Memories of the Education & Social Science Library

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1901-2011 Celebrating 110 Years: Our Employees and Patrons Reminisce


An Introduction by Nancy O'Brien

Education Subject Specialist, current ESSL Head Librarian

With three decades of memories, anecdotes and stories to share, I keep coming back repeatedly to the remarkable people that I’ve worked with over the years.  Whether it was enthusiastic students learning about the Library for the first time, focused doctoral students, or faculty needing specific research material, I’ve worked with the best.  The Library staff are amazing and too many to mention.  Everyone has left a legacy, whether it is tangible or improved services.  For instance, Bart Clark, then head of the ESSL, instituted the subject specialist model, which has been successful for the past 40 years.  His familiarity with this model at a previous institution made implementation possible at the ESSL, and decades of librarians have thrived in that system.  I’m very fortunate that I had the opportunity to observe my predecessor, George Jaramillo, provide library orientation sessions.  Because of that, I felt much more comfortable in those situations, and class instruction has become one of the things I most enjoy since it gives me the opportunity to work with students in a variety of ways.  Dee Reeser was the office manager for a number of years, and she knew how important it is to recognize and reward staff.  The candy bowl on her desk was a popular stop for student workers, and today the students look forward to the contents of the office candy jar!  Patrons and staff also look forward to the annual bowl of Halloween treats placed conveniently near the Library exit – one way we like to show our appreciation for the people who use our libraries.

Of course, it isn’t just people that populate our libraries.  Over the years we have had our share of wildlife make an appearance.  The bat swooping through the ESSL stacks one summer evening will never be forgotten by the graduate assistant on duty.  Some of us still chuckle about the leashed pet rabbit that accompanied its owner to the photocopier on a hot summer day.  One of our favorite library visitors was Jill, a German Shepherd assistance dog who accompanied her human, Christie, to the Library regularly.  Jill quietly sat under the table while Christie searched databases using special software.  When Christie received her Ph.D a few years ago, I’m certain that Jill got some of the credit!

Each one of us leaves an imprint on the Library – from students and faculty using the collections and services to the staff working here.  I’ve been fortunate to work with so many generations of library users from preschool visitors to post-doctoral researchers.  What an amazing place to work!


Past Employees

Click on the headings below to browse ESSL experiences by decade.  Some of our staff's time overlap multiple decades, but are organized by the year in which they joined.

1950s | 1960s | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s

Patricia F. Stenstrom, 1957-1958 ESSL Librarian

"One-hundred ten years is a long time ago and so is 1957; I was 26 years old. I spent a lot of time in my year as assistant librarian in Education using a steel eraser to change subject headings on catalog cards. For years, catalog cards came without subject headings, and the Education Library added headings from its own subject heading list. However, around the mid-1950's, the catalog department began to send cards with LC Headings. LC inverted headings, for example, "Education, Elementary" but Education's catalog used "Elementary Education." At some point after many months, Ed (Holley) saw the situation as hopeless, and I stopped erasing. I also remember the flood of teachers the library had during the summer session.  The library was as busy in the summer as the winter. There was one staff member, Clerk II, I think.

Ed Holley was an active and enterprising head. He built up the collection, engaging faculty in Education and Psychology; he was also comfortable dropping in to chat with R. B. Downs. He pushed for a "social science" library; a variation of his concept became official during the administration of my former husband, Ralph Stenstrom. The library when I worked in Education was just one room; the adjacent room off the north-south hallway was the Classics Library.

I am happy to see you celebrate the history of the library."

Pat is the former head of the UIUC Library and Information Science Library, and is now retired.


