Oregon State University Libraries and Press

Susan Gilmont Oral History Interview, September 17, 2018

Oregon State University
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Transcript

Tyger Gruber: Alright. Would you please state your name, department, and today's date?

Susan Gilmont: My name is Susan Gilmont, and I worked in the OSU libraries, ending my career at the Guin Library at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. Today's date is September 17, 2018.

TG: Alright. Could you speak a little bit about your early life: where you were born and where you grew up?

SG: I was born in McMinnville. There was a very good obstetrician in McMinnville, and a lot of people from other parts of the state ended up being born there because of that. I grew up in Toledo, which has been called a "hurly-burly mill town packed on a hillside." I spent all my early years until leaving for college in Toledo.

TG: Did the mill life affect you at all?

SG: My father worked there.

TG: Your father worked there. Alright. And so, what was your family background?

SG: My family background? My dad was a parts buyer. My mother was a school 00:01:00teacher, although she had to go back to school. She had taught in Nebraska in rural schools without a 4-year college degree and with some college. But when she got to Oregon she had to get a 4-year degree to teach. So, she graduated the year I graduated from high school. In between she had substituted and taught kindergarten and all sorts of things.

TG: Was she ever your substitute teacher?

SG: Thank God, no.

TG: So, what were your interests as a child?

SG: I was a nerd in a family of nerds, and I loved reading. I was hooked on reading early. I loved the stars from an early age. I wanted to be an astronomer 00:02:00when I was a little girl. Then I decided I wanted to be a paleontologist. By high school I discovered languages and literature and became a poetry fiend, and I did very well in high school. I was a Commended Merit Scholar. Then when I got to college I just sort of drifted and avoided authority whenever possible and took what classes I wanted and dropped a lot of classes and took a long time.

TG: Going back a minute--what were some early library experiences you mentioned you were into books at an early age?

SG: I had one really great one. I was either in sixth or seventh grade and I was 00:03:00stalking books at the public library, and I brought a stack of books to read. I read science fiction at that point. The librarian looked at me and said, "I don't usually do this, but I think you're mature enough to handle this one," and she gave me a copy of Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles. And I felt like I was 10 feet tall. She had seen me. She saw me. She recognized me. It was more than an act of recognition than anything else and from somebody who wasn't supposed to notice and wasn't supposed to care. It did make a big impression. Any kid likes to hear you're mature enough to handle this. That was a big deal.


TG: How about any high school experiences? You kind of glossed over it, but I'm curious if you can go a little more in-depth.

SG: I just was very much of a nerd--president of the Spanish club. Representative for the science club. Did a couple of years of drama. Really loved literature.

TG: Could you give some examples of what you were into at that time?

SG: I really liked Jonathan Swift. The Enlightenment as a whole tended to have a great deal of appeal for me. I was not soupy or romantic at all. I really liked that period. I still like that period.

TG: Kind of historical fiction would you say?


SG: Well, Swift isn't historical fiction. Swift is vicious satire. I liked humor, and I really liked the satirists and there were a lot of 18th century satirists--Dryden, Pope. I enjoyed all those guys.

TG: Clearly your love for it has burned on until today.

SG: Yeah. I think I can reach, go a little deeper than that these days, but I do still really enjoy the period.

TG: Awesome. We'll touch on that a little later. Apropos to high school experience, did you have any influential teachers? You mentioned some extra-curriculars?

SG: I had some extraordinary teachers. My band master was extraordinary. I played oboe in the band, of course. We went all kinds of places, and I have 00:06:00Louis Armstrong's autograph because we went to hear him. He took us there. I heard the Dave Brubeck Quintet before they broke up in 1967. A lot of service bands. A lot of great things. Then the band was pretty good. We played for Joan Kennedy when she came campaigning for Bobby in '68, and they liked us enough that they asked for us to play when Bobby Kennedy came to Newport. So, we played for him in 1968 about 10 days before he was killed. I had a lot of great 00:07:00experiences there. I had an extraordinary Spanish teacher--Mrs. Browning. There were a number of really fine teachers for a little town, and people who went over and above what they had to do. A remarkable biology teacher, just really, really good people.

TG: That's always awesome. You mentioned you were president of the Spanish club? Were there any other extra-curriculars that had a formative impact on you?

SG: The drama club. I was in one of the major plays. I played volleyball my freshman year, but I wasn't particularly athletic. I would say mostly it was 00:08:00mostly band and the Spanish club. Well, science club my freshman year. I had an extraordinary freshman year. The advisor, Freeman Rowe, was about to leave the school district and begin teaching at Lane Community College, and he was working out his syllabus for the next year and we did invertebrate zoology after school at night fall term of my freshman year in high school, and I learned all the major phylas, and we went to beaches. We did the mud flats. We went to the docks. We went to the Undersea Gardens. We did a lot on invertebrates.

