De Melle Interview:
This is file 88. This is jean McMillen. I am interviewing Walter de Melle who was the Director of the Edsel ford Library at Hotchkiss School for 41 years. Today’s date is December 11, 2014.
JM:What is your name?
WM:Walter de Melle
JM:Where were you born?
WM:I was born physically in Framingham, Mass. My parents at the time my address really of birth and where I grew up was in Natick, Mass.
JM:Your birth date?
WM:June 3, 1943
JM:Your parents’ names?
WM:My father’s was Walter de Melle; my mother’s was Lucille. Her maiden name was Knott.
JM:Do you have siblings?
WM:I do. I have an older brother Arthur who is now deceased. I have a younger sister Susan whose married name is Kerrissey.
JM:Your educational background?
WM:I graduated from the Natick Public school system, including Natick High School in 1961. I attended and graduated from Hobart College in Geneva, New York with a major in English. I graduated in 1965. I have a graduate degree in Library Science from Rutgers which is the state university of New Jersey. That graduate degree date is 1970.
JM:You came to this area via Hawaii.
JM:Tell me about the Hawaiian experience and the Salisbury Chaplain, please.
WM: When I was graduated from college, I have intended throughout college…I actually had a scholarship. It wasn’t binding of course, to study to be an Episcopal priest. Because of that I worked in camps and I happened to be in an Episcopal camp during the summers in Buzzard’s Bay, Mass. called Camp Dennam. When I became a senior in college, I had made the decision that I did not want to pursuit the priesthood. This is 1965, 1964-65, and any able bodied male who wasn’t working or in graduate school at that point 6 weeks after college could be expected to get a letter from Uncle Sam saying, “We want you!” That was not something that I had any interest in.
During my senior year the opportunity came. I had been advised by my friends and my college advisors that since I already had a considerable amount of experience working with teenagers and I had had quite a bit of success in my studies of English literature that perhaps teaching would be a vocation for me. I said, “Ok how do I do that?” I didn’t have any courses in education. They told me about private schools where I wouldn’t be required to have courses in education in order to be a teacher. As I said I am a public school graduate; I knew the names of some private schools but I didn’t really know anything about them.
It happened that the Headmaster of a Hawaii preparatory academy visited the mainland once a year and while he was visiting the mainland, he would visit the colleges where his graduates were attending. We had students at Hobart. When he would visit the college, he always offered the opportunity to interview with him for a possible opening. Even if he didn’t have an opening, he would conduct interviews because he wouldn’t be able to repeat it in person except during this one trip that he made every year. So I signed up to have an interview with him because it would be a good experience for me to have that kind of an interview and also I would learn something about what this was all about in private schools. I did. At the time he had no openings for which I would be qualified or which would interest me, but it was a good experience.
Because of that I also enrolled with an agency that placed graduates into teaching positions, not necessarily just private schools but public schools as well. Long story short, I actually had two job offers for schools in Massachusetts, private schools. I also got a letter from the Headmaster at the school in Hawaii saying that the situation had changed and he did have an opening in English and would I be interested in being a candidate for that. I made the decision, and of course why wouldn’t I, to go to Hawaii instead of staying in Massachusetts where I had grown up. I went to Hawaii and was offered the job. I took it and loved it. I loved everything about it. I loved the school; it was a relatively young school but clearly growing and being in its significance and its importance in the islands.
JM:Which island was it on?
WM:It was on the big island of Hawaii. That was one of its attractions. It was a boarding school. It had a day student population; a significant number of the day students were girls so that it had some co-ed classes. But there were not very many girls; the boarding population was all boys. I loved teaching and being in Hawaii. It was a very beautiful place, a very rural place at the community at which I was living where the school was based. I lived on campus of the school.
The school community was a ranch town; it was kind of the old feudal system. The Parker Ranch was one of the largest ranches in the country. It was the primary employer. They housed almost all of their cowboys in houses in the village and they were primarily Japanese. So this town of Kamuela, Hawaii, was primarily a Japanese cowboy town. I had a tremendous experience there.
