Denison’s Newest Librarian Excited to Engage Students Academically and through Mental Health Outreach

by Jewell Porter, ‘16

ElliottAmyDenison Libraries recently welcomed a new face to its roster of librarians. Amy Elliott, the new Humanities Liaison Librarian, is looking forward to engaging students by making research fun and interesting.

Amy received her master’s degree in English and American Literature from the University of Connecticut and another in Information Science from the University of Tennessee.

Before entering librarianship, Amy worked as an English professor at the University of Connecticut. Most recently, she worked in Dublin, Ohio, for the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) as a product analyst.

Jewell: So just for starters: where are you from?

Amy: I was born and raised in Piqua, Ohio. It’s about two hours west of Columbus and about an hour north of Dayton, but I’ve lived all over the country. I’ve been to Nashville, Knoxville, and Storrs, Connecticut for a while, Boise, Idaho, Atlanta, GA. Yeah, just all over.

J: Is there a reason for that?

A: I just like experiencing the cultures, and [I like] learning the different aspects of, you know, their local culture, and I love southern culture. I studied southern literature actually, and I fell in love with the south when I went to Tennessee the first time, and so I spent a good bit of time in the south just because I like it there, and I wanted to see what else was available. I like diversity; I like things that aren’t like me. I like learning what our similarities are, what our differences are, what we can learn from each other; so I tried to experience as much as I can.

J: What is your position title here at the library, and what does that entail?

A: I am the humanities liaison librarian, so I serve all the humanities departments on campus. For the job itself, I do instruction, reference, and collection development for all the different departments so modern languages, English, religion, philosophy, history, those are the big ones. Of course there’s all the languages. So, you know, they want an instruction session for students, they contact me if they have a book they want the library to own, they contact me. If a student has an in depth reference question about one of the humanities subjects, then I’m the person they come to. I serve as kind of a subject expert.

J: Oh, that’s awesome. What did you do before you came here?

A: Well, most immediately, I was at OCLC, where I was the product analyst for the knowledge base, which is a software. It’s basically a giant database of electronic resource metadata, so data about the electronic resources . . . Before that, I was an institutional repository manager at Georgia State… Before that, I was at Boise State, where I was a liaison librarian for math, music, gender studies, and government documents.

J: What made you interested in becoming a librarian?

A: I had been an English instructor before that. I taught freshman Composition while I was at the University of Connecticut, and I really loved literature, but the students didn’t because it was a composition class, and they just had to be there . . . but I really enjoyed working with students. Someone said ‘well, have you considered librarianship?’ So I checked it out, and it seemed like a really good deal because I still get to do instruction, I still get to work with students and be in academia, but I don’t have the grading pressures, so it’s like all the good stuff and none of the bad stuff.

J: Oh cool, so you started being a librarian a while ago?

A: In 2004, I went to library school, and I was working part time at the University of Tennessee’s library.

J: Did you come here with a family or by yourself?

A: I’m by myself. Well, I live with my two cats. They’re my furry children . . . The reason that I came back to Ohio [initially] was because my mother was diagnosed in 2011 with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, and I realized that I had a very short amount of time to spend with her because it is a terminal disease. Whether or not people describe it that way, it is. So I gave up my job in Georgia and moved to Ohio. Actually, I moved in with them for a few months while I tried to teach my dad to be a caregiver because he had never done that before. And then I found the job at OCLC, so I moved over to Columbus but was still going home quite a bit. And that lasted until last December when she passed away. Then I ended up leaving OCLC and really wanting to return to libraries again. So that’s a very complicated answer to a very simple question.

J: You took part in a documentary about mental health concerns in young professionals called Elephants in the Room. What is the documentary about in your own words?

A: Elephants in the Room is a documentary about brain and mental health in Columbus. It’s a project I got brought into because of my experience with my mom and my own experiences with anxiety and depression. The premiere screening will be next Wednesday, so I’m excited about that. The trailer has already gotten a really great response. We’re just hoping that it raises awareness about mental health issues.

J: What about the term “mental illness” causes such a stigma?

A: It’s because it’s sort of a negative thing, right. So it’s an illness. Nobody wants to talk about an illness or disease or be labeled as having an illness or disease. So it’s kind of like, I don’t know if you know anything about more inclusive terms in general, but a lot of people don’t like the term “disabled” because it’s the negative thing. I think they prefer to be labeled as otherly abled. There’s a stigma attached to it, so instead of mental illness, it’s mental health issues or mental health concerns.

J: What was your role in the documentary?

A: I wore many hats in the documentary. I was initially approached through an Alzheimer’s support group. They put out a call for people who had changed their lives in any significant way who were affected by the disease. . . I talked to the filmmakers, and they said that they absolutely wanted to include my story. Then I got involved with the committee that was making the film, so all through the process of filming, I was involved by helping make things happen. There were about 20 people in the group who were making this happen.

