Gloria Slaughter’s title may officially be technical services librarian and associate professor of library science but perhaps her best descriptor for the past 28 years has been treasure keeper. Knowledge treasure keeper, that is.
Librarians stock, store, and retrieve a wealth of information for college campuses. Purveyors of facts and givers of customer service, they make abundantly available the very foundations of education – books, journals, films and other media –necessary for the confluence of curiosity and wisdom. And they do it quietly, competently, behind-the-scenes, to little fanfare.
This has been Slaughter’s modus operandi since 1988 in Hope’s Van Wylen Library and even before that when she served as a librarian in the Forest Hills (Michigan) school system for 15 years. Now with her retirement imminent, she’ll continue to stockpile books but now those titles will be hers to own.
“I’ve always loved reading,” says Slaughter whose favorite authors include Ken Follett, Charlotte Bronte, and Jane Austen. “But to be honest, before I came into the profession, I thought that librarians were a little weird. Eccentric maybe. So when I was younger, in high school, I didn’t think I wanted to be one. I thought, ‘I’ll just be a history teacher.’”
Maturity and exposure to other so-called “normal” librarians got her to change her mind. The call of a varied world of stories and ideas was too much for her to ignore. So she majored in library science as an undergrad at Central Michigan University and again in her master’s program at Western Michigan University. There, the revelation of her detailed-oriented and analytical abilities that are always carried out with a high degree of affability and care began to surface. From the early old card catalog to the newest in electronic information management, Slaughter is at her outgoing best when maintaining the hidden side of systems and databases.
In this cyber-world of titles, many researchers and students take for granted the very existence of library technology when they are fixated on finding the scholarly source they need. But someone must upkeep the tens of thousands of titular links, descriptions, and licenses. That someone has been Slaughter for Hope.
“Gloria likes to figure out how something works in order to fix it,” says Brian Yost, head of the technical services department at the Van Wylen Library. “She treated work problems like a puzzle and enjoyed finding the resolution. For example, if our openURL resolver was not properly redirecting users to the full-text of an article they found in a database, Gloria would investigate the issue and track down the source of the problem. She approached technical problems like a puzzle and enjoyed solving them. Her troubleshooting skills and determination to find the cause of an error were great assets for managing electronic resources.”
“I just liked finding stuff,” Slaughter confirms. “I didn’t have to be an expert on one topic. Instead, I could help users in a number of ways by providing information behind the scenes so that when people type in keywords, a resource can be found and they get what they need. I mean, how frustrating can it be when you have found the article you want and you try to go to it but the link doesn’t work? I liked the trouble-shooting aspect of my job. There was something different everyday. “
And others at Hope have liked her friendliness and concern in her role and even outside of it. Slaughter was instrumental, along with the service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, in bringing Relay to Life to campus in 2003 when she agreed to serve as its faculty advisor that first year. She lasted seven more, and as the event grew and became a more important part of the college’s calendar, it became housed in the college’s Student Development office. Since that first year when Slaughter worked with the event to this past fall, Hope’s Relay for Life has raised over a half million dollars for cancer research.
“Doing Relay for Life gave me greater access to students and service and I really enjoyed that,” says Slaughter whose two children, Anne ’04, and Jeff ’07, are Hope graduates. “I’m happy that it’s become an annual, positive experience for so many at the college and outside of it too.”
Slaughter’s ability to gather people around her and work toward a goal seems to be a trademark. Over the years, when many employees and student workers would become introduced to the library and Hope, she has always been quick to befriend and help them acclimate to their new surroundings. “Some of these employees and students were far away from their families, but Gloria helped them to establish roots here,” adds Yost. “She was like the ‘den mother’ of the library.”
With her last day behind a library desk coming soon, Slaughter is looking forward to spending more time on the outside. Hiking, kayaking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing are tops in her retirement agenda with her husband, Eric. So too is continuing her fandom of Hope athletics, playing bridge, and becoming a volunteer in area literacy programs for children.
But of all of the re-prioritized endeavors that Slaughter eagerly anticipates in retirement, one is especially high on her list. “I’m really looking forward to just being able to take my granddaughter to preschool,” she says with an unmistakable grandmother’s smile.
Kiddie carpool driver: new working title, same supportive Slaughter.