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Remembering Grant Burns


Our Own Mark Twain Remembered …

Anniversaries bring to mind warm memories of times gone by,  of people,  places,  and events we have experienced and remember wistfully — and perhaps with a tinge of regret for what was once an important part of our lives, yet is now mere history.

But our history is important to us.   It connects us to our past, our roots.  It carries us forward into our future.    It shapes what we were and what we hope to become.

This month, Thompson Library faces an anniversary of sorts that brings the joy of remembrance along with the deep sadness of loss,

Ten years ago in January 2006,  we lost Grant Burns, the library’s assistant director, and bulwark of our library.


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Grant Burns, 1968 (click to enlarge)

While Grant often harkened back to his “green and white” roots and that other Michigan institution from where he received a BA in social studies in 1969,  he was also a proud graduate of the UM-Ann Arbor, where he was awarded a MA in English in 1973 AND of the UM School of Information where he obtained his M.L.S. in 1976.   He would often reminisce  of his days as a student in Ann Arbor with other librarians who shared some of his memories  of instructors and those lessons learned we now use to the benefit of UM-Flint students.


UM-Flint Library’s inter-mural softball team, “The Bookies.” Circa, summer of 1982. (click to enlarge)

Even though he had roots in another campus and another institution, Grant was dedicated to UM-Flint and the Thompson Library.



Staff of UM-Flint at old location in Mott Memorial Bldg. (click to enlarge)

He served as a librarian on our campus for nearly 30 years,  first as a reference librarian, then serving as Head of Reference for 10 years, and for his last 6 years as the library’s assistant director.     During that time,  the library went through enormous changes, beginning as a small facility located in the former Mott Memorial Building (now part of Mott College), moving to the 5th floor of CROB (the former ClassRoom Office Building — now French Hall) and eventually into the new Thompson Library facility which opened in October 1994.


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Brant Burns, 1994. (click to enlarge)

Grant saw the library move from a print-based information and research center with books, bound journals and vast sections of indexes and abstracts which researchers used heavily to locate materials relevant to their needs, through the introduction of technology in the form of microform and microform reader/printers, to the advent of the computer age — and finally the introduction of the internet and web-based indexes as databases.


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Grant Burns, 2000 (click to enlarge)

During all this time, Grant remained a constant.  With his easy-going manner and calm, thoughtful examination of the needs of the library, the students, faculty research projects, and of our staff, he kept us moving steadily forward.


Grant & Steve Burns (click to enlarge)

All of those who knew Grant were familiar with his many anecdotes and stories which he would frequently share with other librarians, faculty or students that needed some of his folksy wisdom or guidance.  And he was a good story teller!   One of his favorite authors of all time was Mark Twain, and in many respects he carried on in the footsteps of his hero.   He was our own UM-Flint Twain.


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Burns family, 1981. (click to enlarge)

Always at hand when a crisis struck,  able in his introspective and thoughtful way to step back and examine a situation and guide us constantly forward, supporting and encouraging each member of the library team to find ways to better the library and themselves, always willing to go that extra mile to assist a researcher ferret out an obscure bit of useful information, Grant was a fixture of our library whom we  assumed would always be here.

In memory of Grant, we would like to share some of the comments made at his memorial service by those that knew and worked with Grant over the years:

Announcement to Campus

by Chancellor Juan Mestas & Library Director, Robert Houbeck:

Today the University of Michigan-Flint family lost one of its dear colleagues. Grant Burns, assistant library director, collapsed this morning on campus and died at Hurley Medical Center. The cause of death appears to have been heart-related.

Grant received his B.A. from Michigan State. He started his library career as a periodicals clerk and bookbinder at the UM Law Library in 1973. While holding that position he pursued and secured his M.L.S. degree from the School of Library Science at UM-Ann Arbor. He has been with the Flint campus of the University since 1977, serving ably in many capacities: head of library reference services, assistant library director, interim library director, member of the Budget Priorities/Chancellor’s Advisory Committee, to name but a few.

Grant held the rank of full Librarian. He published actively throughout his career, contributing articles to professional journals such as Library Quarterly and Library Journal, as well as occasional columns, as “Uncle Frank’s Diary”, at He also authored several books, including Librarians in Fiction: A Critical Bibliography, and The Railroad in American Fiction: An Annotated Bibliography.

He was much sought after by his colleagues here at UM-Flint for his writing and editing skills, most recently with the University of Michigan-Flint’s Strategic Plan and the French Hall renovation project documents. In committee service, Grant was a valued barometer: if he didn’t sigh and roll his eyes, one knew the matter under consideration had at least a modicum of common sense – Mark Twain, one of his intellectual mentors, would have approved. We will miss Grant’s ready wit, moral earnestness, and generous readiness to serve. He leaves his wife, Stephanie, and two children, Steven and Andrea. We know that you join us in extending to them heartfelt condolences at their loss.

As details of arrangements are made, the campus community will be notified.

Juan Mestas, Chancellor


Grant’s Memorial Serivce —

Opening Remarks


Robert Houbeck, Director, Thompson Library

Welcome … thank you for coming.

We’re gathered here today to remember & celebrate the life and work of our colleague, Grant Burns.

In conformity to the wishes of Grant’s family, as well as those of the librarians and staff of the Thompson Library, we are holding this ceremony amidst the collection that was, amidst colleagues who were, such a central part of his life …

Clearly, looking around the room, Grant touched many lives … gathered here are only a small portion …

I had the privilege of working with Grant for 15 years. He was a valued colleague, a thorough professional, and I trusted his judgment completely. One of the reasons we got on so well is that, on a personal level, we shared many of the same values: a devotion to family, a love of learning, a commitment to the robust conversation that, ideally, is a university. We both subscribed to the view of philosopher David Hume: that truth springs from argument amongst friends.

I don’t know if we usually got to the truth, but argue we did. I’m going to miss the running political debate in which we engaged for these fifteen years. Before Roger Ailes conceived Hannity & Colmes, we had formed our own McLaughlin Group.

Hard as it is to believe looking out our window, Spring Training down in Florida is getting underway. Grant loved baseball. I’m going to miss his anticipation of a new baseball season, and our ongoing competition to find the best nicknames …

And, during football season, each Monday morning from September through December I’m going to miss that standing question which we would forlornly pose to one another: “What is wrong with the Lions?”

Well, I am confident that Grant is now safely in a place where he can get an answer to that question. Like every lifelong Lions fan, he has lived through his Purgatory and is now enjoying that delightful place where, for every long-suffering Detroit fan, we have just defeated the mighty Cleveland Browns, we are NFL champs, and it is perpetually 1957.


Remarks by Juan Mestas, Chancellor,
at the memorial service of Grant Burns,
Monday, February 20, 2006

This weekend I read a selection of poems by the great Spanish poet Antonio Machado. One, in particular, caught my attention. It is an introspective piece, the poet’s reflection on who he is, how he is. One verse made me stop and read it again. It said, “Soy, en el buen sentido de la palabra, bueno”: “I am, in the good sense of the word, good.”

