Salem Spotlight with Terry Collins, Information Delivery and Archive Associate

JULIA JENNINGS

What is your official role here at Salem College, and what is your favorite part of the job?

My official role, according to the campus directory, is Information Delivery and Archive Associate. I manage the InterLibrary Loans and the Archives. And may I add, I’ve been at Salem 24 years. This semester is my fiftieth. I’m very glad of that. My favorite part of the job is the Archives. My favorite tasks are preserving/conserving material and organizing new collections. Also, I enjoy the day to day operations in the Archives: answering requests, receiving donations and the digitizations. One never knows what you’re going to find in box.  It’s like opening a present. And then, there are the service learning students, they’re great.

Have you always been interested in archival or bookbinding work?

I’ve always been interested in libraries and how things are made and work. Back in 1990, I took a book apart to take a look at the construction and was “hooked,” as the saying goes.

Where did you go for your degree, what did you study, and how do you think getting an undergraduate degree was different then?

I got my degree in botany from North Carolina State in 1980. Today, they call it plant biology. It was different from today in that there were no computers. I didn’t see a computer until I walked into the High Point Public Library, when the card catalog had been replaced. I thought, “well, this is different.” Also, I graduated in four years for about ten thousand dollars. That’s different from today. My freshman chemistry and biology classes had about 360 students each in the lectures. The professors wore a microphone.   

What was one of your most exciting or memorable moments from school?

For a year, I did graduate level genetic research on the herb basil. At that time science was unsure of the chromosome number.  We concluded it exhibited a condition known as polyploidy, in multiples of eleven: 11, 22, and 33. It was a research grant from RJ Reynolds Tobacco.

Did you keep in touch with your friends after graduating?

No. After graduation, everyone went their own way. There was no email or Facebook.

Working in the library must have its interesting moments; many students believe that it is haunted. What’s your take on these spooky rumors?

My take on this question is to answer like this: there are no ghosts in Gramley Library. After 24 years I think I would have seen something. I haven’t seen or heard anything that can’t be explained. The scariest thing I see is my reflection in the mirror.  

How did you come to work at Salem originally?

Oh, I came in a 1988 Buick.  🙂

Seriously, in 1993, I answered an ad for technical services that included book repair. Dr. Rose Simon hired me, and I’ve been here ever since. There have been a lot of tasks and changes over the years. I told Dr. Simon once that I’d like to stay around until I get the hang of the place.

What did you do before then?

I worked for and studied with a rare book conservator at a bindery in Greensboro.  Part of the job was traveling through the Circuit Courts in Virginia, surveying rare material for conservation. Before that, I managed a garden center for five years, during which time I received my master gardener certificate.  

How do you think Salem will change, or how do you hope it will change, in the next few years?

I hope the endowment grows and I hope the campus expands.  

On a more fun note: Do you have any pets at home?

Yes, I have three cats.  They’re all named Fang.

And if I may offer some advice to the students. Find your passion and live a life that reflects that with constructive, positive energy. And don’t be afraid to fail or make mistakes. Mistakes are NOT evidence of failure. Failure is an opportunity to learn, though sometimes it’s hard to see the lesson, I know. I tell my students, “Try. Fail. Try again. Fail better. Try again. Succeed”.

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