WAMLites’ Musings on Map Librarianship on WAML’s Golden Anniversary

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Part 2

by Kathy Rankin

I made up a list of fifteen questions having to do with map librarianship and WAML and asked people who had been WAML members for at least 25 years to answer them as part of our celebration of WAML’s fiftieth anniversary.  These are the answers to the WAML questions with minimal editing.  The members who participated in this section are Dorothy McGarry, Greg Armento, Lavonne Jacobsen, Yvonne Wilson, Kathy Rankin, Mary Larsgaard, Muriel Strickland, Julie Hoff, and Riley Moffat.  Not everyone answered every question.  Mary answered the questions over the phone, and she worked very hard before she passed away to get the transcript of her answers just the way she wanted it.

[Part 1 of this article appeared in the July 2017 issue of the IB]

1. Why did you join WAML? 

Mary: My supervisor, Ruth Hartman, had gone to the organizational meeting of WAML. She was positively impressed with the group and suggested that I get involved with it.

Lavonne: My MLS is from the University of Oregon and studied with a WAML founder, Ed Thatcher – cartobibliography.  First meeting was as a student member in Ashland Oregon.

Kathy: I was at a MAGERT event shortly after I had been hired at UNLV, and since the University of Texas system doesn’t have tenure, I was bemoaning the fact that I didn’t know what I was going to do to get tenure.  Linda Newman told me that I should join WAML.  It was a small organization, she said, so I could be elected president and I could host a meeting, and that would do it.  I thought to myself that I could never get elected president and there was no way I was hosting a meeting by myself.  I did serve as president, and I hosted two meetings with John’s help, one before and one after I got tenure.  That really wasn’t all it took, but I did get tenure. I’ve also published in the IB.

Dorothy: I don’t remember for sure, but I assume I had heard about    it from others, and part of the reason was probably my trip to the map cataloging workshop, which I enjoyed very much.

Greg: In the 1980s, word of mouth amongst librarians and especially map librarians touted it as the best organization for the specialty. Interesting people, great meeting locations, casual atmosphere. Great way to network and be mentored in my field.

Muriel: Need to know what I was doing.

Riley: I wanted to develop professionally and heard that WAML was   the friendliest and best organization to become involved with.

Yvonne: I accompanied Julia [Gelfand] to my first WAML at Arizona State in Phoenix.  (I would have to look-up the year. [1985]) While Julia became involved in many other organizations and her WAML attendance tapered off, I stayed.

2. What have you gotten out of WAML in general over the years? 

Mary: Good advice! I made a pest of myself asking questions of people such as Stan Stevens and Phil Hoehn. And I got a lot of good friends.  It was a great relief to me after three years that I finally knew enough to answer questions from other map librarians attending WAML.

Lavonne: Camaraderie — being able to “hang out” with like-minded people.  Maps were actually a minimal part of my assignment for all 45 years I worked.  The meetings have great speakers who are users and researchers as often as librarians.

Kathy: I’d say networking is the biggest thing.  UNLV never had a map librarian, so if someone asked me a question related to maps, I knew whom I could ask because of the map librarians I had met.  I also met map catalogers I could ask cataloging questions of, and sometimes I needed general answers about maps for something I was cataloging or in regard to a weeding decision we were trying to make for something map-related.  I’ve also made good friends.

Dorothy: I have enjoyed getting to know the people who attend WAML, some of whom I never saw elsewhere, and some of whom I saw also at other meetings. I found the business meetings and Sounding Board sessions interesting, and I found some of the programs interesting. The meetings were very friendly and generally had a lot of variety in the presentations.

Greg: Access to many knowledgeable specialists in the field. Many skills, tips, resources discovered. Fascinating research presentations or “continuing education” talks in my specialty.

Muriel: Professional knowledge.  Friendship.

Riley: Professional advice and good friendships.

Yvonne: I learned a lot about how a small professional organization can have an impact on a profession. I thought the organization was well run, had enough money to do what it wanted to do, and location for conferences cannot be beat!

3. Name one WAML meeting (or fieldtrip) that stands out in your mind and talk about why it does.

Mary: My favorites were the ones in Hawaii.  I went to three of them. Maybe it is the theory of aloha. Mabel Suzuki and Ross Togashi made us feel so welcome.

