Today’s the Day…..Off the Fence

41Yb7IF+W1L._SL500_AC_SS350_Since April, I have been in somewhat of a state of limbo…..retired, but not yet. Today is the day that my contract ends, and I am truly and officially retired.  Up until now, I have just been practicing by working shorter hours — supplemented by personal leave and vacation days. I have already learned to work at a different pace, being in charge of my own calendar.

While I have now officially retired from budgets, spreadsheets, assessment reports, administrative duties, and many meetings, I now find myself with more energy to devote to teaching and working on projects that have long been shoved to the back burner. Time to linger over that second cup of coffee in the morning without having to rush off. Time to read and time to write.


So, Once Upon a Time in Library Land, I spent my days making the library a welcoming and productive place for other people. It has been fun!!!!




I have always loved stories. They have taken me on great adventures, helped me to discover things, introduced me to friends, and helped me to learn about myself. If there is one thing that I know for sure, it is that stories are important.

We all have a story to tell. Mine has always included books and stories, so it is not surprising that my career has revolved around the places where stories live — libraries! My story has also been strongly connected to West Virginia Wesleyan College, where I attended my very first graduation ceremony (Dad’s) when I was just six months old, and where I came every year to Annual Conference as a preacher’s kid. Then Youth Conference, and ultimately to college — where I studied libraries. To my great surprise, I came back again twenty-five years after I graduated to teach and to be the Director of Library Services.

West Virginia Wesleyan is somewhat of a family tradition. My grandfather, both parents, both sisters, one brother-in-law, husband, and both of our children, and a neice all are part of The Orange Line. We all share a common history, and I grew up hearing about all of the great leaders and professors. The stories of Ralph C. Brown, George Glauner, Thomas Haught, Lewis Chrisman, Nellie Wilson, Helen Stockert, Florence Schaper, Cecelia Alexander, and Roy McCuskey are part of the fabric of my life. But, sadly, many of those stories are being lost to new generations. As Maya Angelou tells us, “We are who we are because they were who they were.” We should know their stories,  and we should honor and celebrate them.

So, as of this fall, I will be retiring from library administration and will be focusing on exploring and sharing those stories. The staff and students have heard me say a million times that what librarians do is to Collect-Organize-Preserve-and Share. That is my theme. In the past decade, we have made a great start in collecting items from college history, and Brett Miller has been hard at work organizing and preserving them. But, finding the time to share the stories has been hard. Now we have the materials that I need to do more of it! And, now I will be able to spend time enjoying what the library has to offer instead of just working hard to make sure that we have resources for others.

The great news is that I will still be able to teach some courses each semester, including a First Year Seminar (The Legacy of Dreamers and Giants) which is focused on this very topic, and that will allow me to continue and expand the sharing. In fact, I will be participating in an Institute at the Library of Congress all next week to learn more about how to teach with primary source materials!  And, next May I will be leading a 12 day May Term trip to study about how libraries and museums collect-organize-preserve-and share cultural heritage. Students will be going, of course, but I would be happy to include faculty, librarians, and others who may be interested. There are still spots open (

In addition to my new Professor Emerita title, I have been given the title of College Historian. I’ll be able to apply for some grants, and to coordinate my dream project: an online encyclopedia of WVWC History. This is something that I have been  working on for fun (yes, I really think it is fun!!!) in the evenings, on weekends, and over breaks for several years now.

Retirement, for me, doesn’t quite seem to mean what a lot of people think it means. To me it means a new chapter, an opportunity to do things that I haven’t had time to do, and a great deal of fun.  I have enjoyed the entire journey, and the stories of everyone I have worked with and taught. Now, as it says in Psalm 91, I will sing a new song. Be listening for some stories about the amazing people who have walked where we walk. And, as Natalie Sleeth (wife of former WVWC Alumnus and President, Ronald Sleeth) wrote in her Hymn of Promise: From the past will come the future, what it holds a mystery!


Lessons Learned


Over 300 in Wesley Chapel

What a week it has been. The visit of Ronald C. White, Jr. has left me with a lot of good things to think about! It seemed a great time to try and write them down to share. I have organized them into three main categories (like a librarian) and named the categories with alliteration (thanks to Dr. White’s suggestion that this was a great tool often used by Lincoln). So, here goes…..