Larayne Dallas,1974-78 ESSL student worker, graduate assistant, and librarian

"I started in the Education Library as a student worker in the fall of 1974, in my second year at the U of I.  Because I wanted to become a librarian, an advisor whose wife was in library school had told me that it was really important to get a job in the libraries. The student jobs were highly prized and I was lucky to get one.  Fortunately for me, one of the Graduate Assistants (GA), Marie Pistorius, was my roommate’s cousin, so I had a connection.  As I recall, the pay was $1.90 an hour.  One of my co-workers was Roberta (Bobbi) Elyea (later Walters), who also went to library school and was a GA at the same time as I was.  She died much too young of breast cancer.
I remember how most of us did not like to shelve the children’s books; the bound journals were my preference.  As I’ve gone on to other libraries, I have remembered fondly the handy routing shelves right there behind the desk.  We went from student IDs that were photograph paper and frequently replaced, to hard plastic cards that could be used to emboss circulation cards.  We manned the turnstile and had to inspect bags.  Backpacks were just coming in.  The first of that wave was the canvas army pack.  We were supposed to interfile all the circulation cards before leaving for the day.
Working until Midnight was something I think I managed to avoid as an undergraduate but had to do as a GA.  There always seemed to be plenty of users to justify being open.  The library was heavily used, especially during break periods.  Library users were eager to check out bound journals the day before Thanksgiving so that they could be held until the Saturday after.  When an item was recalled from a faculty member, we called the faculty to give the message.  Dee Reeser somehow managed to gather the binding in a whirlwind of activity and send everything at the times least likely to interfere with use.  We were very service oriented.  I remember the fines discussions and finding the cold books on the shelves – in fact, the person had only just returned the book and made up a story.  I remember that the children’s books from storage were somehow always desired on a weekend when, as GA, I would be the only supervisor and would have to make that trek to the locked stacks.
One of our jobs was filing cards in the catalog drawer.  I had the awful experience of having many of the cards fall out of a drawer I had pulled – the rod had not been properly fastened.  Because I let them fall, I got to refile.  The only way I could get some back in order was to compare to the main catalog upstairs. We had great parties; no food in the library area where the users were but wonderful things on the other side of the barely walled off office.
I was fortunate to have a job as an assistant librarian in a temporary position from January to August 1978.  I remember this as the time when staff proofed the data entry work preparing for the first computer based library catalog.  Staff members were even allowed to take home a drawer from the card catalog – it must have been the shelflist – to do the proofing at home.  I worked with George Jaramillo and Bart Clark, librarians I have been glad to see over the years at ALA meetings.
One final story concerns the heating and air conditioning.  Things may still be the same.  In the fall, there was a date for turning on the heat and it could get quite cool before that day came.  Also, in the summer, to avoid going over a peak energy usage reached sometime in the past, on the hottest day, the air conditioning would be turned off.  Fortunately, the windows opened and we had big fans.  The windows had bars to keep people from tossing out books.  The bars are probably still there, too."

Larayne now works at the University of Texas's Engineering Library in Austin.


George Jaramillo, 1974-1980 ESSL Librarian

"When I first began in the Education and Social Science Library we used Circulation punch cards and a spindle to determine overdue materials.  The cards had perforated edges around the card representing a month and date.  As books were checked out a punch would be made corresponding to the date and month.  Each day we would put a long spindle through the cards and those cards that fell out were the overdue books.

One year a feminist organization went through a section of the library and placed stick-on strips on words or themes that they thought were sexist.  The stick-on strips said "Sexist".  There were a couple of dozen books that we found with the stick-on strips and there still may be some that we did not find.  It took a great effort on someone's part to read the book and then place the stick-on strips.  We attempted to peel off the tiny strips but it was too much effort and ended up just replacing titles that we could locate.

As the Assistant Librarian the Mandeville Collection was my responsibility, and I ordered materials from all parts of the world.  I would receive mail from people who got my name from several reference sources asking me to research topics such as telepathy, witches, psychic phenomenons, etc.  The strangest request I received was a woman in India who wanted to know if I would perform an exorcism on her daughter who was possessed by the devil.  I declined the offer.

The fondest memories I had were the Graduate Assistants that worked in the ibrary.  We normally had five Graduate Assistants every year.  I truly enjoyed working one-on-one training the interns in basic library principles.  They always had creative ideas and were eager to learn new technology such as doing a mediated ERIC search.

Along with the card file, the UN Documents Collection, HRAF Micro Card Files, and the Test File collection always proved to be a challenge and students were always thankful when we found what they were looking for.

The Education and Social Science Library was a great training ground for my profession and I will always have fond memories of my time at the University of Illinois Library."

George is currently the Library Director of Taos Public Library.