It was a small school and a fairly new school; there was a fair amount of turn-over on the faculty every year because of its location, thus in my second year I was given administrative duties. The title
was Principal, but it actually was the Dean for the 7th and 8th grade. I taught a Bible class to the 7th and 8th grade, but my primary teaching responsibilities were in the high school. I really enjoyed the administrative duties as Dean as well. I also as one of my duties was to work in the library one night a week. I became quite good friends, and to this day we are still best friends, was the man who was the Director of the library. All of this is important background because of what happened later.
In going into my fourth year, or during the third year, I became engaged to be married to the woman whom I had known since the fifth grade in Natick, Mass. We had dated off and on over the years, sometimes very seriously with a deep commitment, and sometimes we drifted apart, but we both came together at the same time and moment. We became engaged and married. Susan who had been living in Washington, D.C. teaching at the Montgomery County School System, one of the best in the country, agreed to come to Hawaii and live, essentially for one year. It was sort of the honeymoon year. It was a wonderful experience. As much as I loved it and being there and as much as she came to love it, we realized that we were 6,000 miles away from our families who lived one mile apart in Natick, Mass. As we were looking forward to having children, we just didn’t feel it was practical to think that we would be comfortable and want to live that far away from our families.
I started thinking about what I would do. I loved the administration, I loved the teaching, but I couldn’t see myself look to a career for 40 some years as a classroom teacher. I just didn’t think that would be enough for me. I loved every bit of it, I really also enjoyed the administrative part. What career or path could I take to combine the teaching, the scholarly part, the working closely with kids and the administrative duties? My friend the librarian suggested that I consider going to graduate school for Library Science. I did some research and decided that that was indeed quite an attractive option. Also at the time it was one which seemed to have tremendous job openings; there wouldn’t be any employment issues. We decided that we would do it in a concentrated program level in 16 months rather than my trying to do it part time. So we would depend upon Susan’s teaching for the year, and I would be going for 2 summers and a year to graduate school which is what we did. It got to the point of now what as we were getting to the end of graduate school.
I had entered the program thinking that I would do something not in education as a librarian, but by the time I got to the end of the program, I had become very much influenced by a woman professor who was the young adult librarian at the public library. That influence of working with the young adults and her inspiration really encouraged me to return to something I knew well which was working with adolescents and combining that with librarianship at a private school. That was where I had had my experience by then and I had come to understand and love the environment and everything that they stood for. I then started looking for jobs, and going back to Camp Dennam, the Episcopal boys’ camp that I worked at every summer of college. The chaplain, the man who was the assistant camp director was also the chaplain at Salisbury School in Salisbury, Ct.
JM:What was his name?
WM:His name was Robert Cain. Bob and I kept in touch over the years. When he became aware of my interest, he wrote to say that Salisbury would be looking for someone to be a part time English teacher and part time librarian. That seemed to fit quite well. I started inquiring about that opening. At the same time through the placement office at the university I found that there was an opening for a full time librarian director at another private school near Salisbury, called the Hotchkiss School. I made arrangements to interview for both on the same trip and I did. Eventually I was offered both jobs. By that time I decided that the better job for me was the full time job because I had given up on the idea of becoming a classroom teacher. So I didn’t see any reason to do that and to be a part time librarian wasn’t going to fulfill what I had been preparing for and what I had been studying for or what I thought my next steps were. We took the job at Hotchkiss in 1970. We came here with the intention of staying for four or five years to get a good solid background and something strong for my resume. Now 44 years later we are still here in Salisbury.
JM:We are lucky to have you.
WM:Thank you. It has been a wonderful decision. It was a great choice and it was the right choice for us.
JM:It couldn’t have been better. Now you said before that you were the first professional librarian that Hotchkiss had.
WM:I want to correct that. When the Edsel Ford Library was built in about 1954-55, the Headmaster was George van Santvoord who hired a professional librarian, Mary Zelia Philipedes. She was hired to start the library as it was being built and as it was just opening. She was there for 5 years. When she left; she and her husband left and went to Greece, her successor was a person on the staff who had no library background other than a couple of years working under the direction of Mary Zelia. There was something like a 19 year gap between the time Mary Zelia left and the time I came. In that regard there was a long hiatus between professional librarians. People trained for it as professionals trained in working with adolescents and developing library programs.
JM:What did the Edsel Ford Library look like when you came?