TG: I guess this is the perfect location for that, being so close to the ocean.

SG: We are surrounded by beauty that we don't know is there.

TG: We really are, aren't we?


SG: Yep.

TG: Well, that must have been a lovely experience.

SG: It was great.

TG: Yeah.

SG: Science is cool.

TG: It is pretty cool. Right there at the end of high school did you have any ambitions for college? Were you maybe thinking of science?

SG: No, I was thinking language and literature. But if I had it to do all over again, it would've been history.

TG: Really?

SG: Yeah, history makes me happy.

TG: Does it?

SG: Yeah.

TG: Cool. What part of history? Would you go to the 18th, 1900s?

SG: I don't know. I have a lot of interests now, things that I'm interested in exploring. I think if you're interested in people, then being interested in any period in any country can take you to a better understanding of the human 00:10:00condition. It's the closest thing you can get to a time machine or going to another planet when you start to look at the very different assumptions people have about the nature of reality. We still say the sun rises and the sun sets, even though we know it doesn't. We have an understanding of a theory of disease that people didn't have until relatively recently. There's a lot of fundamental assumptions that somebody in another culture would not have, and that's really interesting to explore.

TG: So, if you did get into that recently, what was your entry into the history world?


SG: Well, I always took some history classes. I had a whole series on English history that I took and I enjoyed. When I finished up my schooling, I really enjoyed History of Science classes and I wanted to do that because to some extent it tied into my work here, and I wanted to acknowledge my work here.

TG: So, heading into college with literary in mind, what was the next years after high school like for you?

SG: I drifted. I avoided authority and never saw an advisor, and you could get away with that in Liberal Arts in those days. I did what I wanted, and then I dropped out and worked for a while and picked up a class or two here and there 00:12:00and finally a year or two after I came over here I was ready to go back to school only to find that I couldn't take classes at the staff rate because that was not open to us if we were off-campus, and so I had to wait a few years until that opened up. Fortunately, that is in existence now. It is possible if you are enrolled in a degree-granting program to get a waiver that allows you to take classes at a discounted rate as a university employee. As I explained in my email to you, that's good for everybody. You are better at serving students. There's this thing, I call it the tyranny of the clerk: "This is single-spaced, 00:13:00and it should be double-spaced. I need this in triplicate. Go back to the back of the line and fill it out completely." There's that whole level of yanking people around that if you have been through that experience and you have some empathy you're not going to do to people. The university wants an educated workforce. We are better with students, and if we have used some of the systems that students have to use, we are also better able to help them. So, it is a win-win situation.

TG: Just to clear up a couple things--in that time you were drifting and avoiding authority, that was-- so you moved from the coast region over to OSU.

SG: To Corvallis, yes.

TG: To Corvallis, Oregon. And then you were taking classes at OSU? So how many 00:14:00years' worth of classes did you take before you moved back?

SG: I was like one class shy of senior standing.

TG: Then from there, how did you end up getting your B.A. in Liberal Arts?

SG: Liberal Studies.

TG: Liberal Studies.

SG: Well, it took a while until OSU made this opportunity available. Then I took a class a term most of the time and occasionally two classes a term and worked my way through school. It took a long time. It took me 4 years, but I did it and I'm glad I did.

TG: You were working for the library that entire time?

SG: I was full-time, yeah.

TG: Starting at OSU a couple of years after high school, or right after high school?


SG: Oh no. It was 1979, and I graduated in '70. So, it was a few years after that that I started at OSU.

TG: What position did you walk into when you did?

SG: I was a clerical assistant. In those days library workers were in the clerical series. So, I was a clerical assistant in serials at William Jasper Kerr Library, which is now known as the Valley Library.

TG: Do I have it right that you eventually moved into a specialist position?

SG: Yeah. Just under a year and a half later I moved into a library clerical specialist position.

TG: During that year, and the years that followed, what were your early impressions of not living near the coast?

SG: Well, Corvallis is a lovely town, and it's a very comfortable place to live, 00:16:00and in those days, there was a lot more low-income housing. You could room with a bunch of people and save a lot of money, and I know one year I was in a house with 9 other people. It was a big house. Everybody had their own room, but there were a lot of opportunities there. I had a lot of the languor of youth--just hanging out. Yeah. The library that I entered was a very different place. It was extremely analog. I had thought that OSU libraries, I expected OSU libraries, to 00:17:00be high-tech. I knew that OSU had gone to automated registration in the '60s because my mother was taking classes then and she had a punch card. I was not prepared for what I entered when I entered the Kerr library in the serials department.