Lavonne: WAML was my first introduction to metadata, FRBR, etc. – thank you!

Kathy [and John]: The Hawaii meetings.  Riley Moffat at the first one I attended and Mabel Suzuki and Ross Togashi at the latter two made us feel very welcome.  At the 1992 meeting we went on a beach that was later covered by lava, and we went closer to the erupting volcano than the other tourists got to go because we were with the volcanologist.  I love Hawaii, and twice when we came for meetings we were able to make a side trip to Kauai to visit my best friend from high school.  John: The Alaska meeting. I had never been there. I liked the people and the scenery. I had always wanted to drive the Al-Can Highway, and this was a reason to do it. I drove it in our motorhome, the Tortuga Coja [Limping Turtle].

Dorothy: I don’t remember one meeting that stands out in my mind, and I didn’t generally go on field trips. A few specific things I do remember. You and I, Kathy, talked on cataloging at one meeting. There was one program on the importance of geography settings in mystery stories at one WAML. There was discussion of whether WAML should continue two meetings a year or go down to one, and the response was definitely to continue two meetings a year (even though that changed in later years). I also remember the remembrance of Rich Spohn and the others in Hawaii.

Greg: In recent years I tended to enjoy talks about new online resources. At the time (in 2004), the discovery that Chico State had been developing an in-depth resource on historic topographic maps was a great “find” for me. I believe everyone present was “how did I not know about this?”.

Field trips: A hike in August 2005 on the red/orange autumn tundra in the outback of Denali while John Kawula entertained us on his recent grizzly bear encounters. Tip I learned: “Do not approach the grizzly.”

Muriel: Alaska: talked about for years, finally we were there.

Riley: They’ve all been generally quite good. The two things that seem to make a good meeting are the speakers/workshops and the field trips.

Yvonne: I remember riding on the bus in Hawaii and Jim O’Donnell singing “Danny Boy” or the conference in Jackson Hole was worth all the traveling to get there, and the conference in Cody, Wyoming was to a place on my bucket list and was preceded by a 5-day trip with my WAML gal-pals to a whole slew of national parks. Doesn’t get any better.

Julie: I will always fondly remember the UC Irvine WAML meeting because I met Kathy Rankin and we shared a room, thus beginning our map friendship.  My goodness, that was back in the late 80s! [1989]. Our epic hike through the sequoias at the Humboldt meeting is also a great memory.  AND of course, the trip to Death Valley when Kathy last hosted in Las Vegas!  I absolutely fell in love with that place and Jim [her husband] has promised we’ll take a trip there when it’s cooler. The Hawaii meetings will probably be singled out as the best WAML trips.  Wasn’t there a lava flow at one of them?  [Yes.] I didn’t go to any of the Hawaii meetings but am so glad to have gone to Fairbanks Alaska and then to Denali.  Now THAT was a trip!

4. How do you think WAML has changed over the years?

Mary: The influence of working with digital material, which is a big change since I started in 1969. Not for many years have map librarians been able to manage without that knowledge.

Lavonne: As it should, content of meetings and publications become ever more technological – also meeting costs have had to go up; another necessity.

Kathy: I think there is a much much greater emphasis on GIS in map librarianship now, so WAML has had to increase the number of programs and workshops that deal with digital mapping. Also as the cost of travel has gone up, the number of map librarian positions has gone down as people retire and are not replaced, and people get busier, so attendance at the meetings has dropped, and we have gone from two to one meetings a year. The IB has also become electronic.

Dorothy: This is a hard question for me. People have come and gone, and I miss a number of the people who have gone. For a while there was an emphasis on GIS, but members began asking for more variety in the programming, and I thought that was better.

Greg: a) With the advent and continued expansion of the internet, the basics of networking in WAML has changed.  b) Popularity and mass-use of GIS with greater ease has changed our skill-set–re-purposed our skill set and what we do in meetings.

Muriel: Essentially the same. Changed as concerns changed.

Riley: I would say the transition from paper to digital.

5. What do you see that WAML’s future will be like?

Mary: If WAML doesn’t move with the times, it will die. At the last WAML meeting in Hawaii, we discussed getting “geospatial” into our name. “Geographic information” more fits what we do.

