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Interview with Joanna Wright, March 31, 2006 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Title:
Interview with Joanna Wright, March 31, 2006
Date:
March 31, 2006
Description:
In this interview, Joanna Wright guides the listener through the implementation and evolution of internet access and utility at UNCW's Randall Library. After joining the staff of Randall Library in 1977, Wright played an instrumental role in bringing internet technology into the library and advocating its development and expansion.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Wright, Joanna Interviewer: Riggins, Adina Date of Interview: 3/31/2006 Series: Voices of UNCW Length 1 hour, 58 minutes

Riggins: ..1st, 2006. It's Friday. My name is Adina Riggins. I'm the University Archivist. I'm here today to do an oral history interview of a very special visitor, drove here from Raleigh. Please state your name for the tape.

Joanna Wright: Joanna Wright.

Riggins: Thank you, Joanna. I'm going to start off by asking you some background information and we will gradually learn about the important role that you have had here at UNCW and Randall Library. First, Joanna, could you please talk about your early days, where you were born and where you grew up?

Joanna Wright: Ah, glad to. I'm an eastern North Carolina person. I was born in Wallace, North Carolina about thirty-five miles up the road. My family for generations and generations had been from that area. And uhm.. my early childhood was spent there and over in Morehead City before it became a tourist area. It was just a little bump in the road, a little fishing village. And uh.. had a great time growing up on the beach there. And then went off to school. Now, you asked me in some email that we exchanged about Wilmington College, did I come here? Mom wanted me to come to Wilmington College, but it was very small in 1965, uhm.. much too small for somebody who had been in a small town for too long, and so I went to East Carolina. Uh.. it was East Carolina College at that point and uhm.. majored in geography. And when I finished, I moved to uh.. Burlington with my husband at that time and my idea was I would go into city planning, but that was also the same time period that all of the city managers decided that people needed to go through the new institute at Chapel Hill for city planning and they didn't want somebody with just that degree. So in desperation, looking for a job, I went to employment security and uhm.. the only thing that was available was a job in the public library. Well, I went over there to talk to them and they hired me. And this is a really strange place for me to show up because I was terrified of libraries. I did not grow up liking libraries. And I loved books, but libraries and librarians terrified me. Uhm.. and that goes back- and I think I can say this because it's been a long time and the people involved are no longer there, but the public library in Morehead City uhm.. was a very scary place. It was in the Civic Center and the librarian did not like children, okay? (Laughs). She really did not like children. And so when I wanted to borrow books from the library, I would walk downtown to the Civic Center and I could look in that corner and try to find her. And once I knew where she was or I'd wait till she came back to her office, then I would go to the side door and sneak up the stairs, get the books I want and leave. I didn't know that I should check them out, okay? (Laughs). I mean this was..

Riggins: You were too frightened to ask?

Joanna Wright: I was too frightened to ask. I heard her explode at kids and I would not- I would not go near her.

Riggins: So she was very serious about the library and management, and she thought...

Joanna Wright: Yes. And it- it had- it was not a place for children, okay? We should not be there. So I would- but I would bring my books back and did the same thing. I'd make sure I knew where she was and then I would run in, and I wouldn't go all the way upstairs; I would leave them on the banister and quickly leave. So it was very interesting that my first job out of college would be in a library. It was very unusual. Uhm.. I did enjoy it. I had a good time there. I learned a lot. Of course everything was Dewey Decimal System and it was uhm.. the May Memorial Library in Burlington had different branches. There was one in Graham and one in Mebane, and uhm.. because I seemed to pick up what I was doing and understand it and was helpful with people, they would send me to these branches to run them for the day by myself, and so I'd get to do a little bit of everything which is what I like. Uh.. geography majors and librarians have a lot in common in that they tend to be generalist and they tend to like information and like to provide information.

Riggins: I could say that we're dabblers.

Joanna Wright: (Laughs). Yes, we are dabblers and putterers.

Riggins: Dilettantes?

Joanna Wright: Yes. (Laughs). And it's just great fun. We- we have this- this way of wanting to look at information and organize it for people for different projects and things. And so uhm.. I stayed at May Memorial for oh, a little over a year and a position opened up at UNC Greensboro. So I thought mm, I'd like a bigger place than Burlington and so I went over and applied. And I had never seen the Library of Congress system, but uh.. Mildred Lee, who was head of circulation at that time, uh.. handed me a stack of cards and said, "Put these in order." I said, "Okay." Anyway, it made sense to me which..

Riggins: They were already using..

Joanna Wright: They were already using the Library of Congress and..

Riggins: Forward-thinking, right?

Joanna Wright: Yeah. (Laughs). Uh.. but once you see patterns, and that's what geographers do and that's- librarians, we see patterns, uhm.. it made sense and I ended up getting hired and that's where I met Arlene Hanerfeld who is also a uhm.. librarian here at UNC Wilmington. She and I go back to the early '70s at UNC Greensboro where we both worked in circulation and uhm.. both enjoyed the experience of uhm.. moving library collections and having to have additions built on and towers built on and making these mass moves. It was also..

Riggins: Wow.

Joanna Wright: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's a lot of background, right? (Laughs).

Riggins: Moving I feel like organizing the space and having that big picture is a real talent that managers need to have. Beth and Arlene had long careers as managers.

Joanna Wright: Yes, yes, yeah, which has been interesting.

Riggins: So there was a move going on at UNCG?

Joanna Wright: Um hmm, yes, we had to move everything into the ten-story tower. Uh.. and that was- that was a lot of fun. That was a lot of uh.. logistics and figuring out how do you move everything out of- of storage and- and very cramped spaces and explode it into a ten-story tower that makes sense. And uh.. it was a lot of fun to do that kind of thing. Uhm.. Arlene left I think a year before I did and moved to Wilmington and moved to UNC Wilmington. Uhm.. and I came down in 1977 to the campus and that was a interesting story and a lot of fun. Uh.. my (laughs).

Riggins: How you came to Wilmington.

Joanna Wright: How I came to Wilmington, yes, a short- a short history of how I came to Wilmington. Uhm.. by that time, I was married and my husband and I enjoyed Greensboro, but he had been there all of his life and he really hated the cold. And in 1977, we had an ice storm the 1st of January and that ice was still on the ground January 31st. I couldn't move my car out of the g- driveway. Fortunately, the library was a half mile away so I walked to work back and forth in the ice. And uh.. we were pretty sick of it. February came around and we came down to Wilmington to visit friends and loved it, so we decided in May we would come down and go camping for our anniversary. And after six days down here, we thought we really don't want to go back. We don't want to go back to Greensboro. We want to stay. And we decided well, let's go over to the campus and see if anything's there, any job's available. And I walked into the personnel office and I was reading the list, it was a very short list, but there was a position open in the library. And so I filled out an application and they said- they looked at it and they said, "Well, you've had quite a bit of experience in various things," 'cause I had moved up to the position of Library Technical Assistant at Gr- uh.. Greensboro. And they said uhm.. "We're gonna send you on over right now. Today is the last day for this job. It's closing today." And they called Betty Sue and Betty Sue said, "Yeah, send her over. I want to talk to her." So I came over and talked to Betty Sue Westbrook uh.. in the cataloguing department. And uhm.. as I'm walking into the library, I really didn't know what I was applying for. I had never been in the cataloguing department except to take stuff back to the group back there. Uh.. and I sat and talked with her and uhm.. the interview went very well. It went very well, but then I didn't hear from her for a while and I called and it turned out that Betty Sue's brother had been very ill and she had been out of town. And two days later, I get a call and they said, "We want you to move to Wilmington." I said, "I'm on my way."

Riggins: What department did you work in?

Joanna Wright: Circulation. Yes. (Laughs). So I started off in circulation and then went to cataloguing. Uhm.. it was a really interesting time because we put our house on the market and sold it before the for sale sign went in the yard and we packed up and moved and we were in Wilmington thirty days later. And so it was just a wild time, just a wild time. No, Wilmington and the university were so different. I've ha- I've had a short tour this morning and this is unbelievable what's happened.

Riggins: It is. I mean of course other universities have experienced growth, but they started from so much more.

Joanna Wright: Yeah.

Riggins: And they have so much of a longer history.

Joanna Wright: Right, right. And to come down here in '77, uhm.. first of all, College Road was two lane, okay, and you didn't come in on College Road. There was no I-40. The fast way down was to come 421, okay, which took forever. It took absolutely forever to get here. And the campus was very small, very friendly. Uh.. the library was half its size or less, yeah. (Laughs). And uhm.. I don't remember how many staff members we had at that time, but it was a small group and everybody did a lot of different things because you had to. We were generalist again. We didn't have the- the option of being specialist in too many things. Uhm.. when I joined the cataloguing department, we had- Betty Sue was the only professional librarian. Uh.. a month after I started work here, Deborah Bailey- uh.. Babel, Debbie Babel was hired and she was the second professional librarian. Uhm.. the three of us and two clerks were the entire staff, and because they were trying to get everything on OCLC, okay, this is how far back we go. We didn't even have our books in the system much less have terminals that students and faculty could use to find materials. Uhm.. there was just a tremendous backlog of materials that needed to get added to the online system uh.. for the country and uhm.. so we all did it. And I g- enjoyed it. I really was uh.. having a good time with that and got to the place where Betty Sue said, "Okay, you understand this. We're gonna let you just take this from scratch and build the record." I said, "Okay, I can do that." You know, it was- again, it's patterns. Adina, that's all it is. You have patterns and you have- have systems and you make it fit and you check here to see if it's gonna fit into our system and check there to make sure it fits in this system.

Riggins: Were you using OCLC for searching?

Joanna Wright: Um hmm, right, but at that time, OCLC was still young in 1977 so there were a lot of materials that were not in there and particularly some of our older literature books, fiction, there was no OCLC record. Somebody had to build it.

Riggins: The original..

Joanna Wright: Right, right. Now at that time, the- everybody's nightmare was that you'd go to OCLC and the only record there was from Wright State University.

Riggins: Why?

Joanna Wright: Oh, they did horrible cataloguing. (Laughs). It was- it was not good. It was not good. And I'm sorry if I offended anybody on that one, but it was really something that everybody said, "Oh no, it's a Wright State," because we couldn't create a duplicate record. We had to use that. So it got to be the place where okay, if there's not a record there, we're gonna build it before Wright State does, okay? (Laughs). So it was- it was an interesting situation to- to do that kind of thing. Uhm.. and I really enjoyed it. And uhm.. Gene Hugelet was our university li- uh.. librarian at that time.

Riggins: He started in '77 also.

Joanna Wright: Yes, yes. He started uh.. I think two months before I arrived.

Riggins: And you arrived sometime in the spring, March you said.

Joanna Wright: Well, no, uhm.. that was when- I didn't start here until- let's see. We were on vacation in May and I started in June, the end of June. Yeah.

Riggins: End of June? Okay.

Joanna Wright: Yeah, yeah, the end of June in 1977 and Gene came uh.. a couple of months before I did and Debbie Babel came the month after I did so there was this group coming in of- of new people uh.. which was a lot of..

Riggins: Outsiders.

Joanna Wright: Outsiders and uh.. bring some excitement and it- were coming in from different locations and different experiences.

Riggins: And finally getting some people. I mean I know chronically understaffed still.

Joanna Wright: Yeah, yeah, yeah, chronically understaffed and- and so they were finally getting some people in here and it was really a good thing. And UNC Wilmington was not a huge school so, you know, librarians getting out of college, they didn't really necessarily want to come down here. It was kind of the end of the earth. Uh.. without I-40, the beach hadn't exploded and so it was a real uhm.. it was a comfortable homey beach and a comfortable small town atmosphere and it did not draw people from across the country.

