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Transcript of interview with Wendy Starkweather by Claytee White, June 16, 2010


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Wendy Starkweather recalls her move to Las Vegas on a hot summer day in 1978. Her husband, Peter L. Starkweather had accepted a position to teach biology, but nothing had prepaied her for desert weather in July. She was a small town girl, born and raised in rural Ogdensburg, New York. She attended Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY and became a teacher and librarian in New Hampshire Getting a job at UNLV's library took some time, but finally in 1985, she was offered the position of head of references. From that point on, there was only looking forward for Wendy. She was to be an active member of the library staff until her retirement in 2010. During her over two decades at UNLV she worked under the leadership of six deans. She was an vigorous voice in the development of services, impacting circulation, interlibrary loans and non-book services that included media and instruction. In addition, she was here during a momentous period as the future Lied Library was being fu

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Starkweather, Wendy Interview, 2010 June 16. OH-01758. [Transcript.] Oral History Research Center, Special Collections & Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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An Interview with Wendy M. Starkweather An Oral History Conducted by Claytee D. White The Boyer Early Las Vegas Oral History Project Oral History Research Center at UNLV University Libraries University of Nevada Las Vegas ©The Boyer Early Las Vegas Oral History Project University of Nevada Las Vegas, 2007 Produced by: The Oral History Research Center at UNLV - University Libraries Director: Claytee D. White Editors: Barbara Tabach and Gloria Homol Transcribers: Kristin Hicks and Laurie Boetcher Interviewers and Project Assistants: Barbara Tabach and Claytee D. White The recorded interview and transcript have been made possible through the generosity of Dr. Harold Boyer and the Library Advisory Committee. The Oral History Research Center enables students and staff to work together with community members to generate this selection of first-person narratives. The participants in this project thank the university for the support given that allowed an idea the opportunity to flourish. The transcript received minimal editing that includes the elimination of fragments, false starts, and repetitions in order to enhance the reader's understanding of the material. All measures have been taken to preserve the style and language of the narrator. In several cases, photographic sources (housed separately) accompany the collection as slides or black and white photographs. The following interview is part of a series of interviews conducted under the auspices of the Boyer Early Las Vegas Oral History Project. Additional transcripts may be found under that series title. Claytee D. White, Project Director Director, Oral History Research Center University Libraries University Nevada, Las Vegas Preface Wendy Starkweather recalls her move to Las Vegas on a hot summer day in 1978. Her husband, Peter L. Starkweather had accepted a position to teach biology, but nothing had prepaied her for desert weather in July. She was a small town girl, born and raised in rural Ogdensburg, New York. She attended Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY and became a teacher and librarian in New Hampshire Getting a job at UNLV's library took some time, but finally in 1985, she was offered the position of head of references. From that point on, there was only looking forward for Wendy. She was to be an active member of the library staff until her retirement in 2010. During her over two decades at UNLV she worked under the leadership of six deans. She was an vigorous voice in the development of services, impacting circulation, interlibrary loans and non-book services that included media and instruction. In addition, she was here during a momentous period as the future Lied Library was being funded and designed. Wendy vividly describes the impressive physical structure of Lied Library and the move into the new facility like a proud parent. iv ORAL HISTORY RESEARCH CENTER AT UNLV Boyer Early Las Vegas Oral History Project Use Agreement Name of Narrator: M/Wy IA. Name of Interviewer: <1 ^l~ ft Y ~J7z£= \J^), J/\l4/ 7~gr We, the above named, give to the Oral History Research Center of UNLV, the recorded intemew(s) initiated on fr as ^ unrestr/ijc£tUedp gjilf t, to be used for such sc lolarly and educational pi/rposYs as shall he determined, and transfer to the University o - Nevada Las Vegas, legal title and all literary property rights including copyright. This gift does not preclude the right of the interviewer, as a representative of UNLV, to use the recordings and related matenals for scholarly pursuits. There will he no compensation for any interviews. Signature of Narrator ^ate / / 'tiw/o Library Special Collections 4505 Maryland Parkway, Box 457010, Las Vegas, Nevada 89154-7070 (702) 895-2222 This is Claytee White. It is June 16th, 2010. I am with Wendy Starkweather here in the library, third floor in Special Collections. Wendy, would you please pronounce and spell your last name for me? Starkweather, S, as in Sam, T-A-R-K-W-E-A-T-H-E-R. Thank you. Now, just to get started can you tell me something about your early life, where you grew up and what that was like? I grew up in a small town, actually the only city in the