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Check-It-Out @ ATSM Library Issue 3, 2013: Who's Who in
the Library

A.T. Still Library Staff Highlight - Mary Sims, Technical Services Librarian, Missouri Campus

From M&Ms to e-books

I grew up in Nebraska, and have spent most of my adult life in Iowa and Missouri.  In high school, the results of my Kuder [Career] Preference Test scores showed a strong inclination for a career as forest ranger.  This should have been my first clue that I was destined to catalog books – informal surveys of librarians have revealed an unsettling positive correlation between Kuder’s high forest ranger scores, and later careers as cataloging/technical services librarians.  I suppose this was really my second clue, since as a child, like most catalogers, I also sorted my M&Ms by color before eating them.

 At Doane College, a small liberal arts college in Crete, Nebraska, I discovered a passion for theatre.  I concentrated on props and scenery, with some time on stage and a couple disastrous attempts to direct.  After convincing my advisor to let me substitute a paper on the history of theatre at Doane for the directing requirement, I graduated as a theatre major.  During the year after I graduated, while waiting for my husband to finish his degree, I took graduate classes in theatre history & criticism at the University of Nebraska, and worked part-time as a researcher for my college Librarian.

When my husband started graduate studies at the University of Iowa, I worked for two years in the Main University Library’s Reserve Reading Room before plunging back into academic theatre in an MFA Technical Direction program (that’s the backstage part).  It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…  and I realized there was no way I was going to make a living running props, so I became a drop-out and returned to the real world of the University Library.  I loved working in the Archives, then loved Interlibrary Loan, and decided this library thing was what I wanted to keep doing. 

After getting an M.A. in Library Science at the University of Iowa, I spent three years as Bookstack Supervisor there, supervising 20-30 student shelvers and trying to control entropy in the library stacks, until I moved to Kirksville, Missouri and discovered the world of public libraries.  At the Adair County Public Library, I did a little reference work, a little shelving, a little checking books out, some interlibrary loan, and a whole lot of cataloging.  The M&Ms had come home to roost.

From there it was a move across town to the A.T. Still Memorial Library at KCOM (Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine – now a part of A.T. Still University).  I was hired as Technical Services Librarian, which at that time meant mostly cataloging physical books.  Now the books are mostly electronic, and are usually acquired in large collections, which means I deal with large batches of catalog records supplied by ebook vendors.  These records need to be locally configured, and then added to the library catalog where users can access them.  Currently more than 5000 ebooks are available through both Arizona and Missouri Library catalogs, and we are adding more all the time!

I started work at KCOM in 1999, just as the library was about to join with academic libraries throughout the state of Missouri to form the MOBIUS consortium, with a shared, unified catalog.  Leisa Walter, then the Media Services Coordinator, and I were KCOM’s representatives as we configured our new system, and worked out how to make the records in our old catalog compatible with the new one.  I’m still the coordinator for our regional cluster of six libraries within MOBIUS.  This involves a lot of emailing with librarians at the other cluster libraries, to reach consensus on common practices, policies and catalog displays.

I suppose the common thread in what seems to me a rather long and winding career is my desire and ability (or perhaps compulsion?) to prioritize and organize things so that they are useful.  I moved from M&Ms to theatre infrastructure to library infrastructure.  I still don’t know how forest rangers fit in.  Or how to efficiently organize my five cats!