There were two terminals on all of technical services. They were dumb terminals slaved to the computer center and they ran the automated acquisitions program. We had an in-house program for ordering and paying for books and generating purchase orders. In those serials department, there was a sea of manual 00:18:00typewriters. I had learned to type in the '60s on an IBM electric. I expected at least electric typewriters. But there was one in the whole department jealously guarded by the administrative assistant who used it to type shelf-list cards because it had a card holder on it, and everybody else used manual typewriters. I could not believe that. We had little slips of paper for writing notes to one another. They came in two sizes: 3x5 called "P slips," and 1x3's called "V slips." I knew in my bones that that department had had V slips ever since World 00:19:00War II, and that was V for "Victory by saving paper," by having those 1x3's. The librarians in those days were different. The old-timers, and I'm glad I got to know them. Our department head had considered herself a zealous guardian of the taxpayer's money. That's an old-fashioned attitude. You don't find that anymore. She liked a manual typewriter because she liked to pound on it and get some of her anger out. It was therapeutic for her. It wasn't particularly therapeutic for me. It was a different world.

I remember when you'd check in journals you check in things from all over the 00:20:00world, and occasionally we would have some German publications and I would need to look something up in the German language and we had a German dictionary in the department, but I couldn't read it because it was in black letter. I was going through it, and I saw something and realized we were going to get a new German dictionary. So, I took it to Miss Lomonte, and I showed her the swastika on the title page knowing full well that Miss Lomonte did not like the Nazis, so we got a new German dictionary out of that. That was the kind of place that it was. It was extremely analog, and we had cards for checking in journals, 6x9 00:21:00cards. They were called CSR cards, Central Serial Record cards. We had another set of cards, called acmes, which were where you posted the payment information. I spent a lot of time checking in journals.

One thing I noticed very early on was that there were workers who would check in a few journals and when the stacks got a little bit high they'd stop and they'd go unload their carts and along the way you'd stop and chat with somebody and maybe somebody else and then you'd unload your cart. I decided not to do that. I decided I wanted to show how hard I was working. I let my stacks get as tall as possible. I guess it worked. They promoted me. That was another--and we went 00:22:00through so many changes in that time period. The big one was the development of the local area network, when suddenly computers could talk to one another. You began to get shared drives, that sort of thing and all the way up to routers and servers and internet and internet nodes. I took some classes at the community college because I just wanted to stay up to date and be better prepared for the changes you could see were coming. So, I did that. I took an introduction to computers very early on and D-base 3+, because I wanted to learn about databases, and that makes sense. That's what the catalogue is, is one big database.


A lot of changes and an exciting time in terms of support staff in libraries. The Oregon Library Association recognized support staff in 1991, and the Library Support Staff Interest Roundtable went into effect in '92 and I joined OLA in '91 as soon as I heard that they were going to have a group for support staff. I 00:24:00don't know, a year or two later I just happened to mention to somebody I knew from the group, boy this is a great group of people. I'd like to help in some way. I had a picture of myself photocopying some stuff and maybe mailing, doing some grunt work for them. She scooped me up and trotted me over to the Chair and said, "This is Susan. She wants to help." And then next thing I knew I was on the executive committee. I did that for a few years, and then they broke into more of a committee structure and I got involved with the continuing education committee as a result of that. Ended up being the chair of that for a while.

What's really hard for people today to understand is just how isolated we were 00:25:00back when I started. I went years and part of it was my fault. I didn't get out and go to other libraries and visit other libraries and say "Howdy, I work over at OSU," but I went years before I met somebody who worked at another library and one day a bunch of people from the U of O [University of Oregon] came to visit us and we recognized, wow, there are all these people we have things in common with from other organizations and who have maybe different approaches to some of the problems that we face and boy this is really interesting. Before the internet. I worked before the internet, you know? Once the internet got going and support staff could talk to one another all over the country, you realized a 00:26:00lot of things. I realized how well-off we were. How good an organization OSU libraries really was on a number of fronts. We've had a number of people move from support staff positions into librarian positions at the OSU libraries. Many organizations won't do that, but OSU did. They were open-minded about that. Just not having a boss who's a screamer. And I have had a powerful amount of luck with my bosses. I've had really great bosses.

We were so isolated and now we're not. We've had so few educational opportunities in those early days, and today we're just inundated with 00:27:00educational opportunities. It's day and night from what it was and what it is today, a tremendous amount of change. The support staff movement grew. It was a national phenomenon. Library journal published a special issue on support staff titled, "We are the library." There were editorials. It peaked about 2003 when the American Library Association's Congress on Professional Education convened with the focus on support staff, and support staff from all around the country 00:28:00participated in that. Out of that was born the certification movement for support staff to get certified showing their library skills and information literacy. It's a very demanding program and it's a very good program. But it hasn't had a lot of buy-in from the profession as a whole, and that's too bad.

