Karen's Bio

Early life

Karen in 1956Although born in Alabama, I've lived in Ohio nearly all of my life. My family moved to Massillon, Ohio, before my first birthday. Dad worked and mom stayed at home with me, my older brother Mike and our Chihuahua, Cisco.

Our first house was rented while my parents looked for something more permanent. We moved into a slightly larger home not long after. This one had a big back yard, with a large apple tree that was perfect for climbing, and a wonderful field that extended up a hill about half a block, along with a wooded area that I spent a lot of time in as a kid. After my younger brother Bill came along, we explored the woods, played baseball in the field, rode sleds down the hill, and tried to ice skate without having actual ice skates when the low-lying part of the field would fill with melted snow then freeze over. It was a great place to be a kid!

School days

My K-12 years were somewhat unspectacular. I enjoyed my years in elementary school, but didn't really enjoy junior high and high school as much. My favorite subjects were art, literature, and history.

Now, college was a different matter altogether. I started my college career exactly 2 weeks after graduating from high school just to prove my high school guidance counselor wrong... he advised me to avoid college as he felt I would flunk out quickly! Well, he was so wrong! I loved college! It was wonderful to pick my own classes and work in a terrific library on research projects. I loved the Kent State University campus and had a number of excellent professors for both of my majors: history and anthropology. My goal was to end up in library school and become a professional librarian.

I applied for graduate school during my last year of college, and had decided to go for a double masters in both history and library science. Little did I know that I would end up at two different schools to accomplish this! I was awarded a fellowship at Southern Illinois University (Carbondale) to study history. My major area of study focused on Holocaust studies and World War II. As a minor area of study, I chose English history, specifically late nineteenth century Britain and it's relationship with it colonies.

After finished my degree at SIUC, I moved back to Ohio and found my first full-time job at the Stark County District Library. I also applied to the graduate program at Kent State's School of Library Science (now the School of Library and Information Science). Working full-time in a library turned out to be a great advantage as I worked my way part-time through my graduate program. It offered a lot of opportunities for working on projects and research papers! Plus I had a lot of librarians around for advice and help. I went into library school thinking that my professional goal was to work in a reference department so I took a number of courses to support that work.

Working girl...

After graduating with my Master of Library Science degree, I moved from working in the circulation department (checking out books, helping people find books, etc.) to the Humanities reference department. Answering questions in the areas of the social sciences, fine arts, music, literature and sports was my idea of the perfect job... at least for a few years. I became increasingly frustrated with the lack of adequate access to library materials through the library's catalog and thought seriously about trying my hand at cataloging. Once a position opened up, I worked as head cataloger at SCDL and realized that I had found my place in the library world. I love the work; the attention to detail required and the detective work involved really hit a cord with my ideas of a challenging job.

By 1991, I was ready to move to new challenges and ended up in Columbus, OH, working for the Supreme Court of Ohio Law Library. At the time, my ultimate goal was to relocate to Columbus and eventually work at OCLC, the bibliographic utility that provides cataloging copy to libraries all over the world, located just outside of Columbus in Dublin, OH. That goal changed when a colleague saw an ad in the newspaper for a catalog coordinator for a federally-funded project at the Ohio State University. I applied and waited impatiently to find out if the job was mine. Offered this job, I accepted without hesitation!

This was a unique opportunity for any librarian: we would be creating a bibliographic database of K-12 math and science curriculum materials that would be available to the teachers of the U.S. The Eisenhower National Clearinghouse for Mathematics and Science Education (ENC) differed from usual library collections in that the catalog record was developed as a result of discussions with the people who would be using our database. Why is this unique? While most libraries have local practices (descriptive cataloging variations aimed at the local user group), ENC conducted focus groups with K-12 educators to learn what they would like to see in a record describing curriculum materials. We started with a blank slate and ended up with a very detailed catalog record including a substantial abstract, evaluation information, locally devised subject headings, pricing information, as well as the traditional library description fields. Besides really stretching my abilities as a cataloger, ENC introduced me to web design and I've been hooked every since. [Note: <rant> Due to the evil Republican empire which took power in 2000 and is out to totally destroy public education (as well as environmental protection!) </rant>, ENC lost it's funding and now is trying to make a go of being a for-profit institution, requiring subscriptions for access which is a sad, sad thing!]

By 2000 I felt I had done all I could do at ENC and began looking for another job. A position for audiovisual and special materials cataloger opened up at University of Akron and I got the job! What drew me to this job? First of all, it allowed me to move closer to my family. Secondly, there were a number of challenges such as making inroads on two huge backlogs of materials: videotapes and curriculum kits. Being a faculty member (assistant professor) is really different too. Faculty members are required to perform different types of services, such as working with professional organizations and being on committees. My C.V. provides a list of all of the committee and service opportunities I've taken advantage of over the past few years. Highlights: becoming one of the co-webmasters for ALAO, developing the Cataloging Department Website, and working on revisions of the reappointment, promotion and tenure guidelines. I've also got quite a few publications under my belt, including reviews for Library Journal and Technical Services Quarterly and two articles. All of this work led to promotion in July 2006 to the position of Associate Professor and a grant of indefinite tenure!

Karen A. Plummer - February 2002Where will I go next? I guess my next step is promotion to full professor in a few years. I need to get some writing done to meet the requirements for that promotion, and do a couple of presentations. I've kept up with my service obligrations so I'm set in that area. In terms of research, I'm looking into standards-based web design for library websites and exploring metadata issues. As long as I keep learning and finding some challenges to keep things interesting, life is good!