CEAS Spotlight: Ted Baldwin, director, science and engineering libraries

Introducing a new Q&A series for CEAS alumni featuring faculty, staff, students and alumni

Ted Baldwin works as director of the science and engineering libraries at the University of Cincinnati, where he helps students find the information or learn the skills they need to succeed in their chosen major. He oversees the College of Engineering and Applied Science Library, the Chemistry-Biology Library and the Geology-Mathematics-Physics Library.

head shot of Ted Baldwin

Ted Baldwin

Q: First, tell us a little about the background of the college’s library. Has CEAS always had its own library?

A: CEAS has had a dedicated library in some form throughout its long history, on both the applied science and engineering sides. The library for applied science dates back to 1828, when the Ohio Mechanics Institute (precursor to the College of Applied Science) was founded. Fun Fact: Thomas Edison actually made use of the applied science library in the 1860s while he lived in Cincinnati and worked as a telegraph operator. The engineering library was established in 1916, bringing together book collections from numerous college departments. The applied science and engineering libraries combined in 2009 to become one CEAS Library. CEAS Library still resides in its original 1916 space in Baldwin Hall.

Q: I imagine this year is going to be different for the libraries during the global pandemic. What changes have been implemented to help support students who may be taking classes remotely?

A: We definitely face a challenging situation, like many other CEAS units, and we remain focused on supporting students as much as is safe and possible. CEAS students live, study and work all over the world, and we have vastly increased our collections of online information resources to help them succeed. They have truly appreciated the expanded access to online books, engineering handbooks, research journals, and standards and codes. The librarians supporting CEAS programs are based remotely this semester. We are already providing a great deal of virtual assistance to students, from consultations on literature searching to online teaching to courses on information search skills.

Q: Does this mean we are seeing the demise of “real books” (i.e. books in print)?

A: We are in a very interesting time when it comes to print books. The library still needs to buy some books in print — sometimes it’s a matter of extremely high costs for the e-book, sometimes it’s because the book is only available as a print book. Students enjoy the convenience and availability of e-books, but some mention how they do like to study and work on projects with a print book open beside them. It can be tiring to read and work solely from one or more computer screens. In acquiring items for the library, we try to provide the broadest access possible while still honoring the love for the print book.

A special print-focused collection at CEAS Library is the textbook reserves which contain a few copies of each course’s textbook for students to borrow. Most textbooks are not available for a library to license in e-book form, so we continue to grow this collection in print form. In the current environment, we are still providing borrowing access to the textbooks and other print books through a zero-contact “Click and Collect” service. Our hope is that the textbooks reserves help make college a little more affordable for those students in need.  

ceas library

UC's College of Engineering and Applied Science Library

Q: The textbook reserves collection sounds like a great program. What is another service that you feel benefits CEAS students the most?

A: I am very proud of our commitment to helping CEAS students gain important technical skills that better equip them for classwork and future employment. The library teaches foundational workshops year-round including a four-workshop series on Python programming (our most popular by far), GitHub, MATLAB, LaTeX and more. Last spring, we shifted these workshops from in-person to Webex. Attendance exploded to nearly 70 students per session! We hear great comments from students about how these workshops got them started in a good place for more advanced self-learning.

Q: We often have alumni who inquire about what library resources are available to them. Do they have access to anything as alumni?

A: Our licenses for online journals and books allow for “walk-in” usage on public workstations by those no longer affiliated with UC.  Library doors across campus are re-opening in limited phases this fall.  Alumni are welcome to come in and make use of these. 

Q: What about the college’s history? Does the library play any role in preserving or educating about it?

A: The library exists in a beautiful space inspired by the college’s history and many artworks acquired by students in the early days of the college. In recent times, we have expanded our roles to include telling the stories of CEAS, inspiring students to reflect upon many aspects of college history and showcasing rare and unique items from CEAS Library’s collections. We just received four new display cases, purchased in collaboration with CEAS Student Tribunal and the CEAS administration. These will contain displays reflecting on both engineering and applied science/OMI and library and archival collections. Prospective students considering CEAS for their studies walk through the library on their college tour. They already enjoy the library’s curated display of documents and objects donated by Neil Armstrong (UC professor 1971-79). We hope that these additional displays will pique their interest and give them a broader sense of what is special about CEAS.

Further, with respect to our role in preserving the college history, we are growing our efforts to develop digital collections that enhance online access and storytelling. Through support from CEAS alumnus Michael Valentine, BSEE ‘73, we digitized Cooperative Engineer, a CEAS student-run publication from 1921 to 1975. This publication opens a window into student life, UC campus activities and engineering and technology achievements from many days gone by. We are selectively digitizing other historical items and plan to grow online availability alongside the in-person displays.

Q: Can you share with us your favorite spot in the library as well as your favorite item?

A: I absolutely love the ambiance of the library’s reading room and often hear it called a “crown jewel” of UC’s campus. However, my very favorite spot is just next door to the reading room in my own office. I am lucky to have a view of the Schneider Quad (same as the reading room). I also have a few artworks to enjoy while I work, including the signed photo that Thomas Edison gave to the library in gratitude for use of the library’s collections.

My favorite item from our collections is a unique bound set of original drawings entitled “In the Days Preceding the Automobile,” donated by CEAS (OMI) alumnus D.W. Miller in 1923. Mr. Miller graduated in the late 1800s and was famous for his perspective drawings of horse-drawn carriages. He was the first to publish the drawings in color, and it’s amazing to see the many types of carriages that were in use at the time.

Ted enjoys connecting with alumni—feel free to reach out to him directly via email.