Author: Angela Vanden Elzen

Alumni Librarians: Emily Passey Vieyra ‘08

Emily (right) with celebrity librarian and author, Nancy Pearl

Editor’s note: We invited Lawrence alumni who have gone into library work to share with us what they do and how they got there.  Here’s another in a series. 

Thanks to the librarian alums who have gone before me on this blog and set the tone of telling the interesting story of how they came to be a librarian! It is one of those professions that prompts that question. From the outside, it’s not totally clear what librarians do. So it’s even less clear why or how someone came to find themselves in the role (other than being big readers, which not all librarians are.)

So here’s my story. During my four years at Lawrence, I was always on what felt like a pretty clear path: I would get really good grades, get my BA, and then go to grad school.

Senior year, I was nearing the end of that path. I had decided to explore journalism after a few years writing and editing for The Lawrentian. I was also armed with the knowledge that, despite working on an Honor’s Project in English, I did not want to pursue higher education in that subject because I did not want to be a professor. After a trip to New York City to explore NYU’s journalism program, I was totally disillusioned. I had a Rory Gilmore moment while there. I was used to being a sort of big fish at a small high school and then in the English department at Lawrence, but visiting a top journalism school in the Big Apple I felt like a single-celled organism floating in the Pacific Ocean. And I felt as spineless as one, too. In the end I graduated and then moved home with no plan.

Through twists and turns, I found myself 18 months post-Lawrence doing the tremendously unsatisfying work of a classified ad salesperson at a newspaper in North Dakota. One day I was walking my dogs and listening to a podcast of the public radio show, To The Best of Our Knowledge (produced right here in Wisconsin!). They were talking about public libraries, and profiled a book called This Book is Overdue! which I promptly went to the library to check out. In pretty quick succession, I applied for grad school, moved to Illinois, and spent two amazing years at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign studying library science and working as a graduate assistant at the Undergraduate Library. Yes, Lawrentians: they have one whole library just for undergrads! Big schools are so weird!

Now, I am the Assistant Director at Shorewood Public Library.

A few important things happened along the way to becoming a librarian, many of them at Lawrence. I’ll use these experiences to give you an idea of what a librarian does, at least this librarian.

I didn’t have one of those highly coveted jobs at the Mudd, but my jobs on campus gave me what turned out to be relevant experience for what I do as a librarian. Editing at The Lawrentian taught me to work strategically with a team, focus my creativity and turn work around quickly for a deadline. Tutoring at the Center for Teaching and Learning taught me to communicate tricky concepts in easy to understand ways, lead by example, and engage the learner in the process. I call on the multi-dimensional education I got at Lawrence when someone asks me for help finding a definition of modernism in poetry, or finding information on African explorers in the New World, or when I select new music for our collection, or when I write and edit library policies and procedures, or when I have to clean up puke. If only I were joking.

When a young woman asked me recently why people started writing books (I can’t make this stuff up), the librarian in me had the patience and forethought to answer her question as simply as I could (no library patron needs to hear a dissertation, but many want to give you one), but it was the Lawrentian in me who had the knowledge and confidence to answer.

By Emily Passey Vieyra, Class of 2008

Alumni Librarians: Kathy Abromeit ’85

Editor’s note: We invited Lawrence alumni who have gone into library work to share with us what they do and how they got there.  Here’s another in a series. 

While a student at Lawrence, I worked in the music library under the supervision of faculty member, Paul Hollinger. At that time, it was a small collection housed in the conservatory, but we all ate up that collection like children in a candy store. Additionally, I was writing an honor’s thesis on Anna Bon, 18th-century composer and her flute sonatas, so I was getting a lot of library time both working in the library and doing extensive research myself. I studied flute with Ernestine Whitman, and both of us were very excited to be exploring Bon’s work. My advisor for the thesis was Professor Marjory Irvin, and she was the one who instilled my love of research, writing, and scholarly discussion. I came to love the hunt for information, and Professor Irvin helped me to understand that the process of research is often not a straight line from where you begin to where you finish, but that it is messy, that it is connected, that and it requires an ability to tolerate ambiguity. I think she was actually teaching me about life without me knowing it at the time!

Following Lawrence, I began graduate school in musicology. I had a teaching assistantship and was on the path to complete a PhD in musicology. To supplement my income, I also got a job in the music library helping with the copy cataloging of sound recordings. Before long I started appreciating the breadth of a typical day in the library. When I would visualize my life as a musicologist, I saw a tube that was somewhat narrow but tremendously deep. When I would visualize my life as a music librarian, the tube was much broader and offered exceptional breadth but not necessarily the depth of a teaching faculty member. I know it’s not that simplistic, but what I learned about myself, from my visualization of the two professions, is that I needed a career path that offered me a full span of knowledge and exploration. Essentially, I needed a big sandbox that included music, research, expansive learning and service, and the ability to influence the canon. It seemed that librarianship could be a viable profession that met the requirements.