Riggins: It probably reminded you of Morehead City.

Joanna Wright: It did. It definitely did. It reminded me of Morehead.

Riggins: It does now in terms of geography.

Joanna Wright: Yeah, yeah. They're very different, very, very different. (Laughs). But it was nice to get back to the beach. But uhm.. but uhm.. Gene came in and uhm.. about the second year I was there, let's see, no, it would have been '79, Gene started talking to me about, "Well, we're gonna be growing here and have you considered going to library school?" See Arlene went the year before. He had talked to Arlene and said, "You know, you're really good at this. You might want to think about going to library school." And so Arlene had gone off to- to Chapel Hill and had come back and when jobs opened, she applied and- and they hired her. And so then Gene thought it was my turn, that he ought to uh.. see if I wanted to go off to college. And I said, "Yeah, that sounds like a good idea." And at that time, uhm.. this is another long story and I- if I'm- if I'm missing your questions, (laughs) I'm sorry.

Riggins: You're the easiest interviewee I've had in a long time.

Joanna Wright: Oh, I have a lot of t- a lot of tall tales to tell. But uhm.. my husband and I had been trying to have children and not successful at it and the doctors had said, you know, "Just go on to school," you know? "Maybe it- maybe something will happen at that point." I had had to go through some surgery also for this and we'd gone through ferti- fertility clinics and they said, "Just give up on it and go to college." So I s- told Gene, "Yeah, I'm ready to go back." So I applied and Carolina said, "Come on up," and I got to- internship over in the cataloguing department uhm.. working with Joe Hewitt and group and I thought, "Well, this will be fun. You know, I'll just spend a year up here and have a great time."

Riggins: Be with all these young people.

Joanna Wright: With all these young people that by that time I was the ripe old age of what, thirty-two. I thought I was really old. (Laughs). So, but uhm.. I started class, moved up there, started class, and uhm.. first day we're all in there getting our assignments and all and I had to leave and go over to the hospital for an ultrasound and turns out I'm pregnant. Gene- the- (laughs) the first day of class, I'm pregnant. (Laughs). And Gene had told me that I have one year to do this. Now, it- Arlene needed the full year also. They were trying to move it into everybody does- does it in two years so that you do things a little bit more leisurely and you don't pack your schedule. But I had a one-year leave of absence so I knew I had to do all of this in one year. I've never been so organized in my entire life because all of a sudden, I knew I had to get through a Master's paper, I had to get through all of my classes, and have a baby. And I looked at the calendar and it looked like Katie would be born about spring break if I was lucky. So I'm looking ahead. It's- it's August. I've got until April to get this paper done. So within the second week of class, I'm already working on what my topic's gonna be and working with who my advisor's gonna be and trying to line up all of that. (Laughs). I did most of my research over Christmas break. Uhm.. I did a- a survey on what it was going to take for uhm.. the Wilson Library at Chapel Hill to re-catalogue all of their serials for AAC- AA..

Riggins: AACR2?

Joanna Wright: AACR2. Thank you. I've been out of cataloguing for a while. What it was gonna- what was gonna be involved, how much time it was gonna take, how- what it was gonna do in terms of having to uhm.. reshelf and move everything. Uhm.. and it was quite a- quite an interesting study, but it was something that I could gather the data and do my statistics and pull my samples and that kind of thing and do it all on the floor. Mind you, I spread it out everywhere and I had- I was mapping things, geography again, I'm mapping everything on the floor. (Laughs). But it allowed me to do my study and finish. And I turned that paper in on April the 3rd. Almost immediately, my body started relaxing and a week later my daughter was born. Uh.. (laughs) I had worked out with the- the university that I would- would take- I did one class, I finished up before I took off. Another class, they sent me my exam to do and so we made it work. We made it work. I was actually uh.. at Duke University the day before she was born on a tour with their rare book uh.. librarian and- and collection . It was- it was good, but it was..

Riggins: The day before she was born?

Joanna Wright: The day before she was born. (Laughs). But like I said, we had everything lined up. Now, for the summer, I set it up so that I could do my literature classes that uh.. needed to be done and the way we worked that was my husband stayed- he was a teacher at that time, so he came up and he spent the summer up there taking care of our daughter. And he would pack me off for school in the morning, I would come back at five, and while I played with our daughter and took care of her, he read the books to me. And so we made it through this. (Laughs).

Riggins: You had summer school?

Joanna Wright: Yes, yes.

Riggins: And the rest of the spring semester?

Joanna Wright: Yes, yes.

Riggins: Oh, my gosh.

Joanna Wright: Yeah, but we did it. It wa- it was quite a collection. It was- it was a time management item for me, it really was. And how can you fit all of this in and get back in a year? And uhm.. as a..

Riggins: One calendar year.

Joanna Wright: Yes, (laughs) in one calendar year. (Laughs).

Riggins: It sounds like your daughter was born in 1980?

Joanna Wright: My daughter was born in April of 1981.

Riggins: '81?

Joanna Wright: '81 yes, yes. And uh.. it was really good. We've always joked that she went to Carolina before uhm.. and got her graduate degree before she did her undergraduate.

Riggins: That's for sure.

Joanna Wright: And she- she loves the pictures of her in her Carolina blue uhm.. diaper covers and this kind of stuff because she majored in chem- chemical engineer- engineering at NC State so all of her friends really like those. We've uh.. drug 'em out before and they're- they're good fun. But uhm.. I got back within a year and Gene told me, "You can have a couple of more months off. You're not quite ready to come back." I was so relieved (laughs) because I really was not ready. I was not ready. And so I came back in October and had to go back into the cataloguing department for a while 'cause there were no job openings at that point. And uhm.. I was back there for maybe five months I think it was before they were able to hire another (break in tape) librarian. And so I applied for that and they said, "Come on out. We're gonna take you out here now." So now I've been in circulation, I've been in cataloguing, I've been in uhm.. reference.

Riggins: That sounds like Arlene.

Joanna Wright: Yes. (Laughs).

Riggins: And I think that's such a legacy of this university and people who have been here awhile are still that way and the people who are newer have to learn to be that way.

Joanna Wright: Yeah, yeah. Oh, and it's so much more interesting.

Riggins: Oh, yeah.

Joanna Wright: Yeah. I'll never die of boredom. I mean that's the whole idea is to just keep moving and keep learning and keep, you know, getting..

Riggins: Challenging yourself.

Joanna Wright: Yeah, yeah, and getting in there. So uh.. the first day I was out there, uh.. I was not very comfortable with it. Okay, what am I supposed to be doing, because even in- in graduate school, I kept thinking I want to go back to cataloguing. I really enjoy that. I enjoy analyzing and trying to figure out where things go and how to make them accessible to people. Oh, one other story I ought to tell you about graduate school.

Riggins: Excuse me just one moment. Do you mind if we take a little break?

Joanna Wright: Yeah.

Riggins: I think at one point I jostled the screen, so I want to make sure it's straight. Hold on just a moment.

Joanna Wright: Okay. Okay, one more graduate school story. Uhm.. when I was doing my work in the lab there with computers, we were using keypunch cards, and I wish I had one to just hold up for people that have no clue what those look like, but we would spend time in the lab and- and uh.. we were really fortunate. I meant to ask Arlene the name of the guy that we had at Chapel Hill for systems.

Riggins: Was it Dr. Holly?

Joanna Wright: No, not- he- Dean Holly was there, but there was a guy- it was a guy that went to OCLC.

Riggins: Yes.

Joanna Wright: Yes, it was only H I made in- in library school was with him because he had us- he had us do a flowchart of something that we would like to see happen within libraries and I said, "I want to be able to search by call number."

Riggins: But that was considered a dream.

Joanna Wright: Yeah.

Riggins: That was very visionary.

Joanna Wright: Yeah. I wanted to search back- well, and that went back to my cataloguing experience because that was an area that we needed to be able to find. What- what do we already have here and uhm.. besides using the shelf list. And that was uhm.. one of my projects. I had to do a flowchart. Well, the thing went on forever. But he also had us do in our programming in PL1 which was just a nightmare and we would be keypunching. And of course you can't see anything on that card and you take this stack of cards back to the people in the back and hand it to them and they ran it through this humungous machine.

Riggins: The people on the west coast with the mainframe.

Joanna Wright: That the people in the- (laughs) that's right. And you were lucky if things came out. Uh.. but that was my first round with computers and I liked it. I liked the idea of being able to manipulate data and play with it and design. And d- I knew that if I could put it in a flowchart, we could do it with a computer. And I think that's where I became a pain for a lot of other people when they were doing systems. And I said, "No, I know you can do it because you can break this down to yes, no, yes, no, and why can't we do this?" And those were- those were questions that..

Riggins: Make the machine do it.

Joanna Wright: Yes. (Laughs).

Riggins: We can make the machine do it.

Joanna Wright: That's right. And programmers, oh, they'd roll their eyes and go, "No, no, no, not.."

Riggins: 'Cause they know it could be done, but they'd have to write the code.

Joanna Wright: They'd have to write the code. They'd have to figure it out. And..

Riggins: 'Cause you couldn't buy the software then.

Joanna Wright: Yeah, you couldn't buy the software. It did not exist. So anyway..

Riggins: I'm trying to think of that fellow, was he one of the founders of OCLC? There's someone who comes to Chapel Hill, he's actually at Chapel Hill now and I can't remember. I've heard him speak. He's probably like ninety-seven now.

Joanna Wright: Probably.

Riggins: Yeah, I've heard him speak, but I'll think of that name.

Joanna Wright: Yeah, yeah, I can't think of his name either, but he had a mind. He was wonderful and people were terrified of him. And I thought no.

Riggins: Kilbourne?

Joanna Wright: No, no, not him, but he worked with Kilbourne. Uhm.. so anyway, well, we really moved off a bit. Okay, I'm back in reference. Okay, I'm back in reference.

Riggins: Okay, back in reference at UNCW.

Joanna Wright: Yes, UNCW.

Riggins: The university was just growing.

Joanna Wright: Yeah.

Riggins: They were adding faculty and students at this time.

Joanna Wright: Yeah, yeah, right, but we still didn't have computers and uh.. but we were starting to do instructional programs. How about that? Is that not novice? (Laughs). That was a new thing and it was not done by all the faculty yet or all the..

Riggins: Bibliographic instruction?

Joanna Wright: Bibliographic instruction. And I had been there for a week and they said, "We need you to teach this class." And I'm going I'm not a teacher. I'm not a ch- how in the world am I gonna do this? I am not a teacher. And I was really in a panic over it. And uhm.. Donna Summer- not Donna Summers, that's the singer. (Laughs). No, Deborah uh.. her last name was Summers. She was here a long time ago. She took me aside, she said, "Don't worry about it. You know more about this subject than they do."

Riggins: Deborah Summers. There were a lot of Debbies here and there still are.

Joanna Wright: Yeah, yeah, there still are. And I thought, you know, she's right. These are freshmen and sophomores that I'm being asked to talk to and it's about things that I know about. I can do this. Well, I thoroughly enjoyed it, I really did, and it- it- again, it's knowing systems and it's- being a librarian is about knowing how information is put together and being able to figure out how to translate it for the user so that they can see a pattern and do their own research. And I love doing that. You know, in all the career and I'll- I'll bounce forward a bit here, in all my careers, uh.. some of 'em have been a little hard to explain to people and I look at 'em and I say, "You know, basically, I'm still a reference librarian. I still enjoy making sure that I get the information that people need to them in a format that they can use. That's it." And that's- and even today, that's what I still do uhm.. and it's fun.

Riggins: And you're not afraid to design systems.

