them a link to their family history,” she said.
“I remember getting a cell phone call from one of our ODOT historians,” Wilt recalls. “He was on an old alignment of the Pacific Highway in southern Oregon; it was now on land owned by the Bureau of Land Management, but still maintained by the state because of the homes along the stretch. He was very excited, because the original pavement was still intact, and it was a style of construction he hadn’t seen before — bituminous pavement lanes with concrete shoulders. He asked me to try to find some information on this.”
As Wilt researched this combination pavement, she found a reference to a 1914 American Society of Engineers paper from the society’s newly-formed committee for establishing road construction standards. Looking up the paper, she found that the committee had endorsed this system of pairing concrete shoulders with a bituminous pavement.
“Once I knew what I was looking for, I found several examples of this construction in our historic photo collection,” she said. “It appears that the Highway Department applied this early standard on portions of the Pacific Highway, but quickly abandoned the practice.
“Sometimes it’s like trying to solve a puzzle, looking for the piece of information that will make sense of a question.”
She’s up for the challenge, though, and encourages others to consider a similar line of work. Her advice:
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Network with other librarians, and become active in the organizations that support them. Other information centers in the state, including the State Library of Oregon, State of Oregon Law Library, and the Oregon State Archives, are also great sources of support. And have fun!”