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This fall we celebrate not one, but two milestones for the Frances Willson Thompson Library; the 20th anniversary of our beautiful building as well as the 20th anniversary of our participation with the UM-Ann Arbor based MIRLYN system.
Back on October 14, 1994, we hosted the dedication ceremony for the new Thompson Library in our beautiful Atrium.
While it wasn’t yet entirely completed — some furniture, shelving and a touch or two of paint was still needed — it was a fabulous new home for our resources, librarians and users.
Hosting the ceremonies, which included several local dignitaries and
UM-Flint administrators, was a high point in our history, but the path to opening the Frances Willson Thompson Library facility was a long and circuitous one for our campus.
Our history began in 1956 when the new UM-Flint campus and the then Flint Junior College opted to share a library collection to be housed in the new Mott Memorial Building.
The book collection of both colleges was then available to the students and faculty of either college.
The dual library opened in August 1957. While each institution retained ownership of its own books, all items were held and housed and maintained jointly in the combined library facilities.
In February of 1958, a plan was approved for a new Mott College (then Flint JC) building that would house the consolidated collection of both colleges.
C.S. Mott gave more than one million dollars for the construction of the building, emphasizing the importance of a library as the heart of an educational institution.
The collection moved into the new building in the fall of 1960.
In 1974, UM-Flint developed a master building plan which lead to the first building on the Flint campus, known as the Classroom & Office Building (CROB), later named in honor of Dean David French as French Hall.
CROB was completed and opened in January 1977, with the UM-Flint library collection moved to the 5th floor by 1978.
The library was to remain in this “temporary location” (plus the “library annex” located beneath the Harrison Street parking ramp) for the next 16 years.
UM-Flint hired David Palmer as its first Director of the Library in 1975.
Mr. Palmer’s primary directive at this time was to oversee the drafting of a plan and construction of a new library building.
Like Moses before him, Mr. Palmer did not enjoy the fruits of those dreams and plans as he retired in the early 90s, before construction of the new building even began.
In 1991, Robert Houbeck, formerly Head of Serials & Book Acquisitions within the UM Library systems on the Ann Arbor campus, was hired to replace Mr. Palmer.
Upon his arrival, Mr. Houbeck was thrown headlong into the planning stages of a new facility, working with the architectural firm that had designed the new underground Law Library in Ann Arbor, Gunnar Birkerts & Associates.
Thanks to the fund raising efforts of Vice Chancellor for Development, Joanne Sullenger, and the generosity of many donors — most notably Frances Willson Thompson — our new library facility was finally competed.
Our library celebrated its 20th anniversary in the new building this fall.
We look forward to future growth and change that will lead us into an exciting future providing students, faculty and staff access to the latest information resources available in the world.
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While the librarians and staff of the Frances Willson Thompson Library celebrate 20 years in our beautiful facility, this is not the only 20th anniversary our campus here in Flint has cause to reflect upon this year.
In 1993 researchers here on the Flint campus of University of Michigan used the traditional card catalogs to locate books.
It has been 20 years since the UM-Flint library collection data was uploaded — a long and arduous process involving personnel from both the Ann Arbor and Flint libraries needed to digitalize and index the original card catalog data — and released (March 9, 1994) into the University of Michigan Library System online catalog known affectionately as MIRLYN.
The switch to an online catalog meant that the holdings in the UM-Flint collection would henceforth be available to anyone with a computer that had access to the internet.
Using MIRLYN online, any patron could search (using standard database commands known as Boolean Operators), locate any item, determine if the item was currently on-shelf or if checked out, and when any item was due to be returned if not currently available.
No longer were our patrons tied to the old print card catalogs inside the building to navigate through the holdings of our library.
Now, without the necessity of driving to campus, a patron could first check a book’s availability, note the call number, and then go to the library to retrieve an item, changing forever how UM-Flint students, faculty and administrators interacted with the Library.
This wasn’t the beginning of the UM online library catalog.
MIRLYN’s antecedents go back as far as 1987 — 27 years ago — when the University announced the installation of a new computer tracking system for library books named MIRLYN — the name being selected as the culmination of a university-wide contest.
The winning name is actually an acronym: MIchigan Research LibrarY Network.
But of course, the idea of that much data being delivered instantly by a bewhiskered wizard with a pointy hat and a wand appealed to the literary funny bone of all library personnel as well.
So the University of Michigan library catalog is now and forever more known as MIRLYN.
Even that wasn’t the first attempt by University of Michigan librarians to deliver information about their holdings through electronic means.
The first system was known as GEAC (which was the name of the corporation who provided the early computer system).
While the GEAC was capable of allowing circulation staff to check books out and track holdings more efficiently, this system didn’t provide the fast and easy remote access to search the collection desired by librarians.