Lincoln – Libraries – Learning

  • Lincoln had very little formal education, and yet he is one of the best educated people in history. We have a lot to learn today – even about this one thing! He read everything he could get his hands on. Dr. White has done much research as to the kinds of things that Lincoln read. They were the classics, the Bible, Shakespeare, and even books on spelling and elocution.  One of my favorite quotes from Dr. White is that, “Each book that Lincoln read by the fireplace in Indiana became a log in the foundation of the schoolhouse of his mind.”
  • Dr. White knew much about what Lincoln read (and thought and did) because he has travelled to libraries and archives large and small to do the research. He has read primary sources including transcripts of interviews from the 1860s. Reading things in that form is extremely powerful. Primary source documents give us information that is untouched by interpretation by others. No opinions or fake news.

History – Healing – Hope

  • As the old song says, “Don’t know much about history…”. (What???? I just looked it up to make sure I had it right, and found that this was written by Herb Alpert, Lou Adler, and Sam Cooke. Didn’t know that!)
  • It is true. We don’t know much about history. If we are lucky, we were not absent in the 4th grade on the day that covered part of the Civil War, or Lincoln, or (fill in the blank). Many of us had history teachers who believed that it was enough to make us pass a matching test consisting of names or dates. Not expecting us to know the full stories about these people and events. What were they thinking?  The word history even contains the word “story”. We needed to know much more than they had the time or inclination to teach us. (Apologies, many thanks, and much appreciation to those who actually DO teach history in a better way. I know you are out there, but we don’t all get the benefit of your enthusiasm and skill in sharing it.)
  • Students in West Virginia in particular need to know more about this. Our state exists because of Lincoln and the Civil War. Our people and our towns played major roles in the things that happened. Our streets are named after Civil War Generals. Buckhannon has Meade Street and Sedgwick Street. Who ever even stopped to wonder why? General George Meade defeated General Robert E. Lee at a place called Gettysburg.  General John Sedgwick, after leading his troops in many major engagements, was one of the two highest ranking officers to be killed in the war. General George McClellan and his troops camped in what is known today as City Park in Buckhannon on the way to the Battle of Rich Mountain.
  • How can WVWC help to make this information more available???
  • The words and the thoughtfulness of Abraham Lincoln have much to say to us today. It was a powerful moment last Wednesday evening in Wesley Chapel when Dr. White asked the entire audience of about 300 people to read the last paragraph of the Second Inaugural Address in unison. It spoke of national reconciliation at a time when that seemed all but impossible. As the audience read these words aloud together, there were tears in many eyes. Some have said that it was the most healing thing that they had done since last November. Older people, younger people. And not all who said this voted for the same person. History can bring healing and hope.
    • “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations”

Wowed by Wesleyan

  • I was once again wowed by Wesleyan. So many people did so much to make this event run smoothly! From Erica Byrd’s amazing work on publicity, to Chef Patrick’s excitement and initiative to create a dinner of Lincoln’s favorite foods for Dr. White, to Kim Haney’s skills and enthusiasm at creating and printing posters and materials, to Robert Osburn’s eye to detail to make the audio and visual parts of it work, to the Physical Plant folks bringing tables and chairs for the book sales and signing, to Beth Rogers and Alice Teets for carrying books over and running a one-night book sale, to Brett Miller for the amazing work in preparing our Lincoln collection “for company” and giving Dr. White a personal tour of it, WVWC welcomed Dr. White as an honored guest.
  • I was once again wowed by our faculty and students. In Dr. Rob Rupp’s class on the American Presidency, I watched as 25 of our students suddenly sounded and acted as scholars. They had great questions prepared, and engaged in some wonderful discussions with Dr. White. It was impressive!!!
  • Dr. Rupp did a wonderful job getting those students ready, but many of our faculty were also engaged with Dr. White at lunchtime discussions and beyond. Several required students to attend the lecture, or offered extra credit for doing so. This told the students that it was important. Some came grudgingly, but left feeling like they had been in the presence of something that mattered.  
  • I was once again reminded how important WVWC has been to so many alumni through the years. Many were in attendance on Wednesday evening. It was because of Charles Aubrey Jones (class of 1904) that we have a Lincoln collection and that we had funds to bring Dr. White to campus.

     It was because of Kevin Spear (class of 1976) that we were able to make the connection with Dr. White. Charla Stewart Reger (class of 1978) and her husband, Jack, were wonderful hosts for Dr. White’s stay at A Governor’s Inn.  Where else would a historian stay on a visit to Buckhannon!  We come – we grow – we have interesting lives – we want to stay connected, and to give back to the place that is so important to us.

  • Dr. White was also wowed by Wesleyan. He reports that his experience here exceeded his expectations, and he appreciated all of the preparation and connections. He has spoken on the national and international stage, he has consulted with presidents and traveled with generals. He has written great books. And, he can see the power of WVWC and the Liberal Arts education we so value.  Well done, Wesleyan!