I think since the great recession, a lot of staff have been very over-burdened and there are fewer opportunities for people to participate today, so it's a little harder slogging with that. Nevertheless, I am convinced of the tremendous 00:29:00latent potential that support staff have. You point us in a direction and get us focused and we can do a lot. I watched the Corvallis Public Library had a campaign for a bond measure to renovate the library, and a lot of people from the OSU library participated. I'd hear them talking about it. Was over in Newport by then. I'd hear them talking about it, "Oh yeah, we stuffed mailers. We went door to door." They were proud and happy to participate in that measure. They were proud and happy to help their fellow library. When you think about it, these are voters, they have friends, they have families. They are potentially a powerful constituency and a multi-talented constituency. I think we have a lot 00:30:00to offer and probably more than is asked of us at present, and we'll just see where it goes.

TG: You tended to go all the way until you came back to the Guin library at that point. I'm curious, just going up until 1988, were there any people that were important to you? Or collaborations?

SG: Mm-hmm [yes]. Donetta Sheffield who started the support staff group and it was OSU people who started it at the Oregon Library Association. Miss Lomonte, just to get to know and there were a number of people: Helen Horvath, Philip Ho, some great old-timers that I'm glad I had a chance to be exposed to. Shirley 00:31:00Golden was the management assistant in my unit and incredibly generous. I didn't drive, and when I interviewed for my position at HMSC she drove me over. She was going to nurture her people and nurture them, and it wasn't good to have somebody frustrated and unhappy in the department, and so she did that. When I interviewed with Marilyn Guin, who was a librarian here then, told me, she said, "You know, I'm not comfortable stealing somebody from some other department. What does Shirley think about this?" And I was able to say, "Well, you can ask her. She's right downstairs." So that was a pretty incredible moment. There was 00:32:00a lot of good people and a lot of generosity, but it was a fairly political environment, and it was a huge relief to come here and not be in a political environment.

TG: What was the climate like at OSU in the '80s? Just very political and--?

SG: Well, funny stuff. The way I looked at it I was nobody, and yet people noticed who I had lunch with. People noticed if somebody important stopped by my desk that I happened to know from some strange corner of my past and they were really friendly to me, then that impressed certain people who were watching, and I just thought it was weird, you know? I was a little peon, and who cares? Why 00:33:00should anybody care? But they did. It's not until you're out from under that kind of an atmosphere that you realize just how much of it there was.

TG: One last thing, were there any other memorable moments from that time period of your life, from '79-'88?

SG: Gosh, I'm quite sure there were. A great one. We went through a reclassification and we all worked together. We supported one another. It was just lovely, because very often when you're being reclassified, people are nervous and anxious: "What about me?" and "What about my job" and "I want my job to get a good score and I want to be recognized." And we pulled together as a group and we sat together and we thought, how can we phrase this? How can we 00:34:00explain this? How can we make them understand what we do? And that was a great experience. We went on strike in '87, and the library staff all pulled together and walked out pretty much together. The librarians baked cookies for us. At the end of it all, we wanted to commemorate the experience, and we designed a t-shirt to commemorate our successful strike. Those are incidents that stand out in my mind.

TG: There's a really good theme of just community and thoughtfulness from that time of your life.

SG: Yeah.

TG: So, what was that transition like in '88 from OSU over to here?

SG: That was tremendous. I went from a large department. There were by that time 00:35:009 of us, I think, in that department to a 2-person library: Marilyn, the librarian, and me. And Marilyn had had cancer, breast cancer, and she knew that typically you get 2 ½ years, and then it comes back, and she was at about the 2-year point and Marilyn was on vacation a lot. My first 6 months here I was alone 6 weeks out of that time, and that meant I had to learn to make decisions. I had to get an idea of this place, and the Marine Science Center in those days 00:36:00was transitioning from a very casual honor-system field station to a more formal and regulated, larger, busier, we can't afford to do that anymore, we've got to have some rules kind of an organization. Photocopies were on honor system. People wrote down their account numbers and how many pages they did. Every so often you'd see a student who'd be totally confused and say, oh, and they'd write down their student ID number thinking that was an account, and by the time you caught it they were gone. So, getting used to making decisions and getting used to being completely alone were huge differences for me.


TG: Would you talk about your experience working with Marilyn Potts Guin?

SG: I thought Marilyn had it all, I really did: smart, witty, funny. I never really thought the cancer was going to get her. I really didn't. But it did. And that was hard. Getting used to her priorities was interesting. She was different. We had no policy about who did or who didn't get a library card. She said, "bring them in and I'll vibe them" [chuckles]. "And if the vibes are good, then they can have a card." At the memorial service for one of the people was a 00:38:00fishing boat captain, and he talked about how one of his crewman had wanted to borrow a book and he had been very late in returning it and the captain apologized to Marilyn, and she looked at him and said, "Well, he's interested isn't he?" Those were her priorities. It was just different. I'm just trying to figure out what the rules are [laughs]. But I have to say I do respect that attitude. That's a very good attitude to have. She was great. I was always worried about boring her. You didn't want to be boring, because she'd get rid of 00:39:00you. The cancer came back. And it was a pretty rough period. That was tough. Fortunately, Marilyn had wrangled Janet.

