Mike Garabedian: Cataloging Librarian

Celina Adame's picture

Bonnie Bell Wardman Library, Celeste Grey, Celina Adame, dynamic, Issue 9, Mike Garabedian, Features - By Celina Adame on Thursday, November 3, 2011 - 03:20

What is your job here at the library?
“I’m one of six librarians. Although there are non-librarians who work at Wardman Library—and who have specialized training and lots of excellent library experience—all the librarians here have Masters of Library Science (MLS) degrees from American Library Association (ALA)-accredited schools, liaise with the teaching faculty in particular, and share common responsibilities like bibliographic instruction, reference interviews, reference desk duties, and collection development. In addition to these common duties, each librarian has a primary responsibility; my main duty as a cataloging librarian is to make certain the information in the catalog records is clear, complete, and useful.”

When did you start working at the library?
“I started working at Wardman Library in summer 2008, i.e., just a little more than ten years after I graduated from Whittier College.”

How has your job changed since then?
“In the past three years, Wardman Library has undergone a lot of important changes, and now the entire staff has a more cohesive idea about the things we need to do to make Wardman Library as relevant a resource as it can be to the Whittier College community. Some of my responsibilities have changed somewhat to reflect these new notions. But on the other hand, I was hired to replace the former head cataloger who retired in 2008, and that’s still pretty much my main gig.”

What type of education is required for your job?
“At Whittier, as at almost every college and university, librarians are required to have an MLS degree from an ALA-accredited institution. Librarians are also very keen on continuing education, and these opportunities constitute an important part of our careers. A lot of times, academic librarian positions require a secondary advanced degree, and I have a master’s in literature from Northwestern University. Here at Whittier, I was an English literature major and a history minor, and although MLS programs comprise people with all sorts of undergraduate backgrounds, my degree from Whittier served me well for my focus at UCLA’s library school.”

What made you choose to study this?
“Shortly after Whittier, I entered the Ph.D. program in English literature at Northwestern University. But, my heart wasn’t in it, and after a little more than a year I took my master’s and split, going to work at an antiquarian book store in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. After befriending several awesome University of Chicago librarians, and now equipped with some experience working with rare books, I decided that’s what I wanted to do.

"At UCLA I focused on rare books and special collections librarianship, and while I was there I worked at the Huntington Library, Rare Book School at the University of Virginia, and UCLA’s William Andrews Clark Memorial Library. In 2005 I took my degree and began working as the head cataloger at Heritage Book Shop, an antiquarian bookstore where I got to describe amazing early printed books from the 15th to the 19th century regularly, and meet wealthy people and celebrity book collectors like Flea, Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, and Mick Jagger.

"In 2008 art professor David Sloan called me up to let me know about an opening here at Wardman Library. Since it had always been my intention to work at an academic library and it was an opportunity to help shape the future of this place (and since I am a Whittier alum and lifelong Whittier resident with strong ties to—i.e., friends at—the College) I applied straight away and have been here ever since.”

What is your favorite part of working at the library?
“I love the collegial atmosphere at Whittier College. I enjoy partnering with faculty to choose new acquisitions, teaching students how to do research, and connecting patrons with resources that meet their research needs. I like being a part of the team at Wardman Library because it’s familial and everybody gets along well, I think because we’re all committed to working with patrons to develop this shared resource. Finally, I enjoy being a librarian: Knowledge-wise, I’m a generalist, and the great thing about this job is that it allows me to learn new things constantly in the myriad areas that pique my interest.”

As part of your job at the library, what were some interesting projects that you were a part of?
“Since we have such a small staff, we’re all involved in one way or another in nearly every project we undertake. Currently we’re in the midst of a weeding project that I’m largely in charge of orchestrating. If you’ve been in the stacks you know a lot of books are really damaged, or unintended for a scholarly audience, or simply out-of-date. With our weeding project, we’re removing these books from the collection, then working with professors to replace books that need replacing, filling in gaps in particular subject areas, and relocating rare and valuable books from the stacks to special collections. It’s a huge project that will be ongoing for several years, and many of the books we’re taking out of circulation are going right into our book sale, which is happening here on the main floor of Wardman Library, November 8-10.”

What did you do when you were a student at Whittier?
“I slept far less and ate far worse. During all four years at Whittier I worked part-time at Whittier High School as a teacher’s assistant. I was on the QC for four years, as a copy editor, opinions editor, and staff writer; during my senior year I also did a restaurant review column with John Maki (’98) entitled The Brothers Culinary, in which we took faculty members out to expensive restaurants on the newspaper’s dime. I was on student government, then called COR (Council of Representatives), for two years, serving as secretary one year and member-at-large the following year. For three years I worked as a writing tutor in the now-defunct Writing Center, which was kind of a pre-CAAS operation located in the basement of Hoover. I worked as DPI (Department of Public Information) staff member for Model United Nations one year. I was a Thalian little brother to Janine Leigh Kramer (’96). And I was a member of the honorary fraternities Omicron Delta Kappa and Sigma Tau Delta.”

Picture by Celeste Grey