Barton M. Clark, 1977 - 1983 ESSL Head Librarian

"For a few short years in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I had the privilege of being the Head of the Education and Social Science Library. As time has passed, recollections of specific events have faded, but not memories of the wonderful people with whom I had the opportunity to work. Librarians George Jaramillo, Kate Carpenter, Larayne Dallas, Jim Williams, and Nancy O'Brien, staff Dee Reeser and Indra Aggarwal among many, all the excellent graduate assistants, and the plethora of students who covered the 100 plus hours a week we were opened,  I  thank all of you for the wonderful commitment you made to this great University Library.  Many a student's and faculty's academic life was made easier because of you.  In the words of the great Lord Buckley, "The flowers, the gorgeous , mystic multi-colored flowers are not the flowers of life, but people, yes people are the true flowers of life: and it has been a most precious pleasure to have temporarily strolled in your garden." To all of the staff and patrons of the Education and Social Science Library, thank you."

Bart is a Library Professor Emeritus.


David Carpenter, 1984-1985 ESSL graduate assistant

"As I moved from the mountains of western North Carolina for the first time, I faced many changes in adjusting to the relatively flat Illinois landscape, graduate school, and the large campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Chamapaign.  However, I soon felt very much at home in the Education and Social Science Library, where I was fortunate to work as a graduate assistant.

I remember the ESSL as being a warm, comfortable library with much wood paneling, and highly waxed linoleum floors.  The size and age of the building gave an atmosphere of history and tradition to the ESSL.  The soft clank of the exit turnstile and low conversations in the office areas were often the only background sounds, as students studied quietly at the library's tables.  I remember long tables of periodical abstracts and indexes; the many boxes of Human Relation Areas Files in the back room; the file drawers of Test Files; and the various book collections within the ESSL, including the Curriculum Collection and the collection of literature books for children.

Prior to coming to UIUC to earn my library degree, I worked for five years in a cataloging department at Western Carolina University.  In accepting the offer of a graduate assistantship in the ESSL, I took the plunge into library public service for the first time.  I never regretted that decision, and gained invaluable work experience in the ESSL.  After what felt like a much too brief period of training, I was scheduled on the reference desk.  Fortunately, Nancy O'Brien, Jim Williams, Karen and the other ESSL librarians, as well as my fellow graduate asistant colleagues, provided helpful back-up and assistance when I needed it.

In addition to staffing the reference desk in the library, and serving as evening supervisor to the undergraduate student assistants, I cataloged textbooks for the Curriculum collection, and worked on some special projects.  One of these involved the selection of education-related instructional software programs.  (I believe the software came on either 5 1/4 inch floppy discs or cassette tapes.)

At that time, typewriters were still on most of the library's office desks.  I was impressed to find that the assistant dean of the library school used a Kaypro computer for word processing, as did a few other early technology adopters at that time.  In the main reference room upstairs from the ESSL, a few IBM PC Jr. "microcomputers" were being used in a trial as replacement options for the "dumb" terminals providing access to the library online catalog at that time.  Nancy O'Brien returned from ALA Midwinter conference in January 1985 with a shiny silver disc in hand and hung it on her wall as a symbol of a new CD-ROM technology that would woon have a significant impact on libraries.

I grew very fond of the library's staff, including Dee Reeser, Zona, and Indra.  I learned much from them about both the library procedures and life in mid-state Illinois.  I enjoyed working closely with the undergraduate student assistants, and served as their primary supervisor during the long evening and weekend shifts covered by the library's graduate assistants.  These students played an essential role in keeping the library functioning smoothly by providing circulation and reserve services to their fellow students.

One of my most vivid memories of working in the Education and Social Science Library came from an experience during my second week of working as a graduate assistant, and being in charge of the library during the evening work shift.  After an earlier tornado watch, a tornado was spotted just south of town, and I evacuated everyone from the ESSL to the basement until it was safe to return.  This was my first experience in evacuating a library and also in living in an area where tornados might be expected from time to time!  Less exciting, but much more pleasurable is remembering the satisfaction I felt when completing a busy but interesting evening reference shift at the ESSL; closing and securely locking the large, strong doors of the library at midnight; and hopping on my bicycle for a brisk trip across campus under the stars to my apartment in Urbana.

I am pleased that the Education and Social Science Library is still going strong after 110 years, and join you in celebrating its long history!"

David is the Acting Library Director and Head of Reference at Vanderbilt University's Central Library in Nashville, Tennessee.