Why the parenthetical expression? Why would it be necessary to clarify, “in the good sense of the word?” What sense, other than a good one, could “good” have? We know that words are treacherous. They don’t always mean what they say or say what they mean. Just think of what happened to “bad.” In the lips of those natural linguistic insurgents, teenagers, it has come to mean “good,” which puts the question of the meaning of “good” in a different light.

What does that have to do with Grant Burns? Well, Grant understood words. His sense of humor was mostly verbal. His wit, sharp as could be, often carried an ironic twist, even a bit of harmless sarcasm. He liked to play with words and did it very well, because he understood them. He understood that connotations are as significant, and much more fun, than denotations. He understood that words insinuate more than they reveal. He understood that they can lead to a smile or a laugh even in the most serious situations.

Two or three years ago, I was going to make some “important” remarks at the University Theatre, and there was some anticipation about what I would say regarding student housing. The Flint Journal ran a story that day that included brief interviews with campus people. Grant was quoted in the paper as saying something along these lines: “If the Chancellor announces that we’ll have student residences, it’s good because…. If he announces that we won’t have student residences, it’s good because….” That was a spinner’s delight. No matter what I ended up saying, there would be a defensible reason for it. Most people interpreted his remarks as an expression of loyalty. When I read them I smiled, because I could see Grant smiling as he said them. There was loyalty in his words, I am sure, but there was more than that. There was irony. He was mocking the hoopla about the chancellor’s speech. He was making fun of the very interview he was giving. He was using humor to bring us down to earth.

I miss Grant. I miss his wit, his kindness, his wisdom.

He was once a member of the faculty committee that advises me, and his counsel improved my decisions. In meetings, he did not feel compelled to express an opinion on everything, but when he spoke, we listened, because we knew we would learn from his words. He and I argued often about grammar-minutiae, such as whether a comma was necessary or a word should be capitalized. It was a game, a pleasant game – especially for him, because he always won. Almost always, that is. I won once, and that little victory felt as if I had won a gold medal in the Olympics.

I have heard people say they disagreed with Grant on something or other, but I have never met anyone who did not like and respect him. He was a kind and honorable man. He was, in the good sense of the word, good.

We were blessed to have him with us


Remarks by Margaret Leary, Director – Law Library (Ann Arbor)
at the memorial service of Grant Burns,
Monday, February 20, 2006

Dear Grant,

You and I go back a long way, back to 1973 at the Law Library. You were already there, I believe, when I arrived–I a novice manager, you working in bindery prep and going to school. My first memory is that you told me you really needed a small bench to hold a piece of equipment. We spotted one that winter that seemed unused, and appropriated it for your use–only to discover a few months later that it was part of a precious set of teak outdoor furniture that belonged in a courtyard in the lovely Cook Law Quadrangle. Neither of us lost our job over that!

You did your work meticulously, calmly, and with great intelligence and dedication. You took on a large backlog of books that needed repair, and acquired the tools and skills to put them back into working condition. You wrote a very useful memo, as you prepared to leave in 1977 for your first reference librarian job. It’s typed, with not a single error. You advised us that your successor would “have no trouble finding books that need repair; the state reports on level 2 are an especially ripe ground for derelicts.” Your memo advised us both how to build on the position you had created, and how to get along if we decided not to do that.

You left a nearly 20 page manual for your job: a clue that you yearned to write books, and you wrote several terrific ones. You said: “Some publications (notably and notoriously the Italian) come to us with several parts in each issue that must be separated from each other and put with matching parts from other issues before binding. Germany, France, and other countries all send us such stuff.”

You continued: What was clear to me after doing the thing several times may be a fog to a beginner. When working on such an item, have some space for laying out the parts. Avoid balancing parts on your knees, I have found this practice inconvenient when the phone rings.”

You also watched out for our patron relations, and advised what to do when we bound a volume when all the issues were not available. “Write, for example, ‘Issue 17 is out of print and unavailable’, ‘Pages 45-46 damaged and cannot be replaced.’ Don’t say ‘Law Library does not hold no. 3 of this vol.’ That makes it sound to the reader as though we just said, ‘what the hell, let’s send it w/o no. 3.'”

Grant, you went on to positions that took better advantage of your talents than the job at the Law Library, but we’ll forever be proud that you started your career with us. I loved sitting at the table of UM Library Directors with you as my peer, when you were Acting Director here at UM-Flint. You never changed: you remained calm, dedicated to the profession, thoughtful, and with a wicked sense of humor. And then you left, and I had never told you, till now, how much I admire and respect you.


Remarks by Bill Webb, Vice Chancellor
at the memorial service of Grant Burns,
Monday, February 20, 2006

Today, we are here to say good bye to a very dear friend and colleague, to a loving father, and to a caring and devoted husband.

Grant would be very pleased to see all of us here, to know how many folks came to pay their respects, and to say good-bye. But, I also know Grant would have wondered: “What-the-heck is all the fuss about?” Because, Grant never sought attention or the limelight for himself; instead, he left that for others. In fact, if he were standing here, he would urge all of us to move on with our lives, and get back to work.

But today is Grant’s day, a day to appreciate him, a day to remember him; and “yes” Grant, a day to recognize him.

Grant was at his best, and most comfortable, helping and attending to others who were in need, whether a student, a faculty member, a visitor to the library, a colleague, or a family member.

Grant would do anything for anybody, and ask nothing in return. He was one of the most caring, intelligent, and gracious people, I have ever known.

For me, what I will remember most about my dear friend, mentor and confidant was his approach to life: According to Grant, life is about simple pleasures. It’s not about money. It’s not about fame. It’s not about yourself, it’s about others. It’s about helping others and making it a better place for others. It’s about being a caring and responsible father and husband.

Here is a description of the man I knew. Grant was a:

Trusted employee and a caring boss

He was able to laugh at himself, and with others

He multi-tasked, stayed focused, was disciplined, and had one-book-or-article after another published

He shared appropriately those hilariously funny off-color jokes and video clips

He stood up–and for–what he believed in, both as a conscientious objector in the late 1960’s and as a person who opposed the nuclear genie

He was a kind and gentle soul

Although he was in academia, he was grounded in common sense

He cherished Andrea and Steven, and wanted only the best for them

He never missed his daily walk to the B&N bookstore for coffee

He rode his bike on campus at MSU, and

He took walks with Stephanie, often picking up coffee-to-go, and walked to Beaumont Tower to listen to the carillons

I will always value these memories of Grant!

In closing, I would like to quote Alexander Pushkin who wrote:

Never say with grief, “he is no more”, but rather say with thankfulness, “he was”.

So long, Grant – I will miss you!


Remarks by Phyllis Valentine, Head of Library Computer Systems (Ann Arbor)
at the memorial service of Grant Burns,
Monday, February 20, 2006

Grant Burns was a person of great personal character, integrity, convictions, humor, and hope. Whether we were friend, colleague, wife, child, or relative, we each knew Grant as someone who cared for us and who looked after our best interest with tact, understanding, persistence, and occasionally prodding. We all did our best because of his support and encouragement.

I first met Grant in the early 1990s, when the UM-Flint Library was implementing an online system. Because of my role in Library Systems and in that process, I was frequently in Flint. It was clear from the outset that Grant’s role at the library went beyond his official title. Through subtle ways he helped shape the success of that implementation process. He knew the staff’s and the library’s needs and always had suggestions that helped us move beyond the problems we encountered to the critical positive steps forward.