WM:If you are familiar with the current building the second floor of the current building was the central part of it. It was very traditional, almost like a gentlemen’s reading club library with beautiful white oak paneled walls, gorgeous high arched ceiling and a series of alcoves along each side, very formal. Below it in the building were classrooms so you entered it by a grand staircase of terrazzo marble to get into the library. The bones of the original library are still intact. It now occupies 24,000 square feet and the original building that existed when I came was 4,000 square feet, the original library part of the building. So during my career there were various renovations and expansions particularly one major one where we increased its size by 6 times. There is a great deal about it that is quite different from anything that existed.
JM:When you came there, what did you have for staff?5.
WM:there was a staff which I inherited. There were two part time people a typist who I think worked about 15 or16 hours a week and there was another person, Anne Bowen who still lives in town who worked part time and probably again about 15-18 hours a week. Then there was one person who worked full time as an assistant. By full time I mean a 40 hour week, days.
JM:When you left, how many renovations or refurbishments had been to the library and how had your staff increased?
WM:As I said we increased the size of the library by 6 times. As soon as I started working at Hotchkiss there were already plans to refurbish the building because they had received a gift from Henry Ford of about $200,000 to refurbish the library. The intension of the library committee which was made up of senior faculty members was to spruce it up. There was no major change, but they were going to do some interior design and decorating, and refurbish the furniture. I started them thinking along quite different paths in terms of how a modern library in a school setting might be arranged rather than the formal English reading room in the gentlemen’s reading room style, something more practical and user friendly.
At that same time in the early 1970’s was an economic down fall in the country and secondly it was also the time when in 1972-1973 the school made the decision to become a co-ed school. Obviously most of the attention even though we were working with an architect on plans for a new library, actually the direction we were going was not to stay in the current location, but to go to a new facility. The emphasis to the priorities became preparing for co-education and doing what needed to be done in terms of the facilities to prepare for a co-ed environment. The dormitories, the gymnasium, and the athletic facilities they leapt to the top and we did succeed in getting some space soon after co-education. It became quite clear that at a co-ed school, the library is a very important place because it is the place where it is appropriate for boys and girls to be together and to hang out together, to work together and study together. It is a safe place in the sense that you can go there and not appear to be “going” with anyone or anything like that. It is just a very comfortable place.
Our population soared in term of use. By then I also had gotten the administration to agree that the library would only be open when library staff members were there. We changed our hours so that we were then open 80 hours a week, part of every day. That just made it a much busier place and a place that needed more space. By 1980 we had gotten permission to procure the money to do a temporary expansion of the building by taking over the classrooms on the first floor and tearing down those walls and introducing carpet including on the stairway.
JM:You had a good story about that one.
WM:One of the things that was happening in fashion in those days was that the girls were wearing clogs. They would go up those marble stairs in their clogs; that was a tremendous noise intrusion. It was something that got everyone’s attention. It did not take much of an argument to get everyone on board with carpeting, but it also softened the space and made it warmer and more inviting. We also
introduced comfortable furniture and a number of things to make it a more comfortable and more attractive space that people would want to come to and just be; hang out there to read or study or not, have a nap. One of the things I tried very hard to do was to make the library a place where people felt comfortable for whatever reason and as long as they stayed within the limits of appropriate behavior, then they could stay. It served that role.
JM:You were very successful in that.
WM:You asked about other renovations. We continued on working with the architect, Evans Wollen, who was a graduate of Hotchkiss and Indianapolis based. We worked with him for almost 10 years on refining plans. We were originally planning on a new facility in a different location, but I had really become by then quite fond the space and particularly felt that it was in the best possible location because it on the way to the dining room. One thing that a library doesn’t want to be is a destination or end point. You want to be on the way to someplace important so it is an easy drop-in place. It is comfortable and a very natural thing to stop by. Being near the dining room everyone went by library three times a day. That obviously attracted a significant population and the increase in population was what we wanted. We did another temporary redo of the furnishings, but no major renovation to the building. A complete renovation and expansion took place and was completed in 1982. It took a decade from the time I started until the time we finished fulfilling our goals. We got permission to stay on the location and expand in that location; it is a wonderful spot.
JM:Now your staff must have increased, too.
