Lisa Ngo on her favorite items in the collection and why more people are flocking to the Engineering Library

Portrait of Lisa Ngo
Lisa Ngo, engineering librarian, says the original plans for BART's Transbay Tube are among her favorite items in the collection. (Photo by J. Pierre Carrillo/UC Berkeley Library)

What is your role as an engineering librarian?

I purchase materials and inform departments about new collections we have that might be relevant to their teaching and research. I also do outreach to undergraduates and the College of Engineering to promote the space, collections, and services we offer.

What are some of the important services the Library offers to the young engineer?

For undergrads, we’re an important, inclusive space where everyone’s welcome. There’s a community feel, and that’s really important. We also have the course reserves, so they can check out textbooks, and we do laptop checkouts. We’re also a REST Zone, so lots of napping going on, too. For graduate students and researchers, our core services are helping with data management and workshops for their writing.

Do you have any favorite items in the Engineering Library’s collection?

We’ve got some really cool historical Bay Area stuff. We have original plans for where the Transbay Tube was going to go for BART. We also have a big government documents collection, too — a lot of really old and cool technical reports from the Department of Energy and Department of Defense.

What’s one cool project that you’ve helped out with?

When the World Trade Center was hit, one of our civil engineering faculty members was called on the scene to study the steel structures and what actually happened there. He had this cool collection of pictures and documents and reports, and a member of the public made a (Freedom of Information Act) request for public access to those things. We helped make a public website where he could put up all of his documents.

How has the space changed over the years?

We were renovated in 2011. The stacks used to be downstairs and upstairs — it was just shelves and books. The No. 1 thing students had asked for was more study space. So we reduced our physical collection by 40 percent by storing most of it at NRLF (an off-site storage facility), tore out the shelves, and put in the study rooms. (The next year), our gate count went up by more than 100,000 students. They loved it.

Finally, as a librarian, have you ever had to tell someone to be quiet?

Yep, all the time: “Keep it down, put away your food, there’s no food allowed.” We’re known as a loud library.