Joanna Wright: No, no, no. I'm definitely not afraid (laughs) to design systems. If what we have doesn't work, I'll ask for somebody to change it or- or to- to make it happen. What do we need? We don't have to stay just in this channel. If this doesn't work, throw it out. Get something new. And- and uhm.. I did the instruction part for a while and then one day Gene said, "I need to talk to you about something." And I'm going okay, 'cause Gene apparently had figured out that I get bored if I- if things become routine. And I don't like being a manager. I really don't. I..

Riggins: You don't?

Joanna Wright: No. I enjoy designing and figuring out how to make something work and I like setting it up and then I like- then I'm through with it. I'm ready for the next one. (Laughs).

Riggins: I see. But as far as..

Joanna Wright: Day to day management? No, no.

Riggins: In a very highly-developed system?

Joanna Wright: No, I'm through with it. I'm bored.

Riggins: Interesting. Well a lot of visionary people I find relay that problem. Well, I call it a problem.

Joanna Wright: (Laughs). I don't- I don't see myself as visionary; I see myself as uhm.. somebody else has been visionary and I take that idea and expand it to something workable and then I'm through. Uh.. then somebody else has to deal with uh.. the next step because I can't. You know, I just uh.. am through with it. But anyway, Gene called me in and he said, "Over in the School of Education, they've got a problem and they- they need their curriculum library developed into a real library. I want you to go over there, talk to the faculty, find out what they really are after, what they really want, talk to the students, take a look around over there, see what needs to be done." And I went into the old King Hall next door and that room was packed, absolutely packed to the ceilings with books everywhere in boxes in no order because they all come in at once and there was one person over there and she's supposed to keep this stuff going?

Riggins: And she was not trained?

Joanna Wright: No, no. She was not a librarian.

Riggins: A Novice?

Joanna Wright: Yeah, and she did the best she could with- with what- the training that she had and with the way things would come in and with the way people used her time, okay, but it needed to be redone. And after long discussions with uh.. faculty over there, they were. And you have to think about what they were teaching at the time and they were very much into uhm.. reading was a big item and making sure we had everything available by reading levels and in sets and- and make sure we've got this and that, and the kids need examples of lesson plans and we need this. And, you know, it was- it was quite an undertaking. And so, you know, I- I took all of that information back and I- I came over and I talked with uhm.. Barbara Legana. She was the cataloguer at that time. Well, the last thing in the world she wanted at that time was to catalogue that collection because she was swamped. (Laughs). We were cataloguing serials, okay? (Laughs). Yeah.

Riggins: Which was a big deal, and lots of libraries said, "No way. We're not gonna do that."

Joanna Wright: That's right, we weren't there yet. And she was also cataloguing the AV collection which had never been catalogued and which desperately needed to be catalogued. So it was just this overwhelming amount of material, so no, we can't bring them into Randall and catalogue them. So I started doing research on different classification systems, what's available. And the U.S. Department of Education had developed a uhm.. scheme for classifying uh.. textbooks.

Riggins: And how did you do this research? Of course there was no internet then.

Joanna Wright: (Laughs). No, there was no internet, but we had- we had the microfiche. We had ERIC and the manual, uh.. the books format that you had to use.

Riggins: Indexes.

Joanna Wright: Um hmm, yeah.

Riggins: And then you probably wrote to the Department of Education for some information maybe?

Joanna Wright: Uh.. no, we had it on microfiche. We did have it on microfiche. Now, we did have some online searching. And I'll digress. Don't let me get too far off of this though. We did do online searching. We did the Dialog searches. So we could connect to the ERIC database. It was through a telephone uh.. line, uh.. three hundred baud.

Riggins: Imagine that.

Joanna Wright: Yes, can you imagine that? I mean even our uh.. we went from three hundred, then we went to twelve hundred, twenty-four hundred, uhm.. then basically..

Riggins: Fifty-six.

Joanna Wright: Fifty-six, yeah. So three hundred, and it was an acoustical coupler so that you made your dial and you put it into this holder and it connected with the Dialog uhm.. system. And you would have to be typing out and you weren't sure whether it was getting all of your information. It was- it was a lot of fun. It was- (laughs) it was fun.

Riggins: Well, I mean to you, that was how it was.

Joanna Wright: Yeah, yeah.

Riggins: And it was all text-based.

Joanna Wright: That's right. There were- no, there wasn't even a screen to look at. I mean it was really- you're just sitting there and you feel like you're blind, you're shooting it blind.

Riggins: And then it would come back on like a sort of on a..

Joanna Wright: On a printout.

Riggins: A printout.

Joanna Wright: Um hmm. Yup, yup, you got the printout of- of your search so that you could see, you know, what you had there. So we were able to do- to search ERIC like that and bring it in.

Riggins: Oh, it's wonderful. I'm trying to think, there used to be a way to communicate. It wasn't fax but I did.

Joanna Wright: The teletype?

Riggins: The teletype.

Joanna Wright: Yes. (Laughs).

Riggins: (Inaudible).

Joanna Wright: Yeah, that's exactly.

Riggins: Yeah.

Joanna Wright: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it's dark ages- dark age- we actually had the monks in the back room that was doing that. (Laughs). No, it wasn't that long ago, but it was- it was pretty far back. Uhm.. so we were able to get the information and look at it and realize okay, this makes sense, because the way the faculty referred to the textbooks they wanted the students to use, it worked. We could divide it up by the- the category, the- the subject and the- the level and the publisher. I mean that- they would send them over, get such and such book, and it was by publisher and grade level. So that had to be part of the call number. So we did a modification and prepared it. And so..

Riggins: And you also felt that this was something that you could do with somebody's help and not use the catalogue librarian.

Joanna Wright: Uh hmm. Right, right, it was something that we could do in-house. And actually, the uhm.. current Curriculum Materials Center uh.. director, Catherine- I started to say Catherine Noel [ph?], hey Catherine, uh.. (laughs).

Riggins: Catherine Noel _______________.

Joanna Wright: Yes, yes. She was one of my student assistants. Yes.

Riggins: Yes, I know, along with June who I have spoken with.

Joanna Wright: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, June and I have been together for many, many years on projects and uh.. it was really good to see her this morning. But- and I had several other assistants. I don't know how many hours of time we had in there, but there was a steady flow of student assistants that came in to type cards, catalogue cards for all of these books.

Riggins: So did you create a manual for them to follow?

Joanna Wright: Um hmm. Yup, yup.

Riggins: And did they do subject cards?

Joanna Wright: Yes, yes, they did subject cards, they did- series cards was a big one.

Riggins: Okay. Oh, for the publishers.

Joanna Wright: Right, right, for those- for those publishers. And uh.. so we did all of that and we developed a card catalogue that they could use. We did the- we dumped file cabinets, literally dumped them out to see what was usable and what wasn't and developed a system. Okay, what is it people are asking for? Wh- how are they asking for it? Because uh.. teachers need stuff, okay, and they need samples and they needed samples of activities. And all of these things kept coming into the lab. What do you do with it? How do you make it available? Well, we ended up with a cross-reference for this, which leads me to the next bit of technology that we brought into (laughs) the lab, but I'll- I'll have to wait for that. Uhm.. but we did that with all the testing, with everything in there and built a library out of it. Now, this was still over in King Hall and- and they had a lot of problems with the flat roof, okay? And so we would have panels that would drop out of the ceiling and we uh.. we had a very ingenious way of dealing with that. We bought some hanging plants and hung them. We just didn't even bother to replace those panels anymore. We just took the hanging plants and hung them in there and let them get watered that way. You know, it just (laughs) it was better than the options that we had, so uh.. that worked. And we turned it into a very homey, user-friendly place that..

Riggins: Was the dean glad you were there?

Joanna Wright: Yes, yes. Dean Harkin was very glad we were there, yes. Yes, he was very glad we were. Now, it didn't match up with everybody's style because there were some- uh.. well, it's like with any system. Some of the faculty had been able to use it the other way and find everything they wanted. A lot of the other faculty couldn't find anything so those people were now happy. The original ones weren't because they were no longer in the box that they left 'em in over in the corner. So- but, you know, you work around that.

Riggins: You have to.

Joanna Wright: Yeah. But overall, I think that the students were very happy with it and that most of the faculty were happy with it. And the ones that weren't totally happy with it understood that we were trying to work and do the best we could and we were open to suggestions. What can we do to make this work for you? And we did a lot of presentations for classes, we did uh.. whatever was needed. And it was- it was a great time. Now, during all of this, Randall Library is expanding and uhm.. the question comes up should we move the curriculum center to Randall Library? And at that point, we needed to because we could have more space over here, we would have a drier room, and we could have more computers. And I was very much into computers. I wanted that kind of access here for the kids. So we moved everything over. We loaded it on carts and for days seemed to bring things over and move it into the back room on the second floor. And..

Riggins: This was the move. We have a model of the library over there.

Joanna Wright: Okay, okay.

Riggins: Around '85 was the proposal.

Joanna Wright: Yeah.

Riggins: And then I suppose that it was completed right around then.

Joanna Wright: Yeah, I don't know..

Riggins: I don't know the right time.

Joanna Wright: I know. I would too. I have no clue anymore (laughs) on that. But we moved in and uh.. it was a really good setup. Uh.. it was not con- as convenient for the faculty and that was not good. I mean there were tradeoffs. There were some big tradeoffs. The good part is that we did have the auditorium right next door so that we could hold classes and we set things up so that we could work with the faculty that way. They enjoyed the fact that they could- they- there was more room, we could add more things, and we really did. We really grew that collection. We had a lot of uhm.. AV materials out there, hands-on materials for the kids, and we introduced more computers. We had the terminals so they could search the Randall Library at the same time. We had the children's collection for Randall right outside the door and that's something that we didn't have over in King Hall. So there were some benefits. Again, the benefits were more in favor of the students than the faculty. Uh.. we just couldn't do both and we did the best we could with that. But we did bring in uhm.. (laughs) we brought in a computer for the second floor. Gene let me buy uh.. a microcomputer with a uhm.. disk backup, okay, the first one on campus.

Riggins: Oh, really?

Joanna Wright: Yes.

Riggins: This is using DOS maybe, MS-DOS?

Joanna Wright: Oh- oh yeah, everything was in DOS which was great fun. I still prefer DOS. But uh.. if I can't have UNIX, I want DOS, (laughs) okay? But uh.. this had a tape where you used a tape just like you could in the- the uh.. video camera. Uh.. we had a tape drive and it was the first microcomputer with a tape drive on campus. And we'd do backups nightly so that all this material that we were entering in which was our entire vertical file, all of that was now indexed so that people could get to it.

Riggins: What were you using to enter the vertical file then? Word processing files or was it a spreadsheet?

Joanna Wright: Uh.. no, it wasn't a spreadsheet. It was a database. We were using uh.. DB3, yeah, yeah, DB3. And uhm.. I'm still using DB, but it's DB4 now for GIS stuff that I do. Uhm.. but we were using uh.. DB3 and we were building a database that could be searched uh.. so that if people wanted anything on this particular topic, they could find their AVs.

Riggins: You were doing this in the mid '80s, let's say '87 or so?

Joanna Wright: Yeah.

Riggins: Well, Catherine would have started here- she would have graduated in- I think she graduated in '89.

Joanna Wright: Right.

Riggins: But she didn't graduate in '87.

Joanna Wright: Right, right.

Riggins: So she was doing some of this?

Joanna Wright: Uh huh, oh yeah, yeah, yeah.

Riggins: As a student entering into databases.

Joanna Wright: Um hmm, yes, yes. (Laughs).

Riggins: That's great. Not everyone on campus was doing that, that's for sure.

