MLA Featured Library Employee — Kat Wright

Kat Wright

Meet our Featured Library Employee for the Missouri Library Association, Kat Wright!

What is your name, your library, and your role at the library?

My name is Kat Wright and I am the Assistant Manager at the Smithville Branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library.

What originally got you interested in working at a library?

My love of books and reading spurred me to study English in college. When my children were little, I would bring them to Storytime at the Library. I really enjoyed the atmosphere and the connection the library made with the families and the community. Storytime was a lot of fun for everyone with great books, music, and activities for kids to enjoy. I knew it was the place for me!  I was able to find a position working as a Storytime librarian and loved every minute of it!

What keeps you coming back every day?

The wide range of customers we see and the great co-workers I get to work with! Libraries make an impact in so many areas of the community, that keeps the job interesting and fun. It is so rewarding to make connections with individuals and groups and see how those partnerships develop into projects that make an impact in the community. Seeing how each staff member has a niche and connects with various groups and customers is really inspiring to me.

What’s challenging about your work?

I was promoted last year to Assistant Manager and moved to the Smithville Branch from the Parkville Branch. Learning about a new community and a new job can be challenging and fun. I miss working with the little kids and families at storytime but learning new skills for my position has been exciting. Being as flexible as possible and open to change has been important, especially as we have been working through the pandemic.

Has your work made you either curious, or passionate, or awestruck about something?

I think my passion for Early Literacy has continued to grow over the years. I have seen the important role that libraries play in providing materials and programs for young children and their families. Libraries can often be a bridge to literacy for families by providing them with a social space to experience books and music. I have had many parents tell me that they don’t have the first idea of how to help their children learn to read.  But after coming to storytime events they begin to get more comfortable with Early Literacy and their confidence inspires them to be great teachers to their children. These experiences inspire me to try and find unique ways to promote other services to the broader community and find ways to reach the people who need our services the most.

Who is one of your mentors?

My current mentor is probably my boss, Stacey Franklin. She has been very supportive of me in my new role, while being honest with me about my strengths and weaknesses. Stacey has helped me to embrace new technologies as well as evaluate every aspect of my job. Her kindness and sense of humor has helped me get through many different situations. We have worked together since last August and I have learned so much from her!

What book, author, artist, show, or music are you engaging with this week, either personally or professionally? Persuade us in one or two sentences that we should pick this up, too.

I am currently reading Barkskins by Annie Proulx. Spanning 300 years, it tells the story of the settlers of New France in 1693 and the treacherous mysteries that occur when French and English trappers live alongside the Iroquois and attempt dominate the land. It’s also a National Geographic miniseries.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

I am taking my final class this summer to complete my MLIS from the University of Missouri. I am so excited to be finishing this goal and look forward to focusing on my family and career in the coming months!

 

Would you like to nominate someone to be our next Featured Library Employee?  Examples could be:

…a new employee you’d like to introduce

…someone with a unique job or on a unique career path

…an employee you find inspirational

…a coworker whose gifts you wish were more widely known

…someone who’s “an institution” full of interesting stories

…a role that has a new focus or is reaching a new audience

…someone you’d like to make more visible to potential employers

Submit name(s) and contact information, along with place of employment, to Shannon Mawhiney at smawhiney@missouristate.edu.  We’ll do all the work of contacting; we just need you to connect us!

MLA Featured Library Employee — Whitney Gerwitz

Whitney Gerwitz

Meet our most recent Featured Library Employee for the Missouri Library Association, Whitney Gerwitz!

What is your name, your library, and your role at the library?

Whitney Gerwitz; St. Charles City-County Library; I am the Government Documents coordinator at the Middendorf-Kredell branch.  I work with the Government Publishing Office to deliver current and relevant government information to the public.  I teach classes on voter registration, how to research candidates and issues for the election, how to search and find Congressional and local bills, decipher fake news, and many other government-related classes.  I love keeping people informed and making sure they have fun while learning!

I also work with another coworker on a series we created in 2017 called Current Conversations where we focus on current and somewhat controversial topics within our community such as racism, immigration, climate change, and prison reform.  We bring in local professionals who are experts within a specific field in order to allow open and honest discussion between members of the community.  After running it for a year, we contributed a chapter to a recent publication, Social Justice and Activism in Libraries, on how other libraries may implement a similar series at their own libraries based on our experiences.  This year, we successfully applied for a grant from the Missouri Humanities Council to help fund the series, so that’s exciting!

