That New Face At The Reference Desk?
Students, Staff And Friends Surprise U.Va Library With Creative
Solutions To Budget Gloom
December 11, 2002--
The state’s budget crisis has had a silver lining for
the University of Virginia’s library system: unexpected —
and unexpectedly creative— shows of support from its visitors.
retirees tackling cataloging, to fraternity brothers clearing space
for construction crews, to staff sharing jobs they never would have
tried before, the library has discovered a wellspring of good will.
And that effort is helping keep the University’s 11 central
library facilities running despite the worst financial crisis in
a cold fall afternoon, for example, three members of the Phi Beta
Sigma fraternity were hard at work in the Science and Engineering
Library in Clark Hall, shifting hundreds of books from upper-floor
shelves so work crews could continue renovating the historic building.
Jude Norelus, Ingo Harry and Kofi Owusu spent hours loading and
unloading book carts between the massive floors, navigating around
construction equipment, shelves, stairwells and students.
simply amazed,” said University Librarian Karin Wittenborg.
“The community’s wholehearted support for the library
is keeping our spirits up in these tough times.”
retiree Wilma Mangione, meanwhile, reported to the Fine Arts Library,
where she entered the library’s historic postcard collection
into a software database. “I like returning to the academic
setting,” she said. “The work is fascinating, and the
people are incredibly nice.”
staff members have also pitched in. With a hiring freeze that has
left the library at a 1976 staffing level, every one of the system’s
23 departments has volunteered hours to keep essential services
Rittelmeyer, director of the acquisitions department, put in hours
at the science library’s reference desk. He noted that the
work has given him a view into the impact of his own department’s
actions: “I see how the databases we buy are actually used,
and I’m much more aware how students and faculty respond to
went on to encourage his own staff to reach out and “make
some contributions to your colleagues.” Rose Salmon, his administrative
assistant, took on the front lines of library customer service:
the reference desk at Clemons, the undergraduate library.
been here 18 years and this was my first chance to meet the public,”
said Salmon. “I not only got great training and new skills,
I have new respect for people who staff the desk.”
staff sharing and volunteering, the library has also received these
sudden and welcome shows of support:
emergency grant from the University administration to restore
hours that had been cut;
a contribution from the 21 Society (one of the University’s
“secret” philanthropic societies) to bring in a magician
and refreshments to entertain students during exam week;
a gift from Special Collections staff member Heather Riser for
a day’s worth of programming sponsorship on public radio
station WMRA, on behalf of the library’s new Lewis and Clark
anonymous donation for free yoga classes for stressed-out employees,
with another cash gift from a staff member to help colleagues
pay for conference travel;
contribution of cardboard supplies — and time to assemble
them as holders for delicate books awaiting preservation —
from community resident Liza Millet.
are more stories than I can possibly tell you,” said Wittenborg.
“But I can tell you we couldn’t have survived the current
crisis without our friends, and we’ve learned that they exist
in all places.”
available for download (72, 150, and 300 dpi):
Science Library volunteers: Psi Beta Sigma fraternity
staff share: Paul Rittelmeyer and Rose Salmon
Fine Arts Library community volunteer: Wilma Mangione
Fine Arts Library staff share [not in story]: Shannon Wilson and
Charlotte Morford Scott, (434) 924-4254