TG: Janet Webster?

SG: Janet Webster. Marilyn had gotten an appointment as one quarter-time assistant director of the Marine Science Center, and she took her salary for that one quarter time she wasn't getting anymore and split the salary in half, so now she had a half-time position and was able to hire Janet. And Janet's task 00:40:00at that point was to organize a process for us putting our books into the first online catalogue for OSU libraries, so she worked on digitization at first, and then when Marilyn got sick she was able to help hold down the fort and eventually was awarded the position of librarian.

TG: What was that transition like for you at that time?

SG: I did a fair amount of grieving. I was really rooting for Marilyn, and I really didn't think she was not going to make it until she didn't make it. When 00:41:00they were designing this building, Marilyn talked to the architect, and she told him what she wanted, and he said "Well, you know you have to be prepared not to get everything." And she looked at him and said, "Are you trying to change my life? I always get what I want" [laughs]. That was who she was. That was a big transition. But Janet has been an extraordinary boss, and, again, I have just been remarkably lucky, and I almost regretted it having so good of a boss and having all that talent expended on just a couple of us over here when a lot of 00:42:00people could have benefited from it, but I almost felt guilty.

TG: Backing up a few years, how did--I guess you mentioned how you arrived at the Guin library. Your previous supervisor drove you over here?

SG: Right. I took the test. It was a birthday present to myself. I was feeling stale and like I wasn't growing, and there wasn't any room to grow in the department. The people who had the top jobs weren't going to give them up. I was looking around thinking who I could stand to work for? And all of a sudden there was an announcement in the staff newsletter. And so, I had taken the test. I had just gotten my scores. I had scored well, so I thought well, you know, let's 00:43:00see. I amended the locations where I was willing to work to include Newport and got on the list. I had been doing work for the Marine Science Center. I had been claiming for them - the library, if you have a journal subscription and you're missing an issue, I would be writing the vendor or the publisher to get that issue. I had been doing that work for them, so I had had some contact. My criteria were: I wanted to work for somebody who had high standards and a good sense of humor. I knew Marilyn had a good sense of humor: she entered the library on a wave of laughter and she left on a wave of laughter, so I thought it was possible that it could work out, and it did.

TG: You came in as a library tech-3?


SG: I came in as an administrative assistant, still in the clerical series, and then they changed, and I became a library tech-3.

TG: Were you protective over the only electric typewriter?

SG: [chuckles] No, by then things had changed. We started out--we didn't have colored monitors at first, but things did change. In that era it was CDs were a big deal. We had a lot of databases on CDs and one computer in the library at first, and it was the old library upstairs in the loft in the education building. Marilyn had an office at one end, and I had an office at the other end. Tiny, little, all those volumes just crammed in there. But it was 00:45:00different. It was a different environment. Marilyn pointed with pride to a spot on the rug and said, "Somebody's dog had an accident here." People came and ate their casseroles in the library. We wanted to be a friendly, welcoming space. Rules were not as important as getting people in and getting them using the place.

TG: When you made the move in 1988, what were your early impressions--I guess you lived here. What was I thinking?

SG: Yeah. Yeah, I knew the area well. I just hadn't realized that I was giving up those educational opportunities. That was a kind of a shock. They were only for people in column A, and you were in column B.


TG: Because you were still a senior at this time.

SG: Yeah, well, almost a senior.

TG: So, you had to put your education on a little hiatus, what was it, for two years?

SG: Oh, Lord, no. Ten or eleven years.

TG: Ten or 11 years before they allowed you to take classes at the staff rate here?

SG: Yes.

TG: Then did you go right back to taking one class at a time?

SG: Yes.

TG: What was the big moment where you made the push to get your degree, your bachelor's?

SG: It was that whole 4-year period. It was just getting to where I was able to take them. I could've afforded to take a class or two here or there, you know? I couldn't afford a lot of classes, but I could've afforded some, and I wish I had. But I didn't. I was convinced I couldn't afford it. By the time you pay the 00:47:00fees to get yourself re-entered into the school and you pay your class fees and when you're off-campus it's hard to sell books at the right time to get the good re-sale value and there are all those kinds of things arise. Partly I held myself back and partly the system just wasn't allowing those opportunities for off-campus people, and I hope more people besides me have taken advantage of the opportunities they now allow.

TG: Cool. What are your thoughts and memories of Janet Webster?

