CUL behind the scenes

Meet three staff members creating an exceptional library experience

Many Central University Libraries (CUL) staff members perform their tasks in areas rarely visited by the public, providing vital services that have an impact on everyone who relies on the libraries' resources for research and enrichment.

Following is an introduction to three highly skilled library professionals working behind the scenes to ensure CUL runs like clockwork.

CUL Staff Behind the scenes
Working behind the scenes: (from left) Katherine Schacht, Geailya Armour and Billie Stovall.

Order of magnitude

To meet the research needs of the SMU community, CUL adds new materials regularly, and almost every request passes across the desk of Geailya Armour. Armour, a library specialist in Technology Services/Acquisitions, orders books and other research materials, as well as a variety of media.

Faculty, students and staff work with library subject specialists to make their requests. Approved requests are then sent to Armour. She also works with the CUL collections development staff, which assesses user needs and determines which materials should be acquired to meet them.

"We use the GOBI online system to order materials," she says. GOBI (Global Online Bibliographic Information) is a Web-based acquisition and collection development tool offered through YBP Library Services, a distributor of print and digital materials for academic libraries.

"However, not all materials are available through GOBI. In those cases, we often use Amazon or other online retailers for purchases," she explains. "And, if a book is no longer available, we rely on several vendors of out-of-print materials to find what we need."

When a rush order is received from a vendor, it is marked with both a "notify" and location flag and sent to the Cataloging Department for priority cataloging and processing. The Circulation Department then alerts the requesting student, faculty or staff member when it is available for check out.

Even after 32 years on the job, Armour says "every day is different. I really enjoy the variety and the opportunity to help our patrons obtain the materials they need."

Cataloging collections

Online databases bring some of the rare collections of DeGolyer Library to scholars around the world. A first step in finding those materials is a search made possible by the descriptions written and organized by Catalog Librarian Katherine Schacht.

"For the numerous unique items, I create records for our library catalog and input them into the OCLC, an international database of libraries' holdings," explains Schacht, who has worked at SMU for 16 years. Among the details included in an entry are the name of the item, publisher information, a brief physical description and access points such as names and subject headings used for searching.

A favorite aspect of her job is "seeing the many interesting resources acquired by the library, ranging from rare books and maps to popular ‘dime novels' of the late 19th- and early 20thcentury and ephemeral materials such as trade catalogs and broadsides."

"I enjoy the challenge of making these materials accessible to researchers," she adds.

Schacht graduated from SMU in 1973 with a Bachelor's degree in Spanish and says her language training has come in handy when working with some of the DeGolyer's collections.

Her most recent project was cataloging a collection of 1880s advertisements written by "commercial rhymist" W.N. Bryant for business enterprises in Texas, Louisiana and the portion of Oklahoma then called "Indian Territory." The ads were printed in Dallas by Jas. A. Dorsey & Co. The materials have been digitized and are available online through CUL's digital collections (

A borrower be

"Both a borrower and a lender be" could serve as the motto of the CUL Interlibrary Loan (ILL) service. SMU's libraries make materials available to thousands of academic and public libraries through the ILL system. And, when a library patron needs a book, journal or other resource not owned by the University, ILL Specialist Billie Stovall becomes a borrower.

"Members of the SMU community fill out an online form, telling us what they want. They might be seeking a book, a journal article, a conference paper, microfilm of old newspapers – the requests cover the spectrum of materials," says Stovall, who started working at Fondren Library Center in 1983 in circulation and joined the ILL in 1990. She earned a Bachelor's degree in humanities with a concentration in history from SMU in 2006.

Although every effort is made to borrow items, there are occasions when archival materials are not circulated, she explains. "In such cases, faculty members, in particular, often work with colleagues at other universities to obtain the materials they need."

Overnight shipping, Web-based tools and membership in networks such as the Greater Western Library Alliance, which SMU joined earlier this year, expedite the process, she says. Articles are often available online within 24 hours.

"We're so fortunate that our administration has provided us with the best equipment and up-to-date software," she says. "That helps us get materials to those who need them so quickly."

Stovall has been lauded for her knowledge and resourcefulness. For example, in his book The Spanish Frontier in North America (Yale University Press, 1992), the late historian David J. Weber stated: "…The efficiency of Billie Stovall in our Interlibrary Loan Office saved me costly and time-consuming travel to other collections."

She also has been recognized by the Art History Department for helping student researchers, and her name has appeared in the acknowledgements of several graduate theses and dissertations.