Joanna Wright: No, no, and even some of the st- even some of the staff that I was working with were not sure they wanted to be doing it either. (Laughs). But they did it and they learned. And uhm.. we used that material. About that time- well, okay, let me tell you how big that disk drive was. Ten megabits, ten, ten.

Riggins: Which was considered huge.

Joanna Wright: Oh, it was huge, absolutely huge.

Riggins: Definitely. 'Cause people said well, that's ten thousand twice.

Joanna Wright: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Riggins: In bytes of characters.

Joanna Wright: I know. I know. They were uh.. but we didn't have graphics in there. It was just words, just words. And so that was uh.. a really neat uhm.. system and a really neat advantage. We couldn't get too many of the students to use the system so we'd do the searches for them. And that was okay, whatever it took. It made it easier for us. We were able to give them more materials and give them access to it.

Riggins: And these were the indexes to the vertical file and there was an index to children's magazines?

Joanna Wright: Um hmm. Yes, there was an index to children's magazines. Yeah, yeah, we indexed everything in there and uh.. so that they could just retrieve it __________.

Riggins: And did you train students to do the indexing?

Joanna Wright: Yeah.

Riggins: See that's great.

Joanna Wright: Oh, yeah.

Riggins: So you used the students to the highest level.

Joanna Wright: Absolutely, absolutely. My- my whole thing in every job I've had I've always strived to be totally replaceable. That way there's a lot less pressure. So I train people to do anything that they have an interest in or- yeah, yeah, it's like, "Okay, come on. You can- sure. There's nothing to it. Here's how you do it." (Laughs). And you- and you give them a sheet of instructions, "Just follow this and you can do this." Yeah.

Riggins: And they were trained to do cataloguing.

Joanna Wright: Yeah, yeah.

Riggins: And to find the classification numbers.

Joanna Wright: Right, right. It's patterns and you just work with it, yeah.

Riggins: Working with people being a supervisor.

Joanna Wright: Yes, yes. And uh.. I had a lot of people stay with me for a long- a long time too (laughs) 'cause they could learn, yeah, yeah. It was a lot of fun. But about that time, there were various systems popping up across the state. MicroNet out of Western Carolina was one of the first that offered a dial-up system. All these uhm.. electronic bulletin board systems were coming in and MicroNet out of Western Carolina offered resources for teachers across the state. And you could dial into their system and uh.. with a modem on your computer and see, you know, what was available, what kind of resources were there. And so we made a uhm.. we became partners with them basically and started adding our materials to their system so that people knew what was available here too all the way down- they were particularly interested in lesson plans that were available for sharing and activities and we just would get in there and- and enter 'em.

Riggins: Type, transcribe.

Joanna Wright: Yeah. Um hmm, um hmm, because we couldn't do a data transfer. We had to re- yeah, and do this again. (Laughs). But it was- it worked. It worked.

Riggins: Well, lesson plans were developed by..?

Joanna Wright: By the students going through the education department. Um hmm.

Riggins: So you kept files of them.

Joanna Wright: We kept files of 'em, the ones that the faculty thought were, you know, really good examples, we would keep them.

Riggins: Do they still do that?

Joanna Wright: I have no idea. (Laughs). I don't- I don't do that anymore.

Riggins: Did you, were there other curriculum material centers throughout the state that you communicated with?

Joanna Wright: Yes, yes. And as a matter of fact, that was one of the uh.. when I was working with the North Carolina Library Association, I was on the technical resources uhm.. committee and uhm.. received a grant to develop a guide to the curriculum materials centers across the state and what they offered and didn't offer. And yeah, we did a survey of all the resources that were out there for teachers. Yeah, yeah. That was a- man, that was a long time ago. That probably needs to be really updated. Uhm.. but let's see. Where did we go from- from there, we started adding more computers, but we finally got a computer downstairs in reference, our first TRS-80. (Laughs).

Riggins: Talk to me about that. What did that have?

Joanna Wright: Oh, that was a big chunky thing. (Laughs).

Riggins: It was DOS I'm sure.

Joanna Wright: Oh, yes, DOS.

Riggins: Two floppy disk drives.

Joanna Wright: Two flop- mm, did it have two? It may have only had one. No, it had to have had two because we had to put the program in and then we..

Riggins: One for DOS.

Joanna Wright: Yeah, yeah.

Riggins: And one for the..

Joanna Wright: Yeah. And uh..

Riggins: Well, I remember those days.

Joanna Wright: Oh. (Laughs).

Riggins: Still in my lifetime.

Joanna Wright: But that was a lot of fun and Sue and Arlene and I used to look at that thing and go, "Okay, what are we gonna do with this?" And Paul Hosier, who I understand is now the Provost here was uh..

Riggins: Yes. He is now the Chancellor of Academic Affairs.

Joanna Wright: He was a godsend. If Paul had not been around to- to help us with this thing..

Riggins: He was always interested in microcomputers. His field was biology of course.

Joanna Wright: Yeah, yeah. And uh.. he was in the biology department at that time and uhm.. he said, "Yeah, I'll help you all get this thing set up and give you some basic.."

Riggins: And who was it who acquired it?

Joanna Wright: How did we get that thing? We talked Gene into it, you know? (Laughs). We ganged up on Gene I should say. We- we talked Gene into this. And he said, "Okay, yeah, there are some possibilities," 'cause there were some things he wanted us to be doing that we did not and could not get done on a typewriter, okay?

Riggins: It was for their computers in circulation at this point?

Joanna Wright: No, no, no.

Riggins: Outside of cataloguing and curriculum material center?

Joanna Wright: That one may have been- the TRS-80 was there before the curriculum materials because we got it while we still had the half library, before we had the addition on it. Okay, yeah, my time sequences are slightly out there.

Riggins: That's fine. But you had the ERIC one, the one for searching ERIC?

Joanna Wright: Well, that wasn't a computer. That was literally the acoustical coupler (laughs) line.

Riggins: Forgive me. I was technologically absurd.

Joanna Wright: That was a communication- that was a communication device, but it was- it was more like a teletype than a- than a computer, yeah.

Riggins: I see. And then the Apple 2E you got was after?

Joanna Wright: Yeah, and that went to Gene's office and Frankie used that. And then slowly, we got computers in this library. I mean kicking and screaming, we got computers in here.

Riggins: You had to fight for them.

Joanna Wright: Oh, yeah, yeah. And that was one of the things that uhm.. well, now that's where another item on your list came from, the microcomputer users network thing uh.. that Arlene reminded me, "Oh, yeah, you were in that. Remember, you..?" I didn't remember the name of it.

Riggins: She said, "Was it called MUDNIK [ph?]?"

Joanna Wright: MUDNIK, yeah something like that. I didn't remember the name of it, but yes, this was a group of you- this enabled me to get involved with the internet at an early timeslot uhm.. because at Microcomputer Users Group we had meetings up in uh.. in MCNC and that area. George Brett was part of CNIDER [ph?], the Center for Networked Information and Retrieval. And uhm.. anyway, I went to meetings up there and met Brewster Kale who invented WAIS, the Wide Area Information Service. It- it was a- it's a search engine that does keyword searching fast and it's actually a prototype for what they did with other keyword searching. Uhm.. the Encyclopedia Britannica used it, a lot of big groups have used it because it- it literally is a very fast system. But we got into that and all of a sudden, up- when I would go to- up to those meetings, they had an access to this stuff I hadn't seen before because we had BITNET down here. And I did have a BITNET account that I- I had wrangled. (Laughs). And uhm.. they were talking about the various resources that were out on the internet and I realized they were just gonna use this keyword search thing. And I said, "That is so inefficient. You can't do it like that." I got involved in a project with them whereby I would catalogue the resources on the internet and they built a template for me so that I did the META tags for all those resources and then that was put through the WAIS system for indexing so that we could do a keyword search faster.

Riggins: And can you imagine, you tried to talk about this to some people and it was like no.

Joanna Wright: I couldn't even talk to myself about it sometimes. And they gave me an account on the MCNC system because they were playing with virtual reality. And George says, "You've got to see this. You've got to see this." And I- and I kept playing with it and pa- I said, "George, it's just showing me text." He said, "What are you using?" I said, "I've got this dumb terminal on my desk." He said, "You- (laughs) you're kidding me." (Laughs). I said..

Riggins: He said, "You need a PC."

Joanna Wright: He said, "You need a Macintosh." And I said, "I don't have a Macintosh. We don't have one in the library." Uh.. he was floored, absolutely floored that I would actually manage to find my way into rooms in the virtual reality and I was chatting from time to time, but I couldn't see a darn thing. And I thought what is so great about this? (Laughs). It was- it was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun.

Riggins: It sounds like it. It sounds like the Wild West.

Joanna Wright: Yeah. Yeah, it was. It was a frontier that we hadn't been in yet. And uhm..

Riggins: Let's talk a bit about the computer in reference. You got it.

Joanna Wright: Yes.

Riggins: Fighting and..

Joanna Wright: Fighting. We got that- that- yes. And we- we started doing publications. Uh.. Sue and I did Randall's Recent References. (Laughs). It was our way of letting the faculty know about new things that had been added to the reference collection. And we'd do these I think it was once a month.

Riggins: Bulletins basically?

Joanna Wright: Yeah, basically. It was one-page bulletins that you had to mail out. There was no email, so you had to mail 'em out.

Riggins: But still, the fact that you could print 'em out and you had a printer I guess?

Joanna Wright: Right. Yeah. Yes, yes.

Riggins: And you'd have to type it and make photocopies and all that?

Joanna Wright: Yeah, yeah. Oh yeah, yeah. It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun.

Riggins: Arlene was telling me that Dr. Hosier came over and trained you guys on how to- just taking it out of the box and turning it on.

Joanna Wright: Yeah. We knew nothing about it. We knew we needed one and we knew that we wanted to do this, but as in so many other things too, yeah, we could read all the manuals. Not me. I don't read manuals uh.. which is really (laughs) bad. And I probably shouldn't have put that on the tape. Uhm.. but we knew Paul already knew how to do this and that if we could get him to come over for a couple of hours, he could show us the basics.

Riggins: This was before the new building?

Joanna Wright: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah. This was really early.

Riggins: Like maybe '83 or something, yeah.

Joanna Wright: You know, if you talk to Arlene and Sue about thi- and some of the other ones, they'll tell you that same- that we were ahead a l- of a lot of people in the state. They weren't doing this. And they had more- we thought they had more resources. But it was because we were able to talk to Gene and say, "If we could have this, we can do this." And he'd say, "Oh, okay. That sounds good," because he..

Riggins: He was open to it.

Joanna Wright: He was open to that because he could see that it would benefit our faculty and students. And once we made a case for that, we could generally get him to go along with it. And so that was a lot of fun. H- he would find the money to do these things and let us get out there and develop. And yeah, in other places in the state they didn't have Gene. We did. (Laughs). And so that was good. That was really good.

Riggins: And did Gene listen to his faculty when it was reasonable?

Joanna Wright: Yeah. He did and he was- particularly when the internet came along, when- when we got to that point, he was- he realized. I could go down there and even though I couldn't talk to him about some of the thing- couldn't verbalize some of the things we were doing, he could understand that okay, this can put us on a cutting edge. It was like when we tried to get- I wanted teachers in our community to have email accounts. I wanted them to be able to get on these chats with kids across the country and outside of the country that we were starting to hear about this.

Riggins: This was in the mid '80s?

Joanna Wright: This was late '80s and we were finally able to get accounts for the teachers after the first Gulf War. The reason for that was because it became so- it was in the news so much about other teachers communicating and their kids communicated with kids over in Israel and the discussions going back and forth. This was making headlines. And I said, "Gene, we need to be doing this." He said, "Go talk to George Quinn and see if he can get.." (laughs).

