Hidden Figures of Lawrence: Angela Vanden Elzen

Web Services Librarian and Assistant Professor Angela Vanden Elzen.
Photo by Hannah Burgess.

This column is devoted to highlighting staff members that play a huge role in the everyday experiences of the Lawrence community. The goal is to focus on the “Hidden Figures” of Lawrence University and their interests both within, and outside of Lawrence.

In the past few issues of The Lawrentian, there has been a feature about a hidden place in the library called the Makerspace. I wanted to interview the person in charge. I came upon Angela Vanden Elzen, the Reference and Web Services Librarian and Assistant Professor in the Seeley G. Mudd Library.

Elzen has been working at Lawrence for almost 12 years. Prior to Lawrence, Elzen worked in insurance customer service at Walgreens. When she first started at Lawrence, she was working on her master’s in library science full-time and as the library circulation night supervisor part-time for a year. After that, she moved to the full-time position of Interlibrary Loan Coordinator for a little over 5 years. She has been in her current position for 5 years.

“My responsibilities are pretty varied, which is one of my favorite things about working here,” said Elzen. The reference portion includes answering questions at the reference desk, doing research appointments with students and doing class research instruction.

The “web stuff” includes managing the library website, assisting with social media along with library administrative assistant Holly Tuyls and student social media assistant Lilly Donlon and managing the Makerspace and media services along with instructional technologist Arno Damerow and student media assistant Emmi Zheng. In addition, Elzen has had the opportunity to teach some fun classes, including the D-Term class History of Video Games, Women and Identities in Gaming and 3D Printing & Design.

“I also love that I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with so many amazing students and colleagues. It’s wonderful to connect with students and remain in touch with them after they’ve left Lawrence and see all the awesome things they go on to do,” Elzen added.

The Makerspace, located on the first floor, has been in the library for almost three years. It was created out of a collaborative effort of about 15 faculty and staff from around campus in order to integrate innovative new technologies into the liberal arts coursework. The main purpose was to make it available for all academic subjects, not only those that traditionally rely on technology. A wide variety of classes including Anthropology, History, Chemistry, Art and I&E have utilized the Makerspace. The space includes three 3D printers, a sewing machine, an electronic vinyl/paper cutter, a soldering station, 3D scanners and painting supplies.

When asked about the future of the Makerspace, Elzen replied, “We plan to continue to reach out to faculty to integrate the Makerspace technologies into their coursework, and to help the Makerspace club to continue to plan some fun and impactful projects. Around December of next school year, we plan to have a Glowforge laser cutter added to the space. We’ve had a lot of requests for a laser cutter and are excited that we’ve found one that will work in our little space.”

Students who are interested in using the space and equipment for non-academic projects are encouraged to attend the Makerspace club meetings on Thursdays at 7 p.m. in the Makerspace. The Makerspace staff can also be contacted through email at makerspace@lawrence.edu.

In her time at Lawrence, Elzen has learned much about time management. Multitasking is only effective to a point, then it just becomes overwhelming. In five years, she hopes to be doing much of the same work that she is doing now, just being wiser about it. She draws most of her inspiration from family and colleagues.

Outside of Lawrence, Elzen has plenty of activities to keep her busy. “I enjoy playing video games and tabletop games. There hasn’t been much time for that lately with work and kids, unless I can sneak in a little Stardew Valley after the kids are in bed and before I fall asleep on the couch. My husband and I collect old video games and consoles and recently got around to setting them all up in our house. I also enjoy going for hikes with my family at one of the many local nature centers when the weather is a little warmer,” said Elzen.

Creative and witty, Elzen is this week’s hidden figure of note. We should appreciate Elzen for her hard work and dedication to providing a space for students to create and be makers.