Library expert helps students navigate reams of research

by Sheila Pursglove

Legal News
In her student days at Western Michigan University, Jane Meland worked as a circulation assistant at the Business Library. It was the start of passion for library science that eventually led to her current position as Assistant Director for Public Services Librarian at the MSU College of Law Schaefer Law Library, where she has been helping students for 11 years.
“At WMU, I had a few opportunities to answer reference questions and I really enjoyed helping people find answers,” she says. “My interest in librarianship really blossomed when I started my first year of law school.” 

Meland helps law students find answers to research questions in library books or online, showing them how to navigate law databases or consult government websites. 

She is also an adjunct professor at MSU Law, where she has taught Advanced Legal Research and the research component of Research, Writing & Analysis for nine years. 

“I love the variety of work,” she says. “I get to teach, help people with reference questions and assist with faculty research projects.  I also enjoy interacting with students – they are incredibly engaging and very appreciative of the assistance we provide at the reference desk.  And one of my favorite aspects of this job is that it gives me the opportunity to learn something new every day.”  

Legal research is a skills-based course where students can use and apply what they learn immediately – whether for a research paper, or research work in an internship or externship.  

“I find the legal research resources fascinating in the way they fit together and complement each other,” Meland says. “I enjoy finding new ways to conduct research and then sharing that information with students, and enjoy helping students think about how to research and select appropriate sources. Of course, probably the best thing about teaching is getting to know the students and working with them.”  

One of her biggest challenges is trying to teach students about all the different resources available – free resources, print sources, and various electronic databases. 

“And it seems like every few months there are new sources being introduced – so finding the time to talk about or demonstrate every source can be difficult, and getting students to try out sources other than Lexis and Westlaw can be tough,” Meland explains. 

Her least favorite part of teaching is grading.  

“I think most teachers share this sentiment,” she says. “I’d love to be able to ignore grades and just teach, but I can’t do that, so at a certain point I have to give in and assign grades.” 

Meland started out in quite a different field, earning her undergrad degree in accounting from WMU, followed by a short stint as a CPA. In preparing to be a CPA, she had to learn about the law and found her interests lay in that direction; and with interests and strengths in tax, she headed to the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law with the intention of becoming a tax lawyer. But life had other plans, and after being hired by
MSU, she pursued her librarianship degree while working for the university, and earned her master’s degree in library science from Wayne State University. 

Meland appreciates life as a member of the Spartan community, with its congenial mix of diverse and interesting people. 

“Being part of a Big Ten college campus is pretty exciting, there are lots of events and happenings and I enjoy the diversity of activities – I can be attending a Broadway show one minute and 10 minutes later I can stop
at a local farm stand and pick up fresh sweet corn.”  

A Bloomfield Hills native who now calls Okemos home, Meland enjoys spending time with her 5-year-old daughter, motorcycling, and walking her dogs. A volunteer at her daughter’s school, she participates in the “Meet the Masters” program, where she takes artwork into the classroom and discusses it with the children. She is also an avid cyclist, enjoying the bike-friendly towns of East Lansing and Okemos, riding to work in warm weather.

She has also never lost her passion for dance and ballet, something she started out majoring in during her student days at WMU. 

“I realized I enjoyed dancing just for the sake of dancing instead of getting a degree in it – and also that there would be few job opportunities, so after my first year I started searching for another major,” she says. “I’ll never forget when the dean of the WMU Dance Department told me she didn’t think my heart was in dancing – I think it’s interesting that here I am approaching the ripe old age of 48 and still dancing!  I think my heart really was in it, just not for a college degree.”