Because of our many email exchanges and coffee breaks together, our discussions broadened beyond talk of systems and libraries to a range of societal concerns and issues…and to cats. Especially cats. Grant loved cats. Stephanie and Grant’s cats have real names and are encouraged in the same way that we were…to be themselves and to live together in peace. One of my last conversations with Grant had to do with the naming of our kitten, Leo, and his new cat, Rufus, and with remembering our elderly cats.

Grant’s ‘Uncle Frank’ columns are masterpieces of witty, thoughtful, compassionate prose. While many of us share the concerns expressed in those columns, few step forward to express them to others so cleverly. Grant cared deeply about the UM-Flint, this library, and society in general, and he put his words and his commitment behind that caring.

At the Library level, Grant was instrumental in advancing the promotion requests for the Flint professional staff. Before I knew it, I was also helping in this process, obtaining reviewers in Ann Arbor. In return, Grant was always there for me as a sounding board and advisor.

Grant’s death is a great loss to us all. I know that I will remember his friendship forever. I am certain that you all will have similar memories. My heart goes out to Stephanie, Andrea, and Steven. I know that you three were his dearest circle and support. I hope that we can all help each other with our loss. I hope also that we will honor Grant by carrying on his great tradition of thoughtful, compassionate action.


Remarks by Bruce Rubenstein, Professor, History Dept
at the memorial service of Grant Burns,
Monday, February 20, 2006

Good afternoon. I’m Bruce Rubenstein, a Professor of History at UM-Flint. I was humbled when Paul Gifford asked me if I would say a few words at this memorial service. There are few of us remaining who predated Grant’s arrival at UM-Flint, and as one of those few I always appreciated that one of the gifts Grant brought over the years was that of institutional history. Grant never wasted anyone’s time trying to reinvent a wheel identical to one that had been tried years earlier and found to be wanting. It was always a comfort for me to enter the library and see Grant’s lanky form striding about or seeing him busily at work at the reference desk – all was right with the world.

I wish to say a few words on behalf of the thousands of my students who have had to do primary source research papers and whom I always sent to Grant for assistance. They constantly reported how caring and patient Grant was, and how he made them feel that there was nothing more important to him than helping them do well. To these students Grant Burns was the UM-Flint library, and future students will be deprived by not having access to his kindly wisdom and advice.

Indeed, Grant made most people with whom he worked feel better. The Editorial Development Chief of McFarland & Co., which published Grant’s latest book on railroads, wrote me saying that Grant was one of their “very good friends, and that we will miss him very much.” High praise from a publisher.

Personally, I always enjoyed stopping and talking with Grant on a wide range of subjects – university events, an article he had written and how much I enjoyed it even though I disagreed with his viewpoint, but most often on baseball, especially when he had his fantasy league team. I recall him bemoaning how poorly he was doing every year, and then laughing when I suggested he become General Manager of the Tigers, so he could advance his lack of evaluating talent to a higher level. I shall miss those moments, as well as that Mark Twain twinkle in his eyes and wistful smile that made you think, quite properly, that he knew something you did not.

Like my students, in many respects Grant was the library to me as well, and I shall miss him greatly, but always be thankful I knew him for as long as I did.


Remarks by Paul Gifford, UM-Flint Archivist/Librarian
at the memorial service of Grant Burns,
Monday, February 20, 2006

I think all of us who worked with Grant felt shocked by his sudden death three days after we returned from the winter break. In that first week we generally break out of our holiday hibernation and start orienting ourselves to the tasks ahead.  We’d been back to work barely four days, when we, instead, found ourselves planning how to get along without Grant.  That planning resulted in this ceremony. As chair of the planning committee, I would like to thank everyone for their work in putting this together:   Laura Friesen-Lynn, Lesa Quade, Paul Streby, and Annie Szuch.

Grant was fond of the expression, variously attributed to Mark Twain, Will Rogers, or Groucho Marx, “I’d never belong to an organization that would have me as a member.” Although that sentiment applies to formal groups, I think that would probably include gatherings of this sort. Grant generally shied away from formal social occasions, and I’m sure that our little speeches and the big picture and the display would all make him a little bit uncomfortable.

But, here we are, just a little more than a month after his death, talking about him, remembering his personal quirks and accomplishments–all those things that make a person. He was all over this building in its twelve-year history, and it’s hard for those of us who work here not to feel that, right now, somewhere he’s sitting quietly, watching the proceedings and occasionally snickering. But, of course, he’s not here.   All we can do is to offer a kind of celebration of his life and of our fondness for him.

It’s a shame that he didn’t live past 58–I know that I’d assumed that I would be working alongside him until sometime in the distant future. Retirement wasn’t something he talked about, except in the vaguest terms. He always seemed in good health. Certainly he was deeply concerned about the health of his family. I remember when, a couple of years ago, he and Steve went to get flu shots, even though neither of them fit into the high-risk category. His mother had developed a degenerative condition in middle age and was wheelchair-bound from the time Grant was a teenager, so he’d grown up with a concern for the health of others. One day I learned that Grant had had a common foot ailment from which I was then suffering. He made a few useful suggestions, which I am still carrying with me, that helped.

This ability to empathize with others was one of his best qualities. My mother died about a year after his mother did, and he suggested that I put a photo of her in a frame, as he had done, and that helped me with the grieving process.  Over the years, he dealt with numerous personnel issues, always carefully observing professional distance and propriety, yet I am sure he could listen to employees’ problems with the concern they deserved.

I don’t think Grant ever had a reference question that made him throw his arms up in the air in frustration.  Sometimes, I have to admit, I would say to myself, “Is it really necessary to do all that stuff for that student?” Yet Grant did.  And he went way beyond that–in his book reviews, manuscript editing, literature guides, and bibliographies.  None of that was necessary for him to keep his job–it was simply work that he loved to do.

When I first was hired, like a lot of others, I was given a tour of Flint. These tours frequently take the new employee to the “nicer” parts of town, like the East Court or Miller Road neighborhoods, in an effort to counter negative perceptions of the city.  Grant’s tour, however, included the Fenton Road “Little Missouri” area, the North Dort junkyard district, Buick City and the nearby ghetto neighborhoods, and of course “Chevy In the Hole.”  Grant didn’t happen to live in one of the “nicer” neighborhoods, nor did I, nor was I only interested in documenting the history of parts of the community, so I guess I found a kindred spirit.

Along the way, I met and fell in love with a recently hired English professor who’d moved into my neighborhood.  Grant and I would talk regularly about various developments in our lives, and I guess one of those days I brought up the subject of marriage.  He related his experience with Stephanie and said simply, “Well, it’s nice.” So, I took his advice and ran to the altar.

Grant was devoted to his family.   For years, when three o’clock rolled around, he would leave work to go pick up Andrea and Steve at Powers High School and take them home.  He liked to go up to his father’s home at Temple, where his people had run the only hotel in a town that once was so wild, in the words to a local ditty (to the tune of “Casey Jones”) that an old friend of mine from that area sang, “he ran out of Temple like a bat out of hell.”  And sometimes, when he caught an unpleasant whiff of the tobacco I was smoking, he was reminded of the Ann Arbor Railroad facility where his father worked.

