Part of an occasional series of profiles on Woodruff Library librarians, a valuable resource at Emory University.
With the inauguration of a new president less than two weeks away, and a contentious presidential election season in the rearview mirror, it’s been a busy academic year so far for social sciences librarian Chris Palazzolo. But then, even a non-presidential election year is a busy one in his specialty areas.
Palazzolo is the subject liaison for political science, economics, French, and government and international documents, as well as the head of collection management for Emory University’s Woodruff Library. He’s worked with classes in public policy, American politics, international relations, comparative politics, and theory. He also serves as an adjunct political science professor, teaching a course every few semesters.
Growing up in Memphis, Tennessee, Palazzolo’s background gave him an interest in international affairs. His parents emigrated from France and Italy in the 1960s and early 1970s, and his father lived in Israel for a while. “They gave me an appreciation for the world outside the U.S. and a respect for other cultures,” he says. Palazzolo has also spent significant time in western Europe for both personal and professional pursuits.
Palazzolo earned his BA in International Studies and French from Rhodes College in Memphis, and his master’s and PhD in political science with a concentration in West European politics from Emory.
Both students and professors are drawn to Palazzolo’s zeal for political science and information resources, in addition to his familiarity with Emory’s PhD program in political science, having gone through the program himself. He also works with economics honors students and researchers in the Italian and Spanish departments.
Of all the courses Palazzolo helps students with, he says the public policy class is the most reliant on resources. “That class gets heavy use of the library,” particularly government documents, Palazzolo said. “There are some controversial issues students choose for their projects, such as the Affordable Care Act, or immigration and the DREAM Act.”
Emory political science professor Michael Rich says Palazzolo has worked with his public policy class for several years. Rich says this past semester, Palazzolo held a student workshop on how to access government documents such as congressional hearings and the federal budget; provided an overview of how to conduct a legislative history; and met with some students individually.
“That, along with the online guide to public policy research he prepared a couple of years ago, provided my students with a very solid foundation for completing their research papers.” Rich says. “My students and I are grateful for Chris’ assistance and the support he provided throughout the semester.”
Palazzolo worked with 15 honor students this past semester on topics such as cybercrime and hacking, women’s rights, the far-right movement in Europe, immigration issues, and terrorism.
“Those are always interesting to me because students often focus on current events and developments, and there’s not a lot of journal research that’s been published yet,” he says. “The students have to apply a theory to current events. That’s the big challenge.”
Palazzolo has proved to be a valuable resource to faculty also, locating materials Emory doesn’t have, helping them work with an unfamiliar database, and myriad other necessities.
“I’ve assisted with everything from working on a spreadsheet to finding collections and journal articles or using our interlibrary loan service,” he says.
As an adjunct professor, Palazzolo has taught classes on West European Politics (which he is teaching this spring semester) and French Politics. He sneaks a bit of library literacy into the courses he teaches.
“I will incorporate library skills into the class to get them thinking about issues of political information and statistics gathering, such as how and why they are gathered and used and presented,” he says. “With so much information available online, it’s important to review issues of credibility as well.”
His most satisfying moments as a librarian have been working with students who are enthusiastic about their projects and watching them learn new skills.
“The students in the public policy class are the most appreciative,” he says. “When they look at government documents for the first time, they get a little overwhelmed and they don’t know what to do with them. And the honor students tend to be very passionate about their topics. It’s very satisfying to me because I think these students get much more rigorous projects and I see their enthusiasm when I talk to them about the topics they’ve chosen for their projects.”
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