What I didn’t learn in library school

There are lots of things I didn’t learn in library school, but as we approach the end of another school year, I’d like to focus on one.

But first I need to give some history.  When I decided to go to library school, it was not because I had great librarian role models.  I had the same school librarian (this was pre-media specialist days) for 1st through 8th grade.  My friends and I always disliked library class because we were forced to learn things we thought were dumb.  I liked learning library related things like the Dewey Decimal system, but it seemed we covered lots of other topics that I didn’t enjoy.  I realize now that many of these topics were things the librarian probably didn’t want to teach either, but it was her job.  My mom volunteered in the school library and they became very good friends.  This added another layer of strange to the relationship.

The most negative librarian experience I had was with my high school librarians.  In my sophomore year, my high school library reopened after a complete renovation.  It was a lovely facility.  But I only went a handful of times because the RULES were more important than the people.  The most onerous rule was a ban on talking at any time.  If you merely whispered to your neighbor, you had a warning and the next offense, you were out.  It was such an unpleasant place that I abandoned it completely and used the very fine Phoenix Public Library System.  My mom taught me how to use the Reader’s Guide and other library resources.   While I loved my public library system, I didn’t have a relationship with any of the staff.

I spent a lot of time in my college library.  It was also a lovely facility and in contrast to my high school, a much more welcoming environment.  I knew many of the library staff.  Someone was always posted by the door as we entered and exited, clicking a counter, checking to see if we had found what we needed.  One librarian in particular always exchanged a few words with us, including the same Bible jokes that we had heard from previous encounters.  But I never considered the librarians friends or mentors.  Now I can conjure up fuzzy images, but I can’t remember names like I can of the professors I loved.

So I was surprised in my first job as a librarian to find out that I quickly began to recognize the library regulars (or as I like to call them the library groupies).  First we made eye contact. Later we would exchange greetings.  After a while many would start stopping by to chat on their way to and from studying.  Often I found the best part of my day was talking with the regulars and often our conversations would lead to ways that I could help them with their academic questions, but also a wide variety of other issues.

So it is May again, I’m finishing up my second year as the Reference and Instruction Librarian at Milligan College.  A job that I love.  This year there is a long list of library groupies and some great student workers, who will be graduating.  I’ve very excited for them.  I think they are well prepared to face the challenges of this life, but I will miss them.  My daily interactions with them are just one of the reasons that it is a joy to come to work.  They have made me think. They have made me laugh. Fortunately, many groupies will be back next semester and a new batch of potential groupies will come in August.

In library school they did not teach me that I would have life changing relationships with my patrons, but it is the reason that I will continue to be a librarian and love it.

New Look to JSTOR

JSTOR has unveiled a sleek new look on April 7, 2008! Most veteran JSTOR users will find that the basic and advance search screens retain many of the old features, while adding a few new twists.

Highlights of the new features:

  • In Advanced Searching, searchers can now specify that search terms be within a certain proximity to each other (within 5, 10, or 25 words). Using this feature can greatly improve full-text search results.
  • Save citations within JSTOR and access them again at future sessions. To use the feature, create a MyJSTOR account from the tab at the top of the screen.
  • All searches from a session are retained and can be reviewed.
  • Simplified printing and viewing of articles in PDF format.

To learn more, watch several short tutorials on the new features at:


In future posts, I will discuss ways to improve JSTOR searches. But if you have any questions or would like any assistance on JSTOR or any other database, please contact me at mjackson at milligan.edu

I didn’t know we had THAT in the Milligan Library…

As Milligan’s resident reference librarian, I am aware of some really great resources. Some of these are located physically in the library, some are available online through a subscription, and some are free out on the Internet. I hope to have occasional posts highlighting interesting resources that are often overlooked by students and faculty.

Gale Virtual Reference Library

What is it? As its name implies, it is an online reference library. Over 60+ multivolume reference books on social sciences, popular culture, religion, history, medicine and more. The complete text of every volume can be searched at one time, over 86,000 documents.

When would the Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL) be helpful in a research project? The GVRL is a great place to start almost any research project. Many of the articles give excellent overviews, show how a topic may be relevant in many different fields of study, and give keywords, concepts, and references for further study. The GVRL way also be helpful later in a research project to fill in gaps left by other resources. Most instructors won’t accept Wikipedia articles in a bibliography, but instructors like to see GVRL articles.

What kind of topics might be covered in the GVRL? Just a few examples: Bob Dylan (32 articles), Lord of the Rings (21), PATRIOT Act (50), and tobacco (265).

Accessing and using the Gale Virtual Reference Library
Milligan Library Homepage → Electronic Reference → Gale Virtual Reference Library

Type one or more search terms in the Basic Search box. Helpful tip–Return to the basic search screen EVERY TIME to revise a search or begin a new search.

Need help with Gale Virtual Reference Library or any other research question, contact me, Mary Jackson, mjackson at milligan.edu.