J: What do you hope people take away from it?

A: Well, I think it depends on who the people are. I hope that people who are suffering from a mental health issue see that they can start to talk about it, that we start to de-stigmatize mental health issues. . . Hopefully this film puts a normal face on [mental health issues] and makes people feel like it’s okay to talk about it; it’s okay to get help: there is help.

J: Do you plan to get involved with something like this while at Denison?

A:  I didn’t plan it that way, but it’s where my life is going right now; so I’m just going with it. I think there’s been some talk about trying to do a screening of Elephant in the Room here. I know there’s a couple of groups on campus that are concerned with mental health issues. I’ll just have to wait and see what develops. It’s a cause that I’m passionate about and interested in.

J: Not long before arriving at Denison, a student took his own life. Did you hear about this, and what are your thoughts and feelings about it?

A: Actually, I did. I have a friend who graduated from Denison, and she had posted that Wendell was missing, and . . . the morning that I was looking for housing they had found him. It’s always disturbing to me. I’m a person who’s fairly sensitive. It’s saddening. I want to say particularly when it’s preventable, but it’s almost always preventable. That’s the thing. So I was certainly saddened by it, but at the same time not yet being a member of the community, I don’t know what my role really was. I still don’t know what my role is, except that maybe with my involvement and now being partnered with the community, I can start to be a driver in having these conversations that it looks like Denison is already starting to have.

J: What do you hope to bring to your position at Denison?

A: That’s a really good question! Some librarians can be very serious, and information is a serious thing . . . You want them to have access to good information and be information literate. But, let’s face it: life’s gotta be a little fun too or what’s the point? So hopefully, I can manage to help people learn what they need to know about information literacy in a fun way that’s accessible to them. You know, help us all enjoy life a little bit . . . I try to have a sense of humor, to make it lighter, to get students involved. That’s one of the things that I do.

J: What have you found that you like about Denison so far?

A: I love the liberal arts focus and that they’re really genuinely focused on the whole person. Not just the education, but preparing students to be adults. They come in as really kids. I mean, they’re 18, but they’re still kids. They haven’t known adult life, and they’re really trying to prepare students to be adults and to be informed citizens. I love that about Denison. And I love how friendly and welcoming everyone is. I love the diversity that seems to be here. It’s just a fantastic place.

Student Spotlight – Rachael Barrett ’17

RachaelBy: Jewell Porter, ‘16

In the next decade or so, you might find Rachael Barrett ‘17 leading tours around one of the most prestigious museums in the country: the Smithsonian Museum in the nation’s capital.

Or at least, that’s one career path that the history and international studies double major is thinking about pursuing after she earns her master’s degree. “It would be a cool place to just be part of articulating [history],” she said.
Like many college students, Rachael, who works at Denison Library’s Circulation Desk, is still figuring out the process to achieving this goal. Luckily for her, she’s already figured out and executed some of the steps to make her a compelling candidate for her aspiring career as a historian, including having conducted her own research with Professor Megan Threlkeld last summer about the difficulty women faced during the Great Depression to both get and keep jobs.

But this isn’t where her research started. She had originally wanted to look at the effects that the Social Security Act 1935 had on women’s labor but soon discovered that this was not the heart of the issue, according to primary source documents articulated by women during the time period. “As a result, I decided to focus on how women who wrote in periodicals responded to laws that barred married women from working,” she said.

Rachael found from her research that “advocates of married women’s employment had to change their arguments to fit public opinion” While women were often granted more rights after they were granted the right to vote in 1920, these rights were largely subdued during the Great Depression because the public became more focused on the economy than equal rights for women.

“While I knew that it was difficult for women to get and keep jobs during the Great Depression, I was surprised by the extent to which the government actively barred married women from the workforce, citing that men had families to provide for and women did not,” she said.

Rachael noted that, in a way, this fight still continues today with women’s fight to earn the same pay as men when completing the same work.

After Rachael’s ten week research experience was finally completed in July, Rachael returned home to Downers Grove, Ill. for some much needed rest. The research was “tiring, but a really good experience,” she said.

Denison Students Emily Metcalf and Sarah Altimore Receive Library Service Awards

ffIn honor of former library student employee, Carolyn Craig Franklin, and in recognition of her significant relationships as a student with the library staff, the Carolyn Craig & Carl M. Franklin Student Service Award is presented annually to two outstanding student  workers.

This year’s applicant pool is a testament to the numerous student workers that provide excellent service in their roles at circulation, the reference desk, and technical services.  The committee had a very difficult time awarding only two student workers!


Emily Metcalf

emilyQuoteThe 1st 2015 Franklin Student Service Award is presented to Emily Metcalf. During her time at Denison, Emily has learned almost every student function in the circulation department – from shelving to inventory. She has even learned how to repair the books!

Her attendance, work ethic, reliability and job performance are exemplary. Emily’s attitude is helpful and positive, and is always willing to help others in the campus community.

