By Sethwilson Gray
Behind the caution tape and concrete of Tutt Library’s ongoing renovation, there are frustrations, hopes, and endless hours of construction migraines. More importantly, however, there is passion. Whether one has a passion for books, knowledge, technology, or even coffee, underneath the new roof of Tutt Library, they will find a community that welcomes them.
But last year was anything but simple for those who work in Tutt Library. The staff faced dozens of challenges to provide the student population with a proper collection of library resources. One of the most obvious disruptions of the renovation, besides the noise and tar scented mornings, was the relocation of college services housed in the library, such as the Writing Center and Steve’s Coffee Cart. This undoubtedly led to many confusing situations as the campus readjusted.
But some disruptions escaped students’ common knowledge, namely the migration of multiple library staff to an off-campus building called Couture. This group included one of the vital operations in the library: the collections department. They are responsible for the thousands of books, records, and periodicals available in Tutt.
A little over a year ago, the collections department was scattered around the original Tutt Library building,in offices that have since disappeared. Most employees were located on the first floor or in the Southern wing. Pam Willock, however, had an office on the second floor tucked away and hidden by stacks of newspapers, far from her coworkers. Willock is the Periodicals Coordinator whose office situation led to her hardly seeing other library staff. “Unless you knew where my office was, you weren’t going to find it,” she laughed. But as the library renovation began, that quickly changed.
Despite some reservation at first, the staff moved to Couture and quickly fell in love with the space. While they were farther from the library, their proximity to each other in Couture fostered an opportunity to grow closer as coworkers.
However, working in Couture came with its own difficulties. For example, it took much longer to get new books to professors and students, received mail was delayed, and retrieving books involved a much longer commute than walking down a flight of stairs.
Library staff members faced another issue during construction, which one staff member identified as “the illusion of listening.” Their recommendations as to how their new work space was going to look and operate often went unheard. Communication between those deciding what to do for the library employees and the employees themselves was nearly nonexistent at times, their voices lost in the din of power tools and eager board members.
They all knew the space was temporary, which in some ways made the new obstacles of Couture easier to overcome. There were no guidelines or set-in stone procedures, so the staff had to get creative and find personal ways to deal with the year away from campus.
Chris Curcio, an Acquisitions Coordinator, and Jason Stewart, the Cataloging Supervisor, had very similar approaches to handling the difficult transition: humor. “And this too shall pass!” Stewart joked, recalling the days staff had to drive a cart back and forth to the library for mail and dropping off books. Curcio told me his mantra during the entire process was “it’s temporary, it’s temporary, it’s temporary.” Both really enjoyed Couture and saw it as a positive experience in the end, but moving into the new library was a relief. It was the end of waiting and waiting, and as Curcio said, “in the end, I’m still going to be able to do my job.”
Unfortunately, Pam Willock had a particularly trying time and a different experience than most of her coworkers. Willock’s periodical collection was spread across three locations: her office in Couture, periodicals in Tutt South, and at Creekside, an off-site warehouse for most of the collection during the renovation.
She had to “find new ways to do her job,” which involved organizing her schedule differently to maximize the work she was able to do at each location. Being back in the library represents a different kind of change for Willock, one of stability and community. “Now I don’t feel so isolated. It’s nice to have coworkers to talk to everyday,” she said, looking around the new office space “[This year] was the one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I’m proud of it.”
After a year of working in a temporary space, returning to the main library brought even more difficulties to be met head-on. Once they moved into the new library, staff members dealt with many distractions and a noisy environment for the entirety of their work days. All of their jobs require attention to fine detail, as details can make a great difference in the case of books. Stewart, who used to work without headphones, now finds himself wearing them all the time in order to focus; Willock is finally close to her collection and the students who need to find articles, and Curcio is excited to see all the puzzle pieces fall in place and the community thrive.
Despite the bureaucratic adversity, the library staff remained a close group of bibliophiles. They all have their passions and their quirks, but when faced with the daunting task of handling a one-year office relocation, they faced it. Now they have a huge window and plenty of space to get students new books and articles on the shelves and into classes without any of the wait time.