Ruth Riley, 1984-1985 ESSL graduate assistant

"As a young graduate student in the library school from 1984-85, I was thrilled to receive a graduate assistantship to work in the ESSL.  I remember the thrill of being given the privilege of sitting at the reference desk and being allowed to be the front line person to answer reference questions for library users.  This work gave me highly valuable practical, hands-on experience that helped me get my first professional position.  Equally thrilling was the chance to do real-time online database searching of ERIC and other databases using the very cool Texas Instruments machine with a coupler that we put the phone handset into and hooked up at a whopping 600 baud and watched the search results spew out onto thermal paper.  I can't tell you what a thrill it was to take a search question, construct a search strategy using the thesaurus, and then go live and hear the phone line connect and make that wooshy connecting sound and do the search.  This was power!  I also loved working on the pathfinders, especially the one for the occult sciences.  Long live ESSL! Thank you, Nancy, Karen, and Jim for your wonderful guidance and instruction.  I loved every minute of it!"

Ruth now is the Director of Library Services at the University of South Carolina's School of Medicine Library.


Susan R. Gibberman, 1985 ESSL graduate assistant

"When I made the decision to pursue my MSLIS degree, I was thrilled to be offered an assistantship at the Education and Social Science Library.  The professionals allowed us the opportunity to work in a real-world setting, working the Reference Desk, creating pathfinders, and doing professional-level cataloging.  To have those experiences (yes, even the online searching with its cumbersome telephone connection and "speedy" baud rate) was absolutely priceless.  Jim's endless notes on cataloging were a better learning experience than anything I had in the classroom. He began with notes on a legal pad and we gradually progressed downward to letter-size, half-sheets and, eventually, to post-it notes.  You can't imagine how relieved I was the first time the only post-it on my cataloging was the 1½" x 2" size.  And even if I was scared out of my mind the first night we were left in charge until midnight, my time at ESSL was the hardest (and by far the most enjoyable) work I've ever done in libraries.   I would have done it for free, but who'd ever think you could live so well on that stipend in those days!  Thanks to Nancy [et al.] for everything you did for us."

Susan is now Head of Reader Services, Schaumburg (IL) Township District Library.


Heidi Hohman, 1987-1988 ESSL graduate assistant

"I remember working the reference desk one night near midnight, and a nameplate fell off of one of the faculty librarian office doors - I must have jumped 10 feet off my chair.  We blamed it on the notorious Mandeville collection, of course.  I remember Jim Williams and how patient he was teaching me the finer points of original cataloging.  I saved a lot of those worksheets, Jim, because I was proud of all the cataloging I did and my work is still there in the U of IL library catalog.  I remember my cohorts, Ankha Shamin and Margaret Mechtenberg, we gave each other a lot of moral support because it was tough working and taking a full load of classes.  I remember how spooky it was at night to retrieve S-collection books from the storage area.  Long live the S-collection!  It was the beginning of my career working with children's literature.  I am glad I worked in the Education library, but no more midnight shifts for me!  I have been happy as a Children's Librarian for the past 22 years.  Being at the U of IL when all the GSLIS students were in class together, and working in the campus libraries together,  gave us all a solid foundation for our future careers."

Heidi is the Head of the Children's Department in the Dundee Township Public Library District.


Roger Swartzbaugh, 1987-1988 ESSL graduate assistant

"One incident that stands out for me during my days as a GA took place when I was working during the evening. I happened to go into a side room and noticed that one of the students serenely studying at a table had a six pack of beer sitting on the floor at his feet. Since this was not an approved use of the library (or even the official library beer), I told him he had to get his beer out of there, which he did, a little embarrassed but without protest. I don’t remember if he came back or not that night."

Roger is currently the Reference Librarian at St. John's Hospital & St. John's College, Springfield,  Illinois.


Beth McNeil, 1988 ESSL graduate assistant

"I worked as a graduate assistant in the Education and Social Sciences Library in 1988 and my experience there set the course for my career in academic libraries. I was a late applicant to GSLIS for fall 1987 and all assistantships in the library system were already filled.  I'd visited ESSL as an undergraduate and was thrilled to interview for an assistantship beginning in January 1988.  I remember fondly the orientation and training provided by Susan Klingberg and Nancy O'Brien.  Boy, did I have a lot to learn!   I was 22 and I'd never before worked in a library.  Looking back now I realize how tolerant they all were--the librarians and the other GAs. During my first weekend shift the toner cartridge on a microfiche printer exploded all over my white corduroy skirt. I had other misadventures like this one but I also learned so much about librarianship.  After a year at ESSL I knew I wanted to work in an academic library and in a liaison or subject specialist role.  I've been in academic libraries every since.  My sincerest thanks to all ESSL librarians, staff, and GAs who helped me along this path.

