Cataloging a Shared Love of Natural History and Books 

The Academy of Natural Sciences has been a part of the Drexel community for over a decade. And we have a lot in common — promoting research being near the top of the list. 

So, it makes perfect sense that our Library & Archives — with over 250,000 published titles and one-of-a-kind materials spanning over four centuries — is the place to go for studying the art of natural sciences, environmental history or the effects of climate change and biodiversity loss. And to ensure this research continues, the Library & Archives has been combing through their shelves to make these books and archives even more accessible to the students, professors, staff and librarians across Drexel’s campus. 

We reached out to Ellie Sear, a recently graduated Drexel student and work study employee in the Library & Archives, to learn more about this important effort. 

Tell us about yourself. 

I was a fashion design major with a minor in fine arts in Drexel’s Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. While the primary focus in my career has been design and the arts, I have always had a passion for natural history, as well as a love for libraries and reading.  

I am from the Milwaukee area in Wisconsin, and I’ve had the opportunity to go on a lot of hiking trips with my family in the Western United States, which has only increased my appreciation of nature. Since I was young, my parents have prioritized reading, and I spent a lot of my childhood and teenage years in and out of my local library branch.  

I’ve done multiple projects in the past few years for my fashion classes that are natural science based, such as my two collections ‘Oceania’ and ‘Insectum’ which are inspired by marine life and monarch butterflies, respectively. 

So, when I was looking for a work-study job for my senior year of college, I went to see if there were any opportunities available at the Academy of Natural Sciences. This job has been such a breath of fresh air for me.

What does your day-to-day work in the Library & Archives look like? 

During my shifts, I’m often working on the ongoing projects that my supervisor, Cataloging Resources Librarian Briana Giasullo, and I have been taking on. I am also reshelving books that are out on loan, flagging issues in the stacks, and inventorying the reading room. These items are more routine and take up less time than the catalogue project.  

Often, I listen to audiobooks while I am working, which is a great way for me to work through my ‘To Be Read’ book list that is ever-growing. I also find a lot of very beautifully designed book covers while I am reshelving, and I love seeing these for design inspiration. 

What’s the catalogue project? 

We’re going through the old card catalogue of the main library stacks and combing through all the cards to see if there are any books in need of being cataloged. I take one of the drawers from the filing cabinet and go through it manually, scanning cards that have indicators written on them that they may not be in the online system.  

After scanning them, we go through the flagged cards and search them within the online library database, and if they aren’t logged in there, then they are documented into a separate spreadsheet.  

After the flagged serial numbers have been reviewed, I go through the stacks physically and check if the item is still at the library. If it is and hasn’t been cataloged, Briana will catalog it.  
Once cataloged, the item is discoverable for everyone in the Drexel community in Drexel’s DragonSearch. 

As a nature and book lover, what is your favorite part of the job? 

I think my favorite aspect of my work is being able to wander in the stacks, whether it’s checking for books from the catalogue project or reshelving them. I really enjoy just being surrounded by books, as well as organizational tasks, so these are both enjoyable for me. The work is a needed break from my studies and projects, and I am able to be in an environment that I love. Being surrounded by books and also being in a museum is and has been a perfect combination for me. 

I’m incredibly thankful for my time at the Academy, for the perfect job for my time at Drexel, and for my co-workers who have all been kind and welcoming to me. 

The Academy’s Library & Archives is open to the public and the Drexel community for research Tuesday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., by appointment only. We also offer consultation to those unable to visit in person. 

 Inquiries about our collections and requests for research appointments should be sent to or 

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