What originally got you interested in working at a library?

I actually ended up at the library completely by accident.  I spent most of my college life in a library instead of a sorority house or going to college parties (lame, I know).  After I graduated college, I applied to the library near my house in order to work while I was in grad school, but little did I know that twelve years later, I’d still be here.  When I started working for the library, it was right around the time the recession hit, and I realized how big of an impact the library has within the community.  I never realized the extent to which public libraries go for its patrons and how much of a cornerstone it is to a free society.

What keeps you coming back every day?

Knowing that you are a part of the community and being able to fulfill any need within the community is what keeps me focused on my job.  Being in Government Information, patrons approach me frequently regarding government and social services in hopes that I am able to help them enroll in social security, apply for disability, or help with taxes.  I may not be able to offer direct assistance, but I guide people on where to go and how to get the information they desire.  It also gives me ideas on what our community needs and can help plan programming accordingly, such as Medicare enrollment assistance or legal assistance with a non-profit legal organization, so those people can get help when they need it.  It always amazes me the amount of trust people put in libraries and librarians. They will come to us for any and every need they have.  Maybe I feel flattered that people put so much trust in me and the wonderful people I work with, but it’s a feeling that makes you want to keep coming back.

In light of recent events, it has become even more obvious how important libraries are to the community.  Libraries from all over have been able to come together and adapt to the needs of their community whether it’s offering virtual programs, providing hotspots, using their buildings as emergency distribution centers, utilizing their 3D printers for face shields, and more.  This took us all by surprise but the way libraries and their staff have adapted, it makes me proud to work in this profession.  I look forward to being able to walk back into my building and see what the future holds for libraries.

What’s challenging about your work?

No one day is alike when you work at a library, so there are always different challenges you face whether it’s dealing with the public, staffing issues, or keeping yourself up to date with technology.  I think the biggest challenge, however, is something every library faces and that’s trying to be resourceful while continuing to be creative and captivating when you have limited funding.  While challenging, this can be done!  Government Documents may not be the most exciting topic to some but when you build a photo booth from PVC pipe and equip it with an iPad, you can have people express why certain Amendments are important to them, give them patriotic photo booth props, or have them read famous speeches from history, and it will suddenly spark an interest in that topic.

Has your work made you either curious, or passionate, or awestruck about something?

It has certainly made me more passionate when it comes to information literacy and making sure people receive credible information.  I love that I work in a Special Collection made up of primary sources.  When someone asks me to find a book on a certain topic, specifically something they just heard in the news, there may not be a book published on the topic yet but I can almost guarantee I can find a Government Document on it!  Being able to find documents that are obscure to spark other’s curiosity or documents that are applicable to current events is like Christmas for me.  I love being able to share my passion with others!

Who is one of your mentors?

I have so many influencers in my career and personal life that it is really hard for me to pick a mentor.  I will have to say we have a great and supportive Government Documents group in the St. Louis area that meets a few times a year to see what everyone is doing in their libraries.  They are always available for questions and assistance when you need it and everyone works together so well.  Our regional coordinator at the University of Missouri, Marie Concannon, is such a great advocate for open records and mentor!

What book, author, artist, show, or music are you engaging with this week, either personally or professionally? Persuade us in one or two sentences that we should pick this up, too.

I grew up in the 90s and am starting to feel really nostalgic lately so I have been listening to a lot of 90s music.  This must be how my parents felt in the 90s when they wanted to listen to 60s music all the time.  I don’t know how to persuade you on why you should pick this up, but just that listening to a little grunge and hip hop may make your work day a little better.

 

Would you like to nominate someone to be our next Featured Library Employee?  Examples could be:

…a new employee you’d like to introduce

…someone with a unique job or on a unique career path

…an employee you find inspirational

…a coworker whose gifts you wish were more widely known

…someone who’s “an institution” full of interesting stories

…a role that has a new focus or is reaching a new audience

…someone you’d like to make more visible to potential employers

Submit name(s) and contact information, along with place of employment, to Shannon Mawhiney at smawhiney@missouristate.edu.  We’ll do all the work of contacting; we just need you to connect us!

MLA Featured Library Employee — Liz Prewitt

Liz Prewitt

Meet our most recent Featured Library Employee for the Missouri Library Association, Liz Prewitt!

What is your name, your library, and your role at the library?

