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  We’ll do all the work of contacting; we just need you to connect us!