WM:Yes, the staff did increase significantly. Because of the multilevel facility we needed at least two people on duty whenever the library was open, evenings, weekends and so forth. In addition to the practicality of having people who depend upon each other for their work and for work flow, you would have 4 or 5 people in the library during work day. We would always have two other additional people at night. That demanded an increase in staff. We knew that going into planning a multi-level facility. The existing library had three stories and five levels. There are two floors that have 2 levels; the elevator stops at all levels so therefore it is a user friendly, physically handicapped friendly user space. It is as if it was a one floor space because of the elevator.
JM:I was in it recently because I was asked to observe the Cemetery Project that the Humanities Department does, it was interesting particularly for me going up the staircase because of the story that you told me. I have been in it on occasion but this was the first time that I was on the premises in a function that was related to Hotchkiss. It was very well laid out; the people knew what they were doing and the staff was always helpful. It does make it a very comfortable place to be and not intimidating.
WM:Ultimately, when I retired I think we had the equivalent of close to 7 full time employees on the staff. That breaks down pretty quickly to or there may have been more than 8 because there were a number of part time people. We went from one professional to 4 during my
career, because of the changes in the professions, and the expansion of the program. We put an emphasis on instruction, service and all the things that we do. The staff increased appropriately.
JM:I think you told me that you were interested in library architecture and you ran a consulting business. Would you tell me about that?
WM:I became very interested in graduate school in the library as a place and how the place informs behavior, how it influences how people use the building, how it can detract from how people use the building as a place, and how spaces are really significant. I did a study about a school library in Princeton, N.J. as a part of my Master’s thesis. I became really interested so I started to do some reading. Obviously in working for 10 years with Evans Wollen was important; I visited a large number of libraries of all types, not just private school libraries. I became very interested in what I was seeing and changes. There were a lot of changes going on in terms of library architecture, how spaces were being created and what was needed, the various emphases that was being placed on different aspects of it. After my experience, I started getting calls from a few schools and asking me if I would come and talk to them about my experiences and help them make decisions. That did turn into a consulting business, but that is probably too strong a word. I was a consultant for over a 25 year period to about more than 30 private school libraries.
JM:Were you consulted at all when Sara Wardell did the renovation with this building?
WM:No. I was a consultant on the Salisbury School library and worked very closely with them and their architect on that project. Of those 30 different projects I would do different things. Sometimes it would be a one or two day visit; I would respond to plans or whatever. Sometimes it was a four or five years association as certain things delayed projects. They started off thinking they were going to paint and polish and they would up building a whole new building on a new location. Once you start asking questions of people they will start thinking more closely about it. Everyone thinks they know what a library is, but a library is a pretty unique character. They rather respond to the needs of the individual client whether it is a school or a community or whatever. They have a lot in common; they also have a lot differences and it is important to get to what that difference might be and what it should be. That was the fun part of it; it was also a very awakening experience for a lot of committees that I worked with. One of the things I always insisted on was that they always had to go on a field trip, preferably with me, but if not on their own. They had to visit at least three other libraries and then go and visit their own library with the same questions, the same eyes and the same attitude, but informed and given the vocabulary of their experience of the other libraries. So they had been to another library and seen certain things or asked questions and found out why they were doing certain things. Then they would go back to their own library and see it quite differently. It also gave everyone a safe outlet; you could have a conversation and not be threatening to others or to make people defensive.” Wait a minute we do that, or wait a minute we can do that or we have got this or that sort of thing.” You can talk, your vocabulary is expanded and you are now talking about other examples, not just your own space. It is a
very powerful tool. Altogether in term of complete new facilities or major renovations I think there were 11 of those 30 that were significantly major works. I am very proud of that.
JM:Well, you should be. It is an achievement!
WM:It was great fun. Obviously I had to be careful. I had a full time job and an obligation to my own school, but just as a classroom teacher or a subject specialist who would be invited to give a lecture or a seminar I was in that position. I always had the support of the administration to do what I was doing.
JM:You couldn’t have done it if you hadn’t had the support, and it kept you fresh.
WM:No, right, oh absolutely.
JM:That is very important too.
WM:I learned a great deal from that.
JM:That is what your profession should do. You did all sorts of changes. I know the one that sticks in my mind is the filing system that you created which is very different.