So now, Grant will live on only in the memories of those lucky enough to have known him.  His two kids were his pride and joy and probably his most important concern.  As they left high school and went on to college and to future plans, they gave their dad a great deal of satisfaction. So, in one sense, his death came not at a bad time. But, for those of us who still work in the library, we will certainly feel him lurking among the shadows.  And, right now, he’s probably sitting up on a bookshelf somewhere, looking down at us, and wondering what the big fuss is all about.

I’ll miss the private jokes, like his observations on the dress of home-schoolers, the need for Bush advisers to consult on Israel policy with millenarian “mark of the beast” specialists, and ordering the petite dissertation of an ex-chancellor.   But more than the private jokes were the droll observations.  Whenever he started a monologue with a slight hesitation at a meeting, we knew to wait patiently for the observation to take shape, because there was always something humorous about to reveal itself.   He never took himself too seriously.

Those of us who were fortunate enough to consider Grant a friend can now only look back with pleasure at our friendships and wonder, if he’s watching us from somewhere, if he gets the last laugh.  And somewhere out there he’s watching.


Closing Remarks


Robert Houbeck, Director, Thompson Library:

Permit me here a closing word. I want to speak in particular to Andrea and Steven.

One thing always impressed me about your dad: He had his priorities in order. Among those priorities, his family came first. He organized his life to make sure he had time for you. That is something to treasure and to honor.

I noticed something else about your dad, something that I very much admired. I never met your grandfather, but your dad would speak of him occasionally. I noticed the special solicitude he displayed toward him as he was growing older. He’d visit him regularly, he’d help him with shopping, he’d help him get his license renewed – or not. I’m sure that solicitude cost your dad a certain aggravation. But he did it.

Now Grant was not a conventionally religious person. In fact, arguments about religion were one of our ongoing debate themes. But I want to draw your attention to your father’s piety toward his parents, and especially his father (and I use that Latin term, piety, intentionally) – that piety was a classical virtue that your father lived. You should remember, and treasure, and honor that commitment that he showed. In his life he really lived the classical injunction to “honor your father and your mother.” One way to honor your father is to do the same – by taking care of the woman he treasured, your mother.

When we say we wanted today to honor your dad’s life and achievements, we’re not talking about two separate things. His life was itself an achievement, an example of a good man and of a life well lived. We’re grateful that you’ve extended to us the opportunity to acknowledge the achievement of that life.

Bob Houbeck
20 February 2006


From the Flint Journal newspaper article dated January 10, 2006

             *          *          *          *          *          *

UM-Flint’s own Mark Twain dies at 58 – Grant Burns

Flint Journal, The (MI)    –    January 10, 2006

Author/Byline:           Shena Abercrombie, * 810.766.6307
Section:      GENESEE COUNTY
Page: A06


A Jan. 10 obituary should have indicated   that Grant Burns was a resident of East Lansing with two master’s degrees from the University of Michigan.

                    *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

FLINT – Longtime University of Michigan-Flint librarian Grant Burns, known by colleagues as the university’s own Mark Twain, died Thursday at Hurley Medical Center, where he was rushed after collapsing in the University Pavilion about 10:30 a.m.

A statement issued by UM-Flint Chancellor Juan Mestas and library director Robert L. Houbek said the cause of death for Burns, 58, appeared to be from heart-related issues.

He joined the Flint campus in 1977, and became known for a style reminiscent of his personal hero Mark Twain, in both appearance and writing style.

“Grant had that formidable mustache and that hair, but he was the glue that kept things together, always interested in helping,” Houbek said. “For me he was a great colleague – the person I would discuss ideas with. If he thought it was a bad idea, I generally didn’t pursue it.”

Houbek praised Burns’ writing and editing skills, most recently his work with the UM-Flint’s Strategic Plan and the French Hall renovation project.

“In committee service, he was a valued barometer: If he didn’t sigh and roll his eyes, one knew the matter under consideration had at least a modicum of common sense.”

Over the years he held campus positions such as head of library reference services, assistant library director and interim library director.

Associate librarian Vera Anderson first met Burns when she was an undergraduate student and he was a reference librarian.

“Then I went to him for help,” she said. “I’ve worked with him for about the past nine years. Then, he was the man who ran the library. He was a person to help you do your job better, and he always had the best interest of the faculty and students at heart.”

Prior to coming to UM-Flint, he worked as an assistant in the UM Law Library as a bookbinder and periodical clerk, and held an editorial job with the original New Pages, according to his Web site.

A prolific author, Burns was published throughout his career in Library Quarterly, Library Journal, and other professional journals. He also was a regular book reviewer for The Flint Journal in the 1980s and 1990s and wrote columns for local periodicals and “Uncle Frank’s Diary” at He also was the author of several books.

Burns received his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and a master’s degree from UM.

The former 20-year Flint resident lived in Lansing and leaves his wife, Stephanie, and their children, Steven and Andrea.

Burns was cremated and there will be no funeral service at the family’s request. Campus leaders said a memorial service is being organized.

From the memorial service held for Grant Burns in the Atrium of the

Frances Willson Thompson Library, February 20, 2006 by those

that knew and worked with Grant:


   *         *         *         *         *         *         *         *






June 18, 1947 – January 5, 2006


Memorial Service
First Floor Atrium
Frances Willson Thompson Library
University of Michigan-Flint
Monday, February 20, 2006
1 p.m.

   *         *         *         *         *         *         *         *

Grant F. Burns died on January 5, 2006 in Flint, Michigan.

He was born on June 18, 1947 in Owosso, Michigan, to Francis M. and Marie A. (Olsen) Burns.

He married Stephanie Winston Voight in 1972.

They had two children, Andrea and Steven.

Grant earned a B.A. in social science at Michigan State University in 1969, an M.A. in English in 1973 at the University of Michigan, and an M.L.S. at the University of Michigan in 1976.

He was hired as a reference librarian by the University of Michigan-Flint in 1977.

He worked for many years as the head of reference services,  and served for the past ten years as the library’s assistant director.

He was a skilled writer and editor, and was the author of several books, including:

The Atomic Papers (1984);

The Sports Pages (1987);

Affordable Housing (1989);

The Nuclear Present (1992);

Librarians in Fiction (1998);

Railroads in American Fiction: An Annotated Bibliography (2005).

He contributed articles to many library journals, wrote a regular column for the Flint suburban newspaper group during the 90’s, and reviewed hundreds of books for the Flint Journal.

From 1981 to1991 he edited New Pages: News and Reviews of the Progressive Book Trade.

He also wrote an online column, “Uncle Frank’s Diary” (at

Grant appreciated cats, and was particularly attached to the three who lived at his house:     Dave,   Wally, Jr.,  and  Rufus.

The family lived in East Lansing, Michigan, where they moved from Flint in 1999.

Grant was preceded in death by his mother.

He is survived by his wife, his two children, and his father.

