As head of educational initiatives for UNLV Libraries, Melissa Bowles-Terry says she is pleased to be part of a library team that makes the learning mission of the university its highest priority.
What do you do in your job?
I work with a group of librarians dedicated to student learning. My work is a little bit different every day, but mostly we 1) meet students in the classroom and work with them on developing research skills, 2) collaborate with university instructors on creating engaging research assignments, and 3) create online learning materials to help students navigate the library and figure out the research process.
How did you choose your field?
When I was in 5th grade, my elementary school library got rid of the card catalog and bought several new computers that students could use to search for books and other information. The librarian trained a couple of kids from each class how to use the system, and then we were tasked with teaching our classmates. I was one of the kids teaching the other kids how to find books, so a part of me likes to think that I was destined for librarianship from that point on. In reality, though, it took me quite a while to figure out that I wanted to be a librarian. First I majored in English because I loved reading, and then I got a master's degree in English because I thought I probably wanted to teach, but was not quite sure of my career direction. While I was getting my master's degree I taught freshman and sophomore writing classes and I worked closely with a librarian who inspired me. She was an excellent teacher who spent her time teaching students to pursue their own research questions, which meant that in the process she got to learn a little bit about a lot of things. Because of her, I decided to get a master's degree in library and information science. I love being a generalist and learning every day from students and university staff who have widely varied research interests.
Why do you choose to be at UNLV?
UNLV Libraries are leading in the field of academic librarianship by example: we've made the learning mission of the university our highest priority. Some university libraries feel like museums or warehouses for books, but Lied Library is such a lively and interesting place, always full of people engaged in learning. I love that, and I'm thrilled to be part of a group of librarians who are working every day to make sure that our students have the skills, tools, and resources they need to be lifelong learners.
Where were you before and what jobs did you have?
I was a librarian at University of Wyoming before I came here, and before that I was a graduate student at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
"If I couldn't work in my current field, I would like to be..."
A high school English and drama teacher. That was my original plan when I graduated from high school, and I still think it would be a lot of fun.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up on a dairy farm outside Preston, Idaho, a small town of about 5,000 people. My family has been on the same farm and in the same house for five generations, and I have lots of aunts and uncles and cousins who all lived nearby when I was young. It's a really beautiful place, in this very small valley with high mountains all the way around it. (If you saw the movie Napoleon Dynamite, then you saw my high school and a few other glimpses of my hometown.)
What has been the proudest moment of your life?
I am proud of my daughter every day. She is almost 2 and is learning new things all the time. It's especially fascinating to watch her language skills developing. She's starting to get the hang of pronouns, which are really tricky!
Who is your hero?
My parents are my heroes. They are the hardest working people I know. They run a farm while working additional jobs (my mom is a nurse and my dad is a county commissioner), and also being really involved parents and grandparents and doing lots of volunteer work in their church and their neighborhood. They inspire me.
What are your hobbies?
Singing silly songs with my daughter, traveling, visiting national parks with my family, and reading.