SG: Well, I've written about it. I've sung her praises for years. Janet has 00:48:00organizational intelligence. She really understands how organizations work, and she is a fount of ideas. You go to her with a problem and she'll come back with 3 or 4 different suggestions, one of which is going to work for you. I can't tell you how many times I've walked away from her shaking my head thinking: "How did she know that?" because she did. She has integrity. She's not afraid to take a stand. We've had people who wanted us to ban certain publications, even here. We haven't done that. When we dedicated this library, Senator Hatfield came and 00:49:00gave a talk at the dedication. Afterwards, Janet stood up and gave a little talk, and part of what she talked about was how important libraries are and freedom of information and the First Amendment rights that people have to freely express themselves. I knew--I don't think many people in the audience knew what she was talking about, but Hatfield had just taken a stand against burning the flag, and Janet was very gently saying, "I don't agree with you." He knew what she was saying. I knew what she was saying. I don't know how many other people got it at all.

But in defending the First Amendment that's exactly what she was doing, and she 00:50:00wasn't afraid to do it. She walked the walk. It wasn't just talk with her. She gave me freedom to grow and really encouraged me to grow and laughed at me when I was afraid. You can do it; you know you can do it. Yeah, a great boss. I used to call her the great boss of the west.

TG: Awesome. When did she transition to this library?

SG: That would be 1989.

TG: 1989. So, you were working with Marilyn Potts Guin for 1 year, and 6 weeks of that you were alone here?

SG: Yeah.

TG: Alright.

SG: I spent one week in December completely alone with not even a student worker.

TG: Wow. So, did you kind of run it on your own or did you go with her vibe technique?

SG: Well, fortunately, we didn't have anybody wanting a card at that point, so 00:51:00no. But I was scared. It was scary. It's a big change in mindset to be able to do that and be able to handle things and to get used to having responsibility. Yes, there is help: a phone call 50 miles away. You could always do that. And I did at times but not often. You suck it up, and you forge ahead, and you do your best.

TG: Were there any other people or moments that stand out are important for you here that you'd like to touch on?

SG: One of the sweetest moments I had came in an interview for a student assistant. Janet asked a very standard question: "How you would like to be 00:52:00treated by the members of the staff of this library?" and the student looked at her and said, "Well, I'd like to be treated exactly the way I was treated when this lady here helped me." I hadn't remembered her until then. And it was like, oh yeah, I remember you. That was just nice. That was really nice. I think the best work I did had probably to do with the collection. I found some rare documents that we were losing because the paper was acidifying and we got them copied and preserved, which was good. Later on, I worked on estuary bibliographies, and in working on the Umpqua Basin, I encountered a reference to 00:53:00a film about a creek in the basin called Pass Creek. The library didn't have a copy of it, so, where was it?

I went to Janet and told her, this really bothers me. If this is a video, we should have it. It says Oregon State University here. What had happened was in the '70s some OSU alums had filmed going fishing on this beautiful little creek in the Umpqua Basin, and they filmed it before it was clear-cut and they filmed it after it was clear-cut, and in those days they clear-cut all the way to the bed. There were no setbacks. Now today you have buffer zones, and you're not 00:54:00allowed to cut up to the creek. The devastation, the ugliness was just amazing, and it's an amazing film. It turned out that this little movie was really important in Oregon history because it played a role in the passage of the Oregon Forest Practices Act. For years the College of Forestry would show it to students: this is what happens when you clear-cut over a creek bed. Janet went out and found that one remaining copy of that film. It had been deeded to OSU, and she got it and she got it into the archives, so it now has been preserved. 00:55:00Doing things like that. I supervised students. We digitized all of the journal Oregon Wildlife from 1940s up to 2001 when it ceased publication, and we put that into Scholars Archive. It's a gift to all the people of Oregon to have that cute little journal about Oregon wildlife available to everybody for free forever. Those are things I'm really proud of.

TG: Looking back and reflecting on awards, do you have any thoughts on being awarded the Oregon Library Association Library Employee of the year in 2009?

SG: That means your boss likes you.


TG: Yeah?

SG: [Laughs] That's basically what it means. Yeah, again, I just would like to say there are a lot of unsung heroes in the library world. There are a lot of people who--I've often felt that if all the women working at Oregon State University just did what they were paid for the university would fall apart. There are so many people giving 110% day after day. The SSD, the Support Staff Division, does a thing in its annual conferences called "A Day in the Life." It asks people to talk about their workday and work experience, and it's a chance for people to tell their stories. I've never forgotten a page at Klamath Library 00:57:00who began his talk by saying, "I am the face of the library." It's so true. The person that you see out in the stacks. The person you see out there, that's who you think the library is. People call us librarians all the time, even though we aren't. There are just so many unsung heroes and so many people day after day do more than they have to, that I'm pleased that I got the award. I'm proud of it, but I put it in proper perspective.

TG: A little bit about publications--I saw a few things that you published and presented, something called, "Do Crabs Have Colors?"

