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Interview with David Ronald "Ron" Johnson, March 10, 2006 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with David Ronald "Ron" Johnson, March 10, 2006
March 10, 2006
Ron Johnson was born in Lumberton, NC. He earned his undergraduate degree from East Carolina University and the week after graduation was hired to work at the library at ECU, but shortly after was drafted to go to Vietnam. After returning, he received his Masters of Library Science from Peabody College for teachers, in Nashville, Tennessee. He was hired to work in the library at Wilmington College. He talks about his years as acquisitions librarian, various faculty he worked with and library programs that have changed during his career.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Johnson, Ron Interviewer: Riggins, Adina Date of Interview: 3/10/2006 Series: Voices of UNCW Length: 68 minutes

Riggins: Good morning. This is Adina Riggins, archivist, at UNCW, interviewing a very special interviewee, David Ronald Johnson, also known as Ron Johnson. Did I say your name correctly?

Ron Johnson: Yeah.

Riggins: Today is March 10th, 2006. We're going to learn all about Ron Johnson and his contributions to UNCW but first we have a little something to start off the tape with. Can you hold up the item in front of you, please. That's good. You want to zoom in on it.

Ron Johnson: Zoom in.

Riggins: Oh, yeah, that looks great. Tell us about this item, please.

Ron Johnson: Okay. This is a, a mug that I bought uh... when I was in the service in, in Europe. I was stationed in uh... Turkey and I went over to the Island of Rhodes, took a ferry over there from Turkey and uh... they had a lot of ceramic items and uh... as a matter of fact, we took two suitcases and brought back two suitcases full of uhm... tiles that were uh... silk screened, gorgeous things, and I bought this little mug that was hand painted in uh... in Rhodes, Greece, and I brought it home with me and I started using it as my coffee mug exclusively and I used it for 30 years as my coffee mug. And so the design is almost completely gone.

Riggins: Oh, yes.

Ron Johnson: It was, it was the story of the uh... labyrinth in, in Crete uh... and uh... and the uh... manator[ph?]? (laughs) And, and, over the years, I have handled it so much. Uh... first, the place where my lips went and where my thumb went holding the back of it uh... that back paint disappeared and now almost all of it has disappeared. Uh... and uh... you know, over 30 years and lots of times through the dishwasher, it got chipped and things and in the-- and it's probably full of lead, you know, being-- uh... and uh... and so the uh... the coffee or the sugar or the mi-- or creamer or something uh... ate away at the bottom of the thing. So, you want me to turn it so people can see the bottom of it.

Riggins: Oh, yes!

Ron Johnson: Yeah. But on the real bottom, it says, "Hand made and painted," can you focus that? "Hand made and painted in Rhodes, Greece" and, you see, that has not disappeared because my fingers didn't go on that. Rhodes, Greece. That's it.

Riggins: That's interesting.

Ron Johnson: And so uh... I bought that in uh... 1971, I guess.

Riggins: And then-- what's interesting is this must have been your cup at work.

Ron Johnson: That was my cup at work and I always lived at work and, when I retired, uh... they took it away from me to save it for the university uh... archives.

Riggins: Archives. It's been in archives...

Ron Johnson: And...

Riggins: ...I'm the archivist and I could never understand what it's there for.

Ron Johnson: (laughs) And they gave me a, a cup that with uh... acrylic cup that said UNCW that doesn't have nearly the significance for me that this one does. (laughs)

Riggins: So they took this from you? Did you...

Ron Johnson: That's right. They took it from me. In fact, uh... Beth took it from my desk uh... while I was-- before I came to work (laughs) so it was gone when I came in. She said, "Oh, we took your-- we retired your cup since you're retiring." (laughs) So uh...

Riggins: That's too much.

Ron Johnson: Well, one of the things is, uh... people complained all the time because, you know, we had coffee club. You had to pay for coffee uh... and I always paid the maximum amount, which meant that you could drink as much coffee as you wanted because people who only drank one cup of coffee a day paid one price and people that drank two cups of coffee a day paid another price and, and you were expected to do these things on the honor system. So I always paid the maximum amount so that I could drink as much as I wanted and uh... and so those people that were paying for one cup would always complain that my cup was too big (laughter) because they thought I always paid for one cup, too. And I said, "Well, you know, I just don't make as many trips to the kitchen."

Riggins: Of course. Some time after you retired, we retired the coffee club, did you know that? Not enough people were participating and then, a few years after that, we got this coffee bar but there is no more coffee club for library staff so, yeah. I am going to be interviewing Ron about being a librarian here at UNCW and doing so many different things on behalf of Randall Library. We have a nice collection of librarian interviews in our official oral history collection in the university archives. First, though, I'd like to start off by asking you, Ron, where were you born and where did you grow up?

Ron Johnson: I was born in Lum-Lumberton, North Carolina, uh... and I grew up in Evergreen, North Carolina. Uh... Lumberton is two counties over in Robeson County. Uh... my father worked at the Carolina Power and Light Company plant in Lumberton and so we uh... our not social life but commercial life, you know, buying school clothes and things, was all done in Lumberton and we went to the dentist in Lumberton and uh... and uh... and, every time Mama had babies, the babies were born in Lumberton. Uh... and so there, there's seven children in my family and all of them but one were born in Lumberton uh... because that's where Daddy worked. Uh... but we were uh... raised in Evergreen, and that's Columbus County, uh... and uh... this is about 20 miles from Lumberton, actually, uh... much closer to Lumberton than-- and Fayetteville than it is to Wilmington. And uh... a farming community, very small, little village, uh... but that's where my mother's family was from. Daddy's family was from uh... St. Paul's near Lumberton. Uh... and uh... we lived within hollering distance of uh... most of my mother's brothers and sisters.

Riggins: Oh, my goodness.

Ron Johnson: So uh...

Riggins: So a very traditional way to grow up.

Ron Johnson: Very traditional way to grow up and, and my uh... parents always knew-- well, believed in education. They thought that, that the only way that their children could better themselves would be through education because they didn't have the money to pay for us to set-- be set up in business or one of those things. And so, when I was growing up, the other kids' parents would say, "When you finish high school, you can do blah, blah, blah." And my parent said, "When you finish college, you can do blah, blah, blah." So there was never any question about whether we were goin' to college because, from the very beginning...

