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Meet JMU's New Librarians
by Reba Leiding


Three new librarians have joined our staff over the past year.  They bring a mix of skills and experience that enrich our team of librarians.


Tracy Harter, Special Collections Librarian
Tracy Harter

Tracy Harter, the new Special Collections librarian, is our most recent addition, but brings with her a strong connection to Shenandoah Valley history.   Originally from Idaho, she graduated from Boise State University with a degree in History.  During her senior year she was an intern at the Idaho State Historical Society Archives where she was involved in many aspects of archival work such as arranging and describing manuscript collections, document preservation, and conducting and transcribing oral histories of Civilian Conservation Corps members.  This experience inspired her to seek a career in special libraries.

She received her M.L.I.S. from the University of South Carolina, with extra coursework in public history.  While a student she also held the position of Assistant Curator of Modern Political Collections at the South Caroliniana Library.  There she met her husband, Dale, a JMU alumnus and currently Special Collections Librarian at Bridgewater College.


The Harters worked at the Library of Virginia for a few years, Tracy as a cataloger for the Virginia Newspaper Project, and later as an Access database developer.  Most recently, she and her husband worked at St. Margaret’s School in Tappahannock, VA.  But during this period the Harters maintained a consulting relationship with the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society, a relationship Dale Harter had begun as a JMU student.  The Harters traveled to the historical society approximately once a month to assist them in establishing procedures and processing collections.  They have also done consulting work for the Augusta Historical Society.


From this experience, Tracy has a significant understanding of local history and the interrelationships between the historical society and Carrier Library’s Special Collections.  Asked what she sees as the pressing issues for Special Collections, Tracy replied that digital issues will likely be at the forefront:  issues regarding “access versus the integrity of the record,” that is, making historical information available to the user while balancing the need for preservation.


Meris Mandernach, Science Librarian
Meris Mandernach

Meris Mandernach joined the CISAT Library team last semester as Science Librarian, serving as liaison librarian for Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.  She graduated from the College of Wooster in Ohio with a B.A. in chemistry, then worked for a year at a fuel cell company in Columbus doing materials research before deciding to return to school.  She got her Master’s of Science in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  While in the MLS program, she worked at the Grainger Engineering Library Information Center, and following graduation worked at Battelle Institute’s Technical Information Center in Columbus, redesigning their web pages.  She was a Science Librarian at Loyola University Chicago before coming to JMU.


“I’m excited about JMU because the sciences are growing here,” Meris says.  She says science students and faculty are typically heavy library users, although you may not see them in the library.  They are interested in journals, and science faculty place high value on their students’ learning experience. 


Asked about the emphasis on undergraduate research at JMU, Meris said she “took the emphasis on student research for granted” because of her experience at Wooster, where undergraduate research in the sciences was also emphasized.  “This is the way it should be!”


Meris’ office is located near the CISAT Library in the HHS building, which places her near the Chemistry and Physics faculty and students, but across campus from the Biology department.  How does she plan to keep up with her several departments?  One strategy she mentioned was attending departmental seminars as a way of learning about faculty research interests and giving her a guide on areas for collection development.



Melissa Van Vuuren, English Librarian
Melissa VanVuuren

Melissa Van Vuuren came to JMU last January directly out of library school, but with a great deal of academic experience behind her.  She has a B.S. in English from the University of South Dakota, where she grew up, and received a Master’s in English from the University of Nevada, Reno.  While at UNR, she taught freshman composition and team-taught a sophomore level Humanities survey course on Western history from the Renaissance to the present.  She got her Master’s in Library Science from Indiana University, Bloomington in December, 2005.   


During library school she worked with the Librarian for English and American Literature on collection development, an experience that turned out to be very useful in her first few weeks at JMU.  With only a few weeks to go before the library’s ordering deadline, Melissa set to work learning about collection and curriculum needs at JMU, and quickly ordered thousands of dollars worth of materials. 


Melissa says she is especially interested in improving the library’s world literature collections, particularly in the areas of African, Caribbean, Latin American, and Indic literatures.  She is also finding that many English faculty are using a culture studies approach in their classes, meaning they introduce materials from other disciplines that relate to the philosophy or art of a period, or take advantage of non-literature materials to immerse students in the culture of a particular period.  And they are enthusiastic about the library.  For example, Melissa said when she announced the availability of a new primary source database called American Broadsides and Ephemera in a faculty meeting, a faculty member cheered!  “If they are excited about a database, that means they are going to encourage their students to use it.”

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