Contributions in his honor may be made to the Grant Burns Reference Acquisition Fund, Thompson Library, University of Michigan-Flint, Flint, Michigan 48502.

   *         *         *         *         *         *         *         *


Song:    “In My Life”

Welcome and Introduction  by Robert L. Houbeck, Jr.
Director, Frances Willson Thompson Library


  • Juan Mestas
    Chancellor, University of Michigan-Flint
  • Margaret Leary
    Director, Law Library, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
  • William C. Webb
    Vice Chancellor of Administration, University of Michigan-Flint
  • Phyllis Valentine
    University Library, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
  • Bruce Rubenstein
    Professor, History Department, University of Michigan-Flint
  • Paul Gifford
    Archivist, Frances Willson Thompson Library



  • Andrea Burns
  • Steven Burns
  • Comments and Reminiscences from the Audience


Refreshments served immediately following the program.

 Contributions to the Grant Burns Library Fund may be made payable to the University of Michigan-Flint and sent to the Office of Institutional Advancement, University of Michigan-Flint, Flint, MI 48502-1950, with an accompanying indication that the donation be directed to the Grant Burns Library Fund.





It’s been 10 years, Grant.

We miss you still.





LIBRARY PROFILE – Circulation Assistant — Rachel Marie Stock

Rachel Marie Stock is one of our many amazing student assistants.   We are delighted to introduce her in this issue.Wolverine Painting at Circ

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.

That was 5 semesters ago, and today Rachel is one of our most Rachael Stocks Nov 2014trusted, reliable and very capable student employees, the people that help keep our library running smoothly each and every day.

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.

Should you happen to be in our library in the near future (and we 005_2Ahope you will), you may have the pleasure of speaking with 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!





LIBRARY PROFILE – Matthew Wolverton

Another one of our “locals,” Matt spent his young years in Mundy Township, the former Village of Rankin, and attended Carman-Ainsworth.

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Picture1A transfer student to UM-Flint, Matt graduated from our campus with a degree in English literature and history, then later graduated from Wayne State with a masters in Library Science.    According to Matt, the library degree is the result of an existential crisis, no doubt brought on by his years as a student employee of the Thompson Library.

Picture2During grad school, Matt joined several of his high school buddies in a band where he played guitar and bass.   For the next 8 years, their band intermittently toured the United States and Canada where, according to Matt, they “shot a music video, put out some albums, opened for some interesting bands, headlined shows in front of at least 3 people in bars 1500 miles from home and generally had both a wonderful and awful time.”

Along with a roommate from Detroit, Matt also had a “noise” duo; together they wrote, recorded and played music in abaonded factories, residential basements, downtown apartments and other hipster locales around Detroit and its inner ring suburbs.

Picture5For a little over 7 years after graduate school, Matt worked as the Operations Manager for a couple of different musical instrument retail locations for Guitar Center.   He lost interest in playing music after his years of roughing it on the road as a rocker, however. Instead his interests returned to his roots as a native Michigander — outdoor activities in our winter/water wonderland.   Specifically, Matt loves to fish — whether it’s from a boat, from the shore, from a dock or ice fishing, Matt loves to fish.   (He mentions he’s recently been getting his ice fishing gear ready for winter.)

Picture4He is an avid gardener, and finds the creative process of planning, planting and reaping that results in fresh and healthy food for his family is extremely satisfying.   He likes to ferment his own foodstuffs as well, be it sauerkraut, beer or wine, he loves producing something delicious with his own hands.

Picture6And he likes to get out there and be in the environment — he frequently bikes to work and has recently taken up cross country skiing, which he loves.   He waxes poetic as he considers the potential of a good snowfall in our near future!  While he is proud that the cycling supports his keen interest in protecting the environment, he does have a warning to share with anyone considering skiing; do NOT go skiing by oneself on a remote, hilly hiking trail in the Huron National Forest with no cell phone service.   Experience, he emphasizes, is a harsh teacher.

Matt worked at the Thompson Library as a librarian on our Reference Desk (part time) for 4 years before an opening allowed him to apply, interview and finally accept an offer for a full time position as faculty on our campus.   His position is as electronic resources management librarian, a task that allows our library to track access to digital resources from a variety of sources, simplifying use by our patrons, maximizing our online delivery and minimizing our overall costs.

Picture3Matt’s proudest accomplishment to date is his “brilliant and beautiful son,” Owen Hudson Wolverton.   These days Matt spends his time chasing Owen around and attempting to satisfy his unquenchable desire to read.





Picture7Matt says that even though Owen is only 14 months old, he LOVES to flip through books and look at pictures, particularly those with soccer balls.

Matt is convinced Owen is a genius.

We believe it, too, Matt!


LIBRARY PROFILE – Paul Gifford, Archivist

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Indiana Jones has nothing on our own Paul Gifford.

Picture2Seriously.   The man has lead the most amazing life, but is so modest he doesn’t believe his experiences have been anything special.   But if you can get him to talk to you about, say Eastern European folk music, or food in Pakistan and India,  you would be astounded at some of his recollections.

His father was originally from western New York state while his mother hailed from the south, specifically St. Louis, Missouri.  They met in the glittering city of New York, courted and married.   Both of Paul’s parents were highly educated.   His father studied music at Julliard, while his mother used her advanced education to improve the lives of others as a social worker.    Paul and his siblings grew up under the assumption that everyone played multiple musical instruments and lived immersed in the arts and with an interest in Everyman.

Paul himself plays several instruments, including the fiddle (particularly folk music from around the world) and the dulcimer (he is considered one of the world’s leading experts).

Paul’s parents moved from New York to Detroit, where Paul grew up and finished high school, then faced life as a college student — a fate he rebelled against.   Yes.   Paul opted out of college to live the life of a young hobo traveling throughout Europe and Asia.

While he had little money, Paul had a phenomenal ability to pick up the working aspects of any languages.   He managed to find employment in a number of European countries, skimming by until deciding to hike through Eastern Europe.   Consider Eastern Europe in the 60’s.   Place a young, poor, multi-lingual and adventurous Paul Gifford in that image.   Add a burning curiosity about the world.

Picture3As he made his way through Hungary and Romania, Paul found his musical acumen stood him in good stead. He sometimes managed to play for his supper — literally.   His easy going demeanor resulted in being befriended by locals throughout his journeys who shared tales and folk songs.   His repertoire grew and he made lasting friendships that linger.

After Eastern Europe, Paul headed south, through Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. During these treks, Paul picked up a wide variety of odd jobs — and more working languages.   Among some of his odder duties was as a guard (his friend and fellow traveler acted as driver) for a wealthy European lady, niece of a former German Field Marshall, who was driving a car through the desert to Pakistan.

Amazingly, Paul made this trip twice in his young life!   Sit and chat with Paul for a bit and you’ll feel yourself whisked away to great adventures rivaling Sinbad.   You’ll definitely learn much, much more about our amazing world explorer, though his modesty makes it difficult at times.

Time went by and Paul decided the misery of the open road was behind him.   He returned to the States and applied all the personal resources he had developed during his days as an action hero to his university studies.   History called to him, and not surprisingly, world history as well as the history of music and musical instruments.     History that shaped the lives of people attracted him the most, and to study and preserve the history of people, one attains an advanced degree as an archivist.     That’s what Paul did.