Perspectives and Connections

Opening Remarks by Paula McGrew at the Faculty Colloquium on April 7, 2016Connection Diagram

View From the Plane

In 2011, I was given a remarkable opportunity to go to the Salzburg Seminar – Session 482.  Our topic was “The Future of Libraries and Museums in an Era of Participatory Culture” It was a gathering of  58 library, museum, and cultural heritage leaders from around the world.  I had done my homework and my advanced reading.  But, the first big thing that I learned was on the flight from Vienna to Salzburg.

As I was looking out the window at the beautiful farmland below, I was thinking to myself that this looked a lot like flying over Illinois.  Mile after mile of flat farmland marked off in 1 mile squares like a quilt.  

Then — much to my amazement and confusion — the people across the aisle from me started ooooohing and aaaaahing loudly and jumping up to take a better look out of the windows on their side of the plane.  “Wow!!!  We have never seen mountains this huge before!”

Taking another look out of my window, I rolled my eyes a bit — because, after all, I knew mountains.  I had grown up in West Virginia.  The Mountain State!  But, looking across the aisle and out the window on the other side of the plane, I realized that THEY were looking at the Alps!  And, that they actually WERE pretty amazing!

Then it dawned on me.  Here we all were in the same plane, at the same time, going the same direction, but our perspectives could not have been more different.  

So, here we are.  In Buckhannon.  At West Virginia Wesleyan College.  Where we all know that our purpose as an institution is.

West Virginia Wesleyan College challenges its students to a life-long commitment to develop their intellectual, ethical, spiritual, and leadership potential and to set and uphold standards of excellence.” We  “aspire to graduate broadly educated men and women” who:

  • Think critically and creatively,
  • Communicate effectively,
  • Act responsibly, and
  • Demonstrate their local and world citizenship through service.

But we have the wildly different (at times) perspectives of faculty, administrators, librarians, student life staff, coaches, etc.

Even within the library, we have different perspectives and roles:  cataloging, Interlibrary Loan, circulation, collection development (including access to electronic resources), instruction, outreach, and archives.  Introduced Beth Rogers: Reference, Instruction & Outreach Librarian, Brett Miller: College Archivist, Records Manager, & Music Librarian, Carol Bowman: Coordinator of Access Services, Acquisitions Librarian, Supervisor of Student Assistants.  Sue Roth: Cataloger was unable to be here.  Carol Smith: Interlibrary Loan and Periodicals Coordinator, Rhonda Bennett: Assistant in Cataloging, and Alice Teets: Library Associate and Wilma Whitlock, night supervisor were also “introduced”.  In other words, we have lots of roles, titles, and perspectives in our own building!

So, what about our purpose?


Many of you know that I am a huge fan of TEDtalks.  Recently, I came across one that had me thinking about it for days.  How to Know Your Life’s Purpose in 5 Minutes (Adam Leipzig)

  • 80% of the people from his 25th Yale Reunion were unhappy, still didn’t know what their lives were about
  • The happy 20% had studied literature and Renaissance rhetoric
    • The were theater people and history geeks
    • They had studied for the joy of learning
  • These people knew 5 things:
    • Who they were
    • What they did
    • Who they did it for
    • What those people wanted or needed
    • What those people got out of it
  • As we all strive to fulfill the mission of WVWC together, asking ourselves these questions is a great place to start
  • But, we all have different purposes and perspectives along the way.

In the library, I believe that we are these things (and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if my library colleagues had much to add to or tweak with these).

  • Who we are:  People who are curious about everything, and who regularly (and proudly) refer to ourselves as “Book Nerds” – people with a deep desire to be helpful.
  • What we do: Provide people with the raw materials and tools to do their work (of teaching or learning).
  • Who we do it for: The Faculty, Staff and Students of West Virginia Wesleyan College
  • What do these people want or need? —- Information, Inspiration, and Entertainment.  
  • What do these people get out of what we give them:
    • Information for their own research and continuing intellectual journeys
    • Information for teaching in their disciplines
    • Information for learning
    • Inspiration for millions of things that can’t be assessed or even known
    • Entertainment – movies-current fiction-music to help them relax after a hard day of teaching or learning so that they can recharge to start again
    • A place to connect with information,with other people, and even with their own thoughts.
    • Richer, more enjoyable, and more meaningful lives.

