In the Spotlight with Melissa Burel

Newsletter Issue: 
Vol 37 no. 4 December 2017

Lisa Romano, Column Editor

Melissa Burel

In honor of the recent OLAC conference, we are catching up with Melissa Burel, the 2014 recipient of the OLAC conference scholarship. Melissa has found that receiving the scholarship was advantageous to her career in a lot of ways. Without the OLAC scholarship, Melissa would not have been able to attend the 2014 conference. At this conference, she enjoyed meeting many cataloging professionals who are leaders in the field. Seeing so many intelligent catalogers in one place without apology really made me feel that being a cataloger is important, and part of my job is to demonstrate how important that role is within the library. Plus, Melissa was able to use the training she received at the conference to improve her cataloging and be more effective in her training of other catalogers.

Last July, Melissa moved to Huntsville, Alabama where her husband started his first tenure-track position as Professor of Music Theory and Composition at University of Alabama Huntsville. Currently, Melissa is looking for a new job. However, she is still working on research articles with her previous colleagues from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and presented the results from their study at the Southeastern Library Assessment Conference in November. Additionally, she is an intern to the OLAC CAPC committee. So, I’m still having fun doing library work without a current position. Melissa first became interested in libraries as a child. She participated in the library reading program and went to the library for fun. I remember feeling so empowered that I could pick any book I wanted. How could anyone not like the library - they gave out stickers! Later Melissa was inspired to become a librarian when she realized that not everyone loved the library and research like she did. While studying for her masters in oboe performance at Western Michigan University, she had to take a Music Bibliography course and really enjoyed the class.

We got to create our own imaginary music school and develop a library collection (with budget) that would support its curriculum, we evaluated sources, and discussed the focus of different databases. I remember feeling like it was a game to see how many resources I could find about a topic within each database. I soon learned that my colleagues all hated this class and I was really surprised. How could anyone not enjoy this? So that was my first clue that maybe I should be working in libraries. I then job shadowed and interviewed many librarians in the area in order to be sure I would like the profession, and then I applied to library school at Wayne State University in Detroit.

After library school, Melissa’s first professional library position was at Florida State University as a copy cataloger and then a library specialist. Later, she was hired at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville as the Catalog Librarian. While at Florida State University, Melissa first heard about OLAC from her supervisor, Annie Glerum, who was on the OLAC committee developing cataloging guidelines for streaming materials. Now that I’ve been cataloging for a little while, I can see how valuable that documentation is and why she [Annie] was so passionate about contributing to that work. Melissa finds that she references OLAC documentation often in her work.

Besides being the 2014 OLAC scholarship winner and an intern to CAPC, Melissa is a member of the OLAC Unified Best Practices Task Force. This task force was formed to combine all extant OLAC best practice documents into a single (unified) document. They will begin by reconciling duplicative and contradictory content. Then the task force will merge all of the best practices into a single, streamlined document, and also preserve the ability to sort by format. The ultimate goal is to get the unified best practices integrated with the RDA Toolkit.

Melissa thinks that her most important achievements in her career have been her accomplishments in research. In 2015, she was an Institute for Research Design in Librarianship (IRDL) scholar. The purpose of the institute is to assist librarians to complete a research study of their own design. Melissa’s research involved exploring the university and library experiences of international students through a mixed-methods approach of in-depth interviews, photo diaries, and a survey. Specifically, she wanted to find out what kind of new or improved services or spaces would really serve the university’s students. For two weeks, Melissa learned from some of the best people in research within the library world and the social science world. The support and confidence I gained from the institute was really the best part. Melissa feels that these efforts will have a positive impact on students. I really enjoy doing research and figuring out how to communicate the results in a meaningful way. I want to make life better for students in whatever way I can, and I feel like doing research is one way that I can do that.

And what is one of the things that Melissa most enjoys about library work?

I really enjoy the organizational framework within the whole library and the fact that what I do every day contributes to that larger information organization. If I do my job well and work to provide high-quality records, then users should be successful in their research. I’m excited about the idea that new frameworks and systems could make research and finding related sources easier for patrons, and I’m looking forward to being a part of that.