county of St. Lawrence in New York state. It s called Ogdensburg. I lived there until I went to college. So I had 18 years of basically growing up in the same place. I lived on a street near the downtown area. It was a town of about 13,000 people when it was in its heyday, maybe 14,000, and everything was pretty much walkable for the places I wanted to go and be and get to. Did you have brothers and sisters? I had two brothers and no sisters. My brothers were actually half-brothers because my mother had divorced and then married my father. I was kind of the spoiled child and also the girl and I was the last one of the family. So that was fun. I don't know whether I learned to be a tomboy from my brothers, but I certainly became one and did all those kinds of things that you do as a tomboy, like learn to play baseball and tried to play basketball. I was the oldest girl on the block. I became a leader of the group. Some people called me bossy. But I prefer to think of it as sort of my leadership tendencies coming out at the very beginning. So it was the typical ~ well, I don't know whether there's anything really typical. But it's what's thought of as typical for growing up in small town and in a neighborhood. When I was 16 we moved to a house outside of the city on the St. Lawrence River. My father and I actually helped design the house. Then it was built to my dad's specifications to such a degree that the contractors used his drawings for the house. ft So describe the house to me. It had a first floor and a second floor ~ not loft, but two guestrooms upstairs ~ my bedroom was upstairs and then there was a guestroom. And it had a balcony that overlooked the living room. And then the living room had almost floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on the St. Lawrence River. Tthat was a very nice place to be to finish up my adolescence I guess because it meant there was a lot of time to do swimming in the river and in the wintertime go snowshoeing. It was a delightful place. We lived right beside my aunt and uncle. Ours was a very small family. My father had one sister and my mother didn't have any siblings. We had this property on the river and both my aunt and uncle, my father's sister and her husband, and my mother and father shared this property. We lived next door to each other. Do you ever go back now? I used to when my parents were alive. Actually, I have a trip planned. My niece and nephew, my brother s children, and my niece's husband and my brother's wife all get together generally every year in St. Lawrence. We rent a house or a cottage to get together for about a week. That's our family reunion. Basically you can count us all on one hand. Are those houses still in the family? No. We had to sell them. I m kicking myself now. I wish I had been able to keep it so that we wouldn't have to be renting places in the summer. But it would be hard to keep it up living out here. That's correct. Yes. What kind of work did your parents do? My father was self-employed. He ran a uniform manufacturing company with my uncle. It was called Mitchell-Mauby. He employed about 14 workers, women workers who sewed the uniforms. And his major contractor was Kodak. So he was making uniforms for the Kodak Company in Rochester so that they could use them in their processing rooms for the film. He worked with nylon instead of cotton cloth because nylon didn't have any of the little pieces that would fly in the air and ruin the film. That's what he did. He also made the gym uniforms for the high school kids. I wore the uniform that my father made for my gym classes. Oh, that's great. Did your mother work outside the home? No. She was a homemaker. She actually started to help my father later on when things got sort of tight at the business and he needed a little help in the office. She was trained as an executive secretary, but never filled a position with that. And you left there and went to school where? I went to Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. 2 How far was that from St. Lawrence? That was about five hours from St. Lawrence and Ogdensburg. I took the bus to and from when I would come home for vacations and things like that. Between Ogdensburg and Saratoga is the Adirondacks. I often drove through the Adirondacks either to get to school or to come home from school. So it s a special area. My brother actually lives there now. Oh, okay. The brother that will be there for the reunion? Yes. Tell me how and when you arrived in Las Vegas. In 1978. We came out because my husband, Peter, had gotten an offer for teaching in biology. I had already been teaching « not teaching. I had been a librarian for six years while he was getting his doctorate. And this was in which city? Well, we lived three years in Hanover, New Hampshire — he was getting his doctorate at Dartmouth College ~ then three years in New London, New Hampshire, where the school that I was the librarian at was. That was called New London, New Hampshire. That was about a 35-minute commute depending on which one was doing it. I did it for three years and then Peter did it for three. So we had the occasion of living in a small but cultural city of Hanover. And then we lived outside of New London, New Hampshire, which was also a small town. But we lived in an even smaller town called Elkins, New Hampshire. It had about a hundred people. We moved from Elkins, New Hampshire to Las Vegas in 1978. A hundred people? And it had a hundred people. And we moved to what was the biggest city I had ever lived in And even then it was - what? -- a quarter of the size of what it is now. Coming from that background - in my mind I can just picture the beauty of the areas you lived in and the cold. It was cold. It was winter. But we learned to cross-country ski. The small town Elkins had a small lake, Lake Pleasant. We swam in it in the summer and you could walk from the apartment to the lake and just shop at the little grocery store. But, of course, everybody knew your business. Of course. 