WM:Oh yeah, shelving. One of the principles on which I worked was the library lingo is access; access is a very important principle in library science. Access can be defined and you can use it covering all kinds of things including access to the library itself, expanding the hours. I told you the story of taking away the keys and changed the locks when I got there I found out that there were probably 6 or7 Masters who had keys to the library. When the library was closed at the dinner hour and didn’t open again until the evening and was run by students, it was not what I would call a library, but it was closed on weekends and at other times. But these people who had the keys could go in at any time. My belief was that if the library was open, it should be open to everyone whenever it was open. Everyone should have equal access to it. We had an obligation to provide access to any kind of information and any kind of resources that people wanted. In that regard one of the things that I did which among my colleagues throughout the country is and is somewhat controversial but we shelved all the materials in one cataloguing system. We were using the Dewey decimal system so regardless of what type of material was it all sat together in their Dewey number. For example if you take a Shakespearean play “Romeo & Juliet” we would have text copies and a number of different editions of the play, we might have criticisms about the play, that would also be shelved there. There might be video or DVD performances of the play. They would be shelved there. There might be recordings of people just reading the play. They would be shelved there; everything that had anything to do with “Romeo & Juliet” would be shelved together. You didn’t have to go searching to different parts of the library. A lot of people didn’t like it because they liked keeping the materials of the same sort together like DVDs, or audio recordings. I didn’t feel that the material type trumped the content; to me the content was more important. The other thing that I knew just by career and working with kids is that kids aren’t going to go through too many hoops to get to what they want. They will get to the first thing and that would pretty much be it. I wanted them to have the option of finding whatever they were looking for in one spot.
JM:Then they would be more apt to pick it up.9.
WM:it is also a great browsing power, browsing in an open collection. You know how difficult it is in a closed collection where you have to ask for what you want; you don’t get a chance to browse. This integrated collection by combining all materials of different types made it much easier for people to browse and to find things that they weren’t necessarily looking for; they didn’t know that they were looking for it, but WOW! There it is! There is a recording or they might only know of a particular version of “Romeo & Juliet” but then they see 2 or 3 other versions of it in DVD and might be attracted to try it. That fits into the principle of providing access to materials of all types. It also is consistent with Gardener’s philosophy of multiple intelligence where people learn differently with different kinds of materials. Some are visual learners, sometimes they are audio learners and sometimes they are print oriented so if all of that is there you are not segregating or discriminating against the different types of learning.
JM:You expanded the reference indices considerably. Tell me about that, please.
WM:That is again the access thing. When I became the Ford librarian, an argument could be made for it to still be the largest research library in the area. It is the largest library that has a focus on research. The library then only had periodical indexes, The Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature, the old stand-but people don’t know it now. It used to be the only way you could get things or the Index to the New York Times. We only had the editions that started when the library was started. Mrs. Philipedes began collecting in anticipation of the actual building. I think the earliest date of any of our indexes was 1952. If you were doing any research that had to do with anything before then, you didn’t have the tools. The index tells you what exists. Rather than put my focus on expanding the collection of materials, I felt that the first place we should expand was the collection of indexes and bibliographies. If we could give people the tools to find out that something exists, some scholarly work or book of criticism or an article on a particular thing, or a series of articles on a particular subject. If they could find out that something existed, then our job is to get it for them and bring it to them. That was why we chose to put the emphasis on that. I sought significant money from the Trustees early on to do that and to expand the indexes and I was given that resource. I was always supported tremendously by the Trustees, and if they could, they would. That was an important resource.
JM:With all probability with having talked with you previously, you put forth a very good case for what you wanted and it was reasonable. They were reasonable people.