Riggins: Whether they had gone to college or not, they wanted you to do it.

Ron Johnson: That's right. My daddy went to college but he didn't graduate. Uh... Ma-Mama didn't go at all. Uh... so uh... we, we were, you know, we always took the SAT when we were juniors. We applied-- started applying to colleges when we were juniors and normally, before half of the senior year, we had our acceptances at universities and then you get to choose what you wanted and, and so uh... so, anyway, there was that. That's how I grew up.

Riggins: Sounds great. Did you finish high school in that area?

Ron Johnson: Yes, in Evergreen. Uh... at that-- that was before the days of consolidated schools. It was uh... and it was a, a little school. There were, like, 35 people in my graduating class uh... and uh... we uh... we didn't have foreign languages but we had math, you know, through, through algebra and, and trigonometry. Uh.. we had typing, not keyboarding but we had typing.

Riggins: Very useful.

Ron Johnson: So, so, you know, we all learned how to type and so that's, that's served me well over the years.

Riggins: Definitely.

Ron Johnson: Uh... whether it was uh... getting paid to type someone's term paper when I was in college or uh... now uh... using a, a-- the, the adding machine without looking at the numbers, uh... so uh... yeah, that's served me well. I have great difficulty these days chatting with people on the internet because they are so slow, you know, and I can go-- uh... and even-- I, I have some friends that I chat in Spanish with and I can write Spanish faster than they can so-- uh... just because I can type.

Riggins: Typing is very useful, even if you learned back in the day. It's still useful now.

Ron Johnson: Well, I can remember a, s, d, f; j, k, l, ;, you know? And we had uh... we learned on keyboards that had no letters on them. They were all blank keys.

Riggins: Manual typewriters?

Ron Johnson: Manual typewriters. Blank keys. The keyboard was on the wall and so...

Riggins: You had...

Ron Johnson: So you had to look at the keyboard on the wall to know where you, where you were typing. So you really didn't learn where the keys were.

Riggins: You really couldn't look down.

Ron Johnson: You could look down but it didn't do you any good because they were all blank. (laughter)

Riggins: Well, let's move on. Where did you find yourself after high school?

Ron Johnson: Uh... I went to uh... I went to school at uh... East Carolina. Uh... I was accepted at State and Carolina, too, but, at East Carolina, uh... I was offered a scholarship so that's pretty much...

Riggins: Pretty simple.

Ron Johnson: Well, it's-- at State, I would have a deficiency in math that I would have to make up in the summer. Uh... at Carolina, I would have had a deficiency in languages that I would have had to make up. Uh... and, and at East Carolina, I met all their requirements. So uh... for those two reasons but mostly because I was from a big family and we didn't have money and East Carolina gave me a scholarship.

Riggins: All right. Well, what did you think of Greenville when you got there?

Ron Johnson: Oh, you know, for a long time, I felt like Greenville was home. I remember that, that uh... when I first packed up to go to college, my daddy said, "Johnny, take a good look 'cause it'll never be home again." And he was right. It was not. It was, you know, it was where my parents lived but it was not my home any more. And so Greenville became my home uh... and I felt that way until I went in the military and came back. And then the cow pastures were filled with J. C. Pennys and the streets had all changed and, and I didn't recognize things and the buildings had changed. You know about like what they're doing here.

Riggins: Sure.

Ron Johnson: Uh... and so uh... the, the landmarks were gone. And it-- and so now I don't feel anything for Greenville. Uh... I don't f-feel anything for the city. Unlike Wilmington, Greenville is a college town. Wilmington is a, is a town with a college. But Greenville was very much a college town, that almost everyone either went to school there or was-- made their living off the school.

Riggins: Sure. It's a huge university for that size town.

Ron Johnson: Right, right.

Riggins: Even today.

Ron Johnson: So uh... that's a-- it, it was a big change for me to be in a huge-- I mean, at that time, it was still huge, huge university, you know?

Riggins: Sure.

Ron Johnson: Uh... coming from such a small school. It was a, a little bit of a culture shock for me uh... but, you know, I adapted to it.

Riggins: You did well, I'm sure.

Ron Johnson: Uh... more or less. (laughs) Yeah. With a few bumps in the way. I uhm...

Riggins: What did you end up majoring in?

Ron Johnson: Science. Uh... I started out in uh... in chemistry and, after a ye-- a, a semester of organic chemistry, I thought, "If I have to spend the rest of my life in a chemistry lab, I'll just die", you know? And so I looked around to see what I could still graduate in four years with uh... and uh... and, you know, what did I have the credits for because, if I had changed to, say, political science, I'd have been in school two more years because I was already in a junior at this time. Uh... whatever, I decided to change my major and grad-- and get out of school with something else. (laughs) And so I uh... I uh... changed my major to general science uh... and uh... one of my lab instructors was uhm... James Marriot.

Riggins: Really?

Ron Johnson: Uh huh. James Marriott was my teacher. Well, he was, he was a graduate assistant uh... in science but, before he got his Ph.D. at State, uh... he was, he got his uh... undergraduate degree, I think, and his master's at East Carolina.

Riggins: Oh, right. There is a definite ECU connection to UNCW. Did you know Gene at-- he was ECU for awhile.

Ron Johnson: Gene was at, at ECU after I left so I knew him there but only uh... in the uh.. because I was a librarian here and he was a librarian there and we knew some of the same people but, when I went back there-- see, when I was in college, I uh... worked all the time and so I started out working in the cafeteria but then, in my junior and senior year, I worked at the library. Actually, I took a course in library science and it was the easiest "A" I ever made and I thought, "This must be what I'm supposed to do because I can do all of this work and I like it and I make good grades so this must be what I'm supposed to do."

Riggins: Interesting.