The transition to the original MIRLYN system was fraught with many technological difficulties.
The solution involved cooperation and sharing of resources between several institutions, including Merit Network, the IBM 7171 protocol converter based upon Yale University software, software from the University of British Columbia-Vancouver, and software from the University of Alberta.
Several types of hardware and software interfaces were employed as well, making delivery of the service difficult to achieve, but at last — it worked!
A user could access millions of items in the University of Michigan Library holdings, including those in published in any of the over 400 foreign alphabets cataloged under American Library Association characters (non English language items utilizing characters not found in the familiar western alphabet).
In the mid 1980s, this was revolutionary.
By 1994, the 250,000 items in the UM-Flint campus library collection were added to the MIRLYN records available online to anyone, anywhere, at any time.
From the original library catalog listing all items in the collection as a text-only NOTIS database (see image above) during the 80’s and 90’s, the library migrated to the newer, browser-based, larger and more efficient ALEPH database.
The new MIRLYN database system in ALAPH software went “live” online in July 2004. Today that public version (interface) is referred to as Classic MIRLYN (see image below).
This changed things considerably for Thompson Library and UM-Flint library users.
As an example, for the first time ever UM-Flint patrons had unprecedented access to the shared resources of the UM-Ann Arbor libraries.
Using the new GET THIS option, UM-Flint users could login to MIRLYN and — without having to drive to Ann Arbor and back — select books and other in-circulation materials of Ann Arbor and have it delivered to Flint campus for pick-up.
GET THIS instantly expanded our users ability to find and get the resources from not just the 250,000 books in the Flint campus library, but access up to an incredible 14 million items now shared between all University of Michigan libraries.
A few years later, the ALEPH interface was upgraded to a more intuitive interface (see image above) that provided suggestions based on type of search terms used.
MIRLYN itself is now accessible and searchable on any mobile device — tablets or smart phones — as well as on computers.
From its early digital beginnings, to the addition of the Flint collection into the online catalog in 1994, to today web-based system allowing users access to share all physical items of the UM libraries — we at the UM-Flint Thompson Library are proud to have been a part of MIRLYN for 20 years.
We can only wonder what the next 20 years will bring!
After the Classroom/Office Building was constructed, the UM-Flint library moved from its temporary location in the Mott Memorial Building (which was shared for several years with Flint JC, now Mott College) to the 5th floor of the new CROB structure.
This was intended to be an interim location for the library as well. Plans were on the drawing board to eventually create a new building to house just the library. The concept was a round building located near what is now MSB. A model of the planned building was created and installed on the large table-top 3-D model of the UM-Flint campus, which was on display at UCEN for many years.
When and how the library would be built was unknown, though. No finalized architectural plans had been drawn up. No donors had come forward to help the University provide research and study space and opportunities for its students.
Then several fortuitous things happened nearly simultaneously.
The property which had been used by the State (of Michigan) Building as a parking lot became available to re-purpose.
Through the efforts of Joanne Sullenger, UM-Flint Development officer, donors were made aware of our need and stepped forward to assist, chief among them the Thompson family. (Our facility is named in honor of Mrs. Frances Willson Thompson.)
An architectural firm was selected. Plans were drawn. Ground was broken. A new library building was created!
Thompson Library looks back on the nadir of our beautiful facility on the 20th anniversary of opening the Thompson Library to the students, faculty and staff of the University of Michigan-Flint campus!
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— CONSTRUCTION BEGINS!!! —
— CONSTRUCTION COMPLETED! —
Frances Willson Thompson Library opens October 1994
FRANCES WILLSON THOMPSON LIBRARY
Opened October 1994
Soon after Rachel transferred to UM-Flint from Mott, she determined she loved the Thompson Library and WAS going to be hired and employed there during the entire time she was a student of our campus. She haunted the library, checking in several times a week with our Head of Circulation (Mickey Doyle) to see if any student employee slots opened. Within a week, a new hire declined the position, and Mickey immediately offered it to Rachel. Persistence paid off.
With graduation planned for December 2015, we feel lucky that we will have Rachel with us for an additional 4 semesters. (When we find the best, we do our level best to keep them.)
Rachel is currently majoring in History after a brief fling with the thought of being an English major. One of her passions, it turns out, is creative writing. It is not outside the realm of possibility that we may one day have a Stock, R.M. authored book in our collection. Maybe. Time will tell.
She is now musing on the possibility of applying to grad school after she obtains her B.A., with the intent of obtaining a Masters in Library Science.
As so many of our student employees before her, Rachel has been bitten by the library bug and hopes to eventually become an academic librarian. We currently have several former student employees working in important degreed positions in our library. Perhaps one day Rachel, too, will return to our ranks as a professional librarian.
A native of this area, Rachel was born in Lapeer and raised in Davison, she attended Davison Public School System, the Holy Rosary Catholic School, and Powers High School, all of which fed her need to excel.