WM:It was enhancing the scholarship of the institution. A large number of faculty members were very appreciative and as we expanded our research capacity, people became more and more able to pursue their own studies. One of the things we always tried to do was to provide support to the teachers who were pursuing doctoral degrees or anything like that. Our philosophy was if you want it, come ask us for it and we’ll get it for you. We had a very high percentage of success with that because it is relatively easy if you know the tricks or if you know that it is available. You don’t say no. You don’t give up. I had a wonderful staff member at that point who had an incredible memory. She could remember this year, the last year the teacher asked for something, or another teacher asked for exactly
the same article. She remembered where she had gotten it. She just had a phenomenal memory. Ann was indefatigable; she just would not say no. She would track down whatever someone wanted and had great success with it. Obviously you learn quickly that you can depend upon a certain library like Trinity College and Williams or some of the smaller libraries. You don’t ask Harvard University for everything because first of all they wouldn’t participate in Interlibrary Loan because that would be too easy for everyone. You can always go to Harvard or Yale. We learned and developed strong relationships by being good borrowers. Interlibrary Loan was a significant part of our program.
JM:Explain what that is, please.
WM:It is a library borrowing from another library. It is library borrowing, not the patron. In our case we would borrow something; we were usually given access to it for a certain period of time, usually 3 or 4 weeks. We would house it in the library and then the students would have to come and use it in the library. That way we knew where it was. Faculty members we would let take the materials, but the students we felt should use the material in the library. Occasionally we would let them take the material out over night, but they would have to have it back the next day. We tried to be as user friendly as possible, but you have to also have some control. Because you want to be good borrowers, if you are borrowing something from someone else, you want to make sure that you return it in good condition.
JM:How did you manage to balance the needs of the school with opening it up to the community as far as using the library?
WM:Here we are back to access. When I came, I noticed that there were a few people from the community who came to the library. Usually they were writers, I thought that was wonderful. Here we had all these goodies that people were using. I began thinking how do I know that all the people who want to use this or could use this and need access to this know that we are here? I talked to the staff and we felt that it would be appropriate for us to be open to the public and encourage the public to come, not advertise it. I didn’t want to encroach on the public library.
The public library knew that we had adopted this posture, so they sometimes referred people to us if they knew that people has certain interests in a certain subject. They couldn’t possibly have the depth that we might have if we were teaching or an area where we had a huge collection. We had 7 or 8 thousand art books; the public library of 25,000 couldn’t possibly have that kind of depth or breadth. The art collection was one instance that was very popular.
We had some regulations about it; we told people that if one of our own students or faculty members needed something, that we would call them and ask them to return it as soon as possible. Everyone thinks that is going to happen all the time, but it doesn’t. I can’t imagine that it would have happened more than a few dozen times in my 40 years where we had to call someone and say we would really like to have this back because we need it for one of our students. At one point 17% of our circulation was to the community. It was a significant amount.
The other part from a management point of view or from a director’s point of view the thing that was wonderful about it was that having those adults in the library was a tremendous example and learning experience for the students and also the behavior modification. There are other adults here; there are other people here.
JM:They are not a known element like a faculty member.
WM:It was significantly it was learning is life-long; people of all ages particularly the adults sometimes it was students from other schools. The ones who were noticed were the adults who were there studying or working diligently on theses or whatever. That was a good example for our students. It was something that we really cherished. We had few problems. Every once in a while we would have someone who would not honor the experience and I would have to speak to them and ask them either to change their behavior or not consider coming to the library. That was extremely rare. It probably didn’t happen more than 3 or 4 times. Whether or not we continue to do that in this day and age, I don’t know.
JM:It seems to be more difficult, but hope springs eternal.
WM:I certainly hope that it is a possibility that can be sustained because it is really a great benefit to them. I meet people, I met someone yesterday who knew of me and knew me because of the fact that many years ago when he was actively involved in his profession, he would use the library for certain things. He really valued that experience. For people who are taking graduate courses in New Haven, they could come and use a lot of our materials first and then just take a trip or then go to the unique materials that were at their university. By then we had all of the New York Times on microfilm; that was a significant resource and bibliographies, our collections and other materials that could be used and were useful to them.
JM:How about Connecticar and Connecticard? Did that work as well as you had hoped? Please explain.