Among his interests in the history of the United States and of his home state of Michigan had been an interest in the birth of the automobile age and the growth of Flint into a center of the industry thanks to the Crapo family and William Durant, grandson of Henry Crapo and father of General Motors.

When Paul applied for an opening for an archivist at UM-Flint, History Professor Robert G. Schafer assisted in interviewing the perspective candidates.   Of the hundreds of applicants, Paul Gifford was the one person who demonstrated knowledge of Durant and the Crapo family and understood the importance of their many contributions to the growth of the area.   He was hired!

There have been as many changes to the Genesee Historical Collection Center over the years as there have to the Library itself, including changes in their locations.   Today the Center is located inside the Thompson Library Building, 2nd floor, just off the hallway leading to the tube over Harrison Street.

Paul has been active in locating and acquiring several new additions to augment our impressive collection of campus and local history, including the Arab American collection, Union Local 599 papers, and the Senator Don Riegle papers (see article in this newsletter).

Picture4But his adventurous life is never far away. Paul has traveled extensively in Michigan, meeting and sharing with Hungarian and Romanian Gypsies, musician immigrants, who in turn taught Paul their traditional folk songs.

Paul nominated a friend from Romania, Nicholae Feraru, for an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.   He was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship this year, a once in a lifetime honor, and played in a concert with others at George Washington University.

Prior to a trip to Belarus to attend an international dulcimer convention, Paul shopped often in Russian grocery stores in Detroit, acclimating his family to the food and brushing up on the language.

Paul married Dr. Mary Jo Kietzman, a professor of English in 1999.

Picture20In 2003, Paul and Mary Jo journey to Kazakhstan where they adopted Katya, who has joined her parents as a world traveler.    In 2010, the family returned to Kazakhstan, where Mary Jo taught and Paul and Katya explored and mingled with the locals.

No doubt this amazing family will have many further adventures in their life. If you’d like to hear more, visit the Genesee Historical Collections Center and have a chat with Paul.

And don’t worry, unlike Professor Jones, our Archivist doesn’t carry a bullwhip.


LIBRARY PROFILE — Vince Prygoski

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In April of 2000, Vince Prygoski joined the Thompson Library as our Interlibrary Loan specialist and Reference Librarian.

Shortly after that, our ILL services were transferred to the new online services originating on our sister campus in Ann Arbor, but that just provided Vince with more opportunities to serve the students and faculty here in Flint.

Vince, a native of the Detroit suburb, Wyandotte, grew up in a scholarly family.

His granddad immigrated to Michigan from Poland in the early 1900’s, finding work in industrial jobs, particularly chemical and steel mills.  His original family name was actually spelled Przygocki and pronounced “ShaGOOTskee.    It was later simplified to the current version Prygoski (Pri- GOS-key).

Both his parents attended CMU and became teachers — his mom working as a special education teacher and his dad as a middle school teacher.  While that laid the groundwork for Vince to pursue a career in higher education and librarianship, it was the extra-curricular activities of his dad, his granddad and his Uncle Phil that guided him towards his love of sports.

His dad not only taught, but also served as a coach — along with his granddad — at Mt Carmel.  His dad eventually became the athletic director there as well.   With sports such a strong influence in his young life, it’s no wonder Vince developed a love of college and professional sports.

Vince2 While he enjoys all sports, he is a big fan of women’s sports.   Earlier in life he watched as girls were discouraged from competing, yet many he observed were exceptional athletes.  Today’s women’s teams have many good players that exhibit outstanding teamwork frequently lacking in the men’s teams.   Vince feels the women’s teams are under-valued and don’t receive the recognition for the quality of their players.

Vince received his MILS degree from UM (Ann Arbor).   While there, he worked in the Serials Department as a student librarian where he did filing and provided reference service.      He also assisted              Dr. Slavens, one of the most beloved professors in the School of Library Science, helping him organize his extensive collection of library-related slides.

After receiving his masters degree, Vince worked for the next four years in the Circulation Department and Reference Desk of the Cooley Law School library.   Over time, Vince did stints in the libraries of Baker College at their Owosso and Jackson campuses as a Reference and Bibliographic Instruction  (teaching) librarian where he specialized in teaching students how to use the various low and high tech services of their libraries — skills that he now uses to the benefit of all on our campus.

Vince is currently the library liaison to several teaching departments and as such has created many of our new LibGuides (which organize library resources by discipline or subject areas), including Africana Studies, Education, Music, Social Work and Women & Gender Studies.

He also does extensive in-class presentations to courses within those (and other) disciplines.   His presentations are vital in teaching our students (and often our faculty and staff) how to find and use the subscription-based databases and library tools available for conducting research within (and often exclusive to) this campus.

In addition to his work in the library and as a teaching member of our library faculty, Vince has also participated in several administrative faculty committees.    Currently he is the chair of the Faculty Council, which will be considering a quality initiative directed at campus accreditation.    He is the Flint campus representative to Faculty Senate in Ann Arbor and has worked on the Library Committee (a support and advisory body) as well.   His dream is to gain an appointment to the Inter-collegiate Athletics Committee in Ann Arbor, but to date they have not had a Flint rep. That doesn’t stop him from dreaming.

Beyond participating in campus activities, Vince has authored several published articles and a book, with more to come.

Vince4His love of music allows him to knowledgably support the research needs of students in that field.   He has written several articles in Popular Music and Society on a variety of musical genres, John Lennon (of Beatles fame) and others.   He has published an article helps researchers find information on his all time favorite musical group, the Grateful Dead.   Should you be interested in learning about pop music icons of the rock and roll era, Vince is the librarian to ask.

Vince3It was his love of sports that prompted him to write his book, “Worst to First:  a SHOCK’ing Tale of Women’s Basketball in Motown.”   (2006,   ISBN 1598002767—  library call number GV 85.52.D48P78)

As for his personal interests, Vince enjoys books on and by authors from the Beat generation (precursors to “hippies”).   He is active in social culture, describing himself as leaning decidedly to the left of center in politics and is an active member of the Green Party.  He proudly points out that he is and has been a feminist for many years and is a strong and vocal supporter of gender equality in all fields.

Vince brings the UM Ann Arbor outlook to our campus, but he loves the small campus atmosphere of Flint.   He feels strongly that UM-Flint is part of Flint and should be instrumental in bringing new life to the surrounding area, in giving Flint natives options and hope for future growth.

Asked what he likes best about working in the Thompson Library, Vince ponders the question briefly before saying simply that he likes helping people.  He finds great personal enjoyment and reward in that his work helps people find enlightenment, which helps make the world a better place through education.

Vince, that’s a motto we can all live by.



LIBRARY PROFILE — Jason Dellamater

  • From Traverse City via Otisville

    •    (GM brought family to area years go)
  •  Environmental Science & Planning Major

  •  Planning a Career in GIS Service.

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Data, data everywhere — but how do you organize it to make it as user-friendly as possible to locate and extract specific data based on need?

This was a question that members of the Department of Earth & Resource Science and our own librarian, Kui-Bin Im, pondered.   Their solution?   Create our own.