After graduation, Rachel pulled out a map. She wanted to see more of the world than Davison, Michigan, and so considered the two farthest points in the USA from Davison – the east coast (Maine) and the west coast (California). California just sounded more fun. And warmer. So she packed her bags and headed to San Diego, where she lived for the next five years.
As exciting as San Diego proved to be, she wanted to experience life in Los Angeles for a while as well, so it was off to the City of Angels. Her apartment in LA was small (about 400 sq ft of living space that included bedroom / living room / kitchenette – the very definition of a one-room flat), but it was cozy.
Living in an apartment in a remodeled old classic hotel was perfect for this history buff. After decades of earthquakes and fires, it was one of the few surviving historic buildings in the thriving local community. It placed her yet again in the center of a vibrant community that fed her creative spirit. She was living the dream! For a while, at least.
As time moved on, it became abundantly clear to Rachel that if she wished to ensure her future success in life, the advantages of a good education to get ahead were obvious. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Rachel registered for and attended classes locally at Palomar College in California.
By 2009, Rachel was chaffing at the distance from family. The high cost of living and the California lifestyle took its toll. She made another life-altering decision to return to Michigan and her family in Davison.
Returning to the fold did not mean discarding her dreams. The need to further her education and expand her potential opportunities continued to drive her. She enrolled at University of Michigan-Flint to pursue a BA in History, a goal she is close to attaining.
And so we have come full circle. Rachel is now one of our outstanding student employees at Thompson Library with eyes on eventually holding an MLS degree, working in an academic library, and running her own department, or maybe even her own library as an administrator. Time will tell.
As for her work here at the Thompson Library in UM-Flint, Rachel has proven her ability to work well with patrons (library users) and is trusted by her supervisors to organize and execute special projects as needed.
We at the Thompson Library can attest to her character as well. A recent incident in our library will clearly illustrate why we are happy to have Rachel as an employee within our ranks.
A patron entered our library and returned a book without first inspecting it, and then walked off into the stacks. This is not an unusual occurrence by itself. However, something very out of the ordinary happened because of this particular book.
Rachel has developed a habit of thumbing through returned books to ensure that no papers or other paraphernalia has been left behind that could potentially damage the spine of a book. As Rachel checked this particular book, she was stunned to discover $500 in cash between the pages!
Instantly Rachel raced after the patron, locating him deep in the stacks, so that she could return the money he had inadvertently left behind within the pages of that library book which he had just returned.
The patron was first stunned at his own forgetfulness, then again at her genuine honesty, and thanked Rachel profusely. She politely accepted his thanks and hurried to return to the Circulation Desk where she was the only student on duty at the time, dismissing the incident from her mind.
She nearly forgot the incident entirely. However, our Director asked that we make special mention in our newsletter (and this accompanying blog) about Rachel both to thank her publicly as well as to highlight our pride in our exceptional student employees.
Our patron asked to remain anonymous, but he very much wanted everyone to know that the Thompson Library is run by staff, librarians, and outstanding student employees, of the highest caliber, demonstrated so admirably by Rachel.
As always, she will be happy to help you with your library needs. And if you chat with her for a while, she will also happily discuss any of her favorite subjects, be it history, literature or music — especially country music from the 50’s and 60’s.
Rachel is also an enthusiastic fan of all things radio. She would LOVE to have the opportunity to do voice work at a radio station, or even a part time job as a radio announcer. If anyone out there can hook her up, she definitely has the voice – and contagious enthusiasm – to be a very interesting radio personality.
She is already one of our best library P.A. system announcers, a task from which most of our student employees shy away. Rachel enjoys her announcing duties, and adds a little extra something with each announcement, pleasantly updating our library users about such things as events being held in the library, or the more standard closing time notification. As we said, she certainly has the voice and personality to be a good radio personality, so if anyone can help us get Rachel on the air, give us a call!
Rachel Stock — yet another of our amazing and highly valued student employees!
New from Thompson Library!
- Faculty Expertise
- Cost of Books
- UM Faculty Publications
… and more!
See more NEW database on Thompson Library
website under link for NEW RESOURCES
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The new Flint Farmer’s Market is located next to UM-Flint campus on First Street between Harrison and Stevens.
A Traveling display of posters has been created highlighting the farmers and vendors who bring us fresh produce and delicious food products available at the Flint Farmer’s Market.
The traveling display of posters showing scenes of vendors produce farms or booths is currently available for viewing on the 3rd floor of Thompson Library.
The Frances Willson Thompson Library will open at 8 am on Monday, December 8th and will remain open (24 hours per day) until midnight on Thursday, December 11th this year (2014).
Students needing to study for exams or work on that final paper are welcome to take advantage of these special extended hours.