Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium is one of the city’s most popular cultural attractions. In her role as the Shedd’s librarian and archivist, Alisun DeKock keeps track of a multitude of fishy facts displayed on the iPads located in each exhibit for visitors to peruse. When new species are added to one of the habitats, DeKock and a team of Shedd curators do the research to keep the information accurate, current, and consistent.
The Shedd’s library of some 7,000 books is primarily for aquarium staff, interns, and volunteers and is not open to the public. The most popular materials in the collection are the field guides to various fish, plants, insects, aquatic invertebrates, and marine mammals. DeKock says that “staff members take them out on field trips because these printed guidebooks are better organized than most online materials, and Wi-Fi might not be available in some places they are visiting.”
The aquarium’s archive includes many photographic records. DeKock says it has an “interesting variety of underwater cameras and waterproof casings used on dive trips from the 1960s through the 1980s, along with films made on those trips. We have digitized some, and nearly all have been transferred to cold storage for preservation.”
DeKock also helps out with a wide range of research requests, “such as how LED lights affect coral growth, details on wetlands restoration, methods for giving a fish an electrocardiogram, and how to design raptor perches. Each request is a surprise,” she says.
“I never get the same question twice.”