Photos reprinted with permission of General Mills.
General Mills headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota is home to four libraries: the Betty Crocker Kitchen Cookbook Library, the Riverside Technical Center Library, the James Ford Bell Technical Center Library and the Business Information Center. The staff at these libraries took time out from their work (and taste testing samples) to answer a few questions from I Love Libraries about their work as special librarians in a food manufacturing company.
Susan Wakefield, General Mills (GMI) Archives at GMI, started in 2009. She has a B.A. from Hamline University in Studio Arts, Intaglio Printmaking and Business Administration, and a MLIS from Dominican University. Prior to working for GMI, she was in academic publishing for 12 years, working with the University of Minnesota Press, University of Utah Press and Kent State University Press.
Susan’s is GMI’s part-time freelance Archivist:
“I oversee, along with my co-worker Sue Lappi, the daily functions of the Archives. This includes processing donations, preserving and organizing corporate materials, packaging and promotions, answering requests from internal departments as well as from consumers, adding digital materials to GPix -- our digital library, and working with select researchers who visit the Archives. We maintain and update our two history wall displays located here at the main headquarters. The Archives department also participates in the development of quarterly history presentations for the company.”
Gretchen Haase is one of five librarians at GMI’s Technical Library (R&D). Her background is in special libraries with prior experience at an advertising agency and a law firm. “All have been quite different environments, and adapting to the library clientele—marketing folk, lawyers, now scientists, has kept me on my toes.” She has been with GMI for ten years, originally working at Pillsbury, which was later acquired by General Mills, as the Electronic Resources Librarian in the R&D library.
Besides the usual library work—cataloging books, maintaining a library website, researching, Gretchen distributes a weekly food industry newsletter which is sent to R&D and other GMII staff.
“Each one is on a different subject—new ingredients, new products, new packaging technologies, etc.”
Michelle Belmont, Information Specialist at the Betty Crocker Cookbook Library who started at GMI as an intern before being hired permanent as a part-time employee, has a bachelor’s degree in World History and a master’s degree in Library & Information Sciences. Prior to working for GMI she was the Web/Digital Services Librarian at an academic library & the social media guru for a library consortium.
"Having worked in a research library and having experienced the variety of questions and resources needed to aid those patrons has helped me the most in this position."
Michelle's primary job is to do food trend research for food content editors and recipe development. This type of research could entail anything from using a restaurant menu database, to analyzing data from women’s magazine recipe trends, to utilizing public library databases for business articles, to simple Googling for food trend suggestions from blogs. She also maintains the library’s collection of over 11,000 books and pamphlets and 80+ magazine subscriptions.
Talk about each of your libraries
Susan reports that one of her job perks is
“providing tours of the Archives for visitors. We have over 3,000 sq. ft. of air-conditioned and humidity controlled environment with documents from the late 1800's to the present. It is fun to show visitors our ice age bison rib excavated from our headquarters location in 1989 and a guitar autographed by B. B. King during the period when we owned the Lloyd’s Barbecue business.”
The Technical Library has 12,000 books and 200 periodical subscriptions, and maintains online products for the GMI scientists to use for their own research. This library has five librarians all whom conduct research from business information to technical to patent research. Gretchen also reports that “we are trying to move to more online sources for books and periodicals, so that the scientists and technicians around the world can find what they need more readily.”
The Betty Crocker Cookbook Library is a physical library with stacks and workspaces. While not open to the public, they welcome GMI employee guided tours.
Favorite part of the job:
“Researching and putting together images and copy for the weekly history Blog posting. I am always discovering something new and unique regarding General Mills’ rich history.”
“Trying to keep up-to-date on where the food industry is going. It is an interesting time to be in the food industry, because there are so many issues related to food at this time—obesity, more functional foods, globalization, food supply issues.”
" My favorite part of the job is discovering new tools that consumers may use for recipe organization or accessing cookbook content, e.g. iPad apps and websites."
Anything else would you like readers to know about GMI and its libraries:
General Mills has been ahead of its time with many innovations!
In 1953, the General Mills Mechanical division worked with the University of Minnesota to develop technology that changed the way airplane flight data is recorded. The Ryan flight recorder evolved into the “black box” found today in every commercial airline.
Working with the U.S. Navy, the Engineering Research and Development department of General Mills Mechanical Division designed and built ALVIN, the manned submersible submarine. In 1986, ALVIN explored the wreckage of the Titanic.
Favorite General Mills Trivia: There is at least one portrait of Betty Crocker wearing a green dress, not the official red garb.
The GMI Librarians’ Favorite GMI product
Susan loves the Cascadian Farm frozen fruits!
Gretchen, who sits near the Baking Products R&D group, frequently get freshly baked brownies and cookies from the Betty Crocker mixes as they test them.
Michelle says the Gluten-free mixes from Bisquick & Betty Crocker are the best.
Contacting the GMI Libraries
While most of the GMI libraries are only open to GMI staff internally, if you have any questions about this article or about General Mills visit http://www.generalmills.com or contact the Archives Department at Archives.Department@genmills.com.
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