Her nominators write, “Emily maintains a positive attitude and cheerfully approaches every tasked assigned to her, from the mundane to the complex.” We wish her the best of luck as she pursues a Masters Degree in Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois.


Sarah Altimore

sarahquoteThe 2nd 2015 Franklin Student Service Award is presented to Sarah Altimore. Sarah has been a friendly face
behind the circulation desk and reference desk during her time at Denison.

She has displayed a mature attitude towards his library position, earning the trust and respect of his supervisors. His attention to detail, work ethic, and overall demeanor are exemplary.

Her nominators write, “Sarah is very personable, outgoing, and dependable. In the spirit of Carolyn Craig Franklin, she puts outstanding service above all else.”

We wish her the best of luck next year as she begins her career in D-Town (Detroit).

This Day in History @ Denison: The Declaration of War (1917)

1917Up until March 1917, the United States had maintained a policy of neutrality in the First World War, and Woodrow Wilson had been re-elected with a neutrality platform in spite of the growing outrage at German offensive tactics.

But with Germany’s unrestricted maritime warfare tactics being leveled against American interests at sea, it seemed neutrality could no longer be maintained.

The final straw came on April 1, 1917, when the armed U.S. steamer Aztec was torpedoed and 28 of its crew members drowned. The next day, Wilson came before Congress to deliver his historic war message.

What was Denison doing during this time? Make history come alive by putting the Denison face on it.

You can do this by looking through our Five Colleges of Ohio Digital Collections. The Denisonian‘s 1917 issues are a great place to start!



Library Staff provide a little warmth through donations to #NewarkLove project

Personal note attached to a scarf.

Some items carried personal messages. (Photo: Michael Lehmkuhle/The Advocate)

It started with a random picture on Facebook of trees wrapped in winter scarves. In this record cold and snowy winter the idea to provide free winter accessories for people in need has taken off across the country. The YES Club (a program of Mental Health America) and the South Newark Civic Association both became involved in a project for Newark, Ohio.

Mary Prophet, Deputy Director of the Library, found out about this project and brought it back to her colleagues. Some of the staff members of Denison’s William Howard Doane Library were able to help by providing both new and gently used hats, gloves and scarves.

Go to for a complete article on the event.


Meet Sasha Griffin

griffinSashaDenison University Libraries has a new archivist. Sasha Griffin came to Denison from Luther College in Iowa where she was serving as the Interim College Archivist. Previously she had been the Digital Archivist at Luther. Sasha has a B.A. in History from Capital University and her Masters in Library and Information Science from Kent State University. We are very pleased to have this Buckeye coming home to work with us! Sasha is kept busy at home by her 3 year old daughter, and she enjoys discussing pop-culture. Please say hello to Sasha when you see her on campus.

Struggles for Freedom in Southern Africa Collection

Struggles for Freedom in Southern Africa Collection

is brought to you by Aluka, an international, collaborative initiative building an online digital library of scholarly resources from and about Africa.

The struggles for freedom in Southern Africa were both a regional and global phenomenon. As such, documentation of the struggles is scattered around the world, reflecting the history itself: colonial rule, dispersion of exiles, international intervention, and worldwide networks that supported successive generations of resistance within the region.

This collection brings together materials from various sites throughout the world and makes them available online.

By providing sample materials, the Collection also publicises the rich collections of partner institutions, helping make them more widely known to researchers.

At present, the Collection consists of more than 180 000 pages of documents and images, including periodicals, nationalist publications, records of colonial government commissions, local newspaper reports, personal papers, correspondence, UN documents, out-of-print and other particularly relevant books, oral testimonies, life histories, and speeches.

How to access library databases while you’re away

Remember: No matter where you are during Spring Break, as long as you’ve got Internet access, you’ve got full access to the library’s many databases.

Whether you access the databases through the catalog or the databases/online resources page, all  you need to do is authenticate by providing your name and Denison ID number. This is the 14-digit number on the back of your ID card that starts with 251080, and then ends with the 8 digits that make up your D-number.

Bits of American History: Broadsides and Ephemera

From corset ads to Civil War announcements, this collection, American Broadsides and Ephemera, offers a wonderful glimpse into the American past through print media.


Based on the American Antiquarian Society’s collection–the most extensive in existence–this digital edition offers fully searchable facsimile images of approximately 15,000 broadsides printed between 1820 and 1900 and 15,000 pieces of ephemera printed between 1760 and 1900. The diverse subjects of these broadsides and ephemera range from contemporary accounts of the Civil War, unusual occurrences, and natural disasters to government proclamations, tax bills, trade cards, menus, playbills, and stock certificates.

For researchers of nineteenth-century social and cultural history, these materials provide essential information on a wide variety of local and national organizations and societies that were established to promote industrial and mechanical arts, agriculture, science, public education, fine arts, and various reform movements.