I’m Liz and I work at the lovely Prairie Commons Branch. I’m shocked I was nominated because I am just a clerk. Someone once told me to never say you are “just” something. So with that being said, I am a clerk at the library!

What originally got you interested in working at a library?

I’ve been going to Prairie Commons with my mom since I was a baby. However, I wasn’t that kid who loved reading. I did however, love books. I loved the art on all of them. I was drawn to how cozy and quiet the library is. So when I was in high school and decided to apply for my first job, I thought, what could be better than the library! The summer I turned 18, I started working here. Fast forward 13 years later and I’m still surrounded by all these beautiful books.

What’s challenging about your work?

Working at the library has a lot of great perks. First of all, I have worked and work with some incredible people. It makes me the happiest when I can find that book a parent can’t wait to show their child or when I got to go to school assemblies for Summer Reading Club. It’s so sweet when a child runs up afterwards telling the YS and I how much they read and they got a joke for us. I remember this one little boy who always came in the library and I would just help him find material or give him a library sticker and one time he told his grown up that I was the coolest person here. Stuff like that makes my day. Lastly, I am really blessed that I get to work at a place where I can use my artistic skills. I have made some really fun interactive displays for all ages. I like to be able to make the library look welcoming and fun for all. I want books to stay cool!

Has your work made you either curious, or passionate, or awestruck about something?

I have grown up at the library. When I started here I was just 18 and naive about a lot. I still can be at times. I think the past few years especially I have been awestruck just to see all the programs we offer and materials we offer now. Like, want to see the moon? We have a telescope you can check out. Have a child with sensory needs? We have a sensory storytime. I am just so proud of the workers here who make so many things possible for everyone. I think we really impact some people’s lives in such a great way and that’s what makes me passionate about my job.

Who is one of your mentors?

I feel like thinking of a mentor is always a hard question. For instance, my go to answer would be my mom. But so many people have shaped the way I have grown in my life. I have had and have some incredible bosses and co-workers that have shaped me and taught me so much. Whether it was to help me through hard situations, show me how to have thicker skin, helped me artistically, or just remind me that I got this! With that being said, I have to mention my 4 nieces. They are my little mentors that remind me to always just live in the moment and all the bad things will pass.

What book, author, artist, show, or music are you engaging with this week, either personally or professionally? Persuade us in one or two sentences that we should pick this up, too.

One day I was at a bookstore and came across the book, Notes to Myself, by Hugh Prather. It just explores his daily life thoughts and really hit so many parts of my heart. Anyway, St Louis County Library didn’t have any of his other books. But now that we have access to Mobius, I requested many of his other works from various libraries all over. I am super excited for them to come in. If you want to sit by the window this winter and sip a drink while getting into your feelings about life, this is the book.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

I feel really humbled and honored that I was nominated for this. I love my library and I hope you come out to Prairie Commons and come see some of our unique, crafty displays and grab some materials while your here!

 

Would you like to nominate someone to be our next Featured Library Employee?  Examples could be:

…a new employee you’d like to introduce

…someone with a unique job or on a unique career path

…an employee you find inspirational

…a coworker whose gifts you wish were more widely known

…someone who’s “an institution” full of interesting stories

…a role that has a new focus or is reaching a new audience

…someone you’d like to make more visible to potential employers

Submit name(s) and contact information, along with place of employment, to Shannon Mawhiney at smawhiney@missouristate.edu.  We’ll do all the work of contacting; we just need you to connect us!

MLA Featured Library Employee — Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen

Meet this issue’s Featured Library Employee for the Missouri Library Association, Kelli Hansen!

What is your name, your library, and your role at the library?

My name is Kelli Hansen, and I am in Special Collections at the University of Missouri Libraries

What originally got you interested in working at a library?

As an M.A. student in art history, I worked on an exhibition collaboration between the Libraries and the Museum of Art and Archaeology at MU. I was fascinated with Special Collections and decided to change my career track from museums to libraries after I finished my first master’s degree. I went to UT Austin to get my MSIS, and am happy that I got to come back to Columbia to work in the Libraries here.

What’s challenging about your work?

A large part of my work is instruction, and I teach across a wide range of subject areas. One morning I might lead a class on graphic novels, only to turn around and teach medieval manuscripts in the afternoon. I sometimes get to help put together course sessions on topics I know very little about, so research plays a big role as well. I learn new things at work all the time.