Lavonne:  I’m wondering if it will move towards antiquarian in the sense of keeping and preserving important map resources.  Libraries are no longer accumulating maps for student papers, for example, like the CIA or National Geographic maps.

Kathy: As long as there are still map librarians, and as long as we provide programs and workshops that are relevant to the work map librarians do now, there will still be a need for WAML.

Dorothy: I think WAML can continue to be a great organization. There are new people coming in, which is essential for any organization, and there are those who offer to host the meetings and plan the programs. The Information Bulletin continues to provide interesting information.

Greg: Networking our abilities with each other and professional/continuing education. Digitizing and making available more hidden resources. Geographic platform design and use. Balancing the print/historical with GIS/online. Bridging both with our human skills.

Muriel: Hopefully same as answer to question 4.

Yvonne: WAML is still the envy of map librarians east of us.

6. Talk about the accomplishments of 2-3 WAML members (past or present) whom you think have been important to the organization.

Mary: Stan Stevens has given much not just to WAML but to all of map librarianship.  There are so many others, it’s difficult to single them out, but Jim O’Donnell has certainly been another major contributor.

Lavonne: How about Kathy Rankin?!  Certainly Mary Larsgaard has been critical to me for her books.

Kathy: Stan Stevens, as the first president of the organization, has done a lot for the group over the years, and he is a very kind man. His goal was to have meetings in Hawaii (we’ve met there three times), Alaska, and Las Vegas (we’ve met there twice), and that goal has been met. He also has written the history of the group and is helping me identify people to do oral histories with. Mary Larsgaard has been very important in that she has been the IB editor, has hosted meetings, has been a representative to different groups from WAML, has given presentations, and has been a great friend to us all.  Ron Whistance-Smith hosted meetings, gave presentations, brought us Canadian mapping news, was a source of much map knowledge, wrote a poem about map librarianship, and was a good friend, who along with his wife Rena, helped me put on my first meeting. I can’t leave out Dorothy McGarry. She is very knowledgeable map cataloger, she has participated in many board and business meetings and always makes good points, she has been a liaison from WAML to different groups, and she has also been a good friend.

Dorothy: Perhaps I think of more than 2 or 3. Mary Larsgaard was always very important in terms of being there, contributing ideas and suggestions, and knowing so much, as were Stan Stevens and Phil Hoehn. I think you, Kathy, have been important not just with your knowledge and participation, but also with your excellent reports on MAGIRT, since knowledge of what is happening elsewhere is important to any organization. I hate to pick out specific others, since a number have participated as officers or membership chairs or with other functions for many years.

Greg: Mary Larsgaard’s pioneering work in map librarianship and her in-depth knowledge. As a WAML leader, Mabel Suzuki’s diligence and determination to make sure WAML goals were met. Riley Moffat’s research skills and the production of his “Map index to topographic quadrangles of the United States, 1882-1940”, plus his unfailing kindness and amiability at meetings.

Muriel: Unanswerable. WAML lends itself to involvement by everyone. Impossible to pinpoint.  Kathy Rankin for doing this review.

Riley: Mary Larsgaard wrote the rule book, she seemed to know everything. Stan Stevens got WAML on its feet and was always encouraging.

7. What do you see as the benefits for any map librarian in the West in joining WAML?

Mary: A map librarian in the West not in WAML is out of the flow if she/he isn’t in WAML.  In times past I would get back from a WAML meeting and get to work on the new ideas I learned there. I found out new things at meetings long before I heard about them anywhere else.

Lavonne: Back to camaraderie – knowing others who are caring for geo resources and managing the related digital technology.

Kathy: It’s expensive to attend ALA, especially since many of the meetings are in the Midwest and East. Also, it is easier to become active and to get to know people in a smaller organization. Also, because there are fewer map librarians in the West, it’s good to get to know fellow map librarians in the same region because a person can’t necessarily just go across town to consult with someone.  It’s also fun seeing beautiful and interesting places in the West.

Dorothy: Any map librarian would gain a great deal by joining WAML. He/she would meet great people, find answers to questions, be able to participate in discussions on issues of concern, and find much information in the programs offered. Also the field trips add to the fun.

Greg: In addition to the other items mentioned, still the human networking, professional education and growth. Skype meetings don’t cut it in relation to the in-person event when it comes to skill-development.

