Introducing Rick Mikulski, Instruction and Reference Librarian

In this post, we introduce W&M Libraries' new instruction and reference librarian, Rick Mikulski!

Rick Mikulski

Instruction and Reference Librarian

What does your job entail? 
As a member of the Instruction & Reference team, I provide research and instructional assistance to members of the W&M community by teaching information literacy sessions, answering reference questions, and through one-on-one research consultations. My areas of specialization in the library are History, Philosophy, and Government Information, though I enjoy working with students across all disciplines. I also get to work with Swem’s state and federal government documents collection.

What interests you most about this job? 
My favorite aspect of librarianship is engaging with students and researchers, whether in a classroom, at the reference desk, or in one-on-one meetings. The W&M Libraries place an emphasis on the importance of instruction and research support, and this heavy focus on student and faculty interaction makes this the job I’ve wanted for the last 15 years. I was also originally trained as a Humanities librarian, so it is wonderful to work with the History and Philosophy departments.

What do you hope to accomplish in your first year?
Broadly, my goal is to get to know the culture, students, and faculty of W&M, and to become an active member of the rich and active academic community. Any campus with a student-run cheese tasting club (?!) is clearly richly complex and nuanced, so I expect my deep-dive into W&M culture to be an extensive, and thoroughly enjoyable, endeavor. More specifically, I hope to get to know students and faculty in the History and Philosophy departments, and to become a recognizable face within the library, and hopefully on campus.  

Tell us a little about your work background:
Through my career I have lived in NY, ND, NJ, OR, and now Virginia. After finishing an MLS (academic librarianship focus) and PhD (History) at the SUNY University at Buffalo, I began my career as the research librarian to the ND State Legislature in Bismarck, which gave me a love for government documents, and a dislike for wearing ties. I then joined the library faculty at Drew University, a small and lovely liberal arts college in NJ, where I was the History and Social Sciences librarian; I also later joined the History & Culture faculty in a joint appointment with the library. In 2018, I moved to Oregon to become an assistant professor at the Portland State University Library, where I was the Government Documents & Social Sciences Librarian. Having join the Swem library in late May 2022, it is my hope to put this wide and eclectic range of experiences to good use as a member of W&M library faculty!

What attracted you to W&M?
Obviously the reputation of W&M was a factor, but it was really the language in the job posting that immediately made me realize I needed to apply. The opening lines of the posting touched upon every element of librarianship I value: “close relationships with students and faculty”; “be a strong present in the campus community”; “engage students in the learning process”; “provide assistance to students from all disciplines”: and finally, be part of the library “Research team.” If I set out to write out a personal statement of professional values, it would perfectly mirror the values in the job description.

What do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy spending time outside, either running, hiking, swimming, or just sitting in the sun. I’m a fan of science fiction, with Asimov’s Foundation being probably my favorite novel, though I also enjoy “serious” literature, with favorites including the short stories of Hawthorne, Tolstoy’s Death of Ivan Illych, and Graves’ I, Claudius. I also enjoy buying/reading random books from Dollar Tree.  I especially like 1990s scifi films and TV series, from the serious (ex. Dark City, or DS9) to the unintentionally silly (ex. SeaQuest – who doesn’t appreciate a tv show starring a talking dolphin?). I also enjoy traveling to new parts of the country and discovering lesser-known regional foods, whether it’s St. Louis provel cheese, Detroit bumpy cake, Bismarck chippers, or Buffalo sponge candy.  Having grown up in Western NY, I follow the Buffalo Bills, even though I begin every season knowing they’ll just break my heart in the play-offs.