Has your work made you either curious, or passionate, or awestruck about something?

I’m constantly awestruck by the materials we hold in Special Collections, and connecting those materials with students and researchers is my passion. I love those moments when students say, “I can actually touch this?” and I get to say “Yes! This is yours to use and appreciate! Make the most of it!”

 

Would you like to nominate someone to be our next Featured Library Employee?  Examples could be:

…a new employee you’d like to introduce

…someone with a unique job or on a unique career path

…an employee you find inspirational

…a coworker whose gifts you wish were more widely known

…someone who’s “an institution” full of interesting stories

…a role that has a new focus or is reaching a new audience

…someone you’d like to make more visible to potential employers

Submit name(s) and contact information, along with place of employment, to Shannon Mawhiney at smawhiney@missouristate.edu.  We’ll do all the work of contacting; we just need you to connect us!

MLA Featured Library Employee — Ginger Allard

Ginger Allard

Meet our most recent Featured Library Employee for the Missouri Library Association, Ginger Allard!

What is your name, your library, and your role at the library?

Ginger S. Allard
Missouri State University Libraries (Duane G. Meyer Library)
Cataloging Associate

What originally got you interested in working at a library?

As a junior in high school attending a rare Zuni Movie Theatre (New Mexico) outing, I watched Vivien Leigh (Scarlett O’Hara) slap Leslie Howard (Ashley Wilkes) in the most beautiful library that I’ve ever seen and I fell in love with Cecil B. DeMille’s technicolor fanciful libraries of the era and thus wished to work in a library.  Also from a very early age, I was fascinated with my parent’s ornate Family Bible (KJV) that my mother would read to our family on Sunday.  My favorites as a tiny child that my mother read to we siblings were various Little Golden Books, The Little Red Hen, and a Forest animals book that I’ve never been able to find the title since but avidly remember the pictures and tiny library in a tree ensconced in that lovely children’s read.  My mother often took us to the fanciful Ernie Pyle House Library down the street from where we lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico from 1953 to 1968.  I loved the typical children’s novels of the 1950’s particularly those heroes and heroines of Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, but also mysteries and fantasy places.   The Ernie Pyle House/Library is a historic house at 900 Girard Boulevard, SE in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Built in 1940, it was the home of famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle from then until his untimely death in 1945 during World War II. It now serves as a branch of the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Library, containing Pyle memorabilia and a monument to Pyle. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006.

Given the arrival of Forbidden Planet, Space Rangers, Martian Chronicles, Star Trek, Star Wars, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, etc., the science fiction world made an impression on me and there was a fascination with the futuristic library and what it would entail with physical books.

What keeps you coming back every day?

The opportunity to come across a superb read or quote in an unlikely book.

What’s challenging about your work?

Creating the proper subject and genre headings for books or theses.  Losing the physical book environment and the loss of those items that could have at least been scanned and placed into the cloud library.

Has your work made you either curious, or passionate, or awestruck about something?

Yes I have always thought of creating an illustrated only coffee table book with pictures of fanciful libraries in TV shows and commercials, movies, Broadway plays, etc.  (i.e. Perry Mason, Star Trek, Bewitched, Harry Potter, etc.) complete with physical books of their genre.   (Of course coffee table books along with coffee tables are hard to find except in museums these days)

Who is one of your mentors?

Head Cataloger, Marilyn McCroskey   Marilyn’s work ethic is fantastic and I’ve always admired her commitment to the Libraries and the art of reading along with the Cataloging field.

What book, author, artist, show, or music are you engaging with this week, either personally or professionally? Persuade us in one or two sentences that we should pick this up, too.

Music/Dancing: YouTube:  I love to watch the best of America’s, Britain’s and other countries’ Got Talent and listen to various one-time artists give it their best and many times it’s a one-time experience not to be missed.  Very emotional!