Riggins: Who was he?

Joanna Wright: George Quinn was the Director of Academic uh.. Computer Services and George wasn't too sure about all this, but J- uh.. Jim Leutze had come in by that time as Chancellor and he was uhm.. more open to that. Long story, because of that, because of the Gulf War, we were able to get teachers in our community having access to uh.. the internet. And this again took place before uhm.. it happened in a lot of the state and that was '91. Now, teaching teachers to d- use that was a different story. (Laughs). I did a lot of tours of uh.. classrooms and media centers and just getting out there working with them on how you do this and how do you talk. A- and a lot of 'em picked it up. We did have some real shining examples in- in this county.

Riggins: And they got email accounts through the university?

Joanna Wright: Through the university, um hmm, yup.

Riggins: And so you all could request email accounts, but you had to ask for it. Is that right?

Joanna Wright: Yeah, yeah. You had to ask for it and you had to need it. You had to justify a need for it. (Laughs).

Riggins: I remember I did that in 1990 at my college. I'd heard about it through a friend, it's not like everybody had, but you had to go to the mainframe people.

Joanna Wright: Right, right.

Riggins: And I asked a professor of mine, "Can you just say that I need this?" And she taught in technology. She used some technology, it was in a class I had with her, so she said, "Okay." So she signed the form and then I was able- it was a BITNET account. So that was 1990, but it sounds like you were doing this stuff..

Joanna Wright: Uh.. in '89, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Riggins: And then the Gulf War. So did the teachers actually get students to talk with other kids?

Joanna Wright: Yes. Yes, they did. And students were very happy about this. They thought this was really neat. And uhm.. yeah, it was that beginning. But you're- you're still thinking in terms of black and white terminals, there are no pictures, you know, so uh.. how many people are gonna do this? It's a really uh.. interesting..

Riggins: But those days were kind of fun.

Joanna Wright: Yeah, they were. They were. And when we found all this sociology material coming out of Australia, you know, it was like a whole new world opening up and people were very excited about it. The- all of a sudden, we could tap into this material. And this was before Gopher and I- I'm sure you remember Gopher t- also.

Riggins: Yeah.

Joanna Wright: Yeah, yeah. We had this hierarchy uhm.. of things. It was l- it was that beginning link. But the uhm.. first view of the internet when ___________ let us in to see this, you know, you needed- you had to know where you were going. You had to know the address that you wanted to go to. And once you were there, you could get into all kinds of materials and view all kinds (inaudible) text. And then we started getting Gopher which was uh.. another interesting way of organizing the internet.

Riggins: Let's pause and go onto the next tape.

Joanna Wright: Okay. (Laughs).

Riggins: We can pick up with Gopher and Archie and Veronica.

Joanna Wright: And Ron.

(tape change)

Riggins: Let's just mention a little bit about Gopher. This is educational, too. For the history of the internet some student is doing a project, I'll refer them to the safe on what the early days were like from someone who was a pioneer who was there. Gopher was, like you said, it was, if "http" didn't exist.

Joanna Wright: We weren't at that spot yet. Well, yeah. Yes and no. Okay. But Gopher gave you a hierarchy. You came in at one spot and it literally built levels for you so that you could- you could, okay, now select from 1-4, and you'd select 4, and now you get another menu and then you could go into this area and that area, so it kinda broke it down for you so that you could get to your resources.

Riggins: It was text based.

Joanna Wright: And it- it was all text base and then they-- slowly they started adding pictures to it. But I bring Gopher up for two reasons. One, you may wanna interview uh.. Ron Vedder, who was at the University of Michigan during the development of Gopher and played a part in that and while he's still on the campus at UNC Wilmington, you might wanna grab him for some more information. Ron was also on a campus committee with me, a faculty committee, looking into uh.. communications and to a new information system for the campus. And uhm.. we were looking at Gopher and talking about well, maybe we should use something like Gopher for this. And-- because what we had, oh gosh, Vac System. Uh.. it was very interesting, very old. I don't even wanna take my memory back there so we'll skip that. But we knew we needed to update, we needed to get the campus moving forward so we were looking at Gopher and all of a sudden, I mean, it literally was, it was, like, you know, overnight Mosaic and the web and pictures came out and this was just unbelievable. And Steve Perry who is now over at Academic-- he's in charge, I think, of Academic Computing Services, Steve Perry came running in, he said, "You've got to see this. You've absolutely got to see this."

Riggins: Was he involved in that group, like a computer users' group?

Joanna Wright: No. No. I was the only one from the campus that was in that thing. (laughing) I don't know how I wandered into some of these things but I did. Uhm.. or at least that's my recollection. Somebody may correct me on that and if you- if you find out please let me know 'cause I'd love to talk with him about it again. But Steve uhm.. was just a low man on the totem pole, I'm sure he'd tell you at that point he had-- basically he was a new hire over there. And this came out, and he said, "You've got to see this." And so Steve uhm.. showed me Mosaic, and I went, "Wow, this is what we need."

Riggins: That was a browser.

Joanna Wright: Yes. That was a browser.

Riggins: And it was free. You could use it with Windows 3.1, everything, or?

Joanna Wright: You could use it with DOS too, which (laughing) And so we were looking at this and going, "Yeah, this would change everything. This would change."

Riggins: And you had a modem and you would just dial in?

Joanna Wright: Well we went through the campus network to do that and he said, "We need to show them what we can do. We need to build a few pages." And I said, "Okay." He said, "Here's- here's what I used to try this. Give it a try." So he sent me the basics of HTML and he said, "Write it." So I- I looked at that and I thought "Patterns. Piece of cake. Nothing to this." And it was just like our original word processing programs that-- where you had to literally put in what, you-- was it brackets B for bold. Okay, and then you typed and then you did end brackets. Okay? Same thing.

Riggins: So the early word processing was like that?

Joanna Wright: Oh yeah.

Riggins: Wow. I remembered you could reveal codes but you didn't have to?

Joanna Wright: We had to type them in. Okay, with that TRSA? We had to type those codes in. (laughing) It was a nightmare. But-- so we have to uhm.. we built pages. Very simple pages. But we built them and we built links, we put pictures on them and we took them to the committee. We said, "Here's what we need." And Ron looked at that, he said, "This will work." And all of a sudden, you know, the lights were coming on. Not Gopher. We need Mosaic. We need it now. And, I mean, all of a sudden this-- just explosion all over the place and--

Riggins: This may have been what? '93?

Joanna Wright: Ninety, ninety ninety ninety ninety three. Yeah.

Riggins: Before Netscape.

Joanna Wright: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah, it was Mosaic. That was it. There- there was nothing else. And so we were playing with that and we started building pages. We built pages for the library, we built pages for the campus and my job evolved as it-- somewhere in here I missed the whole thing of the bobbing out of the curriculum center to special collections, but that was--

Riggins: Yeah, well we'll pick up on that.

Joanna Wright: Yeah, we'll- yeah we'll pick up with that. Meanwhile, Jane said, "Okay, you seem to understand this stuff. You do it." (laughing) I said, "Okay, I can do this." So he let me play with that, the- the cataloging of resources on the internet. We weren't ready to put it in OCLC but there was so much coming in and people learning about, I mean, every journal you picked up, everything-- all the disciplines, it was coming up. Well there were these resources out here. Well how do we find them? So my job became cataloging this and making Finder's Guides for all the--

Riggins: Cataloging data, not morph records but...

Joanna Wright: No. But we had meta tags. We had meta tags for-- that's what I did with WAIS was build the meta tags so that we knew that step. And so we built pages with links to the resources, you know, wherever they were so that faculty could find what was out there and--

Riggins: So government documents resources or--

Joanna Wright: Yeah. Yeah. If it was- if it-- if I knew that Paul Hosier [ph?] was working in this area, I could build him a page of resources based on what I could find out here on the internet, 'cause we still didn't have good search engines for that.

Riggins: So at that point, we could make authoritative lists. "This is what's on the internet in your fields." "Alright, thank you!"

Joanna Wright: (laughing) And they- many of 'em stop there. (laughing) But uhm.. yeah. Yeah. So that was my part of it. Well the databases were also comin' in, too and they were now-- you could get to them over the internet and we were getting the electronic databases here and--

Riggins: On CD-ROM and--

Joanna Wright: Yeah. Yeah. And I thought, "Well no, I wanna be able to access it from home." So I went back to George. George by this time was rolling his eyes and- and I can say that because he'd laugh and then say, "Yeah."

Riggins: So I take it you had a computer at home that you put up for whatever.

Joanna Wright: Yes, I did. I had a computer at home that was built for me in '87. I had to go out for surgery and I was gonna be home and I'm not a good patient. I don't sit still, and my husband knew that the only way to keep me still was if I had something that interests me. So we had a friend, another geek, build me a computer with the modem and it was really good to do this because we were doing a conversion of our library system to LS2000 at that time and-- I think I've got the right system in there, but anyway uh.. I was- I was bothering Ron Johnson a lot, okay. Uh.. no, I need this. It's gotta be able to do this and this and this and uh... he said, "Well you're gonna have to-- I'm sorry you're gonna be out but you're gonna have to monitor your own stuff and make sure they're doing it right." Alright. So they get me-- oh, I know, that's when I was down there with Special Services. I think I've got my times lo-- anyway, I was responsible for making sure this section was done right and that I tested it to the max. So we had this computer built and a modem set up and I would just get up in the morning and dial in and stay connected all day and test systems. So yeah, I had a computer at home.

Riggins: "Test systems," like?

Joanna Wright: Test our system for the library to make sure that all the pieces that were being built for the system worked and that when I had it set for reserves or for check-out, I have audiovisuals that, for each category, it gave the right information. Yeah. Yeah.

Riggins: So you checked the LS2000 for this? ________ or remotely?

Joanna Wright: So they had to give me access through, you know, and set up all of that so George was-- I knew George very well by this time. So I went over and I said, "George. We'd really like to have our CDs mounted on the campus system so they can be accessed from any of the buildings here on campus or from home."

Riggins: It's amazing that you would think that I just...

Joanna Wright: Well (laughing) it seemed logical, okay. It's, you know, why can't I? I can do these other things, why can't I do this? This would really help me. It would really help the teachers in the community, too, because then they could dial in and use this. And we couldn't do it for biological abstracts or those, but for Eric, we could. For some of the others, we could. So they said, "No, we can't do that. We can't do that. We can't do that."

Riggins: I take it you probably heard no more than once?

Joanna Wright: Oh yeah.

Riggins: But you didn't let it get you down?

Joanna Wright: No, because I knew you could and eventually they did it, and Bobby Miller, who's still also over at Academic Computing, can probably fill you in on exactly how they finally did it. But they did do it, and it- it worked. So we were able to make those steps. And this is the library, just, you know, pushing at the-- and Gene Backum, he's saying, "Yeah. If you- if you think this can happen, go see what we can get." And it-- "Just go do it." Which was really all we needed, and it benefited the students, it benefited the faculty and the town, and again, like you said, we get to other parts of the state. No, they weren't mounting CDs yet. They weren't doing anything like that.

Riggins: But it worked and so you got--

Joanna Wright: It worked. So we did it. And we just kept growing like that, and, you know--

Riggins: It seems like this place, and it seems like this place really thrives on leaders. You need to be a leader because we have this legacy that it's small but you're not small, but we're leading.

Joanna Wright: Oh this campus is really growing--

Riggins: We're lean.