Ron Johnson: And so that's pretty much when I decided I was gonna be a librarian is, is when I took a course in library science. Uh... an elective for me, you know, and I was working in the library. I first worked in periodicals and one of my jobs was, Saturday morning, putting in papers and putting them out and those sorts of things. Uh... and uhm... work study, you know? I liked that and then uh... the woman who was head of acquisitions asked me to come and work for her so, for about a year, I opened packages in acquisitions. They had lots of things to do. You know, matching invoices and this and that and-- become-- learning more and more about it and so, on the Sunday I graduated from East Carolina and on the Monday, I went to work for her full time.

Riggins: Really?

Ron Johnson: And that was, like, in uh... May, well, whatever graduation was, in 19 uh... 67.

Riggins: Oh, my goodness.

Ron Johnson: And, in 1968, I got uh... well, while I was in school, I actually got a draft notice and uh... and so they gave me my uhm... student deferment back 'til I graduated uh... but then I was fair game for Vietnam or whatever they wanted to send me for. And so I got the letter saying that I was going to go for my physical and then, after you pass your physical, then you get drafted. So I went out when I got that and joined the air force. So I re-resigned in, in March, it was. I went to work in May and then, in March the following year, I uh... entered the air force. And resigned from East Carolina to enter the Service. Uh... then I went into the air force and went to language school at Syracuse University, Russian language. Uh... and uh.. then to radio school and then I was shipped to Turkey uh... where I stayed for two years. Uh... and uh... and so I applied to graduate schools from Turkey uh... and it's real hard to get all the documents to any place when you are half the world away.

Riggins: Especially back in those days.

Ron Johnson: Back in those days, right, right.

Riggins: Slow mail, it was with the military...

Ron Johnson: That's right. That's right. So-- and, and nobody made phone calls because they were just, you know, like, $8.00 a minute and who had $8.00? So uh... so I did everything by mail and uh... and I was uh... provisionally accepted at George Peabody College for teachers in Nashville, Tennessee. Uh... my uh... advisor was Fanny Cheney. Do you know Ms. Cheney?

Riggins: No.

Ron Johnson: Uh... she wrote for Wilson Library Bulletin for years and years uh... and she was on the reference and description books review committee and a lot of fun. She was a lot of fun. Uh... she had an honorary doctorate degree and she would say, "They say that an earned doctorate is sweet but I'm here to tell you that an honorary is sweeter." (laughs)

Riggins: How do you spell the last name?

Ron Johnson: Cheney, C-H-E-N-E-Y.

Riggins: Oh, okay. And her first name was?

Ron Johnson: Frances, Frances Neal Cheney. She wrote fundamental reference books and so she uh... the first bibliography course I ever had-- it was called bibliography back then, was uh... reference courses, I guess they call them now, was Ms. Cheney's course.

Riggins: Interesting. So you were provisionally accepted.

Ron Johnson: Uh... I had to uh... make Bs the first semester or I was out. I made As.

Riggins: Right. So you went over, you did...

Ron Johnson: It was-- right, right.

Riggins: ...master's in library science.

Ron Johnson: Master's in library science. I got my uh... because I was at Syracuse and had already had my undergraduate degree, they gave me six hours of graduate credit, which transferred as electives to Peabody and so I graduated in July instead of in August, uh... you know, because you go a full year to get a master's degree, full calendar year. Uh... and uh... I had never interviewed for a real job, you know? And Ms. Cheney had uh... Ms. Hagan was Ms. Cheney's friend.

Riggins: Oh, my goodness.

Ron Johnson: Yeah. And so uh... she said, "Well, you're going home at Easter and Ms. Hagan is looking for someone, an acquisitions librarian and you need practice interviewing, why don't you go down there and interview with her and see what it's like to be interviewed for a real job?" And I said okay so I uh... contacted Ms. Hagan and we arranged an interview and, at Easter time, I came here and I thought it would be, you know, a couple of hours interview. They kept me here eight hours. I went down to what at the time was the Center for Marine Biological Research- no, biomedical research.

Riggins: Oh, right.

Ron Johnson: Dr. Brower's thing down at Wrightsville Beach. Uh... and uh... and met him and we talked about this and that and-- oh, and I met the Chancellor so I was interviewed by the Chancellor.

Riggins: This would have-- what year was this?

Ron Johnson: This was 1972.

Riggins: So that...

Ron Johnson: Dr. Wagoner. Dr. Wagoner. Uh... and...

Riggins: And Helen Hagan you spend all this time with her?

Ron Johnson: Not-- and Phil Smith, uh... and, you know, Betty Sue was here then and Louise was here and Katherine Walls, I don't know if you've heard the name Katherine Walls.

Riggins: I have been told to ask.

Ron Johnson: Doris uh... and Doris Haden. Uh... and uh... and so I went back to school and I got a call from Ms. Hagan and she said, "If the Chancellor offers you this job, will you take it?" Because, you know, it was a faculty position and so the Chancellor offered all the jobs then. And I said, "Well, you know, Ms. Hagan, I was with you all day and we talked about everything except money. If I come to Wilmington, how much are you going to pay me?" She named an amount, and she was apologetic because it was so little, and she named an amount that was more than my father was making and I said, "Ms. Hagan, if the Chancellor offers me the job, I'll take it." So, in about a week, I got a contract in the mail from the Chancellor and I signed it and sent it back. Of course, I hadn't graduated. Uh... and uh... and the appointment was uh... contingent upon my graduating and blah, blah, so uh... I graduated in Jul-- the middle of July, where I finished my coursework, and the graduation was going to be in the middle of August or the end of August but I started working here in August the 1st of '73, I guess. Uh... yeah, '73. And I planned, you know, in the library world, to advance, you move so I planned to be here two years and move on to someplace else. And then were-- there was a group of us who came, faculty who came the same year.

Riggins: University faculty?

Ron Johnson: University faculty.

Riggins: ...some of the names of some of them?

Ron Johnson: Uh... Kathleen Berkeley, no, uh... Fritz Capron was one, uh... Richard Stein, uh... who's not here any more, uh... Bob Duckett, who's not here, uh... Kathy Cowall, uh... this guy named Steve who was in art school. There were about ten of us who were hired that year and we were all about the same age and uh... and most of them uh... planned to be here for a long part of their academic ye-- uh... career and I planned to not be here. And uh... and, and Cathy Cowall and Fritz Capron and I, I think, are the only ones left. We, we stayed the whole time. Uh... I uh.. started out being acquisitions librarian and, after I'd been here for about five years or so, we talked about how I got hired with Katherine Walls. And I said, "Well, you know, I was in the Honor Society uh... and I made all As and I figured that's why you guys hired me 'cause I was so, you know, you knew how to do this and has..."