In a future Virtual and Augmented Reality Lab (VARL) environment:  Just for fun, if I would enjoy viewing simultaneously the brilliant historical performances of Michael Flatley from Lord of the Dance and Feet of Flames fame and Stavros Flatley and son (The father/son Greek Riverdance duo) who performed on Britain’s Got Talent (2009).  Studying Irish dancing vs British-Greek Cypriot dancing would be quite enlightening and mesmerizing in a visualization studio environment.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

I’m an avid glimpser of The Most Beautiful Libraries in the World websites updated annually.  Of course I’m particularly in awe of the memorably ornate and fanciful libraries with unique histories and inside/outside wow architectural designs.    (i.e. Abbey Library of Saint Gall in St. Gallen, Switzerland and Admont Abbey Library, Admont, Austria)

 

Would you like to nominate someone to be our next Featured Library Employee?  Examples could be:

…a new employee you’d like to introduce

…someone with a unique job or on a unique career path

…an employee you find inspirational

…a coworker whose gifts you wish were more widely known

…someone who’s “an institution” full of interesting stories

…a role that has a new focus or is reaching a new audience

…someone you’d like to make more visible to potential employers

Submit name(s) and contact information, along with place of employment, to Shannon Mawhiney at smawhiney@missouristate.edu.  We’ll do all the work of contacting; we just need you to connect us!

MLA Featured Library Employee — Clare Hollander

Meet our most recent Featured Library Employee for the Missouri Library Association, Clare Hollander!

What is your name, your library, and your role at the library?

Clare Hollander, Kansas City Public Library. I am a children’s librarian, currently managing the youth services floor of our Central location.

What originally got you interested in working at a library?

Originally, it was all about the books, like so many people. I loved browsing, reading, talking about books. Writing. My first library job was as a student helper in 6th grade, and my favorite thing to do was to sort cards using the card sorter (remember those?). I’ve always enjoyed alphabetizing.

What keeps you coming back every day?

The people. What good are the books if you don’t connect them to their readers? It is my favorite thing to do I think, Reader’s Advisory.

What’s challenging about your work?

Managing the unique nature of our set-up regarding our collections. More than half of our books are in closed-stacks due to the limitations of architecture! We are able to put many of our books face-out and at eye level for many of our patrons which is great for browsing, but when looking for specific things, patrons rely on us to run to the stacks. We love to do it, but keeping up with the new books coming in finds us constantly shifting books to the back to make room. It’s complicated. And challenging!

Has your work made you either curious, or passionate, or awestruck about something?

Yes, pretty much on a daily basis! This week I was a bit blown away to overhear a parent commenting on all of the tactile things we have available for kids to handle besides books. Writing and drawing with various implements, playing with puzzles, puppets, board games; these things vs holding a computer mouse or device all the time is one of the reasons this particular parent likes bringing her 8 year old to the library. I had no idea it was getting that bad out there!

Who is one of your mentors?

I was very lucky to have come on board at KCPL a year or two behind April Roy, current past president of MLA, and she has mentored me from the very beginning particularly around story times and the literature of early childhood. My story times sometime see as many as 100 or more participants, and I learned so much about how to make it flow from her training me years ago how to handle large groups, from choosing the materials to dealing with chatty parents. I see her influence in my work on a weekly basis and I am eternally grateful to her.

What book, author, artist, show, or music are you engaging with this week, either personally or professionally? Persuade us in one or two sentences that we should pick this up, too.

Jon Scieszka (rhymes with Fresca). In honor of national poetry month I’ve been reading aloud his book Science Verse to the 3rd 4th and 5th graders who come for read-alouds and check out once a month. Not only is he funnier than anyone, he’s super smart and creative, too (check out his website if you don’t believe me: www.jsworldwide.com ).There’s all kinds of science here, (the end pages are the periodic table of elements—or are they?) as well as all kinds of poetry represented by his parodies of famous works, sometimes put to famous tunes such as “I’ve been working on the food Chain.” One group of 3rd graders left singing the chorus/refrain “who’s for lunch today? Who’s for lunch today? Eat or be eaten, that’s the only way!” Nothing is more gratifying than to finish reading a book this awesome and have a hand go up out there immediately to ask “can I borrow that book?”

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Jon Scieszka is on the Governing Board of the Rabbit Hole, a local endeavor in Kansas City with the mission of creating an Explor-a-storium, an interactive museum of the picture book. The Rabbit Hole will be opening later this coming fall in time for the 100th anniversary of Children’s Book Week in November and like everybody else, I can’t wait! Check out their website for more information: www.rabbitholekc.org

 

Would you like to nominate someone to be our next Featured Library Employee?  Examples could be:

…a new employee you’d like to introduce

…someone with a unique job or on a unique career path

…an employee you find inspirational

…a coworker whose gifts you wish were more widely known

…someone who’s “an institution” full of interesting stories

…a role that has a new focus or is reaching a new audience

…someone you’d like to make more visible to potential employers

Submit name(s) and contact information, along with place of employment, to Shannon Mawhiney at smawhiney@missouristate.edu.  We’ll do all the work of contacting; we just need you to connect us!