I work now at Purdue University Libraries as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs (my areas are public services, collections, and scholarly communication)."


Roger "Dee" Shonkwiler, Serials Specialist 1989-2001

"My greatest memory of the Education and Social Science Library, was the wonderful people that I worked with there.  Dee, Zona, Indra, Joyce, Gene, and Lillian.  We, also added some new ones through the 10+ years that I was there.  We were under the expert guidance of Susan, and then Nancy O'Brien.  There were many other fantastic librarians, covering their specialty areas.  Working with everyone made it a joy to come to work.

One non-work related occurrence, that stands out in my mind, was the day that the O & M light man was replacing lights in the ESSL Stacks area. He put his ladder up against one of the units, climbed up, and immediately, we heard a loud disturbing noise.  The first unit and about 5 more fell domino style, scattering books all over the floor."

Dee is currently Senior Library Specialist for Acquisitions at the UIUC Law Library.


Veyshon Edmond, 1991 ESSL graduate assistant

"In the fall of 1991 when I started my Graduate Assistantship I remember thinking that my assignment to Education and Social Science Library was one of the greatest injustices known to mankind.  I had spent the past six years working in an art library, and I wanted so desperately to do the same while in Library School. It was my great plan to graduate, find a job as an Art Librarian and hang around other "Artsy People."

I remember the one week orientation in the Education and Social Science Library as being the hardest ever.

I now fully understand that my experiences provided me with an invaluable foundation into librarianship. It also made me see the world from a different vantage point."

Veyshon currently works as a Branch Manager for the Chicago Public Library system.


Michael Weinberg, 1992-1993 ESSL Graduate Assistant

"I don't know if there would be a before and after picture for this memory...but when I was a grad student in the early 90's, I learned from Nancy O'Brien what it means to be an advocate for the library. Specifically, her official request to replace the old oak desk/reference desk with a single terminal placed on it referred to said desk as
"dilapidated." At a visit to the library soon after having graduated I was pleased to see a nice new reference desk with space for two terminals to support much needed 2-person staffing! Nothing at library school taught me more than my assistantship in the ESSL. Thanks, and congratulations!"

Michael is a subject librarian at Northeastern Illinois University.


Cynthia Pederson, 1994 ESSL graduate assistant

"One favorite memory of working at ESSL stemmed from a visit by my cousin and his young family. Perhaps because we’re a small family, we’re loathe to miss any opportunity to see each other. So when cousin Brian, his wife and their two young sons were passing through Champaign but could only stop for an hour, I had a dilemma: I was scheduled to be at my job. Thankfully they took the time to navigate the campus and find me at the library. I gave them a tour of ESSL, especially the children’s book room, my special assignment. It was obvious that the two boys were enamored with that room.

Later, cousin Brian’s wife wrote to say that the boys were under the impression that, since they had visited me there, ESSL was my home. And, never mind the lack of a bed, the children’s book room was my room. Deb said the boys always referred to me as “Aunt Sue, the one who lives in a house made of books.”

Another memory:   Probably because my background includes teaching and working with public education at a museum, I was bothered by the empty display case outside ESSL. I was enrolled, that semester, in Dr. Krummel’s Bibliography class. Dr. Krummel had suggested research on a series of contemporary poetry books, but I deemed that too easy. Instead I researched hornbooks, a pedagogical device dating from before Shakespeare’s time.

It wasn’t necessary for my coursework to install an exhibit, but annoyed and inspired by that empty display case, I broached the topic with my boss, Nancy O’Brien. She was amenable, so I tackled the project. One afternoon I even brought a small printing press from home to set up in the hall outside ESSL so that, in conjunction with viewing my letterpress-produced hornbook replicas, anyone passing by could make a letterpress bookmark.

I was proud of my elaborate hornbook display, but also dismayed.  Nancy, with her ever-present sense of fairness, counted some of the hours I’d spent installing the display as work hours. That meant, that last summer, that my time at ESSL ended sooner than I expected. So, before I was ready to go, I had to say goodbye to a job I loved and to my house made of books."


