In this blog we are excited to talk to Michelle Self-Ballard, HPNL’s newest staff member! Michelle started working for the unit as a Senior Library Specialist at the end of December, keeping the circulation desk running smoothly, managing our newspaper collections, supervising student assistants and helping patrons with the unit’s collections. She comes to us after many years of library experience including working at the Champaign Public Library, Grainger Engineering Library, Undergraduate Library, and the Scholarly Commons. We’re very pleased to have Michelle as part of the History, Philosophy, and Newspaper Library!
[This interview has been edited for clarity and length]
We’ll start off with some background questions: where are you from? What led you to work at the University Library?
I’m originally from Indianapolis and I’ve also lived in Southern California (San Diego and Irvine). In 2011, I got my MLIS [Masters in Library and Information Science] from UIUC and worked at the Champaign Public Library both before and throughout grad school. I also held an assistantship with the acquisitions department of the University Library. After graduating, I worked in both public and school libraries. After coming back to the Champaign-Urbana area, I worked at the Grainger Library for a year, the Undergraduate library for 3 years, and with Scholarly Commons after the UGL closed.
What interests you about library work?
I really enjoy the customer service element and the ability to help people. I also enjoy working with student and graduate assistants and ensuring library services run smoothly. I was surprised when one of my favorite classes while in graduate school was “Administration and Management of Libraries and Information Centers” and I enjoy positions that allow me to create procedures and processes that allow a library to run smoothly for patrons and staff alike. I also enjoy reference work and being able to assist patrons with technology or information needs.
Any parts of the HPNL collection you’re especially interested in/looking forward to learning more about?
I like that it’s a very diverse collection and covers a lot of topics, not just one or two subjects. Coming from a background in social sciences, I was excited to see that much of the collection covers topics that span my areas of interest. I’m also interested in learning more about working with microfilm, since it is becoming a more unique medium of information storage. It is amazing to see all the historical newspapers and documents that we have on microfilm since they are a great primary source of information and give a real taste of what life was like in different times in history.
What do you like to do outside of your work? Hobbies etc?
I read a lot of fiction, especially science fiction and YA fiction. I also love popular culture including movies and TV shows. Our family loves both video and board games and my favorites are cooperative games. I’m also into paper crafts and make things like shadow boxes, cards, scrapbooks, and decorative planners.
What is your favorite book? (Or what have been reading recently that you’ve liked, if favorite is too hard to choose)
This is always such a difficult question! I read books in many genres. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of horror/haunted house fiction. I also enjoy reading fantasies, mysteries, and science fiction in both adult and YA.
History, Philosophy, or Newspapers?
A bit of all of them!
Thanks to Michelle for sitting down with us! We’re excited to have her on the HPNL team!