UM-Flint designed GIS database encompassing several aspects of Michigan geological data and make it available to researchers. 


Next problem; gathering, coordinating and loading the data would be a very labor-intensive project. It would also require hardware, software, internet connections and plain office space to proceed.


Their solution?   The Thompson Library co-sponsored the project, providing space and equipment.   Next they hired an intern  — Jason Dellamater —  to provide the labor end of the equation.

Jason, who will be graduating after the fall semester 2013 with a UM-Flint degree in Environmental Science and Planning, comes to Flint area by way of Otisville (where his family settled after answering the lure of employment which General Motors used to draw in so many people to our corner of the world).   His parents eventually moved to the Anne Lake area near Traverse City,  a geographic area which further peaked his interest in the earth sciences.

Finally back in Flint to attend classes at UM, Jason took two courses which introduced him to the GIS software and how to use it.   Not only was he hooked, but he had positioned himself as the perfect person for the job of working on the new GIS project at exactly the right time.

Jason2Jason describes his work as drawing existing data from sources such as the US Census tract and plat mapping data as well as a wide variety of other sources, such as Prof. Greg Rybarczyk’s work in identifying underground storage tanks and measuring the “leakage” they produce (“Brown Field” data).

He also uses data available from other government resources, such as the State of Michigan website ( and the diverse geological data they gather and publish.

Jason5Once he identifies and locates the desired data, he pulls it and adds it to his GIS software in “layers.”   The layer system, familiar to those who have used standard graphics software such as PhotoShop, allows overlapping layers of data to be created within the file.   Researchers  can tailor the data available to their specific needs by blending or removing from their results specific aspects (or layers) of the data.

While that may seem a tad complicated to understand, Jason points out that a researcher could ask to view within a specific area — such as Genesee County — just the roads and river trails, or include other aspects in the results as well.   Requested aspects will display on the computer screen as an overlay map, indicating the specified geographical aspects of the area.   So should you as a researcher be interested in seeing — especially this time of year as Michigan experiences it’s annual rainy season — the flood plains of Genesee County overlaid with the identified “brown fields”  (a former industrial or commercial site where future use is affected by real or perceived environmental contamination) within our county — it appears as a map on the screen.

The data also includes landmark topographical identifications as well — businesses, schools, roads, city limits, etc, to make it easier for a researcher to identify any specific location being investigated.

While Jason describes his contribution to the project as “a lot of data entry,” and modestly considers it perhaps a tad boring, he is also aware of the value of the new resource of which he considers himself extremely lucky to be working on through the support of Dept of Earth & Resources as well as working in the Technical Services area of our own Thompson Library.

Because of his involvement with this project and his recognition of the value it provides the research community, Jason is considering a future in the field of GIS development, though he expects it will likely take him out of Michigan and off to the great Northwest (where his siblings and their families have all migrated in recent years).   However, his time at UM-Flint — and the work he is doing to contribute to this new and growing field of GIS research —  is something he will cherish forever.


LIBRARY PROFILE — Owen, Vesper & Liam!



Our Future Librarians:

  • Owen Wolverton       (with parents Matt & Emily)
  • Vesper Bias         (with parents Emily Newberry & Jason Bias)
  • Liam Doyle             (with parents Mickey & Amanda Doyle)


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Normally this column is dedicated to bringing you information about the people who keep your library running all day,  every day,  year around.

For this,  the first issue of our new academic year,  we’re doing something a little different.   “Little”  being the operative word…

CarriageOur library family has expanded by three over the past two years, with the most recent edition being Owen Hudson Wolverton, born earlier this month to librarian Matt and Emily.


Last spring, librarian Emily Newberry and her husband Jason Bias welcomed young Vesper into her family.

Our oldest bundle of joy arrived just 18 months ago to librarian Mickey Doyle and his wife,  Amanda.

Liam (our oldest newbie) gives us this profile:

  • Favorite TV show:    Bubble Guppies
  • Favorite food:    Pizza
  • Loves:
    • Reading,
    • Dancing, and
    • Playing outside


Owen Wolverton
Owen Wolverton
Owen Wolverton
Owen Wolverton


Owen Wolverton
Owen Wolverton



Vesper & Emily
Vesper & Emily
Vesper & Jason
Vesper & Jason
Vesper & Jason
Vesper & Jason


Liam & Mickey Doyle
Liam & Mickey Doyle


Liam Doyle
Liam Doyle
Liam Doyle
Liam Doyle

LIBRARY PROFILE — Desirée Sharland

Desirée Sharland,  Circulation Staff


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  • Library Staff — Circulation
  •  Former Student Employee
  • Honors Program Graduate
  • Historian and Medievalist
  • Future Librarian


Desi 1This month we highlight one of our dedicated library staff, Desirée Lynn Sharland.

Desirée (aka “Desi”) has been working in Thompson Library for about five years now, though not as a member of our full time staff.   Desi came to us from the Honors Program (solicited directly by the Program Director, Dr. Thum, from her local high school of Goodrich, where she was 3rd in her class).   Desi spent  4 years during her undergrad studies as a library Student Employee at the Circulation Department .

But not JUST Circulation.   She spent some time helping out in Tech Services.   And when the library Director’s secretary needed an assistant, Desi was selected for that position based on her record as a reliable, responsible and very capable employee.

While working in the Director’s office,  Desi handled various tasks, including ordering supplies, creating spreadsheets, filing, answering the phone and other clerical duties.

It was at the Circulation Desk where Desi’s talent shone brightest. She quickly learned and became proficient in the special library management software system, interacted with our library patrons in a highly professional manner and was always eager to take on additional assignments.

Desi 9

Since she demonstrated that she was exceptionally bright and capable, she was selected to work with the head of the unit on several special projects, such as the recent reorganization of the Kresge books to first floor and compacting Flint materials on the second floor.

Desi 5As a UM-F student, Desi progressed through the Honors Program … with honors!    As part of the Program requirement for coursework (off campus),  Desi elected to attend Cambridge University in England where she studied medieval literature, focusing primarily on King Arthur and Robin Hood.

Desi 4

Taking advantage of the unique opportunity afforded her, she spent an additional four weeks touring sites in England related to Arthurian legends and legacy, the subject of her Honors Thesis (“British National Identity and King Arthur”).

Desi 3Side trips to Wales, Scotland and Ireland rounded out her English travels, visiting such sites as Stonehenge, Caernarfon and Goodrich Castles (see photos).

That wasn’t the end of her world travels. In 2010 Desi visited Poland, touring historic sites throughout that country as well.

Desi 2Not surprisingly, Desi would like to pursue her interests in history, literature and languages into an eventual career.

One option she sees as a route to that end is a master’s degree in Library Science, based in no small part on her experience working at Thompson Library.

Desi 6She is also mulling over the possibility of a second master’s in museum studies as well, just to round out her credentials in a field she loves.

For the balance of the summer, though, we have her here at Thompson Library where she now has full staff employee status, working as a supervisor at Circulation and directing the work efforts of the next generation of library student assistants , ensuring that our library runs smoothly and efficiently.