Susan Miller, 1994 ESSL Librarian

"In the early 1990's I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work for six months as a visiting librarian in ESSL.  As part of my responsibilities I coordinated the ESSL graduate assistants with their reference desk shifts, and also participated in their continuing education in the use of resources and unique collections available in the ESSL.  It was a pleasure to instruct the excellent GAs who had been hired to work in the unit, and even though our time together was short, I continue to stay in touch with a few of them.  We all appreciated the experience of working in a well organized and well run departmental library; there was a great deal of pride in our mission to provide excellent service.  As I continued on my path of librarianship and worked in other library settings, I have often thought back on my experience in ESSL and the camaraderie fostered there." 

Susan is currently a lecturer at GSLIS, focusing on reference services.


Elaina Norlin, 1996-1997 ESSL Graduate Assistant

"When I first arrived at GSLIS, my advisor told me that if I wanted a job after graduation, I needed to get off my butt and get a graduate assistant position.  So I took her seriously and worked many jobs including Women Studies, the Media Library, and at the Residence Halls.  But the position that always stands out in my mind is working at the reference desk as one of the ESSL Graduate Assistants.  What was most invaluable is my realization that I was truly a public service librarian.  I loved being on the reference desk and I thought that the intense training that we received before our assignments was top notch!  I also thought that Nancy O'Brien hands down was the best manager I ever worked for..I admired her professionalism and quiet dignity.   Well after all my numerous graduate assistant positions, I did land my first job specifically because of my previous experience.  My first professional career boss said that I was well trained for public service and I owe that all to ESSL! :)"

Elaina is the Executive Director and Regional Library Manager of the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center.


Amelia Shelley, 1997 ESSL graduate assistant

"I had a great time in my year at the Education and Social Science Library. I had an assistantship that was 10 hours of cataloging and 10 on the reference desk and really enjoyed the variety the job gave me. I learned to catalog from Jim and Indra, and worked on the paranormal collection as well as a lot of dissertations from storage. I certainly got to work on some real gems, including one where the author channeled earth, telling humans about how much damage we were causing to her. Pretty tricky giving that one all the LC subject headings it deserved."

Amelia currently works as the Executive Director of the Garfield County Public Library District in Colorado. 


K.R. Roberto, 1999 ESSL graduate assistant

I had originally contacted Jim Williams in late 1998 because I wanted to do a cataloging practicum with him.  He informed me that he wouldn't have time to supervise a practicum student because ESSL was in the process of hiring a GA to catalog a special collection. In a moment of bravery (or possibly hubris), I decided to apply for the GA job instead, and I got it. I worked on the Wines Microfilm Collection of Social Problems, and it was a great experience! I wound up cataloging such gems as Annual report of the Board of Managers for the Western House of Refuge for Women, Summary of a report on substitutes for the saloons in the city of Boston, and The Gheel Lunatic Colony. Jim taught me a lot about cataloging in the process, and also gave me many insights into what working life was like for cataloging librarians. I still base my work upon the underlying principles he taught me, and I consider him one of my personal cataloging heroes.

K.R. is currently a Serials/Electronic Resources Librarian at the University of Denver.


Pamela Salela, 1999 ESSL graduate assistant

"Wish I could be there physically, but assure that I am there in spirit.  Feel incredibly fortunate that I was privileged to have had my initiating professional academic librarian experience there and under Nancy O'Brien's tutelage. That continues to inspire my idea of what a professional academic librarian should be.   And the ESS Library continues to be one of the guiding models for what I expect from a quality library operation."

Pamela is Associate Professor, Library Instructional Services Program, UI-Springfield


Meg Edwards, 2003-2004 ESSL graduate assistant

"As a graduate assistant starting in the summer of 2003 I was ecstatic to have "landed" a GAship in ESSL.  I remember leaving my interview and thinking how much I knew I would learn from the librarians at ESSL just based on our interview conversation.  By the time I made it home to Washington, DC I had a job offer awaiting me on my phone. I felt so lucky!

I am eternally grateful to ESSL for "demanding" one very simple and important job duty of all their employees - the requirement to smile at every person who walked through the door.  This very small but meaningful gesture was engrained in us as GA's and as a practicing librarian, and now as an advisor of future librarians at GSLIS, I see this as one of THE most important skills/habits a future librarian and information professional can have.  Thank you ESSL, thank you ESSL librarians, staff, student workers and patrons for making my pre-professional experience and introduction to the world of librarianship so incredibly valuable!"