SG: Yeah, "Do Crabs Have Favorite Colors?" That was the reference question. That was one of the funniest reference questions we had: "Do Crabs Have Favorite 00:58:00Colors?" people were making little mini crab pots that you could suspend from a fishing rod so that people could cast and fish for crabs. That was the idea. At the last minute--these crab pots were made out of plastic and they injected dyes into them, and at the last minute they had this panic thought, oh, wait a minute, do crabs like one color over the other? So, I had to do research, find out what receptors in the eyes crabs had and could they see? They could see some colors, but what I had to tell them in the end was if you made it smell like rotten fish they'd love that, but your customers probably wouldn't. So, no, I don't think it's going to make any difference. We actually had a reference question that we referred on from people who made kitty litter boxes wanting to 00:59:00know about the hydrodynamics of kitty urine [laughs]. We referred that one. There have been some good questions. That talk became a paper, and it was about my experiences doing reference because at that time I think a lot of support staff did some reference work but didn't talk about it, and so I wanted to talk about it.

TG: It was mostly about the behind the scenes of what it was like to receive and to do all the research and then put it back out to them?

SG: It was more about the political dynamics of libraries, because when I started in libraries, roles were very, very clear cut and roles blurred. Levels 01:00:00of responsibility blurred as time went on, and technology changed the library. Yet there was still this feeling that we shouldn't be talking about it, that we're actually doing this. So, I wanted to address the fact that, yeah, support staff are doing reference work, and if we learn that a good referral to ask for help, not to try to--I always thought of it as working on the mud flats, you know when you've gone too far by that sinking feeling. You have to be able to turn it over to somebody else if you're in over your head. There are still levels of work that you can do. That's what I was talking about.


TG: It looks like you went a little bit more in-depth there when you published, "A Day in the Life: My Job is Changing," in the OLA quarterly.

SG: That was basically about technology changing our jobs and going more and more to online journals and change was definitely in the air at that point.

TG: What time was that around?

SG: Oh, gosh, 2005 something like that.

TG: I was curious, following, "Exploring the Library Needs of Resident Graduate Students at Oregon State University's Hatfield Marine Science Center," did you attain more residents?

SG: No that's pretty fixed. There's only so much housing. The limits were from 01:02:00the various programs that participate. It's a very mixed campus with a mix of federal and state and university people here. But we were certainly able to address a number of needs, and I think pretty much everything students talked about we addressed. That was great. That was a special projects class. I had to do a special project, and I recommend that for undergraduates, a 400-level class where you work with the professor and you develop a research project, and Janet wanted to know more about what the graduate students needed, and so I was glad to do it. At the end of that paper I talked about a very famous library paper in 01:03:00which they compared the experience of using the library to someone driving over the Golden Gate Bridge and that that person would not understand all the work that made that bridge possible from the person driving the rivets to the engineers and all of the workers, the inspectors, everybody behind the scenes. I just thought that was such a perfect metaphor, because that's what libraries are: they are bridges from individuals to information that they need, and a lot of what we do goes on behind the scenes, and people never see it. They just see the paper appearing in their inbox. But it is important, and it is its own reward to be able to do good work and help people.

TG: One last one--could you elaborate on, "Re: Interesting Situation Regarding 01:04:00the Different Goals of Librarians."

SG: That was--there were people who had library degrees and who were not able to get librarians jobs and were having to work as para-professionals and were resentful of para-professionals, being hired into jobs and being asked to work maybe a bit out of class and do things that in the old days would've been assigned to librarians. It's part of role blurring that I was talking about. My point was that they are two different paths, that I never had to dress for success. I never had to deal with VIPs and people who might make me a little 01:05:00uncomfortable. The range of things that were expected of me were different, and yet I was able to have a satisfying career. These were two different roles, two different paths. It is possible to be in a librarian role without a librarian degree, but it's not portable. Ultimately, I don't think it's quite as satisfying and certainly not as rewarding. There's a culture behind each path, and that's what I was trying to point out.

TG: How did that play out in the coming years, or in the following years, of 01:06:00just that situation? Did it stay as two paths?

SG: Sure. It's really interesting. There are people today, I think broad-minded people, who are talking about the possibility of a 4-year library degree, that there may be value there. As expensive as school is, that that might be a worthwhile thing to consider, that the profession as a whole maybe could use a little more open-mindedness about possibilities and possible ways to get to where we want to be. Certainly, the profession is changing. The roles of 01:07:00academic librarians have changed dramatically. They're out and about a lot more. They're not sitting at their desks. They're in meetings. They're meeting with people and serving their constituents in their locations and not in the library, and so that paradigm has completely changed and people who just want to be left alone to sit at their desk and do their job are not there anymore. Yeah, the field is changing. I don't think all the impacts of technology have finished resonating at all. It's still a very interesting world, and I don't know how it's all going to come out. I just want to speak to the tremendous potential 01:08:00that support staff have.