Joanna Wright: -- and the staff is very lean. Yeah. Yeah. But if you have-- if you have people who will work with you, if you build a case you got it made. And that's what it came down to so many times. It wasn't, you know, I couldn't go in and- and whine to Gene about oh- oh I need such and such and, you know, without backing. You gotta know why. You gotta be able to say, "This is going to benefit this group. We should be able to do this much more. We should be able to provide resources" for such and such. Yeah. And we'll be able to do it faster so it's not gonna take up more time. You had--

Riggins: Right. You had to explain why.

Joanna Wright: Exactly.

Riggins: Have a case.

Joanna Wright: Have a case.

Riggins: And then have people, like you said, who will work with you who are open-minded and don't say no, you have a right to them.

Joanna Wright: Yeah. (laughing) And you have to be willing to do the research so that when they do say, "Oh, we can't do that" that you can- you can go find the research that shows that it is being done in places, you know, it may be MIT that started it (laughing), so what? You know, can't we do it too? And y- you just don't take that kind of uh.. approach that--

Riggins: Limited approach.

Joanna Wright: Yeah. Yeah. And uh.. I- I think that I've always had a good relationship with Academic Computing.

Riggins: You've needed one.

Joanna Wright: I've needed one. (laughing) They did often roll their eyes. They would complain about me coming over, "Oh no, here she comes again." That kind of thing. But so did Ron. You know, Ron- Ron did that too. "Oh no, what does she want now? What is she expect an assistant to do?" Uhm.. but it was always-- it was a good thing and I didn't just dump it on Academic Computing when- when we said we want to do this, I did the teaching. I showed people how to do it. I- I mean, after they set it up. I don't do that technical stuff.

Riggins: You can explain what you need and--

Joanna Wright: Yeah. Yeah. And then I can explain to the people that we had it done for how to use it. And that's my role. Yeah. Yeah. Okay, we've got this, now let's see how much easier this is gonna make your life. And that was fun, but--

Riggins: And just a little from the break. Did you talk to Arlene about how you can talk to people on these computers using your dumb terminal?

Joanna Wright: Yeah. Yeah. I did. You know, I mentioned it and they'd come look over my shoulder to see what I was doing. But it was, like, "No, we've got so much other stuff here in the library that needs to be done. We're gonna have to just leave you with this. You get it going and then we'll work with it. But un- until then, no. You just go right ahead." (laughing) And that was okay. That was okay, we all have our little niches and that part was what fascinated me.

Riggins: Did you ever set up your own bulletin board service for people doing that?

Joanna Wright: No. I never set up my own bulletin board but I did own an internet company. Yes, and so that's, you know, that's another history-- (laughing)

Riggins: Let's get to that in a little bit. You were asked to head up a new department called Special Services. What is that comprised of?

Joanna Wright: Mmm-hmm. Yes. Well, again, that's after we had the-- Curriculum Center was up and running and it was bound to routine. I was through and uh.. Gene said, "Okay, we still have a mess with, you know, we've moved into the new building. We've got all of these places together but reserves is still not online." Okay, it still was not part of the LS2000 system. We're not using it for checkout, we don't have our AVs done. So basically what Special Collections was was the leftovers. That's what I told him it was. I said, "You know, you've really set this--" (laughing) He said, "Here, you take these things that are not part of the system yet and you figure out what we need to have done and get it ready." So that became my area, was Special Services and it seems like there was something else that we did.

Riggins: So you were over CMC still, AV--

Joanna Wright: And reserves.

Riggins: -- and reserves.

Joanna Wright: Mmm-hmm. And the- the group together but circular-- uhm.. CMC basically was running itself by then and June was up there, so I had no problems and Hilda was up there and uh.. between the two of them, I mean, they didn't need me. They knew what to do. And so I t- took on downstairs and how are we gonna deal with all of these formats and what do we need to do and cataloging of AVs at that time was not what it is now.

Riggins: I remember there were lots of textbooks about AV cataloging because, again, so much hadn't been done. A lot of libraries then "Why are we going to catalog a movie? That's not real, that's not a real problem." [ph?]

Joanna Wright: Yeah. And one of the things that I was really uhm.. probably stubborn and obstinate about, (laughing) depends on who you ask on this one, uhm.. was I didn't want just the standard subject headings on them. I really didn't, because I always think that the purpose of the cataloging department at a university is to analyze the materials for this university. Not for the rest of the world, although that's important and you need to, you know, have that information but what's going on on your campus? Why was this material bought? And if you're not addressing those needs my feeling was that you were missing something, that, you know, even if you've got a perfect OCLC record sitting there but you know that this faculty member is using this for this purpose and this subject, tie it in. You need to address that because that faculty member is gonna refer-- is not gonna use the Library of Congress subject heading that is this one. They're gonna still use the Library of Congress subject heading but it's gonna be more in this line.

Riggins: In LS2000, did you have keyword searching?

Joanna Wright: Yeah. We did have keyword searching and some people thought keyword searching was the end-all. Well, it's not. But we did address that and use more notes and used more of the fields that were available to us uh.. and- and really flesh out a record so that, you know, we were really putting things in there but, you know, when you look at the subject headings, you have the Library of Congress, if they have more than three specific subjects, they bump it up to a general subject. Quite-- uh well, they used to, I have no idea what they do now. Yeah. But they would go more general. If it was more than three specific, bump it up. It doesn't work. It does not work. Particularly if the faculty member is after this specific subject. You need to put it in that record. And so, yeah--

Riggins: I see so there wasn't a film about mollusks that also about crustaceans and--

Joanna Wright: Yeah. Yeah. But the specific mollusk that so-and-so is studying? Yeah. (laughing) Yes. Then you go put that term in there. And uhm..

Riggins: You worked with your staff on that?

Joanna Wright: Yeah. Worked with the staff on that and worked with uhm.. the-- I had to work a lot with the catalogers on that. Well, one of the-- my staff was a- was the AV cataloger and so, you know, we would go through these things and we would analyze them and look at 'em and add this material to them. So, yeah. It was a long process and that took me through-- that brought me into 1991 I think or 1992. I don't remember. Somewhere in there. (laughing) It was sorta like I had a three-year span that I would stay in any particular area and then I'd rotate out and it was good. It was good.

Riggins: So you were kind of doing a lot of things though at that time.

Joanna Wright: Yeah. Yeah. And then in-- then moving--

Riggins: Working with reserves.

Joanna Wright: Working with reserves, getting that together, getting the AV, getting more equipment in because we're using more and more and trying to get all the music out of the music library. Oh, it-- is that still in this building? I think it has moved--

Riggins: No, we housed all the music that was here.

Joanna Wright: Okay.

Riggins: I mean, there is some backlog from what I hear from Arlene she has some scores ________.

Joanna Wright: Yeah. Some scores, just-- (laughing)

Riggins: (inaudible)

Joanna Wright: Yeah. I mean it was-- and I never understood those and Betty Sue used to do those and I'd- I'd watch her with that and I'd think, "Oh man." Yeah. But I didn't so I-- Mary basically did those and oversaw parts of it, but mmmm.

Riggins: Oh, Mary the--

Joanna Wright: Mary Kirk was the AV librarian at that time.

Riggins: So alright, well what happened to work after you were managing Special Services and working Reference too, I'm sure.

Joanna Wright: Yes, I was back on Reference Desk and Reference duty and at that point-- I think that was about the same time-- I didn't wanna just be on Reference. We worked-- that's when we really started working a lot with getting the reference and the cataloging librarians going back and forth because it was so obvious that, you know, the catalogers were putting all this time and effort into getting these records exactly right, you've got a ca- you've got an online system where you can now pull out by all kinds of little details but Reference didn't necessarily know how all that was put together so they weren't utilizing it to the extent it could be utilized. And so uh.. I had no-- is that done now? Did the catalog--

Riggins: That's another tradition that's just stayed with us.

Joanna Wright: Good! Good!

Riggins: And we're unique, I think, in that I've worked reference also and the Archivist and Tech Services use reference. Not as much as we used to but then again, nobody does as much as at first as they used to. So I think it's just all proportional. So the catalogers might do a couple of hours a week and occasional Sundays, but then they can also switch with people and they fill in, so it's real viable--

Joanna Wright: Yeah. Well this way the catalogers get to see how people are using the system.

Riggins: And they can see ways to improve our approaches. [ph?]

Joanna Wright: Right. And the reference group can see how things are really put together in the back and I just think that is the best system.

Riggins: So that kind of emerged at this time.

Joanna Wright: Yeah.

Riggins: You probably just need other people too.

Joanna Wright: Well, yes, we did need them and Arlene was real quick to pick up on this, that this would be a good- good thing to do uh.. to go back and forth to see how people were using it and what could be done and she did a lot of training with the other Reference librarians. She'd come with some cataloging and go talk to them about, "Okay, here's how this works." (laughing) And there was a lot to be done with it and you can just maximize your systems better if you have that deeper understanding of how it's put together.

Riggins: I'm sure that's a real interesting point. When it's a card catalog, there's just so much that you can do as a Reference librarian.

Joanna Wright: Yeah. You can't do Bouillon uh.. Boolean. Bouillon! I- I must be getting hungry. Boolean. Boolean! (laughing) But uhm.. yeah, that took us through-- I'm back at Reference, and what am I doing-- oh, we're doing more databases and we're getting more computers out front. It's uhm.. a big time for learning how to use the internet too and I'm teaching a number of classes for Continuing Ed uhm.. in that line.

Riggins: Continuing Ed, meaning the um?

Joanna Wright: What is it they call--

Riggins: The Lifetime Learner or--

Joanna Wright: Yes. I did a lot of classes back in the early 90s. Uhm.. '93, '94 particularly, on the resources that were available on the internet and why the community needed to start getting ready for this.

Riggins: Oh man, you were really ahead of the curve.

Joanna Wright: But it was uhm.. you know, it was like watching an avalanche come at you.

Riggins: You knew what was coming.

Joanna Wright: I knew what was coming (laughing) and it was coming fast, and there were no breaks for it. There were no breaks.

Riggins: Did you think to buy all these internet stocks at that time?

Joanna Wright: I have a few that are still doing good. Redhat? Oh yeah. (laughing) But yeah. I didn't buy them at that moment, I bought them later. Uhm.. around '96.

Riggins: That's still--

Joanna Wright: Yeah, that was still early.

Riggins: Then you sell in '99?

Joanna Wright: Yeah! (laughing)

Riggins: Sell it to make a lot of money. Sell it before we enter 2000. [ph?]

Joanna Wright: Mmm-hmm. Oh, that's-- I- I sold my company before then. Yeah. Which was really good timing. Really good timing. We were fortunate on that.

Riggins: So, I know Jared couldn't be here today. He started here in 1994 and he said that he worked with you on learning HTML and getting a website up for the rest of the department that hadn't really happened yet.

Joanna Wright: Yeah. Because they were still uh.. they were trying to figure out how to do a campus-wide-- how to control it, okay. (laughing) And so we had internal ones that we used for various things but not an official, you know, reference uhm.. website and so, yeah, Jerry took that over and I was really delighted with what he did with that. One of the last things I did while I was still on campus was I held classes because they were trying to get, okay, we're gonna do a campus-wide system, we don't need each department trying to set up their-- we need some consistency and we need people to know how to do it. So I designed a three-hour training session for faculty or staff to learn how to do HTML and in three hours, I had every one of 'em-- my last-- I did-- the last couple of weeks I taught 60-some faculty and staff how to do web pages, in three hours.

Riggins: This was in the Institutional library?

Joanna Wright: No, over in the Computer Center, because they had to have computers to do it.

Riggins: They needed you and they weren't doing it.

Joanna Wright: No. Well, they couldn't. They didn't have the staff to do it. And so uhm.. I went over there and I had it set up and at the end of three hours every person in there had created a page with links, with pictures, with different fonts. It was- it was fantastic. It was a lot of fun. But they understood the basics because we just used Notepad and did the code. It was a piece of cake.

