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Presidential First Ladies

Melissa Moore, Reference Librarian and Team Leader for Public Services
Union University, Jackson, Tennessee

I interviewed Melissa Moore, Reference Librarian and Team Leader of Public Services at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, on June 26, 2002. She is working on several projects including pathfinders for various disciplines, managing the audio-visual area of the library, and writing book reviews. It was this last project that I chose to use for my assignment for this class.

In order to broaden her background in English literature and library science, Melissa began reading biographies, particularly historical biographies. She had written a book review on Oral Culture in the Cumberland Valley for the Tennessee Librarian, a publication of the Tennessee Library Association, and decided to try her hand at another review. The association periodically sends out a query asking its members to volunteer to critique new books. The reviews are then published in the publication. Melissa chose to critique Barbara Bennett Peterson's Sarah Childress Polk, First Lady of Tennessee and Washington, published by Nova Science (2002) (ISBN: 1-59033-145-1), and its publication is pending.

In order to write the review, she took notes on the book and requested other books about Polk through interlibrary loan. She also requested other books in the series (Presidential Wives) as well as books by the same author. She then evaluated the book for writing style, understandability, age appropriateness, layout, index, photos, Table of Contents, bibliography, credits, and comparability to other similar books. She found the book to be appropriate for the juvenile/young adult section of the library and discovered that there were few books in the library related to presidential wives.

This lead to a series of questions on my part as to what value this review might have for her library. In her assessment of the juvenile/young adult collection, she found that of the 4600+ books, none were about presidential wives. This book would be a valuable addition to the collection. She would now be in a position to know what books needed to be added to the collection, and she hopes to create a social sciences librarian position where that person would be involved from beginning to end in acquiring books. Students could benefit by attending workshops in the discipline, either as extra credit or as part of the class assignment, to learn about presidential wives. Doing such projects also broadens her subject area and allows her to serve as a liaison (peer) with the faculty. Her review will be sent to interested faculty and mention of it will be made in the library's newsletter which is circulated to the campus. When asked if she would like to do more in the area, she stated that she would like to write a book in the series that would be 80 to 90 pages in length at the high school level.

Tennessee Library Association

Presidential First Ladies