Desi 7


—    Biology Specialist Librarian    —

—     Technical Services Specialist Librarian      —

—     Talented Crafter     —


—      Devoted Kitty Mom!      —


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Annie3Another Flint area native — one of many among our staff — Beth Annie Szuch was born in Lapeer and raised in Attica where she grew up on a farm in the country. This may have influenced her choice of majors, but her choice of schools was natural; her father also attended UM-Flint where he obtained a teaching degree.

It was during her undergrad years at Flint campus that she met the young grad student Ernie Szuch during a field trip. She claims she was clueless as to why the handsome grad student followed her everywhere and arranged to pair off with her for cooking duty and… almost everything.  Ernie Szuch 40 years of service award   Until, of course, the moment during a private nature walk when he turned to her and planted a big one on her lips!
Ernie and Annie married; Ernie picked up his masters in biology while Annie chose UM-Ann Arbor library school for her masters in library science . The young couple found an old house in Davison, a fixer-upper that gave them many years of fixing-upping.   It should come as no surprise that they opted to build their dream home — a lovely, log home (NOT the log cabin of history!) — as a completely finished “turn-key” constructed. No more fixing upping! Instead they spend their free time on nature excursions doing research.
Annie and Ernie (now an instructor in the UM-Flint Biology Dept) have taken students on study trips and done independent research to some of the most beautiful spots on earth, including marine biology studies in the Caribbean (the students snorkeled the reefs), camping in the Great Northern Woods and several — such as their upcoming trip — to southeastern United States.

Annie4This spring Annie and Ernie will be hunting for salamanders in the Smoky Mountains.   Salamanders?   Ask Annie.   She enthusiastically describes these colorful creatures and their wide range of habitats. Precursors of lizards, salamanders occupy an important niche in our wild environment, and Annie can easily describe size, color and locale of several species.  Yuck?   NO!   Lovely, wonderful and very interesting creatures.    Sure, Annie…

We were lucky that Annie had so many ties to the Flint area as she returned to Thompson Library in 1977, assigned to work with Ingrid in Technical Services. At that time Annie processed serials (incoming journal issues and outgoing volumes sent to bindery, maintaining journals on shelf and in the card catalog).

Over the years Annie has done almost every job in Technical Services.   But she’s also worked regularly as one of our Reference Librarians, manning shifts throughout the week on the Reference Desk and fielding questions that are specifically in the field of biology.

Annie has also accepted, reviewed and processed all donated materials to the library for several years, no small feat.   Each item donated must be checked against our current holdings for duplication or obsolesces due to newer editions.   Items selected to be placed in the collection must then be cataloged, a call number assigned, a spine label created and applied, the cataloging record placed in the library catalog (no more card catalogs — Mirlyn is digital and fully online today).   Then the item is placed on the “New Book Shelf” so people can catch all newly processed materials before it is finally placed on the shelf in the main collection.

All of this was good preparation for Annie’s latest duty assignment.   Our long-time head of Technical Services — Dave Hart — retired last year after 30 some years working in Thompson Library.   Annie was the logical choice for the job.

With the slow erosion of personnel in our Technical Services division, Annie is now the sole cataloger in our library.    Along with Ahn Thach (serials),  Annie places all new item orders via the library Acquisitions module of the library management software (ALEPH) located in Ann Arbor and of which Thompson Library is a part.

Once new orders arrive in our building,  Annie oversees the labeling (printing the correct call number on a special labeling machine)  and bar coding  (bar codes must be placed in specific locations inside each item and recorded into the online cataloging module of Aleph)  of each item, then sends them to thAnnie2e New Book Shelf for use.


Please stop in soon and visit with Annie to learn about Smudge, Petunia and Gracie the cats, her log home, her spinning and knitting volunteer work — or to ask her a library question!









LIBRARY PROFILE — Emily Newberry

Emily has spearheaded the design and installation of the new Library “ThinkLab,” and has been instrumental in introducing LibGuides to our Library.

(Click any photo to enlarge)


Our library has been very lucky over the past few decades to benefit from our own UM-Flint campus graduates who went on to obtain a library degree returning to give back to their school by serving as faculty/librarians. Emily is one of our own, graduating from UM-Flint with a degree in both Anthropology and Biology.

Like most librarians, when faced with pursuing a masters degree which would narrow her focus (she had considered forensic anthropology; our very own Dr. BONES!), she discovered her interests were broad and varied, leading her directly to UM Ann Arbor and the School of Information and Library Science.

Today Emily will happily share with you her conviction that UM-Flint campus provides a superior undergrad education to its students (and why!). Returning to our campus has provided Emily with the gratifying experience of working with students who are dedicated to learning and whom she finds to be particularly inquisitive and eager to explore new sources of information.

Emily came to us as an intern while still a graduate student where she also served during the summer months as the sole staff librarian at the UM Biology Station (near White Fish Point in the UP) every summer for 3 years.

For more information on the Biology Station, see:

Emily2Having lived in the Upper Peninsula throughout her childhood before moving to the Swartz Creek area, Emily was delighted at the opportunity to return to the UP and loved her days on the shores of Lake Superior at the Bio Station. She is always willing to share stories and pictures of the station with anyone who is interested!

While still a grad student, Emily spent a brief stint as an intern at the Thompson Library, then upon obtaining her masters degree was hired as a part time librarian here until a full time opening was posted. Emily was selected along with several other applicants to interview for the position. The rest is history.

As do all our librarians, Emily wears many hats. However, she specifically serves as our Social Media librarian. As such, she maintains the library accounts for Twitter, Facebook and our blog, The Upper Shelf.

Many of you have probably noticed that there are numerous instructional videos now available on the library web site. That, too, is Emily (our Camtasia guru)!   Emily believes strongly in multiple access points for information, so you can find those instructional videos on our Facebook page as well.

Not only that, but when visiting the library these days,  you’ll notice several signs posted throughout our building notifying visitors of FourSquare check-in sites (including all of our study rooms).  Emily5FourSq                                                                                                 Emily again!

Those multiple undergraduate subject degrees made Emily a natural for selection as library liaison to the departments of Anthropology and Sociology as well as serving the Genesee Early Collage and Criminal Justice Department, where she assists in collection development (selecting books, media items and other assets for our library holdings).

Emily also provides service to faculty in the form of one-on-one personal assistance for faculty in their research needs AND as a classroom instructor, presenting to students on the tools and methodology of library research and the use of resources provided by the Thompson Library.

Emily3While it doesn’t seem that all that would leave Emily much time, she has an equally rich personal life. She and her husband, Jason Bias (who works at the Genesee District Library) recently purchased a 1940’s home on the Mill Pond in Fenton and are in the process of renovating it. With her own house and a little country property — just perfect for letting her two dogs romp! — Emily is hoping to fulfill her dream of Bee… raising honey bees! She is a terrific source of information about honey, should you be interested.



Emily4Emily and Jason are expecting a new family member to arrive in April.   And of course, the library staff is planning a baby shower.  While they don’t know if it will be a boy or girl, we’re sure that the new baby will spend many wonderful hours being read to by  librarian parents.

Please stop by her office on the 3rd floor of the library soon and say hello to Emily. She’s definitely a great librarian to know!