In talking with a few librarians and exploring the job market, I decided to switch to the master’s in musicology, rather than the PhD, and apply for library school. I’ve never looked back. It’s been the perfect career choice for me. I work at the Oberlin Conservatory Library, and it is located on the campus of Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. It was founded in 1865 and is the second oldest conservatory and oldest continually operating conservatory in the United States. Like Lawrence, Oberlin is a liberal arts college and conservatory of music, the best of both worlds! My daily work in the Oberlin Conservatory Library focuses on public services activities. I spend my days doing information literacy work, conducting research appointments as well as supervising the public services operations of our branch library. It’s a very busy library!

After spending a great deal of time thinking about breadth and depth, my thoughts have changed. My work as a music librarian has afforded me the opportunity to become moderately knowledgeable across a domain, and deeply knowledgeable within a strand of that domain. It has been a profession with a continual learning curve as technology advances and changes. While at times it feels somewhat overwhelming, I appreciate the constant challenge that comes with an ever-changing landscape. I remind myself that I did ask for a large sandbox!

I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting and working with a wide range of musicians and scholars ranging from the undergraduates in the conservatory to the budding rap artist to the chorus member in the Metropolitan Opera to the seasoned soloist who is looking for a bit of information for their award-winning CD.

Librarianship is a meaningful profession that has given me tremendous opportunities, intellectual growth, and created a framework for my professional life. That care started at Lawrence where I was a first-generation college student who needed mentoring and guidance, and Lawrence took great care to develop me as a leader despite me coming from an economically-disadvantaged family. That spirit of support helped me to identify that I too wanted to further social justice in my library and research work. It started with Professor Irvin introducing me to music by women composers. Since that time, my path has taken me through the creation of a large folksong database, co-created with the journal, SingOut!, that indexes anthologies of folksong collections, publishing two reference books on African-American spirituals, and I’m working on a third.

I feel blessed that I had the faculty trifecta of Paul Hollinger, Ernestine Whitman, and Marjory Irvin along with Dean Colin Murdoch to launch me on my way and teach me, in the Lawrence way, to engage, develop multiple interests, and give back to my community.

By Kathy Abromeit, Class of 1985

You can read Kathy’s honor’s project in Lux, our institutional repository.

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Alumni Librarians: Kasie Janssen ’12

My path to librarianship has felt fluid and fated in many ways.  With a multidisciplinary approach to a career in libraries, it is no wonder Lawrence has had such a huge impact on my path.  I have always been a lover of books, spending much of my childhood and adult life immersed in literature and libraries.  But it was fateful day at Lawrence University that set my sites on the world of books as my career.

That day Julie Lindemann and Johnie Shimon took my Intermediate Photography class to the LU Archives, I place I had never stepped foot in throughout my previous time at Lawrence.  Erin Dix, the University Archivist, had brought out a collection of glass plate slides for our class to look at and study.  She talked about the primary sources overflowing the archives and the unique ways such collections came to their Lawrence home.  The best way I can describe that experience of being surrounded by history in those archives… wonderment.  The glass slides tapped into a nostalgia and appreciation so deep it became a day and experience I would ever forget.

But that day came and went.  While memorable and important looking back, I was not as sure of what I wanted out of life as I began wrapping up my time at Lawrence.  After graduating in 2012 with a BA in English and a minor in Studio Art, I spent two years moving around, trying different jobs, and feeling incredibly unsatisfied.  And I know I cannot be the only one to have these post-graduation blues and trials.  After lots of ups-and-downs in my career path (mostly downs it seemed like at the time), I decided to tap back into that day in the archives.  If I could not access a fulfilling career with the credentials I had, it was time to change those credentials.

I applied to six different library programs throughout the United States, and subsequently visited three in person.  And to assist in learning more about libraries and archives while I applied, I went back to Lawrence to volunteer with Erin Dix in the University Archives.  I loved having an excuse to visit campus each week, and loved even more the amount of skills and information I was able to learn from Erin while I worked with her.