Riggins: (inaudible)

Ron Johnson: "...and had experience in acquisitions." And Katherine said, "Well, you know, we only had two people that applied for this job and uh... and Miss Cheney said that you had a sense of humor and we thought we needed someone with a sense of humor to work in the library and that's why we hired you." (laughs)

Riggins: Interesting. Was Katherine Walls a librarian?

Ron Johnson: No, Katherine was, was sort of manager of acquisitions, you know? Uh... and so she was the a-accountant for the, for the library, the same as...

Riggins: Meadow[ph?].

Ron Johnson: Meadow. Yeah, right, right. So uh... and, and before Meadow was uhm...

Riggins: Joyce?

Ron Johnson: And, and Joyce. I hired Joyce.

Riggins: Joyce Abernathy?

Ron Johnson: Yeah. I hired Joyce. She worked in acquisitions when I was there and, before Joyce was Debra Soul, Debra-- probably her name's not Soul now. Maybe it is. Uh... and she was a student working for Katherine so-- and so she worked for Katherine and Joyce worked for Katherine and so, you know, the Katherine legacy went on and on. And Katherine trained me about what to-- how to do things, you know? Because you come out of library school and you don't know how to do everything. Uh...

Riggins: Or anything. (laughs)

Ron Johnson: Or anything. Well, and you know, they were doing uh... pre-order bibliographic verification, oh, that still rolls off my tongue, uh... with the uh... nut muck. You know what nut muck is?

Riggins: National Union Catalogue.

Ron Johnson: Nation Union Catalogue and Library. Yeah. And uh... and so oh, it took forever to do pre-order verification and, you know, finding the cataloguing for all this stuff, especially the new stuff. Never was , was it in the books on time. And we were just beginning with uh... with OCLC.

Riggins: Well, yeah, OCLC had just begun.

Ron Johnson: And Betty Sue was so jealous of that system. Can't touch it. Might mess it up, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Riggins: She was very protective.

Ron Johnson: Very protective, yeah. And so I said, "We're going to have it two hours a day. We're going to do pre-order bibliographic verification using OCLC" and, as far as I know, we were the first library in the, in the state that was doing that.

Riggins: I'm sure because this was so new and it seems, just from my interviews, that this library was so innovative and advanced and where did that come from?

Ron Johnson: Well, uh... I think part of it was Ms. Hagan always treated us like professionals and she uh... encouraged us to do things, you know.

Riggins: She was very professional herself.

Ron Johnson: She was. She was. She was very professional. She was very concerned about, about uh... our image and, and uh... participation in national organizations and state organizations, too, but especially the national organizations. And see, from the very beginning, because of Ms. Cheney, I was on the reference and subscription books review committee for about ten years, starting right out of library school. And so I went to uh... ALA in mid-winter every year because that's when we met, you know, that's when-- and uh... and because I was on the committee, the university paid for it. Uh.. and, and so I found out a lot of stuff that people were doing, possibilities that we didn't know here in Wilmington, and when I came home, you know, we started doing some of those things. Uh... and uh... but that was my only experience in computers was with OCLC. I mean, we didn't have any computers in acquisitions. We were using IBM Selectric typewriters. I had what I considered, it may still be in the desk that was mine, the ultimate word processor, an Underwood manual typewriter with dead keys. Do you know what dead keys are?

Riggins: No.

Ron Johnson: Those are the ones you type the umlaut and the accents with and it doesn't advance the carriage. So you type the umlaut first and then you type the O and it would advance the carriage to the next space. Uh... and it had a library keyboard with copyright and pound signs and uh... (laughs) so it was a real library keyboard Underwood manual typewriter and I have a-- the electricity goes off, computer goes down, I can still type my letters.

Riggins: Even-- well, I know got way into systems ________________ as your curve progressed but that's great, to know that it started off with-- just like a lot of us, learning...

Ron Johnson: Well, you know, when I was in, when I was in graduate school, uh... library school, I took the, the only computer course that was offered. It was called systems analysis and I learned how to draw flowcharts and I learned that some of the things I already knew could be done with a template. I had never seen a template for drawing flowcharts so (laughs) I learned that during that course. And uh... and we actually did some flowcharts here, uh... about uh... you know, if it's in nut muck, then you do this and, if it's not, you do this and you know those sort of yes or no things. And I think uh... because I did those-- lots of those yes or no things, I ended up appreciating how computers work because that's all computer know. I'm on or I'm off. That's all. They're not smart. Only the people that operate them are smart or not smart. Uh... so uh... anyway, I didn't-- I didn't have much experience in computers uh... and uh... then, in-- some time uh... I moved from acquisitions to uh... to circulation. I don't know the dates of this time, probably after I'd been in acquisitions for five or six or seven years uh... that uh... the woman from circulation was move-- Arlene Henneville[ph?]. She's still here. Well, yeah, Arlene was, was head of circulation and so I took her place, I think, as head of circulation uh... and she moved someplace else. I've forgotten where. And uh... because that was the way we kept from getting bored is we changed jobs, you know? Uh... and uh... so uh... we-- the university system was buying into LS-2000, which was owned and operated by OCLC. They selected this system because they said, well, OCLC is never going to go out of business and we'll always have this and they'll always advance it and always la, la, la, you know, interface with this, this is a great system, blah, blah, blah.

Riggins: Almost all of the member universities belonged to it.

Ron Johnson: Everybody except State, Chapel Hill and Charlotte. Everybody except them. They had uh... Charlotte has had VTLS since Alt-1, I think. Well, the, the schools that were really big uh.. had, had uh... already some kind of system and then it-- and then, you know, the-- at Chapel Hill and State, they developed their own library system uh... but only for circulation or something because it never-- it never was-- it never was integrated with the other stuff. It never was worth a damn, you know? Uh... they said it was but it was not.

Riggins: Because it was developed by them and they knew how to work it.