MLA Featured Library Employee — Donna Riegel

Meet our most recent Featured Library Employee for the Missouri Library Association, Donna Riegel!

What is your name, your library, and your role at the library?

Dr. Donna L. Riegel – Director – Wolfner Talking Book and Braille Library (part of the MO State Library)

What originally got you interested in working at a library?

I’ve been “working” in libraries since just after the flood…ok…maybe not quite that long.  I started out as a page, so I guess you could say I’ve progressed fairly well.    With multiple degrees, I’ve spent a lot of time in libraries…so decided I might as well work in them, too. When given the opportunity to get a library degree and a promotion, I couldn’t say no.  Over the years I have been a librarian in a corporate setting, in an academic setting, and in local, county, and, now, state libraries.

What keeps you coming back every day?

My first impulse was to say “the paycheck”, which, while true enough, isn’t the major motivation.  I like my job and the people I work with.  There is a shared vision of serving the people of Missouri with the best resources we can.  I have worked in a number of libraries, all with their own unique qualities; however, Wolfner staff have a passion for their patrons that I have rarely seen anywhere else.  These people care about the patrons in a truly personal way.  I will miss that when I retire.

What’s challenging about your work?

Making it all work together.  Taking the best of a situation and making it truly amazing.

Has your work made you either curious, or passionate, or awestruck about something?

Before coming to Wolfner, I had never worked with a state agency, nor had I worked with special clientele.  There was no way I was prepared for the awesomeness of staff and patrons.  Working at Wolfner is a true career…a means of serving the needs of our patrons in ways they didn’t imagine.  Getting the message out is also important.  We serve only a small percentage of those eligible for service.

Who is one of your mentors?

I have been fortunate to have had many mentors along the way…even if they didn’t know they were mentors.  I’ve learned something from every boss I’ve worked for…most of the time, learning great things; sometimes learning how not to act as a manager.  Barbara Reading, who was the State Librarian who hired me, was one of the best. There were probably times when she questioned whether she had made the right choice!  I like to believe I lived up to her expectations.

What book, author, artist, show, or music are you engaging with this week, either personally or professionally? Persuade us in one or two sentences that we should pick this up, too.

I’m currently reading the Miranda James’s Cat in the Stacks mystery series.  It’s light reading, which is what I need after a day at the office. And its protagonist is a librarian with a cat.  What else do you need! It’s kinda like Jessica Fletcher…way too many people dying in her vicinity…but keep ‘em coming!

On a more serious note, I am “hooked” on Finding Your Roots on PBS.  I am always astounded on how much information they can come up with for their subject celebrities.

 

Would you like to nominate someone to be our next Featured Library Employee?  Examples could be:

…a new employee you’d like to introduce

…someone with a unique job or on a unique career path

…an employee you find inspirational

…a coworker whose gifts you wish were more widely known

…someone who’s “an institution” full of interesting stories

…a role that has a new focus or is reaching a new audience

…someone you’d like to make more visible to potential employers

Submit name(s) and contact information, along with place of employment, to Shannon Mawhiney at smawhiney@missouristate.edu.  We’ll do all the work of contacting; we just need you to connect us!

MLA Featured Library Employee — Jim Coombs

Meet our most recent Featured Library Employee for the Missouri Library Association, Jim Coombs!

What is your name, your library, and your role at the library?

Jim Coombs, Missouri State University Meyer Library, Maps and GIS Librarian

What originally got you interested in working at a library?

I majored in geography as an undergraduate at Ball State University and used the map library’s resources. I decided that working in a map library would be the perfect job for me.

What keeps you coming back every day?

The reference service is my favorite part of library work. Also, I get to draw maps for professors’ books!

What’s challenging about your work?

Keeping up with the changes in computer mapping.

Has your work made you either curious, or passionate, or awestruck about something?

Yes, in my computer mapping work, I’m curious about the accuracy of the source data I use.

Who is one of your mentors?

David Cobb, who was Map Librarian at the University of Illinois when I had a 2-year internship there in 1978-80. It was my first professional library job after getting my Master’s in Map Librarianship and he taught and showed me how to manage a map library.

What book, author, artist, show, or music are you engaging with this week, either personally or professionally? Persuade us in one or two sentences that we should pick this up, too.