I ended up with an acceptance letter to the top library program in the country, in a small town I had never heard of prior to sending in my application, the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana (yes, quite the mouthful).  But it was not just the high credentials of the program that drew me to UIUC.  My in-person visit assured my of the breadth and depth the program had to offer.  Not only would I leave after two years with my Master of Science in Library and Information Science (MSLIS, we library-folk love our acronyms), but I could do it by catering the program to my interests in the fields (there is that multidisciplinary approach coming back in).  On top of the academic love for the program I was just accepted to, I also received a Graduate Assistantship in Conservation.  Now, I had never even heard of conservation, but what I learned brought back that archives-wonderment feeling.  A job that blended books, archives, libraries, and art… yes, yes please.

My experience in the conservation lab was nothing short of amazing.  I was able to work alongside of incredibly talented and knowledgeable people in the field who offered me insight and training.  I was able to work on historical items ranging from the papers of Gregor Mendel to an Ian Fleming collection and beyond.  Gaining this incredible work experience alongside of a strong and vast library education gave my career-searching heart everything it was looking for and more.

But graduate school comes to an end all too quickly, and so began a carer-hunt extravaganza.  Months of applications, resumes, and cover letters took over any speck of free time that I had while finishing up my grad program.  All that work paid off when I took on my current job at the Newberry Library in Chicago as their Conservator for Special Projects.  At the Newberry I am greatly involved in the treatment and preparation of the many items that go on exhibit every year, while also continually working on treatment for the vast and varied collections the library houses. (Seriously, these collections are amazing. Next time you are in Chicago, stop by for a visit, the Newberry is free and open to the public, that means you!)  Honestly, it is a dream job.  It blends my interests of literature and art perfectly.  Every day I go to work the library offers new and interesting challenges that bring amazing historic items across my bench.  And it is a career that means I will be continually learning—learning new treatments, seeking new insights from other professionals in the field, researching collections and their uses in the library—which means my career will be a constant source of inspiration and enjoyment.

When I started my education at Lawrence I did not foresee where it would lead me, but as I look back from my bench at the Newberry I see a clear path of how I got here.  Libraries have so much to offer, and I hope that there are many future librarians sitting in Lawrence’s classes today.

By Kasie Janssen, Class of 2012

Winter Break Closure

The annual winter break closure is quickly approaching, so be sure to get to the Mudd Library to pick up your books, movies, music, and scores to help you prepare for winter term (or catch up on the fun stuff).

The Mudd Library will be open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through Friday, December 22nd. We’ll be closed from December 23rd through January 1st. We look forward to seeing everyone in the library again on January 2nd when we reopen from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Regular academic year hours resume on January 3rd (the first day of winter term).

We hope everyone is enjoying the winter holidays and having a safe and relaxing winter break.

OneSearch Tips & Tools: Searching

While Library OneSearch makes keyword searching easy, there are still plenty of tips and tricks to make your searches more productive. One method is Boolean searching. Here are a few tested strategies to use when searching in OneSearch (as well as the library catalog tab):

OR can be used when searching with synonyms or words that both describe what you’re searching (be sure to use all caps when using OR and NOT)

NOT will omit a word from your search results. Use this with caution as it can sometimes omit potentially useful resources.

Phrase searching” will ensure words are searched in a certain order, next to one another.

Wildcard searching can be used when working with variations of words. To do this, a question mark (?) will stand in place for a letter. Examples are wom?n for women or women

Truncation uses an asterisk (*) to will search for multiple words with the same root. Examples are modern* for modernism or modernist and hist* for history of historical and ethno* for ethnography, ethnographies, or ethnographic

Grouping/Nesting combines multiple search strategies for more complex searches

In OneSearch, when multiple words are included in a search, they are automatically combined with AND

These strategies are often referred to as Boolean Searching, though there are some slight variations. For more search tips, see the “learn more about searching” document.

OneSearch Tips & Tools: Add to e-Shelf

Did you know that if you log in to your library account in Library OneSearch, a whole selection of options are made available?! Logging in allows you to see additional materials in the OneSearch and Course Reserves tabs, and do a bunch of cool stuff from your library account. One of these cool things is the e-Shelf feature.

The e-Shelf feature allows you to save items and go back to them later rather than printing screenshots or taking pictures with your phone. It works with items we have in the library like books and videos as well as with articles found in the OneSearch tab.

Unsure of how to add items to your e-Shelf? Here are some photos to help.

Steps 1 & 2: Click the star next to the item you’d like to save. Log in to your account.

Steps 3 & 4: Click on e-Shelf. Click the new folder icon.

Step 5: Name folder

Step 6: Return to basket, click the box next to the item you’d like to move, and drag the item to the new folder.

Items in your e-Shelf folders can be emailed, printed, or sent to your RefWorks account.

Questions? Ask a librarian! We’re happy to help!

International Games Week!

It’s International Games Week! Formerly National Gaming in Libraries Day, this event has expanded internationally and is now a week-long event to allow more school programming- not just for libraries!