According to the formula used by Adam Leipzig, then, when someone asks me about the purpose of the library, the answer is,

“The library is operated by a group of people who are curious about everything, and have a deep desire to be helpful.  We provide Information, Inspiration, and Entertainment to Faculty, Staff, and Students and the raw materials and tools to do their work.  We help them to discover richer, more enjoyable, and more meaningful lives.”
So – now for Paula’s Library  Manifesto (a word which means public statement of purpose)

What Libraries Do: Collect-Organize-Preserve-Share

What Libraries Are: Collections-Place-Service

What Libraries Provide: Information-Inspiration-Entertainment

Why We Do It:  To make sure that faculty and students have the raw materials that they need in order to fulfill THEIR purposes.

Click here to see the full discussion at the Colloquium.



I am thankful for:

Those who have written books throughout the ages to help us to understand what life was like in their time and place, or who have gleaned some knowledge that they wanted to share with future generations.

Those who read these works, and who are engaged in learning from them for the sake of learning.  People who enjoy the opportunity to “converse” with those who live elsewhere, or in other times, and experiencing the cultural memory of another person.

The opportunity to spend my days connecting these authors and readers, and working with a group of colleagues who enjoy doing the same.

The Lamp of Learning is Shining Bright


On May 27, 1953, the Annie Merner Pfeiffer Library was dedicated to:

  • Satisfy the Enquiring Mind
  • Nurture the Developing Mind
  • Serve as Guide to the Responsible Mind
  • Serve as a Bulwark for Preserving the Open Mind

For nearly half of the history of West Virginia Wesleyan College, this building has been here providing a place for doing these important things.  Before that, we occupied the area that is now the Education Department in the Administration Building.  Before that, it was a small room in the original Seminary Building.  Students and Faculty have always needed access to information.  The college motto is “Let there Be Light” – and the library has always played a role in helping this to happen.

Library as Collections:

The library collects things (and access to things) that will support the faculty, staff, and students at WVWC as they teach, learn, work and play.  Through the years, these have come in many formats – but always with the same goal.  We still have printed books – but the digital age has created some wonderful new opportunities!  We choose both!  We are always on the lookout for things that would be helpful to our campus community.

Library as Place:

The library is pleased to be the center of our campus intellectual and cultural life.  Much like the Town Square in olden times, we are the place where people can come to discover information, find a quiet place to contemplate it, find a place to converse with others as they discuss it, and a creative place to develop new ideas.  While they are here, they can even get a good cup of coffee and a pastry if they’d like!  People come here to be informed, inspired, and entertained.

Library as Service:

  • This includes anything that we can do or provide to help our faculty, staff, and students to succeed in achieving their goals. It can be everything from copiers and computers to coffee and research help.  We teach, guide, give directions, and help you connect to information or people. We are available in person, on the telephone, by email, by text or through our chat box on the Library Webpage.  Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube!  Connect with us, and we will help connect you to what you need.
  • We also collect-organize-preserve-and share the history of “Our Home Among the Hills”.
  • In this wonderful digital age, we have made some of this available online:

Pages in Time includes:

West Virginia Wesleyan College newspapers

  • Seminary Herald (ca. 1893-1896)
  • Seminary Collegiate (ca. 1897-1904)
  • Pharos (1904-1973)
  • Internet Archive includes:
  • Murmurmontis (college yearbooks): 1904-2009
  • WVWC College Catalog (1890-2009, with some gaps)
  • Select rare and unique manuscript items from the Jones Lincoln Collection
  • West Virginia Wesleyan College 1890-1940, By Thomas W. Haught
  • A History of West Virginia Wesleyan College 1890-1965, by Kenneth M. Plumme

We are looking forward to a wonderful weekend of gathering with many people who have been part of it all throughout the years.  We are excited to hear their stories!  Happy 125th to WVWC!!

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News You Can Use!


How do you connect to the world?

For many years, our library subscribed to the weekend edition of the New York Times.  It was very expensive, arrived late (sometimes as much as two weeks!), and sat unread on the shelf until we ran out of room and recycled it.  But, we felt obligated to provide access to such a newspaper.  Even if nobody ever looked at it.

This spring, we subscribed to the electronic form which costs much less — and which provides unlimited access for all of our users 24/7 on their computers, tablets, or phones.  It includes access to archives back to 1851, videos, and numerous other amazing features.  Available. Awesome. Access.

This week we have added similar access to the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Our faculty and administrators requested it.  We have, of course, been providing access to this in print all along, as well as tucked away in other databases of resources.  But, now……..Available. Awesome. Access.