Meg is the Advising Coordinator at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science here at UIUC.


Ben Lothson, 2005-2006 ESSL student worker

"After reading Nancy’s introduction on the memories page it is strange, if not ridiculous, to think that I, a simple student worker (Fall ’05 - Summer ’06), have had any impact on the 110 year existence of the ESSL. I find it comparable to the feeling of insignificance that would come over me as I knelt in the main collection and robotically stacked, sorted and organized books within crammed rows of what seemed to be limitless knowledge and information.  Or, the times that I would venture to the dark depths of the remote storage building with bags of old books only to find many more stacks just sitting there, waiting for me to shelve them, and myself, having little idea of how they got there, shuddering at the idea of that seemingly endless task.  So many times it happened that I would begin to place each book in its proper location only to come upon a story from my childhood and, captivated by nostalgia and a timeless tale, I would spend the remainder of my precious shelving time seduced by a perfect arrangement of paper and ink that was much older than I (I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that).  Though, for me the time I spent at the ESSL can be summed up by the people I met and spent those moments of my life with; some of them I still remain in contact with today.  It was a great place to work, with enthusiastic people from diverse backgrounds and a true interest in others and the world. To the women that were able manage the ESSL and a bunch of simple college kids with such perfection: thanks for the experience and congratulations on the 110 years!"

Ben is now a Graduate Student in the Department of Foreign Languages & Literatures at Northern Illinois University.


Minjie Chen, 2005-2006 ESSL graduate assistant

"I am so proud to be part of ESSL's 110 years of history! I was a Graduate Reference Assistant at ESSL for two whole years 2005-06. I got to work on my beloved School Collection, choosing children's and young adult literature titles to purchase, managing the reference section, and setting up displays periodically. Working at the reference desk was something that gave you a cheerful mood everyday, because you smiled at everyone walking into the door and were smiled back. You felt good about helping people out, whether they were freshmen bringing in printouts of Wikipedia entries, or passersby who were looking for the mysterious Room 66, or graduate students learning to use a new database. I learned so much from Nancy, the way she kept such a big library--both in terms of collection and staff size--operating in excellent order. Every once in a while we also got to enjoy the wonderful cakes she and other librarians and staff brought to office.

There was one spring when we had quite a few tornado warnings, meaning we had to close the library and wait out the tornado in the basement floor. After two or three times we figured out that each alert happened when another undergraduate student worker and I were having our night shift together. For a short period of time we were known as the tornado team."

Minjie is a PhD candidate at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at UIUC.


Jennifer Erbach, 2006-2007 ESSL graduate assistant

"One of my favorite memories:

A fairly quiet weekend afternoon turned chaotic when it was discovered that someone had had a huge nosebleed at one of the computers.  There was blood all over the keyboard, desk, chair, even the floor.  I had no supplies which to properly clean the area, and since it was a weekend, no building custodial staff to contact.  While I called around trying find a custodial staff person somewhere in the university, the building security guard came to help.  By the time I was off the phone, the guard had decided to block off the bloody computer station...with yellow crime scene tape!  I had to spend the next hour explaining to every shocked patron that there had not been a murder in the library, just a bloody nose.

All the best to the ESSL, and the wonderful librarians.  It was a fantastic place to work and grow as a library student!"

Jennifer currently is a Youth Services Librarian in the Frankfort Public Library District.


Nancy Castellanos, 2007-2008 graduate assistant

"Working at the ESSL was a great experience.   I had the opportunity to learn great reference skills from some of the best subject specialists.  The first two weeks of training were very intensive and I didn’t think it was possible to learn so much information in such a short amount of time, but the training helped a lot during my year and a half at the ESSL. Now that I am a full time librarian I realize how lucky I was to have such training and to have so much practical experience at the reference desk.  I am also thankful to Nancy O’Brien for having all of the Graduate Assistants smile and greet all the patrons that came through the door, I now do that at my current library and people seem to really appreciate it.