Your friends at the Mudd Library have been celebrating this event for many years and are happy to continue. This year we are taking the opportunity to showcase the many games and gaming-related resources available at the Mudd, including:

  • Board games and puzzles on the second floor that can be checked out or played in the library. This year, we received donations of, Are you the Traitor? and Regular Show Fluxx from Looney Labs, and Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Skull and Shackles from Paizo!
  • Video games and a Nintendo Wii system that can be reserved and checked out for residence hall gatherings, student organization events, a fun weekend with friends, or anything! Our collection of Just Dance games is especially popular- and a great way to get some exercise.
  • Scholarly books about games, including gaming culture, music, technology, history, psychology, and more!
  • Great selection of electronic scholarly research on games, compiled in a handy Game Studies LibGuide.

Follow the Mudd Library on Instagram, where we’ll be doing an International Games Week takeover.

Be sure to stop by and check out a game or learn about about the scholarly side of gaming at the Mudd Library.

Alumni Librarians: Sarah Slaughter ’13

Editor’s note: We invited Lawrence alumni who have gone into library work to share with us what they do and how they got there.  Here’s another in a series. 

Like many people who’ve found their career in libraries, I didn’t start out thinking I was going to be a librarian. I was a typical Lawrentian in that I had many interests, but I wasn’t sure where they would take me after graduation. As my senior year loomed I was getting anxious about what to do next – I majored in philosophy and German, which while both fascinating, didn’t point me toward a definite career path. Then one day, I was working an afternoon shift at the circulation desk, and I distinctly remember looking around the first floor at all the books and the people studying and thinking, “Hmm, I really like it here.” I decided to follow up on that instinct and started researching librarianship. After reading about grad programs I was still intrigued, so I decided to talk to some real life librarians to find out more.

Hearing the stories of the librarians at the Mudd was what sealed the deal for me. As I listened, I noticed we had a lot in common. They were all multi-interested people with a love for learning and a passion for helping students. They sounded like my kind of people.

The next year, I submitted my application to the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS) and was ecstatic when I found out I’d been accepted. I graduated from Lawrence in 2013 and started at Madison in the fall. Madison’s program turned out to be a great fit for me, and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities I had there to get some hands on experience both in my student jobs, and the credit-bearing practicums I completed.

I had the good fortune to work at the Wisconsin Historical Society, as well as at the SLIS Library (that’s right, they have an entire library about libraries). These two jobs were very different, but they taught me just as much about working in libraries as I learned in my classes. At the Historical Society I worked in the periodicals department, checking in magazines and newspapers, and helping with a long-term storage project for their extensive newspaper collection. At the SLIS Library, I worked at the circulation desk, checking out materials, putting things on reserve, and teaching occasional technology workshops for my fellow students as well as those in the distance cohort.

Before grad school I didn’t realize that librarians could also be teachers, but now it’s one of the primary aspects of my job. I learned about teaching in libraries by taking classes on information literacy pedagogy and through an instruction practicum in which I co-taught an online course. I would strongly recommend to any student interested in libraries take advantage of whatever opportunities you can to get some hands on experience. The skills I learned in my practicums and in my student jobs gave me the edge that helped me land my first real library job after graduation.

I now work as the Humanities and Education Librarian at the University of Dubuque, a small private school, only slightly larger than Lawrence. My time is usually spent teaching information literacy in the core curriculum as well as other courses in my liaison areas, helping students one-on-one at the reference desk, and buying materials for the library. I’ve also had the chance at UD to nurture the curiosity I cultivated at Lawrence by doing my own research. Last year I worked on a paper for UD’s character education journal, Character And… about online privacy and character formation. This was especially exciting for me, because it gave me a chance to use the ethics background I gained as a philosophy major.

I’ve been at the University of Dubuque for two years now and I feel extremely lucky to be here. The small college atmosphere is where I feel most at home and I work on a library staff of ten wonderful people who all share the same enthusiasm for their work as I saw in the librarians at the Mudd. My job is different every day, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I didn’t start out thinking I’d be a librarian, but now that I’m here I can’t believe the idea didn’t occur to me sooner. Librarians are curious about myriad subjects, adept at solving problems, and passionate about helping others. All of these characteristics can also describe Lawrence graduates. In conclusion, for any Lawrentians looking for an enriching career, give libraries a chance. I found my people here, and perhaps you will too.

By Sarah Slaughter, Class of 2013

In the Mudd Gallery: HOLGAVISION

HOLGAVISION: New Holga Photographs

Mudd Gallery, 3rd Floor Mudd Library

From the exhibit artists: “Come and see what we have spent countless hours in the dark room working on! All photographs are in black and white; they are all taken with a 20 dollar Holga camera!”