Ron Johnson: Right. Uh... and uh... so, anyway, uh... I was out there at circulation and I had taken maybe a programming course here at UNCW. UNCW, they taught Fortran as the introductory course and that was the course they used to get rid of people who thought they wanted to be computer majors but they shouldn't be. And so uh... I (laughs) I uh... Fortran is very mathematical sort of language, used for science a lot and math and almost all the programs we wrote had to do with uh... with mathematical problems because the professors in computer science at UNCW all came out of the math department. Computer science was in the math department so, to get a degree in computer science, you had to take a lot of math, too. Uh... not because you needed it but because that's the way it developed. That's the way it developed. And uh... and so we had to, to write these programs that did certain things and I'd go, oh, my god, what is a factoral? And uh... I hadn't thought about this in 20 years. What is...

Riggins: (inaudible)

Ron Johnson: Yeah, yeah. What's a factoral or have a function to find the root of a function. I thought, oh, my...

Riggins: So you had to write a program to do these things and you don't even know what these things...

Ron Johnson: Well, you see, I, I recognized the words. I took calculus in college, you know, and I thought, boy, I am sure glad that calculus is important in someone's life but it's not important in mine uh... and so-- but, anyway, I looked up, in math dictionaries, how to do these things, what they meant, you know? I'd go, oh, okay, so then I wrote the program. So, so when uh.. when we started getting uh... LS-2000, Gene Hugalay[ph?], who was director then, said, "Well, Ron, I want you to run the computer" because I'd had one computer course.

Riggins: Yes, he mentioned, in his interview, that he saw you out there in circulation doing, you know, doing so good and seemed so interested and I guess that's where they started LS-2000, is in circulation?

Ron Johnson: Right.

Riggins: He was, like, yeah, you're going to do great. (laughs)

Ron Johnson: Well, so he said, "I want you to run the computer."

Riggins: Run the computer.

Ron Johnson: And I said, "I don't know anything about that, Gene." And he said, "Well, you can read, can't you?" And so they sent us this manual, the operating system for LS-2000 was MIIS, M-I-I-S, MIIS, and it was a operating system that was developed for hospitals, lots of hospitals used it. Uh... why the libraries, I don't know but, but that's what they...

Riggins: Personal computer?

Ron Johnson: No, no. It was...

Riggins: No? It was mainframe?

Ron Johnson: Yeah. Big.

Riggins: So you helped...

Ron Johnson: They first installed it in the university computing center and the university people said, "We will do your backups." Those are the days you had to do it reel to reel tape and the system was down while you were doing a backup and it was slow, it was 1,600 bits per second or-- and so, and so the, the people in operations said that they would do it for us and...

Riggins: They said.

Ron Johnson: They said they. They, they really agreed to do it.

Riggins: And they did it.

Ron Johnson: And-- and I said, "No, I don't want you to do that. I want to do it myself so that I know how this is done and what it involves and all that stuff." And, consequently, the computer was over there and so I would go over there and do the backup.


Ron Johnson: Every day. It took an hour or so and so, while-- well, before we got the equipment-- let me-- let me go back to that. So we had the MIIS manual, operating system manual, and I sat down and read it cover to cover. And I understood maybe that much of it. I just...

Riggins: You're being modest.

Ron Johnson: No, I really, I really, I went, I don't know what this is. I just-- foreign. And so I just flipped it over, it was a paper printout, you know, flipped it over and read it again. And this time, I'm just a little bit more. And then they guys came to start installing the equipment and I would say, "What are you doing?" And they would say, "Blah, blah, blah, blah" and I'd say, "Oh, that's like something, something, something," and they'd say, "How do you know that?" "Well," I said, "I read the manual." And so I would ask these guys questions. The technicians were just fountains of knowledge about this system and about what it could do and about this stuff, you know? And uh... and nobody every asked them anything.

Riggins: And these were people from LS-2000?

Ron Johnson: Yeah, yeah. Well, or, or either from DEC because it was DEC equipment, Digital Equipment, and some of them were hardware people and some of them were software people but they uh... they were-- would take hours to tell me about this and that just because I asked and nobody ever asked them, you know? Uh... and so I ended up knowing a lot about this system and how it operates and what's down below and how to do this and how to shortcut that, blah, blah, that other people in the university didn't know because, when the technicians came, they just went back to their desk and let the technicians work, you know?

Riggins: Yeah, it pays to be outgoing and I think that's something, as a librarian, that we all need to learn.

Ron Johnson: Well, uh... you know, it's, like, librarians know a lot of stuff but they don't tell you unless you ask them uh... because who wants to know all that stuff that's up there? Uh... and it was the same with these techs, that they would be glad to tell you. And uh... and then I hit it off with a guy who was our trainer and I would say, "Well, can you do this and can you do that?" And he would say, "I don't know, let's look," you know? And so I'd ask him questions that people had never asked before. You know, he's-- basically, if you didn't buy the reserve module, you couldn't have things due today, it said because, you know, reserves are two hours or something and it's all today-- almost all today. And I said, "Well, how do you do that?" And he said, "Well, you say uh... T+0 is today." I said, "Oh." He said, "Tomorrow is T+1." And I said, "Oh, okay. Let's try T+0 and see if it makes it due today." It went boing! And I said, well, let's see if we can make it due yesterday. And so I put in T-0 for the date and it made it due yesterday. And I said, "This computer wants an arithmetic operator. It does not care what the arithmetic operator is. It wants an arithmetic operator" so you put in this arithmetic operator and it gives you the date.

Riggins: You do not need to buy a whole new module.

Ron Johnson: It's not T-- T was not-- because he said, "T is today" and so T would actually not work. But T+0 would work.

Riggins: Right.

Ron Johnson: And uh... and so I found out lots of things like that about our system.

Riggins: Solving puzzles.

