ASSOCIATES (vol. 10, no. 2, November 2003) - associates.ucr.edu
Years seemed to fly by us with no particular events marking their passage. David arrived in the Reference Dept. and made his way as a very outstanding and brilliant Business Librarian, the first so-designated by our library and one of the first in the southeast. Don’t remember where he came from or what college awarded him his degree, but he settled in and became a valued librarian and original thinker in the system. In the 60’s, it was an asset to be male in a university setting in the South. I assumed he would be groomed for administration, but he didn’t seem to be interested. His thought processes were geared toward the changes our library system should be making to achieve better status in the country and compete with the top dogs. I admired his aggressiveness, but knew he was headed for a big problem some day. Mr. West, our beloved director, retired to Hawaii to lead the University out there, which resulted in a sudden search for a powerful leader. We were in the throes of building a new facility, then moving into it, when the new Director was named. Dr. Harold came to us from the northeast as a German selector and Assistant Director of a prominent university. He had a lot of credentials and was a scholar. Since we were not part of the selection process and not privy to "existence" beyond the first floor offices, no one seemed to care or even worry about the hiring. We waited. Soon, word came down from on high that all the answers would come from upstairs. We would not make waves. We all groaned under our breath and went staunchly back to work.
We didn’t say much for years. Poor decisions were made in structure, function, personnel and equipment orders. Duplication of thousands of books to create an Undergraduate Library led to much dissension among the staff, faculty and students. Finally, someone got so livid, that they tried to flush the catalog cards down the toilet. A librarian found the mess, retrieved the cards and we were forced to dry them out to duplicate them in a new form for the catalog. That meant a lot of hand typing, proofing and filing in the days to come. We were not amused to say the least. That next morning, we returned to work to find the cards missing again. After some detective work, we discovered that the cleaning crew had thrown the cards away, thinking they were trash. The administration rethought the problem, realized we could not duplicate the catalog without a thorough inventory of the books, some several million in number, and decided it was time to merge the libraries and functions. We referred to it as the "toilet that changed the world." We paid homage to that facility and the mysterious person or persons who contrived the outrageous plan. I always thought it might have been David who instigated the upheaval, but nothing was ever proven.
It took a lot of time to merge the collections, but it was satisfying, and we could finally put all the books together and reshelve everything in proper locations, giving some room in the new library for offices and departmental functions, such as Documents, Gifts and Binding. These offices were previously housed in one or more closet-like rooms and totally non-functional for public information needs. Necessity brings change, but not enough. Administrators were hired that appeared to be wage drawers, but not workers or thinkers. There were some erratic monetary and supply disappearances and sometime during my fifteenth year, several people walked off into the sunset with their pockets full and our people scratching their heads. I knew of several strange instances and the people involved and felt myself in jeopardy for my job. No sooner had the thought entered my mind, than I received a strange evaluation of my work. I refused to sign the form, attaching a long and thorough rebuttal to its pages that would be lost in someone’s files forever. I was called upstairs by the Assistant Director who promptly told me I had been sick too often. I replied that I had not used more time than I had accumulated, so I was within the legal limits of the university. I was informed by Mr. Freeman that he had the right to put me on a three day suspension and was thinking seriously of doing so. I sat back in my chair, smiled to myself, and proceeded to inform him that he should not threaten me. If he wanted to suspend me, he should do so, but I did tell him that I was inclined to respond to that action and could report a number of indiscretions to the university and provide first-hand proof. I was willing if he was! I asked him to make up his mind so that I could make my plans. He backed down and I reiterated that I would not sign the evaluation form because it was unfair and biased and ignored my positive contributions to the department and library. He turned his back on me and I left. Nothing came of this again, and subsequent evaluations returned to normal.
Each year got worse and worse with intimidations and the Director restructuring departmental monies to pay for his strange special acquisitions. I remember getting excited about his purchase of a Lincoln Collection until we searched it and found that ninety percent of the books were duplicates of our holdings. We purchased this Collection to get the ephemera: a bandage from the wound inflicted on Lincoln, a nail from the floor of the room where he died, and some kind of cotton ball that I hate to even think about. I was scared to ask what proof of authenticity was produced. As much as we despised his tactics, the Lincoln Collection became the butt of many jokes in the library and helped us relieve some of the tension.
Equipment was failing. We were still in the Dark Ages when it came to technology and things were not improving. Even the chairs in the lounge were mostly broken. David got so angry, that he took one of the chairs and placed it in the administrative offices with a note attached, that it needed to be buried! "Give it a good funeral!" The Director was not amused and David drew a reprimand. This did little to assuage his anger or the rift between staff and administration. It only showed us how callous and uncaring they were. The administration was housing all the broken down chairs in our lounge and we were forced to use them at our own risk…and it was plenty risky!
David was sent to work in the Technical Services area, searching prospective reference purchases. He was happy, humming to himself and having a great time. He liked being among us and we protected him. Reference was becoming more and more a gristmill for librarians and stress abounded like new frog hatchlings on a late spring evening. Even their voices resembled the scratchy croaks of those toads. Once David finished his work in our area, Reference put him back on their information desk answering questions. Just about one week later, a faculty member came in and confronted David. He exploded with some unmentionable words, and was promptly sent home. In the previous five years, David had run for public office (failing miserably), his wife had divorced him, and his arthritis was so bad that he was bent almost parallel to the floor. Pain was his middle name and sometimes his forename. He was on prescribed heavy pain killers, arthritic medicine and goodness knows what else. There was little sanity left in this man from the pain and medicines combined. It was agony for me to see his physical and mental decline. We were all family, no matter how large we got, and we supported each other the best we could. I think everyone knew the firing was inevitable, but we were all angered and saddened by it. There was an uneasy feeling in my stomach that something was about to happen. You know that empty dark sinking feeling that accompanies a failure or crisis where there is imminent danger? That was what I was feeling, a kind of gnawing at my gut.
I flash back to that scene over and over. Shots fired! Shots fired! David? Where are you? Don’t do it! Isn’t that Bob taking a gun from David? No! The sulphur surrounds me in a cloud of remembrance. Why, David? Why? I know…I remember…Why are they lowering you in a box? Wait for my picture! Wait for the … I remember all too clearly now…