Why I Serve: Politics Librarian Jeremy Darrington

Monday, Feb 10, 2020
by Benjamin Gelman ’22, Pace Center Student Correspondent

In this monthly Q&A series we aim to highlight the projects and contributions of those in the Princeton community, including faculty, students, and staff, that engage with service in unique ways. This month, we spoke to Jeremy Darrington, a Politics Librarian at Princeton University. Jeremy helps students and faculty find data and resources for their research, and he purchases resources in all areas of political science. His interests include political science data sources, European politics, information and technology policy, and government information.

What is the role of a politics librarian?

“My role is primarily two-fold. First, I’m the liaison between the Princeton University Library and the Politics Department. I support the research of all scholars on campus (undergrads, grads, faculty) who work on topics related to politics by connecting them to relevant data, sources, and collections. Second, and closely related, I build the Library’s collections by purchasing and collecting material in a wide variety of formats across the broad domain of political science.”

How do you view this role as connected to civic engagement?

“Libraries in America are one of our oldest and perhaps most democratizing institutions. By connecting scholars, to ideas, sources, and tools, I see my role as empowering their efforts to dig beneath the surface of complex issues and contribute to reasoned debates about how to improve their communities, societies, and, ultimately, the world.”

Why are you passionate about this field?

“Politics touches nearly every aspect of our lives, so the topics our scholars study are both incredibly varied and endlessly interesting! I love helping people find just the right information to move their research forward. It’s enormously gratifying to see students come into my office feeling bewildered about where to start their research and have them leave feeling confident and excited about working with the resources we’ve found.”

What kinds of services could people come to you for on campus?

“For anyone doing research on any topic related to politics, I can help them find data, statistics, books, articles, news, or other kinds of resources. They can also contact me with requests for purchasing books, data, or other politics-related material for the Library. I spend a lot of time doing one-on-one consultations helping students, especially seniors, with research scope and strategy—how to take an interest and turn it into a tractable researchable question.”

How do you view the importance of politics and political education on a college campus such as Princeton?

“The solution to any of the pressing issues facing our nation and humanity is ultimately a political one—who decides what course to adopt? Who will benefit? Who will pay the costs? etc. If one of the University’s primary goals is to serve the nation and humanity, then everyone associated with this campus—students, faculty, and staff—needs to learn about politics in order to understand how it shapes the issues and their possible solutions. I would hope that would lead people to engage with public officials about issues that matter to them or to get involved in other ways. Most of all, though, I think learning about politics can help us realize that the big challenges facing society are more complicated and the solutions more uncertain than slogans or soundbites suggest. We need more humble inquiry and sustained engagement.”

What do you wish more people knew about you and your role?

“That I’m here to help people with their research. Many people, students especially, have ill-defined or anachronistic notions of what librarians do. Too often I hear from students how they spent hours going in circles alone before coming to see me or another librarian for help. The Library has fantastic librarians who know their disciplines well and know how to help people find the data and material they need for their projects. An hour with a librarian is an investment in your research that will pay big dividends.”