Campus Closeup: Mollie Freier
Tenure is a coveted achievement in academia. It takes an average of seven years to attain, according to the National Education Association, and ensures faculty members their right of due process to prevent arbitrary dismissals. Mollie Freier (AIS-Library) had reached this pinnacle and was well into her career as an English professor at Dakota State University in Madison, S.D., when she did something that left colleagues scratching their heads. She quit her tenured position and went back to school to earn a Master of Library Science (MLS) degree.
“Tenure can become like golden handcuffs—once you earn it, it develops a hold on you and you feel as if you can’t leave,” Freier said. “People thought I was nuts, but I had to be honest with myself that I didn’t enjoy teaching English and grading papers anymore. I was burned out. My main concern was being able to get a job after school and whether the fact I had previously earned a doctorate would actually hurt those chances. Someone said you used to be able to write your own ticket with an MLS, but that changed. I had to cast a fairly wide net to find a decent first job in Alabama.”
Freier later worked at Carleton College in Minnesota and then at the University of Illinois Springfield. The latter position allowed her to live near her parents shortly before her father passed away. Twenty months into the UIS job, Freier became intrigued by a position announcement at NMU.
“It was August of 2006 and it was 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity. The weather in Marquette seemed very appealing by comparison, but I convinced myself it was too soon to move on. I spent a couple more months in the ‘not actively applying’ mode. The weekend before the NMU application was due, I turned on the TV and [Turner Classic Movies] was showing ‘Anatomy of a Murder.’ I took that as a sign. So I mailed off my packet and secured an interview. My mom and dad were from lower Michigan and I learned later that my dad had wanted to retire in Marquette.”
As head of public services at Olson Library, Freier most enjoys working the reference desk. She also oversees other functions, from circulation and interlibrary loans to the process of making sure materials are shelved correctly. Freier has the dual role of associate professor, teaching AIS 101, introduction to information resources. It is appropriately a web-based course because so many library resources are now available online. Freier teaches students how to use OneSearch to find full-text articles and gain access to the library’s catalog of books, government documents, videos and other material. She also shows them how Zotero software can automatically generate citations, footnotes and bibliographies for their research papers.
Freier’s scholarly interest is in how librarians and libraries are portrayed in mystery/detective fiction. “I used to fantasize about teaching a course on how detectives use library sources to find information that contributes to them solving murders. For example, the character V.I. Warshawski uses LexisNexis.”
Related hobbies of Freier’s include reading detective novels and scanning the local police log for entertaining entries. “I treasure truly strange things. I would love to write a detective novel someday that incorporates lines from the police log. The main title would be Suspicious Situation: Unfounded. Chapter titles could be ‘Herd of Cats’ or ‘Unwanted Drunk Male on Couch,’” she laughed.
An avid duplicate bridge player, Freier belongs to two local bridge clubs. She also knits, as reflected by the colorful pair of fingerless gloves she wore during the interview (pictured). At home, Freier enjoys the company of Domino, her tuxedo cat, whom she describes as “15 pounds of magnificent feline.”
While she seems content in Marquette, does Freier ever regret breaking free from the golden handcuffs? “Not at all,” she replied. “It was the right thing to do. I’m happy I made the decision, I love the fact that my job is incredibly diverse and I’ve never looked back.”