WM:No, the answer to that is no. I was part of the project called Project 76, obviously in the early 1970’s. It was a state wide initiative with study groups. I was part of those study groups. It was planning state wide library services. Out of that at the time there were 6 regional districts; the state is divided into 6 regions. The initiatives were begotten to help facilitate library use. One of them was Connecticard which still exists. If you are issued a public library card in any public library in the state, you may use any library in the state. This is a tremendous resource for people. For example if you are in Sharon and borrow some material, and you are not going back to Sharon, you can return the book in Salisbury. Or if you are in Farmington, and need something in that library that we don’t have here, then you could take it out there. Connecticar is a delivery system between libraries. What I tried to get them to consider and had several discussions over the years with several different state librarians was that the Connecticar that was going from Salisbury to Sharon goes right by the Edsel ford Library and couldn’t it stop there and pick up or deliver books that people wanted on library loan. It was never anything that
we were able to successfully get. So the car would go by us. Then if Salisbury had a number of things that they wanted to borrow from us, we would have to find either someone who was coming to town to deliver it or we would actually package it and mail it which was a tremendous time waster, and expensive. But that was the only way we could do it. We could not use the Connecticar system; it didn’t make any sense. The Connecticard we got around that ourselves by simply allowing people to come in and borrow things as long as we had a valid ID and lived somewhere nearby.
JM:What is the Edgar M. Cullman chair?
WM:It is an honorary chair, a named chair, created at Hotchkiss, and there are a number of them that were created at the time of the Centennial in 1990 something, I can’t remember now exactly when it was, maybe in 1995 or 96. That chair is given to the teacher, a master teacher, in recognition of their talent. I was the first recipient of that particular chair. Cullman was a long time member of the board of Trustees and a long time President of the board of Trustees. It was a chair endowed by his brothers to honor him. I was very fortunate.
JM:You earned it.
WM:Thank you but one of the things that I always tried to help my colleagues understand by example primarily but sometimes by argument was that I was a teacher. The librarian is a teacher. The library was my classroom as well as my athletic field. It was in that space that I worked with and taught students and faculty members and other users of the library, just as they would in a classroom setting. That recognition of the librarian as a teacher was a very important one. I was very honored to have made that case so that I was given a chair. It was something that I held throughout the rest of my career.
JM:When did you retire from Hotchkiss?
JM:Is there anything that I haven’t covered about your career as the Director of the library?
WM:No, not specifically as the Director of the library other than as the director of the library and as me, I served in a number of other capacities at the school, I was on a number of committees, and I chaired significant number of committees. In a boarding school environment faculty members do a great deal. In working with students I always advised students; I had my own advisees and became very close with them. I don’t think there is anything else; I had written down a few notes just to make sure that I wouldn’t forget a couple of things. No, I think we have covered it. Our job is to empower the user, to help library users become independent and independent learner. At the same time I was always there to support them. Libraries are changing constantly. One of the things that I was fortunate to have kind of adopted a librarian who was a good friend of mine who was a major influence on a number of private school librarians, a woman named Pauline Anderson, who is the Library Director at Choate-Rosemary. Pauline made me aware early on that everything always seemed to get smaller. That
certainly is true. I was thinking the other day. My first exposure to computers and computing was at Rutgers University which occupied the space of the gymnasium. That was the one computer. Now computing power greater than that is on our cell phones that we carry around with us. That’s true whenever we were planning facilities, one of the things that I always tried to get people not to do was not to build spaces for permanently assigned certain tasks, or a certain job, like a listening room for example, unless it could easily be adapted to something else. Listening used to be where you would sit at a table and you would plug your cassette in and put a disc on and later on a tape, a reel to reel tape or all of these different tools. You would be stuck, tethered to that machine in order to listen to it. We had one of those rooms; it became associated with the library. I took it over from the music department s it was adjacent to the library. One of the things that we did as soon as it became and the technology became available was to buy cassette recorders and cassette players so that people could take the cassette and go and listen to anyplace they could find a plug. They still had to be able to have a power source.
JM:We have now moved to the voice recorder that does not need an outlet.
WM:Exactly. Those kinds of things were certainly important to remember, those kinds of rules of the road that you can pick up over the years. You make some mistakes; fortunately I chose VHS over 8 track tape. At the time there were 2 things and I made the right decision, the popular standard. I don’t think so. I have had an extraordinary career with tremendous support. I loved every minute of it and what I was doing. I never regretted the decisions I made to either become a librarian or to become the director of the library at Hotchkiss. It has always been very fulfilling experience.
JM:What a wonderful thing it is. Thanks you so much for your time and your knowledge. I really appreciate it.
WM:You are very welcome. It is my pleasure.