Ron Johnson: And we would uh... the university librarians would have meetings at Chapel Hill and the systems people would meet the same time and so we would-- Gene and I would go up to Chapel Hill together and then we would have these meetings, separate meetings, and then we'd come home. But uh... but the directors would talk about the trouble they were having with their library system, LS-2000 not doing this, not doing that, they couldn't do this, they couldn't do that. And Gene would say, "Are we having problems, Ron?" I said, "Well, what do they say?" And he said, "Oh, no, Gene, we solved that long ago." You know? People were stamping date dues still in their books, you know? From the very first day, we had printed slips. The system printed the date due slips, you know? We didn't do that ourselves. We didn't-- so we no longer used date due stamps, we no longer used those date due flyers, you know, in the back. We didn't use cards. We didn't use pockets. We got rid of all that stuff.

Riggins: And this was in the mid-'70s?

Ron Johnson: Yeah. We got rid of all that stuff.

Riggins: Is that when LS-2000 came in?

Ron Johnson: No, it was early '80s.

Riggins: Early '80s.

Ron Johnson: Early '80s.

Riggins: But, still, that's amazing because I was in college in the mid-'80s to 1990 and we had pockets. I was up at American University...

Ron Johnson: Got rid of all that stuff. We just didn't do it any more. Uh... and so, you know, once we went to automated circulation, we didn't use the cards any more. We didn't have people sign any more. Use their ID cards and stuff. Uh... so uh... and Gene would say, "Well, why are they having problems and we are not?" And I said, "Gene, the difference is you've got me and they don't; because, if there's a problem, I solve it." And uhm...

Riggins: Did you work long hours typically?

Ron Johnson: No.

Riggins: Really? You could get it done in a work day, usually?

Ron Johnson: Yeah.

Riggins: You work smart, not long.

Ron Johnson: Well, uh... yes. And, and, in those days, we didn't have to worry about personal computers because it was all done on dumb terminals, you know, so there was only one computer and it was in the computing center. Then we did a renovation of the library and we built our own computer room where it is right now and so then we moved our computer out of the university computer room into that-- the reason that room is, is uh... so-- have you been in there?

Riggins: Oh, yeah.

Ron Johnson: Oh, the reason that room is so fancy computer looking is because the LS-2000 computer generated lots and lots and lots of heat and so that's why it has that under floor air conditioning and stuff. Nowadays, they don't do it. I mean, that computer that's in there now could sit in this room. It wouldn't even matter. But we have that room. That's where all the communication ends, you know, all...

Riggins: And that still is the server room, you know, and it's actually Dan's office now, too.

Ron Johnson: No, not that room. Down the hall.

Riggins: Oh. Well, we'll take you around.

Ron Johnson: Oh, okay, where the kitchen used to be. In the corner of the building. Is the computer room not there any more?

Riggins: No.

Ron Johnson: Nothing is-- what's in there? You sure?

Riggins: Yeah. I'll take you around. We'll take a look because the server for the consortium, you're not talking about that area? Where the server...

Ron Johnson: No.

Riggins: Okay.

Ron Johnson: No, because that used to be the-- that used to be the LS-- that used to be the LS-2000 room. I mean, that used to be the OCLC room. (laughs)

Riggins: Oh.

Ron Johnson: Until people could use their desk.

Riggins: I like how every system got its own room in the old days. The OCSC...

Ron Johnson: They took, they took their own room, I mean, they took that much space for...

Riggins: So they moved the mainframe for LS-2000 over to the library after...

Ron Johnson: After we built the renovation, after we did the renovation.

Riggins: And the renovation occurred around '78, I believe, didn't it?

Ron Johnson: Not '78. I don't think. No, 'cause we already had LS-2000 then.

Riggins: Oh, you already-- yeah, I'm getting ahead of myself again. So it would have been in the...

Ron Johnson: Anyway, that's when I, that's when I worked overtime is when we were doing the renovation.

Riggins: Mid to-- sometime in the mid to late '80s, I guess?

Ron Johnson: Yeah. Uh... because we doubled-- more than doubled the size of the library.

Riggins: Mid to late '80s. Right. And I've heard a little bit about that from Gene but that took a lot of planning, right?

Ron Johnson: It took a lot of planning because uh... we stayed open all the time and so we moved the whole collection twice.

Riggins: And this level of service, where did it come from? Why did you decide, oh, we have to stay open the whole time? Because a lot of libraries, I guess, were closed, right?

Ron Johnson: Well, they closed the stacks but, see, we've already-- always had open stacks. Uh... I don't, I don't know. It was never a question. I mean, you know, we didn't think-- we didn't think we could close. We always had to open. Besides, it was going to be such a long time, you know? It took a year to do that. And so uh... so we, we had a-- we hired a, a professional moving group uh... who helped with the planning but, but they were able to lift whole ranges, put roller-- put dollies underneath them and move the whole range so we didn't have to empty all the shelves and there were a lot of emptying shelves now...

Riggins: Still.

Ron Johnson: ...uh... and they wanted to save the carpet, uh... so they put down-- where, where things were going temporarily, they put down plywood and then they-- on, on top of the carpet and they put the uh... stacks that were gonna be there for awhile on top of that. Uh... that also made it easier to roll than all the carpet because those stacks-- those, you know, those, when you have ten sections, front and back, they were heavy. Uh... I don't know. Ask me a question.

Riggins: Okay. We were talking about LS-2000 and then the building expansion. You've touched on that.

Ron Johnson: Okay. We uh... it, it was a real job to move everything. Not only move the people, move the equipment, and get new wiring and uh... and make sure everything was going with all of that stuff uh... but, but moving the collections were the-- was a real, real, real job uh... and to have all of the, the books accessible uh... during the move. And, you know, then the roof would leak when it rained and we would have to-- the architect and Gene and I would be out here in the middle of the night mopping the floors. (laughs) Getting the water up.

Riggins: That's when you-- that year, you put in some hours.

Ron Johnson: Yeah, that year, I put in-- yeah, I had, like, 800 hours of overtime in that year but uh... that you just sort of write off because no way-- you can't ever take 800 hours. Uh... and then uh... when uh... OCLC sold LS-2000 to Ameritech. Is that his name? Yeah, Ameritech.

Riggins: That sounds right.

Ron Johnson: Ameritech. And then Ameritech wanted to go on to bigger and better and different things and they were going to stop supporting the system. You can continue having it, you can continue paying us support payments but we're going to stop supporting it. And so we had to-- everybody in the university system then had to look for a new system. And uh... DRA, which they had in Greensboro already, knew they were going to get the contract.