3 It you did anything unusual as our landlord said phones will be a buzzing. I like it. So tell me your first impressions of Las Vegas coming from that area of the country. Oh, flying in to Las Vegas? And I had not seen it before I was moving here. Well, no. I take that back. We came for a two-week visit after Peter had accepted the job. But we came to do house hunting. We arrived in July. McCarran was much smaller than it is now. I remember on the flight just looking and seeing how brown everything looked. And I thought, oh, my gosh, where are the trees? Oh, there must be some trees. I know there are some trees. Then when we walked out — I even remember the outfit I had on. It was blue plaid pants and a white jacket and probably a white blouse. But I remember the white jacket. Walked out of McCarran and was hit by what I thought was an oven. It was like I had walked into an oven. I know since I've talked to people since then how much people have experienced such similar responses. That's correct. I could not believe it. We stayed with the chair of the biology department at his house. That was Jim Deacon. Jim and Maxine. That was his first wife. We stayed with them. Their son was there at the time, Dave. They gave us parties and it was a delightful time. But I remember two things of import relative to the weather. One was that they let the potato chips sit in a bowl on the counter after the party and into the next day. And I remember that I could eat the potato chips the next day because they were still crispy. You don't have crispy potato chips if you leave them out for five minutes in New Hampshiref. That's right. So that was one thing. And the other thing was looking outside and it was absolutely beautiful, glorious outside, bright blue, sunshine. The wind would blow. And you'd look out and you'd think, oh, what a glorious day. And you d walk out and, bam, it would be a hundred degrees at nine o'clock. So that was our experience initially. Then we went on a trip to Utah to try and see where - well, two things again with weather. We went to the Boulder Beach and Lake Mead to cool off, but not realizing that it was ten degrees hotter there. Did you go to Mount Charleston? No, not that trip. Not that trip. But we did go to Utah and went to Zion and saw Cedar Breaks. 4 We just tell in love with the country. Also driving back we went through a place called Snow Canyon outside of St. George. It has sand dunes and we were up on top of the sand dunes and boiling hot. When we drove through the town of St. George, which was much smaller then than it is now, we saw on the bank neon ~ not bulletin board, but where they tell you what the time and the temperature is that it was 120. We decided that it was probably 125 on top of the dunes that we had climbed. So that was our initiation into the heat. Of course, we did the Strip view and took pictures and sent pictures back because we rented an apartment and that was the very first ~ Where was your apartment located? That was the Village Apartments and it was right across Maryland from the university. It's on Escondido. I got a job temporarily at the Clark County Law Library. I served as their law librarian for nine months while their librarian went to get her library degree. She had a law degree, but she didn't have her library degree. So I did that. How did you get back and forth? There I drove because that was downtown at the courthouse. But when we moved six months later to our very first house in the neighborhood that's closest to Russell and Eastern, right near the runway of McCarran, which is one of the reasons we moved about 11 years later ~ but it was a wonderful house to be in to start with. The only rule I had since we couldn't find a clapboard house, white clapboard with green shutters, which is what we were looking for because that was our idea coming from the East, then I had to have a house that had a tree that was taller than the house. So this house had a mulberry tree that was taller than the house. Okay, good. And that was for shade? Is that what you were thinking? Yes. It had shade and it had trees in the backyard. So it provided shade. Then the first couple of years that we lived there Peter and I would bike to work because it was just a few miles from UNLV. So I biked to work. My job then was just down the street from the university in a corporate library. I worked there for a year. I biked there until my bike was stolen. Then I stopped biking. So Las Vegas was beginning to change at that point probably. Yeah, a little bit. You could see a little change. 