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Marshall University employee celebrates 40 year milestone at Morrow Library

The Parthenon

Published: Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 00:12

When Sue Ellen Bell stepped foot into the classroom of her first college course in 1970, she had no idea she was beginning a 40  year legacy at Marshall University. Bell, library associate in the Government Documents department of James E. Morrow Library, began at Marshall as a freshman work study student and has been working in the library ever since. She received a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, all while working full-time.

“I knew I wanted to get my degree, and working here and being close to my classes was ideal. It was very convenient for my situation at the time,” Bell said. “But me continuing work, it just kind of happened that way.”

Bell received her bachelor’s degree with a major in religious studies and a minor in philosophy, eight years after she began at Marshall and her master’s in religious studies several years after she became a full-time employee. She said because of her dedication to work and the library, it took her a long time to complete her degrees. She said she took advantage of the benefits the university provided its employees who were enrolled in classes.

 “I was working so much that I had to cut back on the amount of classes I took per semester. I could only afford to be enrolled as a part-time student,” Bell said. “But employees had this educational benefit where we were allowed to leave work for one hour per day to attend classes.”

Bell balanced work with classes by using her employee benefit to attend class for an hour per day and by taking classes in the evenings after work. She said Marshall also paid part of the cost for one class while she was working on her undergraduate degree and paid for her graduate classes in full.

“Staying at Marshall was really beneficial for me, because I could continue working at the library and working on my degrees at the same time,” Bell said.

Bell said one of the things she has loved most about her job is being able to work alongside such dedicated members of the library staff and administration. She said she feels honored to be considered a part of such an amazing group of people.

“I could never say enough good things about the staff here. Majed Khader, my immediate supervisor, the library administration and the whole information technology team are fantastic to work with,” Bell said. “We are a team committed to providing information to our students, faculty and community, and together I really do think we make a difference.”

There have been many changes that have taken places at James E. Morrow Library since Bell became a part of the staff. Bell said one of the biggest changes occurred when the library began going digital.

“Switching to computers was the big change for us because many of us had never really used a computer before. I had to take some computer science classes to learn how to use them,” Bell said. “It was so different from what we were used to. To catalog books, I had previously used a typewriter to type up the information on catalog cards.”

Despite the many changes, Bell said the library has become like a home to her. Forty years later, her love for the library still has not died.

“I love libraries. I love information and I love learning,” Bell said. “I love helping people find the information they need. I don’t think of my job as work—it is what I love to do.”

Bell said one of her greatest hopes is that students are aware of the large collection of information Government Documents has to offer them. Marshall University is one of 1,250 federal depository libraries in the United States, so Government Documents receives published information from one of the largest printers and disseminators of information in the world, Government Printing Office.  Bell said the library has a variety of primary sources available that students may not be able to get anywhere else. She said it is important for students to visit the library, because so many of the documents are not available online.

“We have so many older primary sources that are not available in the electronic format,” Bell said. “Students can really benefit from some of the documents we have in the department, because we have such a valuable historical collection.”

Bell recently received a certificate of appreciation from the state for her forty years of service to the state of West Virginia.

“It’s two-thirds of my life,” Bell said. “I’ve been working in this building, in this library, for two-thirds of my life.”

Bell said it has been nothing short of a positive experience. She said she has loved working at Marshall for as long as she has. She said she plans to work in Government Documents until she retires.

Suzann Al-Qawasmi can be contacted at

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