Riggins: Oh, yeah. Well, DRA, when I was at Chapel Hill for library school, DRA was at UNC and Duke and State, I believe. So they had told a few universities...

Ron Johnson: They knew they were...

Riggins: They knew they'd get...

Ron Johnson: They knew they would get the contract. They knew it because they were going to have the cheapest bid. Uh... and one of the things about DRA is that you have to have a programmer on the staff.

Riggins: That's one of their stipulations?

Ron Johnson: It, it won't operate without it. You have to have, you have to have somebody who can program on it. And so, and so you already got an added position, an added expense that's not part of their contract, you know, but you got to have it or it won't work.

Riggins: (inaudible)

Ron Johnson: Right. And so, for most schools, that was, you know, out of the question, but uh... so uh... we uh.. started working with Dr. Williams, who was a assistant vice-president for academic affairs or something like that at general administration and, and he uh... he had-- when I was there, he was the dean of, of the curriculum, I guess, academic dean, dean of the school of arts and sciences, maybe, when I was at East Carolina, and his wife was a librarian. Uh... and uh... and so he would come down here and we'd work with him and we would look at models and this and that and the other and we wrote specifications for what we wanted the new library system to do and that was with, with the systems people from all over the state who developed that.

Riggins: Did they do that at every college or...

Ron Johnson: No, we did, we did a single specification. I mean, people would say what they wanted, then we'd get together and we wrote a single one and it was reviewed by uh... by uhm... Steve-- now, that name is gone. Uh... I'll figure out what his name is. But, but part of general administration, you know? Uh... and uhm... and so he did a lot of the technical stuff that I didn't know anything about, you know, and uh... and then they tried to cover some of the bases that, that uh... they had had experience with, with library systems or, or the computer system before, you know, the, the uh... maintenance contract costs cannot go up but so much percent a year and uh... we have to have access to the root password because it was done in Unix and blah, blah, blah, for innovative, for instance, this that and the other. So, anyway, we uh... wrote these things and then I, because uh... Gene was president of the university librarian's council, then I was chairman of the university uh...

Riggins: Let's see, Sue or Arlene gave me the name of that group. Let's see.

Ron Johnson: Anyway, there was auto-- there was a university automation committee...

Riggins: That's right.

Ron Johnson: ...uh.. and there was a university librarians fi-- uh... advisory council and so Gene was president of that and, and so the, the...

Riggins: Oh, ULAC automation and networking committee.

Ron Johnson: That's the one. And so the-- and so the chairman of the ULAC automation committee was the uh.. was the systems person from the library where the chairman of ULAC was. And so Gene was chairman of ULAC and so I was chairman of the automation committee that year. And that was the year that we were developing the contract to get a new library system for everybody except State, Chapel Hill, Charlotte and Greensboro. But everybody got money to upgrade their system. So everybody got money. Uh... and that's the way that we kept everybody happen and without State and Chapel Hill saying, oh, no, you're not going to do this because you're taking our money everybody. So everybody got money uh... and uh... and uh... 12 of us got a new library system. And uh... so, you know, DRA was pretty good system but we-- but I personally wanted Innovative.

Riggins: And how did you-- what appealed to you about them? I know you studied them all but what is it?

Ron Johnson: Well, for one thing, uh... their support was much better than DRA. Uh... you know, I had talked with uh... with April Wreath at uh... Greensboro a lot and she was just-- oh, all these nightmares they had with DRA, even though they thought it was a wonderful system. Uh... you know, she was a real gung ho for, for DRA but, on the other hand, she would tell you the problems they had and I went, uh. And it may have been like LS-2000, you know, maybe it wouldn't have been a problem for me but it was a problem for them. And so that's all I heard because I didn't know anything. I didn't know the ins and outs of it. Uh... but we wanted something with a better serials module than they had and then one of the things that we wanted was to be able to, on the same screen where you found your serial, to see the holdings and the latest issue received. That was what people wanted. They wanted to know what-- did you receive the latest issue and, and what's your holdings? Without going someplace else. And so, and so that was one of the things that we required the system to do.

Riggins: Who did you work with-- talk to about this? You were on the committee, but did you talk to Gene? He wasn't probably too much into the details.

Ron Johnson: He was, he was not into the details of the technology. Uh...

Riggins: Arlene?

Ron Johnson: Well, Arlene and Sue, of course, but, but also the uh... people from Western Carolina and the people from Appalachian and so, you know, we were tight. We, we, we'd been friends. We'd known each other for a long time and so we would talk about things that we wanted in a new system and we talked about that for two years, you know? And so this was all coming together. And I think the-- let's see, we had a, a three-person committee who worked with uh... purchase and contract in Raleigh because that's how the bids were let. And uh... and it was uh... the woman who was in systems and she was also a catalogue librarian, so she was only partially systems, uh... at Boone and the woman who was in systems, and she was all systems, in uh... Cullowhee, Western Carolina, and me. And so would all converge in Raleigh at purchase and contract and go over this and go over that and blah, blah, blah, blah. Uh... and uh... and I really hit it off well with a guy with a purchase agent.

Riggins: That goes a long way.

Ron Johnson: You know, well, I went in one day and he was wearing a baseball shirt and, see, I never played baseball but, but when I was in high school, I was a scorekeeper for the baseball team and so, you know, I, I can tell the different between a hit and an error and a fielder's choice and, you know, those things that, that you learn uh... and so we talked baseball, uh... and uh... and we just became buddies, you know? And uh... and so he said uh... something like, "Now, which of these systems do you really want?" And I told him. And he said, "Why?" And I gave him three things. He said, "Okay, write me a letter that says these three-- that the system that you choose have to be able to do these three things." So I write him that letter. Actually, I didn't write him that letter. I drafted the letter. Dr. Williams from the university administration wrote that letter to him. You know, because I was just advisory. Uh... and so everything passed up because the contract really was through-- was by general administration, it was not for Wilmington, not for anybody, it was general administration and a library company. So uh... when we got down to the wire, the uh... VTLS and uh... DRA bids were never opened because they didn't meet the minimum requirements. And so the only successful bidder was Innovative and the only question was, had the university system allocated enough money to pay for their contract?