5 A little bit. How did you get the job here on campus? Well, I interviewed three times for work here. The first time I interviewed was for a temporary job — no. Actually that was for a full-time, but I didn't get it. But there was a temporary job. I worked for about four months as assistant cataloger. I worked for Billie Mae Poison, who was a long time cataloger. Then I ended up with a job at the county library as a reference librarian and then as the head of their periodicals department. So I was continuing to gain library experience and getting some supervisory experience at the same time. Eventually there was a head of reference position that came open in 1985 at UNLV. By then I knew some of the people and was interviewed by Mary Dale Deacon, who was the dean then. But I had known the former dean, Hal Erickson, before that. He had interviewed me the first time I had interviewed. I'm just trying to think if there was anything else associated with that. Not much other than what I remember being interviewed. In the round part of the building in the old building there was a place off the administrative office and ended up getting nicknamed "The Star Chamber." It was mostly red, a red wall, fabric wall and a circular place where people sat. Administrative council sat there. That's where you interviewed everybody. The candidates sat in the middle on one of the little couches and everybody else sat around you asking you the questions. And we put a lot of people through that. And I was one of the people that went through it. I remember answering a question that Bob Ball, who was the collection development person at the time, asked me what I expected to be doing in five years. And I said that I hadn't given it any thought because I had been trying for four years just to get a job at UNLV. So that's where we left it so that I had finally gotten the job at UNLV. Oh, that's great. Now, why was it called "The Star Chamber?" Was the person in the center the star? No. I guess it took on that name later because there was a movie called "The Star Chamber." It's where they put people that they were prosecuting and they had them sit in the middle. It was sort of like -- well, I also thought of it like a place in - I was a Star Trek fan -- a place where you could sit and if you gave the wrong answers you could just sort of be transformed. You could be beamed away. 6 Youd be beamed away. Exactly. So it often got humorous attention in that regard. Yes. So who were some of the early friends that you met, early people when you started here? Well, there was Myong-ja Kwon. I knew Eva when she was a student worker, Eva Stowers when she was a student worker. That was when I was the assistant cataloger. That was just for the four months. That s when I met Maria White and Kathy Rothermel. They both were in acquisitions at the time. By the time I came in '85 [1985], I think Maria had moved to circulation. I'm not positive. She might not have been at circulation by then. Kay Tuma was working. Sue Kendall, she isn t here now, but she left several years ago. I don't think that's a name that I've heard. She was a business librarian. Was she business? I think she was business then. She was working here when I had first worked here in 1980. But by the time I was hired full-time, Shelley Heaton and Nancy Master, they were both in the department that I was coming to oversee, and Elmer Curley. He had been head of the department and then had given up that position to a person named Dean Covington. Dean was head of reference. It was his position that I filled when I was hired as head of reference because he had been named head of public services. So they had created the position of head of public services to oversee government publications, which was a separate department or unit we called them then. And then I was in charge of the reference unit. Jim McPhee was in charge of instruction. Joan Rozzi was in charge of the non-book department or unit. And Kay Tuma was in charge of circulation. So those folks were my peers. We all reported to Dean Covington, who reported to Mary Dale. Lavema Saunders had started at that time. She was head of tech services. She had started a couple months before I did. Sidney Watson started at the same time I did in August of '85. She was the beginning of the month and I was the end of the month. I think she was hired in circulation. Then she ultimately moved to government publications and then to architecture and CML. So a lot of these folks and I go back quite a ways. So tell me about your progression through the library. And along the way you can tell me funny stories. Ah. I don't know about funny stories. I probably have forgotten some of them. I was fairly 7 active, spoke up quite a bit in the group that reported to Dean. I'm drawing a blank really on what happened when I was head ot reference. I think we experimented with services. We had something called catalog assistance. That's when we opened up a service desk just for providing help with the catalog because we had many, many catalogs that one had to consult. We had to do a microform catalog and I think we were just starting online at the time. We had some aspects of online that we shared with the county library. We had a paper index of the journals. So I supported a new service called catalog assistance. Anybody in the library could volunteer to serve on that desk. So we encouraged catalogers to serve on the desk so that they could explain the rules of the catalog to the people that were trying to use it. So Billie Mae I think served on it and Laverna Saunders, who was head of technical services, served on it. A number of people served on it. I also introduced the concept ot videotaping so that people could see themselves in a scenario and set up different scenarios so we could learn best practices and worst practices. We used our own staff as actors. Sidney and Kay Tuma volunteered to play the roles of people. I saved the tape for the longest time and would play it from time to time just to show people what they used to look like. So give me an idea of one of the scenarios that was acted out. Do you remember one? Well, it was sort of how do you show a person who isn't giving any help at all? I