Muriel: See answers to questions 1 and 2.

Riley: WAML is “local”.

Yvonne: The people in WAML are fantastic! They are fun, inclusive, and always willing to share their expertise. When it is convenient I will continue to attend conferences for all the reasons I have listed above.

8. Do you belong to any other map-related groups? If so, why?

Mary: Because my primary interest is map cataloging, I focused my efforts for many years on ALA, and specifically on MAGIRT.  I belonged to almost all of them before my retirement, NACIS {North American Cartographic Information Society] for a while, and briefly to the Association of American Geographers.  A map librarian should belong to MAGIRT because it is the only group with a national presence.

Lavonne: MAGIRT as an ALA member.

Kathy: I’m not a map librarian, so I haven’t joined many. I do belong to MAGIRT. It is the only group that has committees and interest groups devoted to map cataloging. Also, since I often go to Annual and used to go to Midwinter, it makes sense for me to attend MAGIRT programs and meetings, plus I am the liaison (along with Mike Smith) from WAML to MAGIRT.  It also is another chance for me to do presentations and to get professional service in by being on its committees.

Dorothy: Yes, I belong or belonged to several map-related groups. I was in the SLA Geography and Map Division for many years, but then it folded into the Social Science Division as a section. I remained a member for some years, but the section didn’t have business meetings (which are my primary interest) and finally, after years, I dropped it. I had joined this division some years before I knew of WAML. When the SLA group split up into several others, one was the Map and Geography Round Table (as is was originally called). Since I went to ALA anyway, I joined this group. The primary areas of my interest were the Cataloging and Classification Committee and the Cartographic Materials Cataloging Interest Group (I can’t remember its exact name now), since cataloging was the focus of each group and I always enjoyed talking about, and listening to others talk about, cataloging.

Greg: Not at this time. I used to be part of ALA-MAGIRT.

Muriel: SLA G&M [Special Libraries Association, Geography and Maps]. More map librarians.  NACIS. Cartographers.  California Map Society.  Collectors, historians.

Riley: No, never did.

Yvonne: This is the only profession organization in which I keep a membership.

9. Have you attended WAML meetings regularly, and if so, what have you gotten out of them?

Mary: My attendance changed over time. Starting in 1970, I regularly attended one and sometimes two WAML meetings a year. In 1988 when I moved into middle management with taking on the position of Assistant Head of the Map and Imagery Lab in the University of California Santa Barbara Library, about ¼ of my work was personnel management, and early maps—much though I enjoy them—were technically a Special Collections focus, so I couldn’t always justify going to WAML meetings.

Lavonne: As noted in questions 3 and 4 – introduction to technology and great speakers.

Kathy [and John]: Except for the 1998 Washington, D.C. meeting (it was my mother’s 80th birthday) I have attended every one since I joined in 1989.  I have learned about maps and mapping in general, I have seen many interesting and beautiful places and learned about their history, I’ve learned some about map cataloging, and I’ve made many good friends.  John: I attended a few between the time we moved to Las Vegas in 1989 and the time I retired in 1995 and all of them after I retired except the one in Washington, D.C., in 1998.  I learned about maps and mapping, learned about the history of different places, and made many good friends.

Dorothy: I attended fairly regularly until I stopped going last year or so. I missed a few here and there. I always enjoyed seeing the people I knew and liked to talk with, and I enjoyed the business meetings where I learned about many of the things WAML was doing.

Greg: Pretty much what I wrote in my answers to previous questions.

Muriel: See answer to question 2.

Riley: Yes, see my answers to questions 1-3.

10 Any other thoughts about WAML?

Kathy: I’m just really happy that WAML exists and that I’m member of it.  I wish someone had had the idea of doing oral histories when the three founders: Ed Thatcher, Carlos Hagen, and Sheila Dowd were still alive, but I may be the only member who works with oral histories since I’m a special collections cataloger.  Also others may be too busy with their jobs to think of doing special projects.

Dorothy: Not really, but I shall enjoy continuing to read the IB, and read about the meetings I’m no longer attending. I joined early on as a Life Member, and think WAML is a great organization.

Greg: Live long and prosper!

Muriel: Long may it live!



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