I also have fun memories such as the time a student came into the library while video chatting on his computer and holding it as a cell phone, I had to explain to him that he would have to finish his chat outside the library. And yes, I will never forget when the bat came flying through the door, it was the weekend and ten minutes before closing so there was nobody in the maintenance department on duty so I called security and the security guard did not believe me until he showed up at our door and the bat almost hit him on the head."

Nancy is currently a Reference Librarian at the Lisle Library District.


Library Patrons

Helen Sullivan, 1970s graduate student in Anthropology

"I think this is so wonderful!  I have been on this campus for 40 years (shockingly!) and for the first 10 of those years ESSL was such a major part of my life.  Since I was in anthropology as a graduate student I spent many happy hours in ESSL and always found it welcoming and so full of wonderful resources!  I cannot be there this afternoon but I just wanted to add my voice to all the students who have worked on this campus using that collection - it is such a wonderful library and you have only made it better!"

Helen is currently a Manager in UIUC's Slavic Reference Service.


Carol Rippey Massat, 1975-1977 and 1987-1992 graduate student in Social Work

"I was a daily user of the Education and Social Science library from 1975-1977, when I completed my Masters in Social Work and from 1987-1992 when I completed my Ph.D. in Social Work. I remember the sense that I was working in a real library, filled with the atmosphere of history and wisdom to which all libraries should aspire.

Of course, card catalogs were still in use and, even during my doctoral studies, I had to go year by year through the hard copies of *Social Work Research and Abstracts* to find all of the citations in  my topic area for the previous ten years. I then photocopied every relevant article, which later become the source of the literature review for my dissertation. I recall my excitement when I found that I could rent for $10 an hour a disc of ERIC resources. My first electronic searches began at the Education and Social Science library.

At times, during my Masters and doctoral studies, I felt that my brain was going to explode from all of the weight of knowledge that I was gaining in the library. At those times I would quietly slip into the children's library in the back corner of the library and find a lovely children's book to read for a while and soothe my agitated cerebellum with a good story.

I also recall going through the hardbound volumes of abstracts and squealing with delight when I found the absolutely perfect article. This may have alarmed my fellow patrons, but remains a fond memory. I still retain the excitement of the chase while searching the literature for scholarly sources relevant to my work. There is the thrill of the chase and the joy of victory that remains in the pursuit of knowledge.

Students and scholars, including myself, who are searching the literature today have such an immediacy and wealth of resources through online searching capabilities that it is dazzling. When I tell students of the "olden days" of card catalogs and completing statistical calculations without computers, I am regarded more as less as the Laura Ingalls Wilder of scholarship, telling tales of long ago and far away.

But the magic of a great library, such as the Education and Social Science library is in the doors that it opens to the minds of students and scholars. When I was a child my mother taught me a poem that read "A book I think is very like/ a little golden door/That takes me into places/Where I've never been before." (Adelaide Love). This was true at age 7, and it is still true today. The Education and Social Science Library remains that golden door."

Carol currently works at the Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois in Chicago.


A grateful patron, early 1990s social science graduate student

"In the early 1990s, I was a Ph.D. student in a social science department at UIUC.  I was taking my first prelim exam one August (a very big deal), and I had spent months preparing. However I knew that prelims sometimes included “left field” questions, and so I wanted to make sure that I could get additional books from the library if need be.

Unfortunately, Wednesday of that week produced a torrential rain, and the library was closed with a flooded basement on Thursday. I was to get my prelim questions on Friday, and since the library would be closed for the weekend (it was August recess) I was rather concerned­ if the library stayed closed on Friday, I wouldn’t be able to get any books!

Thursday afternoon, I met with the chair of the prelim committee. I expressed my concerns, and with great academic élan, he responded that “the need to do more studying at this point is surely a mark of poor preparation.”

What could I do but agree?

I got the questions on Friday, and after reconnoitering, I headed for the Education and Social Science Library, which had opened right on time that morning. I spent several hours there, and at a quarter to closing time, I came staggering out of the ESSL with a towering stack of books.

You guessed it. Here came my prelim chair, walking right towards me.

I don’t know if he didn’t see me­, he had his nose buried in a book, ­or if he was just being kind, but we passed without acknowledgment. And as it turned out, a couple of the books helped me to pass my prelim with distinction.

I’m not sure if libraries and librarians realize how much their service ethic is appreciated- ­the ESSL could have just made a long weekend of it­- but that ethic made a big difference for me one hot August Friday almost twenty years in the past."