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Librarian Mitzi Williams Retires

[Mitzi Williams]She is not part of our faculty, but she’s certainly been part of our family.

Mitzi Williams, associate professor of library science and the librarian for the College of Veterinary Medicine since 1988, retired in December. Service was the hallmark of her career.

After earning bachelor’s degrees in English from institutions in Japan and Iowa, Williams completed a master’s in library science at the University of Illinois in 1974 and has worked on this campus ever since.

She served as interim head of the veterinary library in 1977-78, and very much wanted to return. “In the meantime, I got tenure, learned a lot more, and brought a better understanding of literature and library management when I was hired 10 years later,” she says.

Librarianship has changed tremendously over the course of her career, with the move from print to electronics and the Internet. In addition, both the College and the campus as a whole have had an explosion of interest in and reliance on biomedical literature. Williams has been a leader in the Life Science Council that has developed strategies to acquire and share the needed resources.

Williams considers that her biggest accomplishments at the veterinary library were pioneering fee-based information service for veterinarians, which she created in response to demand from former students who moved on to jobs without access to a specialized library, and the interlibrary loan service, which reduced the length of time for getting a requested item from months to a couple of days. Williams has kept her patrons at the forefront of library computerization by subscribing to Loansome Doc, Medline, and other online services.

“When I am doing reference work to help someone find information, it becomes my pursuit,” notes Williams. “I often cannot give up the hunt even after the person is satisfied.”

“Mitzi always went the extra mile in helping faculty, staff, and students track down and obtain the elusive journal article,” agrees Dr. Peter D. Constable, veterinary clinical medicine, who currently chairs the College library committee. He gives the example of an oft-cited but never-seen 1929 article on abomasal displacement from Skandinavisk Veterinartidskrift. Williams procured a copy within a few days of his request.

“Mitzi has made this by far the best library of the four veterinary schools I’ve been at in its support for students and faculty,” adds Dr. Tom Eurell, veterinary biosciences.

Another career highlight for Williams was chairing the first international conference for veterinary medicine librarians, held in England in 1992. About 80 attended from more than a dozen countries.

The database of plants toxic to animals was a pet project of Williams, who had the idea to extend the reach of the Poisonous Plant Garden by putting it online and incorporating images from various seasons.

From the outset Williams pushed to improve the library’s budget. Thanks in large part to her efforts, the veterinary library is in good financial shape today, with four endowments.

In May 2000 Williams learned she had severe kidney disease. A kidney transplant in March 2002 enabled her to postpone retirement, but now she has decided to retire so she can spend more time visiting family, reading books, and gardening.

“I feel I’ve been one of the luckiest librarians on campus because of the support I’ve gotten from the college,” she says. “It’s been the funnest 15 years!”

Changing Faces at the Library

[Greg Youngen, Margo Robinson,  Priscilla Smiley, Carl Graves]The College’s new librarian, Greg Youngen (left), hosted a May 20 reception for Priscilla Smiley (center) upon her retirement after more than 30 years with the University Library. She had worked as assistant veterinary medicine librarian since 1983. Continuing on the Veterinary Medicine Library staff are clerks Margo Robinson and Carl Graves.

Look for a profile on Youngen in the next issue of Veterinary Report.

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