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Rutgers Libraries Launch “Marijuana Research Guide” in the Wake of Legalization

by Sam Leibowitz-Lord

As New Jersey prepares to become the first state in the NYC metro region to legalize marijuana, Rutgers University Libraries have been preparing by putting together the university’s first Marijuana Research Guide.

The Center spoke with professor Judit Hajnal Ward, a research librarian and Alcohol and Substance Use liaison at Mabel Smith Douglass Library. Professor Ward talked about the need for a topic-specific collection of marijuana research at New Jersey’s state university.

“If you search BY OWNER, you’ll see that each librarian created several guides to meet the needs of a particular department, program, or course,” Ward said “A thematic guide, such as the Marijuana Research Guide, is a little bit different.” 

A thematic guide allows anyone with a NetID to access a wide body of cannabis-related publications from multiple academic and government institutions. Medical studies, historical archives, and cultural works can all be found at https://libguides.rutgers.edu/marijuana/

Ward said equal access to reliable information on the subject is absolutely critical during a massive social and cultural shift such as marijuana legalization.

“That’s why I chose to collaborate with other librarians so that users should be able to get started at a one-stop shopping place to find what they are looking for,” Ward said. “Additionally, the details of legalization and the subsequent questions in the various areas it affects are yet to be seen.”

The first few tabs follow the pattern of regular research guides: how to find books, articles, videos, data, and government documents. Learning from her colleague’s experience in Colorado, California, and Washington States, Ward instructed her team to add  a New Jersey-specific tab. It lists the local resources and current status. 

The “Rutgers” tab serves a variety of purposes. Highlighting research and teaching related to marijuana was the main goal, but we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to reach out to students with a What Students Need to Know box, referring them to the appropriate campus policies. 

The “Pot Culture” tab is named after a popular book, which, unfortunately never made it back to the Alcohol Library. It presents additional reading material and streaming video, as we consider guided reading, also called bibliotherapy, an important supplementary tool for substance use problems. It is featured in another guide called 4R @ Rutgers: Reading for Recovery, created at the CAS Library in 2015-2016 with the help of an ALA Carnegie-Whitney grant.

“As subject specialist for addiction studies at Rutgers University Libraries, my job includes selecting relevant titles in all addiction-related areas,” Ward said. “The Anne C. Webster Memorial Fund from the Center of Alcohol Studies inspires me to follow publishing trends in the field and contribute to the collection of Rutgers University Libraries (RUL), consistent with RUL collection development policies. A topic like marijuana will allow the acquisition of both scholarly and popular titles.” 

The Alcohol Library collection had always been extensive and multidisciplinary, given the nature of the field of substance use studies.  For this particular guide, similarly to many others nowadays, one of the most important criteria for inclusion was access.  The book will be available for Rutgers affiliates conveniently, online with their NetID,  with unlimited access.

In addition to alcohol topics, the Webster Fund also allowed Ward to complete the acquisition of major scholarly titles in the past, along with some other books, related to marijuana. Following the footsteps of E.M. Jellinek, who was committed to collect, index, and abstract the world literature on alcohol studies back in the 1940s for the Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol, the predecessor of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs published at CAS, Ward is committed to cast a net as wide as possible, including some popular titles, self-help books, and memoirs.

“Librarians and information specialists often partner with researchers and practitioners to provide science-based marijuana information for the general public,” Ward said.

Disclaimer: The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Center of Alcohol & Substance Use Studies