Brook Blevins’ three volume A History of the Ozarks offers a comprehensive history of the region. The first volume came out in summer 2018. Blevins tries to write history books that connect with common folks. He wants people in the Ozarks to know they have a valuable regional history of their own and take pride in it.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

I went to China in 1985 as the only Maps & GIS specialist in an ALA delegation of 50 librarians. We toured libraries in Beijing, Xian, Chengdu and Shanghai. We also toured the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the buried army of terra cotta soldiers. It’s very hard to describe what we experienced compared to life in China today.  Back then, there was a heavy military presence and we experienced travel delays while they scrutinized our documents. We were stared at as the first Caucasian people the Chinese had seen. The only people who had cars were military and Government officials. Everyone else rode bicycles or walked. I described the experience as “I might as well have gone to Mars, because everything in the Chinese cultural experience was so completely different from what I grew up with in the U.S.” I still cherish the experience.

 

Would you like to nominate someone to be our next Featured Library Employee?  Examples could be:

…a new employee you’d like to introduce

…someone with a unique job or on a unique career path

…an employee you find inspirational

…a coworker whose gifts you wish were more widely known

…someone who’s “an institution” full of interesting stories

…a role that has a new focus or is reaching a new audience

…someone you’d like to make more visible to potential employers

Submit name(s) and contact information, along with place of employment, to Shannon Mawhiney at smawhiney@missouristate.edu.  We’ll do all the work of contacting; we just need you to connect us!

MLA Featured Library Employee — Peggy Ridlen

Meet our most recent Featured Library Employee for the Missouri Library Association, Peggy Ridlen!

What is your name, your library, and your role at the library?

Peggy Ridlen, Instruction Librarian; Professor Jack C. Taylor Library; Fontbonne University

What originally got you interested in working at a library?

It was my love of reading as a child that initiated my interest in working at a library. I did not learn to read until I was 8 years old. * However, when I did, a whole new world erupted.

What keeps you coming back every day?

I have the best job in the world! Academic librarianship provides a purposeful life suited to my abilities and personality. The mission, values, vision, commitment and students of Fontbonne University foster the opportunity to impart the value of libraries and literacy to the next generation.

What’s challenging about your work?

Ongoing student engagement in raising awareness of intellectual freedom and the importance of information literacy in an increasingly digital world.

Has your work made you either curious, or passionate, or awestruck about something?

The short answer to this question is EVERYTHING. Working in a resource rich environment naturally enhances intellectual curiosity. Specifically, my work in higher education has made me realize the importance of MLA advocacy for libraries.

Who is one of your mentors?

My mother who collaborated with my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Stanley to teach me how to read.

What book, author, artist, show, or music are you engaging with this week, either personally or professionally? Persuade us in one or two sentences that we should pick this up, too.

My Own Words; Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a great book about a great woman who has done great things! Most people do not realize the influential role this iconic supreme court justice played as a young lawyer to advance equal opportunities for women in the US.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

*If it weren’t for access to public and school libraries with fantastic librarians, I probably still wouldn’t know how to read!

 

Would you like to nominate someone to be our next Featured Library Employee?  Examples could be:

…a new employee you’d like to introduce

…someone with a unique job or on a unique career path

…an employee you find inspirational

…a coworker whose gifts you wish were more widely known

…someone who’s “an institution” full of interesting stories

…a role that has a new focus or is reaching a new audience

…someone you’d like to make more visible to potential employers

Submit name(s) and contact information, along with place of employment, to Shannon Mawhiney at smawhiney@missouristate.edu.  We’ll do all the work of contacting; we just need you to connect us!

MLA Featured Library Employee — Sandy Rodriguez

Meet our most recent Featured Library Employee for the Missouri Library Association, Sandy Rodriguez!

What is your name, your library, and your role at the library?

Sandy Rodriguez, University of Missouri—Kansas City University Libraries, Head of Digital Archives & Stewardship

What originally got you interested in working at a library?

After earning my music education degree, I wasn’t convinced that teaching music was where my passions were. That summer, I noticed an ad from a library vendor seeking detail-oriented candidates with music subject knowledge. During the interview, I had to count the number of times the letter “f” appeared in a paragraph, and I thought, “What is this job that values both my music subject knowledge and my extreme analytical skills? Sign me up!” I was hired to catalog music sound recordings for public libraries and eventually moved on to become a full-time paraprofessional music cataloger for the University of Kentucky Fine Arts Library while pursuing my graduate degree. It was then that I was exposed to preservation practices and digital libraries, and I made it my goal to work in that space eventually.