think Kay played the student needing some help and Sidney played the role of a librarian who didn't want to do anything for the student. And it was the typical the student comes in and is trying to find their way around the round building and couldn't do so. They didn't know what a card catalog was. Sidney played the role of, well, you just have to go around the comer and down that hallway and then you'll see the catalog and it's arranged author and title and subject. So you've got your author. You just look it up and just go. It was that kind of scenario. And then Kay would make her "Saturday Night Live" face and say, oh, well, thank you very much. So we played with that so that people could see because we actually did have a few people who were not as open and friendly and smiling as they needed to be. There was often the philosophy that if they didn't know what they wanted then they shouldn't be asking the question. We had to work at what the service environment was going to be. That's why I was hired. It's not 8 to say that everybody was behaving that way. But there hadn't been as strong a culture of user-centeredness. I've heard at that time there were more parties and celebrations and breakfasts. There were. We had a pancake breakfast. That was when Dean Simon came, Matt Simon came. But even before that there were lots ot parties in the back office area. We celebrated birthdays and some were just the reference group or the group that made up public services. It was potlucks. At the time Dean Covington used to always bring wine. Of course, you weren't supposed to have wine. But we did wine tasting and everybody had wine. So that was fun. We used to ask that question about food when we interviewed people, which wasn't very sophisticated. We would ask people if they knew how to cook, what was their favorite potluck and things like that. It was part of our interview. So we had to grow up a little bit. At any rate, we had good times. I think there was a sense of family for sure. It was a smaller organization certainly than it is now. I think there were only about 18 faculty members and now there are over 30, upwards of 37 I think. And we didn't have professional staff at that time. We had classified staff and faculty. We relied a lot on student workers, which we still do now. I can't remember a whole lot of funny stories, though. That's nice. Where did you move from the reference position? What was your next position? Well, in 1990 we were looking for a new head of public services because Dean Covington had taken another job. So we did a national search. Didn't find a candidate that met - I guess we offered a position to someone, but he turned it down. And the other people just hadn't met the standards that people had for them. So they decided to open it again a few months later. I actually applied for that one, as did some other people not locally. But there were other people nationally who had applied. But turned out that no one at that time was thought to have had the skills or the abilities or knowledge that I would be able to bring to the job. So I actually had to do a full-fledged interview for the position. But there wasn't any other — In "The Star Chamber?" In "The Star Chamber," yes. And I remember doing my introductory talk. It was sort of a thing that came back to haunt me actually because it was Lavema and I who had determined a few years 9 before, like a couple of years before that really we ought to have candidates come and do more than tell us what they could cook for their job interviews. Before that they had simply met a lot of people and didn t ever have to tell us much other than what we asked them. They didn't have to make any presentation. So we created the requirement that people gave presentations. So you had to give one? So I had to give one, yes. And I gave it on something called the service imperative, basically suggesting that the real purpose for a library was to provide service; that we had undergone many imperatives in the past and the collection imperative was the strongest one. There must have been some others because I remember two or three, but I don't really remember what they were. But what I focused on, of course, was the service side. That's what I talked about and talked about that it was more than just technology because technology at that time was starting to become more prevalent. We were actually getting online catalogs for heaven's sakes because it was the 90s. But technology was in the service of service as far as I was concerned. I made that point during my presentation. Wonderful. So now, who was the dean at that point? The dean was Mary Dale Deacon. I think Myong-ja Kwon had become the chief budget officer and systems person as I recall. So she was part of the hiring team. There was a cabinet. Bob Ball, who was in charge of collections, and Laverna Saunders, in charge of tech services. Then they were filling the public services head. Then the systems person and budget person, who I think was Myong-ja at that time. That was what was called the dean's cabinet. So I interviewed with them and also interviewed with what we called administrative council, which was all the department heads. We don't have something like that. I guess what the dean has now called a cabinet is similar but not quite the same. At that time the position was for an assistant university librarian, an AUL, which was a term that was heavily used in the profession and was thought to attract more people by virtue of using that term as opposed to head of public services. But over time we were having a hard time with that