Riggins: Yeah, a piece of cake.

Joanna Wright: Yeah. It's breakin' it down.

Riggins: Just don't make errors.

Joanna Wright: That's right. You know, don't look at the real fancy-- break it down. Look at the basics. Here's how this-- and every thing else is a pattern. You just go for it. Yeah.

Riggins: Were you good in math?

Joanna Wright: Yeah. I was good in math. I enjoyed math.

Riggins: To decide the __________ and understanding patterns and not when you see a new problem, not getting freaked out as you see the problem, if you can figure out how to analyze it based on other problems.

Joanna Wright: Yeah. It's the fun parts.

Riggins: Can you take us up to the point when you left UNCW. You were having these challenges. It sounds like you were creating some interesting challenges for yourself and introducing King's community. And was Paul Hosier, was he aware of what you were doing?

Joanna Wright: Oh yeah. Oh yeah.

Riggins: Was he into it?

Joanna Wright: He was into it. He was into it and- and actually my last day on campus I went over and spent the morning with uhm.. oh, gosh. Provost at that time.

Riggins: Marvin Moss.

Joanna Wright: Thank you. Uhm.. making sure that he could navigate the internet.

Riggins: And he said, "So I said somebody at the top needs to understand the program, not just me and Paul Hosier and a few people."

Joanna Wright: (inaudible). But no, that-- yes, they understood and they were-- people-- the excitement was just incredible and they were all taking off. Groups all over the campus were doing things with it and it was just- it was fun. It was a lot of fun but what happened-- and- and this is a combination of a number of things uhm.. I was not in the best spot in my life at that time. My husband died the year before and I was not adjusting well uhm..

Riggins: That's a huge stress for anybody.

Joanna Wright: Yeah, it's a huge stress. It's a huge stress. And I- I tend to be a workaholic to start with and so, you know, I kept looking for things and I needed- I needed for Gene to move me to another department again, I reckon was the thing, you know. It was one of those three years but yet, at the same time, I didn't have the energy, the emotional energy to go into it. And uhm.. that December of '94, Eileen Brown brings down this letter that we got from the U.S. Government that says you need to make sure you have public access to the internet in your library because that's how you're gonna get your documents. Get ready folks, it's coming. And I read that letter and I read that letter and I thought, "This community is not ready for this. They are not ready. They do not see this coming, they don't have- they don't have access. They don't--

Riggins: And I think that was true of probably 98% of the communities in the U.S.

Joanna Wright: Oh, yeah. Yeah. It really was. And I said, "You know, this just isn't gonna work." And- it- it bothered me and I-- a couple of days later I had gotten this e-mail from this guy who was starting up an internet company over in Brunswick County and he had heard about my classes that I had taught and he said, "Would you teach classes for me?" And I didn't know this guy but he mentioned Chris Bell [ph?] who was with the Computer Science Department. He ran their network. And Chris had been involved with us with getting the new information system on campus and- and he had been also involved with Ron Vedder in trying to get a grant for our city so that we could have internet access available in town and that grant had fallen through and uhm.. so anyways, since he mentioned Chris's name I- I e-mailed Chris, I said, "What do you know about this guy?" And well, he-- I get this long e-mail back from Chris saying, "Mmmm, stay away from this fella. He is bad news." I said, "Okay." And as I s-- a- and he said later in there he said, "This-- what he's doing is something I'd really like to do." So I sent back an e-mail, "Well, what besides money is keeping you from doing it?" And the bottom line was nothing. I said, "Well, if we can come up with the money you wanna do it?" (laughing) That was January of 2005. Okay. By February-- the end of February, we had a website up, we had a company operating and uhm.. we had subscribers.

Riggins: Wasn't there another administrator that worked with you also, used to be a former administrator at the university I thought who worked on this company with you? I guess not. I thought somebody mentioned that she used to be head of "This is Learning" or something: Patsy, Peggy, __________. I feel like it started with a "P".

Joanna Wright: Oh man. You're challenging my memory on that. Not involved with the start-up of that.

Riggins: Of the ISP. No?

Joanna Wright: No, uh-uh. It was just me and Chris.

Riggins: Was that all ok?

Joanna Wright: Yeah. Yeah. But it- it was wild and- and I work a lot now with entrepreneurs. And uhm..

Riggins: So you and Chris started this up.

Joanna Wright: We started this up.

Riggins: Did you get some funding from Venture Capital?

Joanna Wright: We went to- we went to the bank with a friend who was-- who I knew and- and who had worked with bankers before and- and uhm.. Charles had said, "We'll go see this guy at Centura. I know him well and he'll be fascinated with this idea." And he said, "Do you have a business plan?" And what Chris and I had was on a napkin. We took it in. (laughing) And we convinced the banker that this was something that would work, and he gave us our initial $40,000 without any collateral. Now, this would not have worked had not Chris been working with the Chamber and with the Wilmington Industrial Development Committee of 100. Uhm.. he had been working with them on that grant for the city, so they knew him and they said, "You're gonna do this? How about doing it-- bringing it down to our shop. We will give you a room to build your business in. You bring the T1 into the Chamber and let us have access to it, and you can have the space." So we did.

Riggins: The T1 line?

Joanna Wright: We brought a T1 line in. And those just didn't exist all over the place. (laughing) But it was, you know, it was the kind of thing that if it- if it's a story that was a lot of fun. It really was and for it to--

Riggins: He's not here anymore.

Joanna Wright: No. No, Chris is in Florida now. Uhm.. it-- that-- it was just-- it moved so fast. I thought I could do this part-time. I honestly thought that, "Well, it's just gonna be a few subscribers then, you know, it will take off slow. Well it took off just wild.

Riggins: How did you advertise?

Joanna Wright: We didn't. We never-- we didn't advertise-- it was word-of-mouth.

Riggins: From the people who were in the know.

Joanna Wright: Yeah.

Riggins: And so people paid for dial-up?

Joanna Wright: Right.

Riggins: How much (inaudible)--

Joanna Wright: Oh gosh, and it was 1440 when we started. And almost immediately we moved to 28H and, you know, people-- we still had to keep some 144 connections because people weren't buying the 28,8 modems yet. And uh.. all the hassles and headaches and it was- it was unbelievable but--

Riggins: Unless you're a subscriber's business or were they--

Joanna Wright: Uh.. we have a lot of business. At the heighth we had 15,000 subscribers in the area, which was a good size group and uh.. we had-- we were doing wireless point-to-point, which is now finally taken off in the- in communities. They're finally doing more of that. Uhm.. we did web hosting, web design, we did-- you name it. If it had to do with the technology and what we want, build it in. And just went for it.

Riggins: So you had this company and you obviously saw very quickly that there was a need for it.

Joanna Wright: Yes. There was. There was. Uhm.. by the time we brought up and got those first subscribers and realized how fast this was gonna grow, I had to get out so I- I retired mid-March of 1995. So a little over 11 years ago and uhm.. it's been a fast ride since then. It really was. I spent-- but even when I left and I was in the community, one of the things that we always did-- we- we had training courses constantly, training people in the community. We'd- we worked with uhm.. another guy who came into the county from the San Francisco Bay Area, and they had had an internet users' group that he had been very active in and he came to us, he worked with the County, John DeFoe, and he said, "Let's build something like that in Wilmington." So we had a Wilmington Internet Advocates User Group. Wilmington Area Internet Advocates, I reckon. Anyway, uhm.. and each-- what was it, the first or the second Sunday afternoon of every month, we had a session at the public library and sometimes it would be standing room only and anybody who wanted to do any kind of presentation, we always had a session on how to connect to the internet. Always. And then we'd have another program that came on after that on whatever topic. And we showed people how to do online shopping and, you know, it was just--

Riggins: Using the Mosaic, and then gradually Netscape, and--

Joanna Wright: Yeah. And whatever else came out.

Riggins: AOL--

Joanna Wright: No. Didn't go to AOL. Didn't do AOL.

Riggins: Except you don't have to pay for that. Well that really reflects your background that this is a private company but I have a background in user education and--

Joanna Wright: And we firmly believed in that and- and that was- that was our promotion. That was our advertising, if you will. Because we were out in the community and we sponsored things, and we did the training, and we had groups come in all the time, and it was--

Riggins: What was the name of the ISP?

Joanna Wright: It was Wilmington Internet Service Enterprises. WISE. And we had a bunch of wise-guys down there. (laughing) And it was really, it was--

Riggins: Did you enjoy that? Was that-

Joanna Wright: I loved it. It was great fun. It was very demanding. It was very demanding uhm.. it was the kind of thing that, I mean, there were nights I would bolt wide awake going, "What in the heck have I done?" you know.

Riggins: Did you bring in more people, because--

Joanna Wright: Yes.

Riggins: -- the first was, I guess, teaching and still-

Joanna Wright: Oh gosh. Well, yeah, but Chris was still running the network here and- and he did that for a year. He was working night and day.

Riggins: Was he faculty?

Joanna Wright: No he was on staff with the Computer Science Department at the year. And uh.. we brought in-- at the heighth we had 13 employees, so we had quite a gang in there. We had interns. I had several Library Science interns that did uhm.. local history projects that were great. Oral history projects. We did a history of Gerbay [ph?] that I helped them on how to do their resources and how to do the design and then the faculty here did the research with them and the oral histories and we put it all on the website. We did the Wrightsville Beach Museum. We had uhm.. we just had a number of them and I had interns from the various library schools doing that.

Riggins: You gave them interesting topics.

Joanna Wright: Yeah. So that part was really fun and through all of it I always thought, "Yeah, I'm a Reference librarian." But keeping up with the technology and being responsible for 13 people and two of 'em were having babies and, you know, all of a sudden you- you've gotta provide health insurance. So yeah, we had a full benefits package in there and it was-- it's a lot of pressure. Yeah. And if it-- the thing of being on call 24 hours a day, you know, things go down, sleeping with the computers during hurricanes uhm.. one of our hurricanes was so bad that most of my staff was at my house. We had literally-- because I had a T1 line running to the house to-- so I could work from home-- talk about spoiled! (laughing) Uhm.. but we had-- we moved one of the servers into my home office and Christian and Chris and Michelle and Sam and one other person literally brought their computers and we sat up in my living room and were able to monitor the system and keep things going. During one of the hurricanes we were down for five hours but it was only because everything else in town was totally down. And it- it was wild. It was wild.

Riggins: So did the office remained in the Chamber of Commerce Building?

Joanna Wright: It remained there until-- now our last couple of years we had-- let me think. I think we always had part of it down there. Yeah, we did. We did. We moved our people-office out very early. I mean, within the first six months we had outgrown that spot. But we left our equipment.

Riggins: The servers?

Joanna Wright: Yes, we left the servers, the T1s and all of the-- we moved and moved people out uhm.. to a place on Front Street and then within a few months of that we had grown too big and we had to take over a place where-- Szechuan, okay, with the blue awning downtown? I think Betty B's Treasures is there now. But we had that whole front area.

Riggins: Well that's good visibility.

Joanna Wright: Yeah. Yeah. So we had a lot of uhm.. (gap in audio) front space but it was- it was really-- being an entrepreneur is an interesting thing and I wanna do it again, but not at that level. Not at a high growth. Not at a waking up, you know, bolting awake and the thing with doing an internet service is keeping up with the technology. It is an ongoing-- and you can't control people's phone lines. You can't control what they've got.

Riggins: I remember those days I wasn't involved like you were, even the big players were struggling to keep up with it--

Joanna Wright: Yeah.

