Staff Profile: Vanessa Viola

Associate Director, Branch Services/Librarian II
Art and Architecture Library
Joined New York Tech
Long Island
Staff Profile: Vanessa Viola

A Lifelong Learner

On New York Tech’s Long Island campus is the historic Education Hall, home of the Art and Architecture Library. Working to make sure that all of its resources and services are available and running smoothly for School of Architecture and Design students and faculty is Vanessa Viola, M.L.I.S. (M.S.I.T. ’20), associate director of branch services.

A self-described “lifelong learner,” Viola has found her calling in the library field. With a passion for helping others further their ideas and projects, she spends her time performing everything from research tutorials and one-on-one research consultations to planning the library’s programs and events and contributing to strategic planning, among other things.

“Libraries remain as some of the most democratic places in the world, where people are respected for pursuing information and enlightenment,” says Viola, who did not always expect to work as a library professional.

With her bachelor’s degree in painting and illustration from Syracuse University, Viola spent several years in printmaking and artist studios at Universal Limited Art Editions, a fine art print publisher. There, she produced fine art inkjet prints and edited in digital darkrooms with artists like Jane Hammond, Ed Ruscha, and Richard Tuttle. But, it was her role in documenting artwork for loans, transport, and publications that paved her path to library science and earning her master’s degree in library and information science from St. John’s University.

Viola is assisting in the New York Tech Libraries 2023–2028 Strategic Action Plan, which marks the first time that all campus libraries—including those at the College of Osteopathic Medicine and the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University—are working together across goals and actions. Progress during the first year of the plan has included migration for implementing the new OCLC WorldShare Integrated Library System (cloud-based library services), expanded access to scholarly articles and other library collections with LibKey Nomad, and, in time for the spring 2024 semester, remote access to library resources with OKTA Verify. These efforts serve to improve the library’s digital infrastructure and resource offerings.

One of the plan goals, “Lead the Open Access Movement at New York Tech,” is something Viola takes to heart as she is part of the NYC Open Data Ambassador program. In this role, she is a member of the public who volunteers time to teach others how to utilize NYC Open Data, bridge data literacy gaps, and promote neighborhood and issue-based dialogue. Open data is data that is openly accessible and can be freely used, re-used, and redistributed by anyone.

Through this part of the strategic action plan, the open access movement includes teaching with open educational resources, publishing in an open access journal, and accessing or publishing open data, emphasizing the need for FAIR access to and literacy with open data. Visualizing and analyzing open data and data-driven community research projects are critical for School of Architecture and Design students as they pursue projects regarding the built environment (human-made settings for human activity).

In March, Viola will participate in NYC Open Data’s Open Data Week 2024. In a hybrid session hosted on the New York City campus, the annual festival will be open to design students, educators, and the public. With Elijah Williams, digital technology specialist in the School of Architecture and Design, Viola will co-present her topic, “Practical Open Data in the Classroom,” covering data visualization, examining various data sources to generate maps, graphs, and diagrams, and developing topical lesson plans.

“The Art and Architecture Library is a one-of-a-kind resource on Long Island for its art and architecture collections,” says Viola, who prides herself on the library’s team of “committed and proactive librarians and staff.” This staff includes students, as well, who, while learning research skills, help their classmates navigate library collections, discuss design problems, offer technology tips, and research new and emerging designers through monthly diversity celebrations, guest lecturers, and faculty publications.

The Art and Architecture Library is an invaluable resource to students, faculty, and staff. Collections include a unique print collection, more than 200 online databases, 70,000 e-books, 50,000 online journals, course textbooks, desktop computers, virtual reality headsets, study spaces, and much more. To continue expanding its database collection, the library partnered with the School of Architecture and Design in 2023 to add Material ConneXion and, in 2024, acquired Detail Inspiration. These provide student and faculty researchers with information on material properties and high-quality digitized drawings.

As she continues shaping the library to be a high-level resource for New York Tech students, Viola follows the same advice she offers to anyone striving to achieve a goal—to get uncomfortable. She says, “I often remind myself of retired Navy SEAL Mathew Lehnig's motto, to get comfortable with feeling a little uncomfortable, because that’s when learning happens.”