title because we actually didn't have a university librarian. We had a dean. So they changed the titles later on. So I went from being an associate university librarian to being a director of public services. We still did the same thing. We still got paid the same. Just our titles, 10 our names changed. Tell me what the job entails, public service. When I had that role, which I really held from '91 [1991] through — well, there was a time when I took on the branches. But initially it started out being overseeing circulation and interlibrary loan and what we called non-book, which was media, and instruction. I think that was all. That was a group that reported to me. I coined the phrase or I continued to use the phrase — I'm not sure now — that was used called public service heads round table. And we had started meeting in a room that had a round table, which was the public service head's office. So it was called public service heads round table. PSHRT was the acronym. So if you've ever heard the phrase PSHRT that was what it was. That was the group that met. My management philosophy was basically to bring smart people together and help them all work together and help me determine our future and the future for public services, the future of how we would serve the users at all of the front desks because basically that's what a head of public service does is oversee all of the services that are designed to deliver reference service, which is helping people with their research, and circulation that is helping them check out books and find books in other libraries so that they can get them on interlibrary loan and to put books on reserve. So faculty members put books on reserve for students to use in their classes. And the non-book area was helping people use video, back then videotapes and audiocassettes. Now, of course, it's DVDs and CDs and streaming video and streaming media and media labs so that you can do podcasting and create videos based on what you take on your camera phone even. It's amazing. It has been a lot of change. And then instruction was we did everything from multiple classes, teaching library skills in five-week sessions. I did that when I had a head of reference and then oversaw that when I became the head of public services. So we were focused way early on on instmction. It's morphed into a number of approaches now. But at this point instruction is a major theme of the dean and it's a focus on bringing the faculty members into the process so that they get a chance to work with liaison librarians, special subject librarians to design assignments and establish the library as a major part of the curricular effort instead of just teaching a single session in a classroom. In the library business we call that a one-shot. We still do a lot of one-shots. But 11 we are tryine to encourage faculty to be more holistic in their thinking about how the library can help in more than just a one-session time period. Who is the student that you gear the workshops towards learning to use the library, the freshmen? There is a focus on that, but we also do a number of upper class sessions. In those cases there are probably fewer students, but it s a little more challenging for some of the liaison librarians because they have to go into more sophisticated databases while still covering the databases that maybe students should have learned earlier on but they didn't. Of course, we have to spend time convincing people that there is something other than Google to make use of and to make use of Google in a really robust way that's more useful to them for their class work than might be for just surfing. So it's a balance. Great. So that position was until when? I served as head of public services until April 2008 when we split the division. It was split into user services and research-and-information. In the meantime, I had also taken oversight of the branch libraries. But when we moved into Lied because there s a whole part that we've sort of forgotten here and that was my involvement in the building process. I had expanded my service to include branch librarians, which meant that I had a very large portion of the library reporting to me almost ~ well, over half. So it was a fairly large contingent as we looked when Patty Iannuzzi, the most recent dean and the current dean, when we looked at some organizational structure that could service better when we had a vacancy in our collection development head position. So we just as we often do looked at the organizational structure and saw where we could make some adjustments so that there was a better balance of staff reporting to the directors. So at that time I shifted to what was called user services and took over, well, what we had called access and delivery services, which was a merger of circulation and document delivery — so that was a task in and of itself ~ then the media, which had prior to that time merged information, commons and media resources, to become media and computer services. Then I had also the web services librarian reporting to me. So that was called user services. Then the other half of public services was instruction, collections, which was brought in 12 under research and education, which was the new name, research and education division. So that had instruction, reference and collections and the branch librarians. That was Vicki Nozero, who pp at for that position and got that one. So then she and I were peers, as opposed to her role as head of reference. Tell me about the process of getting a new library for the university. Yes. That was incredibly exciting. It starte