Introducing:

  • Julia Adams
  • 
Eryn Blagg
  • 
Rose Questel
  • 
Nick Felan
  • Lizzy Garcia Creighton
  • Emily Hirn
  • Katie Kumbalek
  • 
Linh Le
  • Ricardo Rivera
  • 
Ben Tran
  • 
Ines Valencia Graul

Exhibit duration has recently been extended, so be sure to stop by soon to see this great collection of student photographs!

Alumni Librarians: Natalie Hall ’05

Editor’s note: We invited Lawrence alumni who have gone into library work to share with us what they do and how they got there.  Here’s another in a series. 

From the time I was a little kid, I’ve always said I wanted to be a cellist and if I wasn’t a cellist, I would be a librarian, but it wasn’t until much later that I realized I could do both. Starting at Lawrence, I knew I wanted to do the dual degree program and I wanted to work in the library. On my second day on campus, I went to the library to ask about a job and inquired politely every day until they hired me. I worked at the circulation desk all five years and loved it, particularly the late night closing shifts. I graduated from Lawrence with a B.M. in cello performance and a B.A. in English.
After Lawrence, I went on to Roosevelt University to get a M.M. in cello performance and again found myself working in the library. I had a part-time job in the music library and also a graduate assistantship that turned out to be mostly an orchestra librarian position. I spent hundreds of hours making practice parts and copying bowings, but I found it was a lovely respite from the stress of preparing for my lessons and performances each week.
Over the next 5 years, I built a successful music career, primarily teaching at the Music Institute of Chicago and in the Naperville school districts. I worked my way up to a full teaching load of 40-50 students per week and had enough freelance performance opportunities to keep me satisfied. I was proud of what I’d accomplished, but I was also not entirely happy with where my life was headed. I was spending 15-20 hours a week in my car and the pressure to be “on” all the time was exhausting. It didn’t feel like a sustainable way to live, but I had spent 20 years working toward this goal, so it was hard to imagine a life that didn’t have cello at the center of it. As I considered my options, I kept coming back to how much I’d loved working in the library at Lawrence and then later at Roosevelt.
I reached out to Antoinette Powell and Cindy Patterson at Lawrence, since I’d been close with them while working at the library and we had stayed in touch. They were both very supportive and just the boost I needed to make the decision to go back to school for a second masters and become a librarian. I enrolled at UW-Milwaukee’s School of Information Studies in 2010 and finished my Master of Library and Information Science degree in 2012.
Even with all of my prior library experience, it took some time to get my first post-MLIS job. After years of hearing I needed a backup plan if I was going to be a musician, the irony of having cello as my contingency plan was pretty funny. Eventually, I got my first job as a music cataloger at Roosevelt University. It was just a three month temporary position, but it helped me decide that my interests as a librarian were not so much music librarianship as I’d assumed, but cataloging, metadata, and technical services. From there, I got a job as part-time cataloger at Moraine Valley Community College.
Initially, I hadn’t planned on staying at Moraine Valley for very long given that it was a part-time position, but I quickly realized that it was a wonderful place to work. When a full-time position managing Technical Services opened up, I was thrilled and fortunate to get the job. I’ve been the Technical Services Coordinator there for about 2 ½ years and it is such a good fit for my skills and interests. As a department manager, I get to do a little bit of everything and have a lot of autonomy. It’s never boring, there’s always database clean-up work to do, and new problems to solve.
I’ve also been putting my former teaching skills to work by teaching two college courses: a graduate cataloging course, Organization of Knowledge at Dominican University’s School of Information Studies and Introduction to Cataloging for LTA students at the College of DuPage. I also regularly teach some short term continuing education courses for librarians on cataloging topics through Library Juice Academy, a professional development site for library staff. And, of course, I still play the cello, but now it’s mostly for fun.
It may have taken me a while to figure out this is the career for me, but it’s really the process to get here that made it possible. I think many of the skills that have helped me to be a successful librarian, manager, and college instructor are directly attributable to skills I developed and honed as a musician. For any Lawrentian considering pursuing a career in librarianship, I would encourage them to try to get some library experience before completing their degree. I’d also recommend while in library school to take classes in both reference and cataloging, even if you’re sure you only want to work in one area or the other. Some schools no longer require students to take them, but even if you don’t end up in a position where you use either routinely, they will still help you be a better librarian. And finally, be flexible and open to the opportunities that come your way as you may be surprised at where your interests and experiences will lead.

By Natalie Hall, Class of 2005