What keeps you coming back every day?

I’m a very purpose-driven person so it’s important for me understand where my work is situated within a broader historical, societal, and cultural context. What keeps me coming back is realizing the impacts and outcomes of engaging in work that supports reflection, learning, and growth. I’ve gained a deeper understanding of how digital archives and preservation contribute to shaping a system of cultural memory and how that relates to societal issues, specifically exploring the need to recognize the value of the often invisible labor of digital work and how we engage directly with the humanistic pursuit of equity and justice, particularly for minoritized communities. Being supported to learn from and contribute to the profession in this way has transformed my approach to this work and has ultimately made me a better librarian.

What’s challenging about your work?

Preserving and providing access to digital content is full of challenges, but what I am most challenged by is the level of advocacy needed to support digital archives and preservation, especially at a time when our role as a public good is being challenged and undermined as a political issue. Libraries continue to struggle to be responsive to changes in our users’ behaviors and expectations, particularly around their engagement in digital scholarship, while also navigating the fiscal realities that incentivize us to downsize or leverage efficiencies. Communicating needs on effective support of preservation and access to digital content and centering the value of doing that work is made even more challenging when much of digital labor is not visible or easily understood. So yes, I find it challenging the amount of advocacy I have to do for something that is part of our unique identity as libraries, archives, and museums, and I find it frustrating that while I am having to do this advocacy, I could be preserving digital content.

Has your work made you either curious, or passionate, or awestruck about something?

I am fascinated by the intersection of identity, social justice, and archival labor. Because of this interest, I’ve been reading quite a bit on systems and systemic issues, trying to understand how systems are designed, the rules, the feedback loops, the leverage points, etc. Applying these concepts to our social and political systems has been eye-opening, but even more enlightening has been making connections between these systems and digital archives; for instance, understanding how the choices we make when processing, describing, and presenting our content can unintentionally contribute to reinforcing harmful narratives that uphold systems of oppression. These realizations have changed my priorities and I’m passionate about advocating that all library workers locate their responsibility in the systemic issues that impact our communities’ lives, and to make conscious choices that work toward social justice for those communities. If we don’t do this individually and collectively, I’d argue that we are not fully committed to serving all of our users.

Who is one of your mentors?

People of color are not well-represented in libraries, and even less so in library leadership so access to mentors who understand the barriers and challenges we face navigating this predominantly white profession, are few and far between. That said, I’ve had plenty of mentors, but I want to take this space to recognize the community of mentors I have in the group, we here, a community of library workers of color. This community serves an important purpose that gives me hope about the future of our profession.

What book, author, artist, show, or music are you engaging with this week, either personally or professionally? Persuade us in one or two sentences that we should pick this up, too.

I just started reading Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, and in it, she breaks down how we continue to reinforce racial hierarchy by simply redesigning it; in modern times, taking the form of mass incarceration which disproportionately affects black and brown communities. If you’re interested in broadening your perspective to understand how systems work, how they insidiously develop and persist, how they shape our culture, and how they impact many of the communities we serve and represent, then I’d recommend this book.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Please take some time to consider and appreciate the often unacknowledged emotional labor that your colleagues from underrepresented and marginalized communities confront on a daily basis, not only in their interactions with patrons and with colleagues, but also with what is happening in our country, where our entire communities are being dehumanized. Take some time to respect the strength it takes for them to keep showing up to work, to gracefully confront microaggressions, and to be vulnerable and generous in doing the work of social justice in our workplaces, even when this work is often devalued. And then, take some time to self-reflect on what choices you are making, how you are showing support and empathy, and how you are challenging yourself to understand different experiences from your own.

Would you like to nominate someone to be our next Featured Library Employee?  Examples could be:

…a new employee you’d like to introduce

…someone with a unique job or on a unique career path

…an employee you find inspirational

…a coworker whose gifts you wish were more widely known

…someone who’s “an institution” full of interesting stories

…a role that has a new focus or is reaching a new audience

…someone you’d like to make more visible to potential employers

Submit name(s) and contact information, along with place of employment, to Shannon Mawhiney at smawhiney@missouristate.edu.  We’ll do all the work of contacting; we just need you to connect us!