05/26/2011 07:00:00

Caltech Chemistry Librarian Discovers Equation for a Satisfying Career

When Dana Roth took a summer job in 1952, bagging corn tassels for Ernest G. Anderson—a professor of genetics at Caltech who studied cytogenetics in corn—he never imagined that Caltech would be the place where he would build his career.

"Growing up in the L.A. area following World War II, the idea of going to Caltech, which was a truly revered institution, always seemed like an unattainable goal," says Dana.

But thirteen years and three degrees later, including a master's in chemistry from Caltech, he was hired as a chemistry librarian at the institute. That was in 1965. On June 1, Dana and three other members of the Caltech community will receive recognition for their 45 years of service at the Staff Service Awards ceremony.

Dana attributes his interest in library work to the enthusiasm his wife, Eileen, had for her job at the San Marino Public Library when he was a chemistry student.

"I realized that my interest in chemistry was not intense enough for a successful scientific career, so I went back to UCLA where I had received my undergrad degree and got a master's in library science," he says. "After graduation, I was very fortunate to be hired full time in the Caltech Chemistry Library and have been with the institute ever since."

Over the last 45 years, Dana has gained an international reputation as an expert science librarian through numerous publications and contributions to the field. In 2008, he was inducted into the Special Libraries Association Hall of Fame, and in 2009 the Special Libraries Association Chemistry Division established the Wiggins-Roth Award for Outstanding Service. The award recognizes exceptional contributions to the field of chemical information, and is named in honor of Dana and Gary Wiggins, a chemistry librarian at Indian University.

Dana also was the recipient of Caltech’s Thomas W. Schmitt Annual Staff Prize in 2008, the second year it was awarded.

He advises other staff members to enhance their Caltech experience by getting involved with campus activities. "There are a wide variety of educational and social opportunities that make working here very satisfying," he says. In his time at Caltech, Dana has enjoyed pick-up basketball games at lunch, the chance to attend library conferences on a yearly basis, the opportunity to serve as a library advisor at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, and participation in an exchange program at the University of Stirling library in Scotland. 

Nonetheless, when asked what he likes best about working at Caltech, Dana emphasizes that it is all about the people. "It is the daily interaction with the people I work with, both in the library and the divisions, as well as the faculty and students I am able to assist in finding information, that makes Caltech an exceptional working environment," he says.

Written by Katie Neith