Staff Spotlight: Rebecca Alexander

March 11th, 2016 by Jessica Farmer, Adult Education Supervisor
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Rebecca in the Washington Park Arboretum

Rebecca Alexander is the Plant Answer Line librarian in the Elisabeth C. Miller Library. In addition to providing reference services, she works on acquisitions, cataloging, and a wide assortment of tasks including editing Miller Library and other publications, and updating the library’s database of questions and answers.

My beautiful picture

A younger Rebecca at the former Union Bay Circle, now the site of the Center for Urban Horticulture

Rebecca grew up in Seattle and spent some of her early childhood years living near the current site of the Douglas greenhouses at the Center for Urban Horticulture. Later on, she lived in the last house before the E. Lynn Street bridge into the Washington Park Arboretum, but her family was forced to move when the SR 520 Ramps to Nowhere were built. Rebecca has also lived in Jerusalem, Berkeley, and Brooklyn. In her spare time, she works in the garden, takes long walks with the dog, bakes bread and pastries, and writes poems.

She has a Master of Library and Information Science degree from the University of Washington, and a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting from Pratt Institute in New York. She also studied French, and Near Eastern languages and literature. College was long ago, but two classes stand out as favorites: a course in Egyptology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem which culminated in a bus trip to Egypt, and a survey of African American History at U.C. Berkeley, both of which shaped her world view as a young adult.

Rebecca was a work-study employee in the Arboretum’s Education Department in the late 1980s to early 1990s while she was in library school. She hoped to work in the Miller Library one day, but it took a while to wend her way back. She began volunteering in the library in 2005, and became a staff member in 2006. The landscapes of the Arboretum, Union Bay Natural Area, and the Center for Urban Horticulture have been a part of her life since she was a small child. She finds it heartening to work in a place that has been so transformed (for the better!).

As the Plant Answer Line librarian, Rebecca answers a lot of questions from the public (in person, by email, and on the phone). She has learned to expect the unexpected, and enjoys finding useful information (in the library’s resources and beyond) and solving mysteries. Every day at work is different. She seeks out new titles to consider, orders books, and catalogs new additions to the collection. At any given moment, she might be working on her quarterly article for the Arboretum Bulletin, assessing a donation of books, compiling library statistics, creating an original cataloging record for a student thesis, updating a booklist, replacing dead links in the Gardening Answers Knowledgebase, or writing a book review.

Rebecca said there are too many special places at UW Botanic Gardens to name just one favorite place. She likes eating lunch on the slab of rock in Goodfellow Grove at the Center for Urban Horticulture. In the Arboretum, she enjoys spying hummingbirds in the Winter Garden and on the Grevillea behind the greenhouse, and brushing the needles of the Montezuma pine in Crabapple Meadow.

She does not have a favorite plant but is fond of Mediterranean plants like Phlomis and Halimium. Grey and fuzzy things catch her eye. They aren’t all fond of wet winters, so she has lost a few. She would love to add a Callistemon and an upright manzanita to her tiny garden, but it might mean evicting something else first!

Plant Answer Line: Going Strong After Ten Years

May 9th, 2011 by Tech Librarian, Tracy Mehlin

Plant Answer Line - click to ask a questionIn the spring of 2001 the Elisabeth C. Miller Library launched a new service designed to answer plant and gardening questions quickly over the phone or via email.

“How do I prune a Hollywood juniper to shape and train it so it looks good?”

The Plant Answer Line is staffed by professionally trained librarians who also have a life-time passion for gardening. The librarians find answers in an extensive collection of books and magazines, as well as online from trusted websites and databases. Over the last decade, tens of thousands of gardeners from all over the world received well researched answers with citations to sources.

“Can you tell me how to grow Hibiscus from cuttings?”

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Buy your Plant Answer Line gear today!

To celebrate the ten year anniversary of the Plant Answer Line the Miller Library opened a Cafe Press shop where travel mugs, caps, book bags and magnets may be purchased all featuring the PAL anniversary logo.

Have a question? Call 206-897-5268 (UW-PLANT) or send a message to hortlib@uw.edu. Plant Answer Line is a free service, but the Miller Library depends on private donations to buy books and pay staff.

“Will I be able to get  syrup from maple trees in our climate?”