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February 16, 2018

Learning something new every day is part of the job

Gone are the days of a frumpy, bun-headed librarian pointing a bony finger at loud students telling them to “shhhhh.” Today’s librarians are on the move, and they fill education and information gaps all across the country. JCCC has 12 librarians, all of whom hold master’s degrees and are responsible for staffing one of the area’s most comprehensive information archives.

What modern librarians look like

JCCC’s full-time librarians break the stereotypical plain-vanilla, bookworm fallacy. Today’s librarians are “in the know” and have some very interesting hobbies and pasts. It takes 29 employees to make Billington Library function from literally sunup to well past sundown on most days. Here’s a peek at what piques their interests.

Barry Bailey, Associate Professor, Digital Projects Librarian

  • Is a wrestling fan; he hates fake news but loves fake sports
  • Had a poem about Godzilla and tater tots published when he was 9

Anita Gordon-Gilmore, Librarian, Archives

  • Was told in an abilities/interests test to become a social worker or a mechanic … that’s why she chose to be a librarian
  • Cataloged memorabilia at Kansas State University including a sorority pillow and one shoe

John Russell, Professor/Librarian

  • Has eaten muskrat
  • Holds an amateur radio operator license

Tricia Harte, Librarian

  • Has a BS in fisheries and wildlife
  • Is an avid blues music fan

Jessica Tipton, Associate Professor/Librarian, Library Faculty Chair

  • Can recite the McDonald’s Menu Song (from the late 1980s)
  • Works on a lot of HGTV-type projects in her vintage home

Michael Frisbie, Library Specialist

  • Considers a 500-page book on Roman history leisure reading
  • Was captain of the Safety Patrol in elementary school

Judi Vaughn, Professor/Librarian

  • Is a foster “mom” to kittens and also is a volunteer at Wayside Waifs
  • Lived in Turkey for a year and a half

Jan Brooks, Interlibrary Loan Librarian

  • Grew up wrangling cattle on a Kansas wheat farm
  • Enjoys quilting, especially collaborating on projects with library colleagues

Cindy Cheng, Librarian

  • Lived in a house that faced Waikiki Beach and lived in George Armstrong Custer's house
  • Drove a bookmobile to 43 libraries in 11 Kansas counties

Liberating literature

At one time or another during the course of an academic year, JCCC’s librarians are quizzed by students on just about every subject on campus. If they get stumped by a question at the reference desk, they know how to find a source to answer it.

Everything counts!

Jessica Tipton, Associate Professor/Librarian, Library Faculty Chair, has a quote outside her office from Allen Smith that states, “In order to be really good as a librarian, everything counts toward your work, every play you go see, every concert you hear, every trip you take, everything you read, everything you know. The more you know, the better you’re going to be.” Tipton lives by this.

Becoming a librarian was a natural progression for Tipton. The Student Librarian Eager Beaver Service Award from fifth grade at Rosehill Elementary in Lenexa is proudly displayed on her office wall. She continued to be a library volunteer into high school and at Johnson County Library branches.

“I went to the library every week as a kid and I’d pick up books on just about anything,” she said. “Like all librarians, I like to know a little about everything.”

Tipton says being a librarian is fulfilling to her because she gets to help others learn something new. “It’s a super-rewarding career,” she said.

It’s not unusual for Tipton to travel to JCCC’s Olathe Health Education Center (OHEC) to teach students about library resources. The library has more than 180 databases that are free to students and not sold to the public. Later she may go to a local high school to instruct College Now students about how to get started on a project that requires multiple sources. Tipton also takes a shift at the Reference Desk once a week until 10 p.m.

The library is open late and on weekends for all students. “No matter when students have time to study, we provide every student with the same level of service,” Tipton said.

Mastering in knowledge

Being a librarian means signing up to be a perpetual student. Learning and researching seem to be part of a librarian’s genetic makeup. To hold the credential of a card-carrying librarian, you must earn a master’s degree in library science.

Tipton also has an education specialist degree in human services/learning resources.

“Every day is about learning something new,” Tipton said. “Every day is different.”

Each JCCC librarian is responsible for a division within JCCC. Their responsibilities include informing instructors if there are new research sources in the library and what is available to help students find sources. Librarians also teach specialty classes tailored to a specific project or subject.

One research exercise used by some JCCC professors is to assign students a paper that includes facts that happened on the day they were born. Librarians can help by tapping into the historical editions of The New York Times (dating back to 1865).

Librarians are super friendly

Libraries can be a safe, noncommercialized place where people feel welcome – a great equalizer.

“We want to tell students, ‘My job is to make your life easier,’” she said. “We try to seek out students who look like they need a little encouragement and some help.”

Tipton wants students to know that it’s a sign of empowerment and not weakness to ask for help. “If you spend more than 15 minutes trying to find information, just ask a librarian to help,” she said. “They can save time that you could spend working on your assignment.”

Be there, or not

JCCC’s library is a gateway to resources, services and support. You don’t have to be in the library to use the library. Get access at For more information about what your library staff can do for you, call 913-469-3871.