A librarian’s impact

Being a librarian is a job that requires a lot of knowledge and responsibilities. Those who work within the Spiva library help patrons locate and find their materials. 

Whitney Hamm is an archivist and special collections librarian at Missouri Southern. 

Hamm grew up in Joplin area. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in history at the University of Arkansas. Later on, she went to Kent State University to get her master’s degree in Information and Library Science with a focus on archival studies.

Whitney has been working at the Spiva library for nine years. In 2017 she became the university’s archivist and special collections librarian.

Her main goal is to preserve, organize and make accessible various documents, images and artifacts that are related to Missouri Southern’s institutional history. 

Those materials have historical and informational value and are mostly related to the history of the local area.

Hamm admits that she developed the interest in archives after her school trip to Washington, D.C and the National Archives in the eighth grade.

She had the chance to go behind the scenes and see where many of the historical documents are located and classified.

“It was fascinating,” she said. 

She decided to get her bachelor’s degree in history with the intent of working at a museum. Her master’s degree followed.

Hamm admits there are lots of aspects that she likes about her job, but the most satisfying is that she feels like she makes an impact.

Despite the slow work, Hamm and others are digitizing the majority of the collection and reworking others. Her goal is to have all the information housed in the archive available to the public.

Part of what Hamm is archiving contains information about the area, as well as photographs and interviews with local residents.

“Someday, someone might be able to find information about their family or the places they love,” Hamm said. 

One of the difficulties Hamm encounters is that people don’t understand her job or librarians in general.

 “We are information specialists,” Hamm said. 

Hamm’s job is crucial and complicated, she said, because all of the records in the library are made by people. She has to maintain all the records and books, as well as records of library users. 

“I enjoy my work and I would recommend it, however, be prepared to enter a pretty competitive job market,” said Hamm.

Outside the work, Hamm likes to read books especially fantasy and science fiction. 

She recently joined a postcard exchange. The goal is to exchange postcards with people around the world and make connections. 

Hamm is also working with the Tri-State Mining collection, which consists of maps and other mining data from southwest Missouri, southeast Kansas, and northeast Oklahoma. 

She often finds herself helping people determine if there has been mining activity on their property.

“I have had to tell first time home buyers that there is likely a mine under their house,” Hamm said. “I’ve also helped the police pinpoint mine shafts in missing person investigations.”