TG: It got kind-of buried in there a while back where I forgot to bring it up and clarify--what happened when you eventually got your degree? At 52, was it?

SG: Yeah.

TG: But you had already been working for thirty-some odd years.

SG: Nothing changed. I didn't expect anything to change. I just wanted it. I wanted it. I wanted to have that chapter closed and to have said, "I did it." So, I did it.

TG: So, post-career, what are your thoughts on retirement?

SG: Well, I highly recommend it. I would highly recommend to my fellow support staff that you guys think about what you have to offer because there's a 01:09:00tremendous amount of potential. People in technical services who are very good with detail and there's a lot of organizations that would love to have people good with details working for them. People in public services who are very good with people and, again, good with the research process. These skills are valuable. I volunteer here. I work on maintaining the estuary bibliographies, and that involves finding articles on current scientific research on the various estuaries on the Oregon coast, mostly around the central coast. I also volunteer and am a board member of Toledo Public Library, and so that's a way of giving back. When my term on that board is done I hope to volunteer at the local 01:10:00historical society. But one thing at a time. I'm having a rewarding retirement. And I'm a total nerd. I have a telescope. I stargaze. I collect fossils. I have fun.

TG: Could you go a little more in-depth about those interests? Now that you have time to explore them?

SG: Yeah, now I have time to explore them. I bird watch. I like geology. I like understanding where I am, and that involves understanding the history of where I am, the plants, the animals. I have a 6" telescope. I got that as a birthday present for my 65th birthday.

TG: You mentioned that right at the beginning. That's a full-loop that that was 01:11:00one of your interests in childhood.

SG: Well, I figured I might as well get one before my eyes go. It's a great big, beautiful world full of interests and years ago I heard on public radio they interviewed John Houston and they asked him what he hoped to keep as he entered his old age, and he said, "I hope I never lose interest. The world is an interesting place, and I hope I never cease to be interested in it." And that's how I feel.

TG: Love it. A couple more things if you have time.

SG: Okay.

TG: This is just for my own personal, because coming from a lifetime nerd librarian all that stuff--what's a book that had a large influence on your life that you wish you would've read earlier?

SG: Wow.

TG: I'm sure there's dozens.


SG: Well, yeah, that's the problem. Well, a book I wish I had read, one of the best books I ever read, was Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. Today you have YouTube. There's so much jazz in that book that he references, and I really like jazz and I think it would be fun to go back and re-read it and every so often get up and go to YouTube and listen to a recording of the artists that he's referencing at that point. I think that would be a fun way to enjoy that book.

People that are important to me? Wang Wei is important to me. That's the 01:13:00classical Chinese poet. Antonio Machado, the Spanish poet, he's important to me. Things I wish I'd read earlier? I don't feel that way. I read an awful lot of things really, really early. When I was in third grade I got very irritated with a child's fiction book and for years I stopped reading fiction. I read myths, which were stories and later I gave myself permission to read science fiction, because it had science in it so that made it okay. But I wasn't until late 01:14:00junior high that I started reading literature, and I wish I could read Jane Austen with a fresh mind, you know? I'd certainly enjoy that. The humanism of a lot of the 19th century authors is appealing to me. There's a concern for the less well-off in Dickens and other authors. Brontë talks a lot about that in Jane Eyre. I actually enjoyed Silas Marner and George Elliot is somebody I think 01:15:00I would have enjoyed reading earlier, maybe.

TG: Awesome. Maybe one last question? Do you have any reflections on living on the Oregon coast and involvements in the community?

SG: Actually, I would like to answer a different question.

TG: Yes, go for it.

SG: What is your dream for OSU's libraries, OSU press? More librarians. They need more librarians, and if you compare the number of staff at the OSU libraries and the U of O libraries you would be shocked. They have so many more people down there. Our librarians are stretched thin and worn out and leaving because they're exhausted. Also, I think the libraries need to be better at managing change. When we changed from the Millennium software to ExLibris 01:16:00software, they had years. They knew this was coming for years, and it still ended up in a, at least for those of us who worked with serials, drop everything and desperately input like mad fiends for months on end because there is no time and the deadline is coming and these are the desperate hours. I don't care--that was not right, and it should not have happened that way. The other thing that I think is really important is communication. It has frequently amazed me that an organization so full of such intelligent, educated people can have such problems with communication but it does. As an example, that transition to ExLibris and Alma and Primo--people at OSU had been working on it for months, and I was not 01:17:00told I could have been working on it with them. We might not have been quite as desperate at the end if my efforts had been able to be part of it. I know it took a while to work out the procedures but really don't forget we're over here, manage change a little better. Communicate a little better and it would be good for the organization, and the thing I would like for Oregon State University is to continue to be an engine of innovation, because I think it is. I think it can be, and God knows the world needs it.