Riggins: -- building more bandwidth and there was such demand for it. That's one reason why it was such a good time because they had to keep producing--

Joanna Wright: Right.

Riggins: Let's talk about those good times.

Joanna Wright: (laughing)

Riggins: Those heady days and you're making so much money I'm sure, right?

Joanna Wright: Well we supported ourselves. (laughing)

Riggins: What expenses?

Joanna Wright: We had a lot of expenses but yes uhm.. the income was not bad. The income was not and we were able to hire at a good rate and we were able to provide benefits which, you know, is- is not a bad thing. And then we were able to sell it. We had a buyer come in and uhm.. Duro Communications was buying up the southeast United States and they were going after the companies that had been successful. And we looked at this and we--

Riggins: They approached you.

Joanna Wright: Yeah, they approached us and we-- they said, "We wanna buy your assets. We want your subscribers, we want all of this that you've built." And uhm.. they offered us a very good deal. They really did. It was a- it was a nice sellout. The- there were some bad parts with it. What made it-- we were at that spot where we needed to upgrade once again and the amount of money-- because two years before I wrote a check to buy a $100,000 router and I realized, you know, this is just the tip of the, you know, your equipment just is astronomical, what you're buying and having to pay for, and the number of lines that were coming in, and I wish I could remember what our- our telecommunications bill was each month, but it was a big one. It was a big one 'cause we had-- at one point we had 13 different T1s, we had uhm.. yeah. Yeah. We had a lot of stuff.

Riggins: Some of the pool you hired were business types as well as technical types I would think.

Joanna Wright: Yes. There-- we had an office manager, a good friend of mine, who- who ran the office and he was really good. He was really good. He had been a former banker. Okay, so he was really good at keeping us on task, which was wonderful because Chris and I could also go off on tangents. If you've ever known a real techie, Chris was a real techie. (laughing) And he could really uh.. his mind would just explode in places and he- he would want to explore everything.

Riggins: Did you have some private shareholders?

Joanna Wright: No. We kept the company--

Riggins: Just--

Joanna Wright: Yes. We held it together as ours.

Riggins: Just a couple people.

Joanna Wright: Mmm-hmm. Yeah, we were approached by some venture capitalists and what they wanted--

Riggins: More control over--

Joanna Wright: They wanted far more control than we were willing to give up. Uhm.. because it was a- a beginning company and it was growing rapidly and there were things that, you know, some risk and all that we wanted to take that would've probably been outside of their comfort level. So we didn't do it. Didn't do it. But I feel good about what happened with most of the people that worked with us. We had people that went on uh.. one young lady went to SASS, which is a very nice place to be. Uh.. we had another guy that went with Nortel, another one uh.. Nate went with Redhat. So, you know, it was a good- a good time to-- I didn't feel like I--

Riggins: Did the company keep some of the people?

Joanna Wright: Yes. The company did and they actually uhm.. Chris and I had to stay on for a number of months. And then I retired, and that was very nice but I realized I was not ready to retire. I didn't have anybody to play with. (laughing)

Riggins: You sold in early 2000?

Joanna Wright: We sold in August of 1999.

Riggins: That was some good timing.

Joanna Wright: It was very good timing and it's-- actually we were the last of the ISPs, the large ISPs, that they bought. Uh.. "large" yeah. Large region-- well, actually, you know, we challenged a lot of the telcos because they were just getting started and didn't know what they were doing, so, you know, we were a face and a name that people could call on the telephone, you know, and- and-- so yeah, we had a good- a good size group going.

Riggins: So you retired you said.

Joanna Wright: I retired and thought I'll just play. But all of my friends were working and that's not fun. Uh.. so I uh.. the group that bought us had been asking me if I would come back and oversee the web design and work with that group and I said, "Okay, I'll give this a try." And so I went back and I'd been there uhm.. a little over a year. And I- I wasn't really happy with how they were running the regional company that they had bought. I didn't like a lot of their management decisions. Uhm.. I understand what they were doing because they were just amassing so that they could then sell to Earthlink, which they did. Uhm.. but I was not comfortable with it. And I read an ad for a position as a regional program officer with the Rural Internet Access Authority. And I thought, "Hmm. That sounds like fun." And it was basically getting out and working in communities in the southeast area of North Carolina and talking to them about the internet, getting them excited about using it, I thought, "Hey! I know how to do this." So I uhm.. sent in an application and Jane Smith Patterson uh.. who was the Executive Director of the RIAA, saw my name come in and I had met her when she was down here as-- what was her title down here?

Riggins: That's who I was thinking of.

Joanna Wright: Yes. Jane Smith Patterson. Yeah. Yeah. She was wasn't involved in my company, but she was on campus.

Riggins: She was involved in something that you did.

Joanna Wright: Yeah. And- and she was in the administration. Leutze brought her in so that we could get uhm.. the internet uh.. the information highway part down here.

Riggins: Sue must have told me that you went and worked--

Joanna Wright: Yes.

Riggins: -- with her and I was thinking it was with the company.

Joanna Wright: Yes. And uh.. I had met Jane and we had had some exchanges and- and uhm.. she saw my name and she said we're getting this one. So Charlie Clark came down and interviewed me and I thought, "Well, you know, I'm gonna give it a chance. I have no idea whether they will want me as part of this group or not but, you know, I don't have anything to lose." And uhm.. Jane called me two days later and said, "Well, now, when can you--" and she just starts talking. If you've ever met Jane Patterson, she is-- (laughing) she'll call and she just starts- starts in talking as if you already know what's going on in her mind. Uhm.. and she- she's a wonderful person to work with. She is uhm.. I will never die of boredom working with her either uhm.. because the thoughts and the ideas for what we can do keep coming at you, and so she- she-- I picked up the phone, she said, "This is Jane Patterson and, you know, we were talking about this and this and this and can you come up to Raleigh and we need--" and I- I finally said, "Does this mean I've got a job?" and she (laughing) and she says, "Well, of course you do." You know, as if, why are you asking me this? So it was uhm.. the beginning of another long ride. So I left that and started immediately uh.. touring the southeast and I have been on roads that you--

Riggins: You're based in Raleigh weren't you?

Joanna Wright: At that point I was based right here in Wilmington.

Riggins: Oh, you got to stay.

Joanna Wright: Yes. And I had--

Riggins: You telecommuted.

Joanna Wright: Yeah. I telecommuted and I drove--

Riggins: Real commuting. [ph?]

Joanna Wright: Oh man. Thirty-- the first year I drove 40,000 miles, most of it in southeast North Carolina. So you can imagine the roads I know down here. I mean, if there's a- a crossing somewhere I've been there. And-- but meeting people, and talking to them and working with them, getting uh.. doing public held-- public engagement (gap in audio) where we had a steering committee from the community that brought in people to learn about the internet and to talk about what's important in their community, and then how we can use technology to improve our lives and- and, you know, our job opportunities--

Riggins: Did they have some great ideas?

Joanna Wright: Oh yeah. And we have seen such changes. I mean, it has been-- it's like being a Reference librarian out in the field. It is a dream job. And I loved it. I really loved it, so. For the first year-and-a-half that's what I did.

Riggins: And you reported back to the--

Joanna Wright: Yeah.

Riggins: -- main office about what the needs were?

Joanna Wright: Yeah. Well, quite often what we did-- these were my counties. I took care of 'em and I would send Jane a report on what I've done, you know.

Riggins: Oh, you would go and handle it.

Joanna Wright: Yeah. You, go handle it. This is how you work with Jane. You go handle it, (laughing) so. Uh.. figure out what they need, help them pull together people, see what- what's possible. And uh.. if you need help with something let us know. So it was a very interesting deal and the idea was that this was to be owned by the counties, not us. So it was building a grassroots network and uhm..

Riggins: But you helped with the technical part of it?

Joanna Wright: Yeah. If, I mean, whatever-- and not just me, but I could-- that's why I call on folks too and say, "Come down here and help with this." But one of my favorite places is a little town of Harrells. Have you been there?

Riggins: Huh-uh.

Joanna Wright: (laughing) Harrells has 300 people. Uhm.. it is on 421 heading up uhm.. it's after you pass the Wallace exit on 421. It literally is a crossroads and they've got a town hall that is maybe 1,000 square feet and in the front part of the town hall you pay your water bill and the little back room of the town hall, that's where they have a board- a board table and chairs and a nice carpet that they push against the wall until it's board meeting time. And now, thanks to a grant from us, they have public access computers all around this place. They run after-school programs through there. They bring the senior citizens in. This little town of 300 is doing this. They're trying-- they're helping people learn to set up businesses in there. You know, and--

Riggins: And to this day that's going on?

Joanna Wright: I need to go up there and see if they're still doing it but they were just going at that just wild for years. And it was so neat to see what they could do and who was coming through. And they had, you know, they had all kinds of great stories to- to share with me. But I had fun because I didn't just go talk with leaders. I talked to the real people. I'd- I'd go in when they were doing programs and meet with the citizens that were there, see how they were doing, what- what their needs were.

Riggins: Now your company is ee-mc.gov?

Joanna Wright: Right. Right. That was because of the recording industry of America. (laughing) You know, you kept reading in the paper that the RIAA was suing student-- well, you know, we needed to get rid of that. And so when we had to come up for reauthorization, we had a- a sunset date of December 2003. So when the legislature reauthorized us they changed the named to the ENC Authority and what we do now, I don't get to just stay out in those grassroots areas. There're only six of us. The entire organization, there's six people. And uhm.. what we do now is a lot of research, a lot of advocacy, a lot of-- as my brother tells me, I'm a lobbyist. (whispering) I'm not really a lobbyist. Uhm.. but I do have to go work with the legislature. I do go meet with them, I talk to them, we take them information uhm.. a couple of weeks ago I went to Washington with Jane so that we could explain to our North Carolina delegation what we're doing and how things are rolling now and some of the things that we have on the- the uh.. books. We work very closely with the telecommunications companies. They sit on our board. Uhm.. and we are constantly trying to gently twist their arms to build infrastructure in areas where we still don't have any. We do have-- what is it, 82.4% of our state, all the households, 82.4% of all the households in our state can get broadband access, which is incredible.

Riggins: That is so fast.

Joanna Wright: It really is. And we have people coming in doing tele-work in our rural areas that it's really-- you'd be surprised some of the communities and some of the things that are starting to happen. A lot of these places where they now have fiber coming in. People are moving to start their second careers. Yeah. Because they can get the highspeed. We're seeing a lot of that. I mentioned the fiber. We uhm.. we funded a 501C3 to build fiber, okay. And they're putting in a link over to Rutherfordton where we have one of our telecenters and this fiberlink is going to make it possible for a construction group uh.. development group, to take a spur up to this really nice uhm.. high-end community that they're building uhm.. they're putting fiber to all the homes. Now, this is a very rural community, Rutherfordton. Really rural, and it used to be all textile-supported. And we're getting this high-end community coming in with fiber everywhere? Yeah. We're seeing a lot of that.

Riggins: So they'll have highspeed--

Joanna Wright: They will have highspeed.

Riggins: -- to their homes.

Joanna Wright: Oh yes.

Riggins: That's what Corning makes?

Joanna Wright: Mmm-hmm.

Riggins: So let's talk about Corning again 'cause they were having some hard times.

Joanna Wright: Yeah. But we- we're talking about really highspeed. It's like having a T1 to your house, okay. I mean, it's-- it can be at that level if they need it. But their homes they're do-- they're setting them up so that they are technological wonders, okay. It's really neat. And that's just one are.

Riggins: And that's the direction we're going.

Joanna Wright: It is. It is. People are wanting to leave the cities and move like that but the biggest thing is to have the broadband, so. Anyway. I have fun.

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