We also provide Access World News (there is that word again), which includes 3,829 sources from 144 countries, and 10 source types including newswires, broadcast transcripts, videos, and more in addition to newspapers from around the world.  This is very popular with international students as well as with others from hometowns beyond North Central West Virginia.  Available. Awesome. Access.

Through a paid subscription, we are able to provide these things for our current faculty, staff, and students.  But what about others?  Of course, your own local public libraries provide access to many things as well.  Below are just a few things that are available even without a library, although you may find that the number of articles is limited, or that premium features are not available to you.

The important thing is to stay up-to-date with what is going on in an area beyond the place (or time) where you happen to be right now.

Chronicling America

New York Times (although you will be limited to 5 articles per month)

United States Newspapers

USA Today

Washington Post

Mind Readers


we read because

The Library of Congress website tells us that, “books provided the little traveled Jefferson with a broader knowledge of the contemporary and ancient worlds than most contemporaries of broader personal experience.”  This summer, several of our library staff members had the chance to stand in the presence of Jefferson’s library.  You can read more about that collection and exhibit here.  Through the magic of reading, Jefferson traveled through time and space, learning from people who were quite diverse and who had much to teach him.


Famous people….Thomas Jefferson, William Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci, passengers on the Mayflower, Signers of the Declaration of Independence, Loyalists…..what did they (or might they) have read that inspired them?  That caused them to develop new theories.  That caused them to dream new dreams.  That encouraged them along the way.

For example, I think it is interesting to contemplate Mary, Queen of Scots as she sat reading Marcus Aurelius (in Italian), The Second Volume of the Auld Cronicles of England (In French), and Acts of Parliament of King James the Fyft.   All of these things were among the books in her personal library.

What has been read on the International Space Station?  Apparently, those floating above us have been reading such diverse things as: War and Peace, The Last of the Mohicans, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Faust, and A 10 Day MBA!

There is a fascinating way to discover some of the things that have been owned or read by famous people clear back to Aristotle and Cicero.  Library Thing Legacy Libraries ( has entire catalogs and lists of such books which have been put together through the work of libraries, museums, scholars, etc. for us to discover.  This even includes one for the collection retrieved from the house and office of our own William Michael Mahoney, and soon work will begin on a collection for Irene McKinney.  Our library cataloging staff, led by the fearless Sue Roth, is working on this with the help of student assistants and volunteers.  They were what they read – and we know how awesome and interesting they were!  It is a great joy to collect-organize-preserve-and share that information with current and future scholars.

The New York Times Magazine has a feature called My Bookshelf, Myself in which they invite famous people from all areas of life to share the 10 books they would take with them if they were marooned on a desert island and why.  It is worth a look!

What do you read?  What inspires and makes you who you are becoming?  What times and places and people and experiences have you explored?

Ask a Librarian


Librarians by their very nature want to collect, organize, preserve and share information.  Sometimes we focus on the collecting, organizing, and preserving part of that.  Today, I would like to focus on the sharing. 

We love nothing more than to connect someone who is interested in, looking for, or excited about something with a resource that we know about.  Sometimes that takes the form of teaching a whole class.  Sometime it is one-on-one conversation.  Sometimes we find something that we know you were looking for yesterday, and email it to you.  Check out all of the options on the library webpage!

A couple of years ago, we worked on some videos to help get the message across, and I would like to share my favorite one here.  It is called “Ask a Librarian”.

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year

Happy New Academic Year!

New Year’s Day is always an exciting time.  Time for new beginnings, time to celebrate, time to do things in a better way.  So, why does it only have to come once a year?  Since January 1 is also my birthday, I often focus more on that than the New Year.  Here at the beginning of a new academic year, I am proposing that we celebrate New Year’s in August.

The library is celebrating by unveiling a MAJOR UPDATE and UPGRADE to the Library Website.  This is not just a small change, but there are some structural things that we think you will really enjoy.  For example, check out the Databases A-Z tab.  Now, instead of a long list of awesome things that all seem to look the same, you can target specific subjects and specific types of information.  When you choose a subject from the dropdown list of more than thirty different subject areas, you will get the best bets at the top of your results.  Or, if you want only newspapers, or full-text, or reference, or scholarly journals, or statistics, you can do that!

There are even more great new features for you to explore.  There are sections for Students, for Faculty, for Community Patrons, and even one for Mobile Apps!  Don’t miss any of them!  They have all been carefully designed and updated just for you.  For the New Year.  After all, we all have resolutions about being more productive, smarter, and just better overall.

And, just this once, I can celebrate the New Year without getting any older.