Riggins: Was this the RFP that you ended up-- Arlene said you did a lot of work in getting Innovative systems for nine UNC libraries, you wrote the RFP for all nine campuses. So, after writing this letter, you proceeded to do the whole...

Ron Johnson: Well, that was, you know, at the end of the purchasing process because the RFP was the beginning uh... and so that's what they sent out to, to all the vendors and then, and then we had, like, six people that, that uh... well, there were, like, 20 vendors who wanted to bid and, once they read the RFP, only about six did. And then, along the way, they would, in the process, they would fall out and so then there were only three left and uh... and then, when we, when we started narrowing what we want-- what, what part of this RFP do you really want, do you really, really require? And uh... and so I wrote the three things that Innovative could do that the other people could not. And so, then, because they did not uh... meet the minimum requirements, their bids were not considered, no matter what their price was. And so then we, we were left with Innovative was the successful bidder, can we afford to buy this system? The university has given us this much money, is Innovative less? And Innovative was less than what we had uh... and so, you know, so they were successful bidder. So we got Innovative Systems.

Riggins: I do have a timeline but I didn't check it beforehand. Do you remember when Innovative implemented it?

Ron Johnson: I, I...

Riggins: The precise dates I shouldn't be asking you. I should check. I just...

Ron Johnson: I, I can't remember because it was-- '90s, I think, 'cause we probably had LS-2000 for ten years or so.

Riggins: Yeah. By '94, '95.

Ron Johnson: Right. Uh... well, no, before then because uh... let's see. We added-- while I was here, we added serials, we added reserves, we added, we added uhm... Interlibrary loan, we added uhm... you know, as modules became available, we started...

Riggins: That is amazing.

Ron Johnson: ...acquisitions.

Riggins: Yeah. There's lots of automation done early on.

Ron Johnson: And uh... and then, as we were going along there, what else was happening is that the uh... personal computer revolution was happening and so they became cheaper and people could have them and so, instead of having a machine that was dedicated to OCLC, we had work stations on people's desks where they could connect to OCLC uh... and uh... and so I, I was writing a lot of uh... macros for people to use, uh...who were using , who were doing OCLC. This light is blinking.

Riggins: Yes. Yes, that means that we're drawing to the end of the tape. Um, so this might be a good time to turn off the tape and put in a new one but we can take a break in the meantime.

Ron Johnson: Take a break, yeah.

#### End of DVD Ron Johnson Pt. 1 ####

Riggins: March 10, 2006. My name is Adina Riggins and I'm here with Ron Johnson. We're going to continue our discussion. We're going to move into some conversation about all the various different people you knew here, both in the library and outside of the library. First, let's pick up on what you were saying about Innovative, because to me, that's really interesting. I know to computer science people and library people, it would be interesting, too, just that you have the foresight to go with a system that now, I'm sure you've heard, but UNC Chapel Hill is picking it up.

Ron Johnson: I think Chapel Hill wanted it from the very beginning, but they always thought it was way too expensive for them, because Innovative is-- has always been priced-- I'm not sure what it's doing now, because I'm out of the loop now-- but uh... Innovative has always been priced uh... on numbers of transactions and numbers of holdings and things. And so Chapel Hill always thought that their holdings were so big that they couldn't afford innovative. But on the other hand, since before LS2000 days, Chapel Hill and Duke, too, use the Innovative module for acquisitions and serials. It just was not integrated with the rest of their library system, and so now they can be integrated with the rest of their library system. Uh... and so uh... what- uh... what uh... -- what-- some of the- the system person from State-- I mean from Chapel Hill used to tell me is that uh... we have the materials, but you have the best library system, so- so you know, they knew that- that their library system was not the best that's out there.

Riggins: And also, they weren't, like you said, fully integrated.

Ron Johnson: No, they were not, they were not. Uh... there-- there was a lot of duplication because uhm... this didn't work with that and blah, blah, blah, so there's a lot of data entry again, and again and again uh... that- that we have not had. And- and I was sorry to see that uh... that the Interlibrary loan here had pulled away from the Interlibrary loan module and was trying to do a completely standalone system, because that kept it from being integrated. I-- while I was here, I tried to not allow that as much as possible, but when I left, I understand that they did that, and you know I don't know how it works.

Riggins: It would be interesting, because Ocutec[ph?], I'm sure they've hurt themselves that they can't _____.

Ron Johnson: Uh... well you know, I was-- when you were talking about Innovated, I was sitting here thinking, oh gosh, all the stuff that I have forgotten about that system, because I just don't use it anymore. And- and so I don't even know the names of the modules anymore, because uh... things change so much in- in the computer world that if you don't work with it all the time, uh... the things that you know are out of date entirely in just a little uh... a little while.

Riggins: Oh, sure. That's right, because we've picked up ILLiad and DocuTech, DocuTech being the e-reserves and ILLiad being Interlibrary loan.

Ron Johnson: You know, we were doing e-reserves uh... a- a bit before there was an e-reserve module uh... that we were doing uh... documents. And- and we had the possibility of- of referencing in the system uh... a PDF document or a uh... JPG document, and so we were doing some of that so that you were not uh... checking out an item in Interlibrary loan, but you were actually looking at what you were doing before the Innovative system actually allowed that as a matter of course. Uh... we knew that we were moving to that, and so uh...-- I mean when it became available, because things were often announced four or five years before they were actually available. Uh... I uh... I liked the Innovative system. I- I uh... liked working with it. We uh... like to uh...-- Arlene and I uh... liked to be beta testers for the new system, uh... because uh... that way, you get to uh... have more input into what the system actually does when you're through with it.

Riggins: Right.

Ron Johnson: Uh... and uh... and you also uh... develop a better relationship with the support people at the uh... library company and you get invited to make presentations at conferences. And so if you make presentations at conferences, then they're going to pay your way. (laugh)

Riggins: Right, that's the way to do it. There's a funny story. I guess when you first started going to Innovative conferences, you're far away and you have to fly there. And Arlene talks about one time when you were singing some country music songs on flight?

Ron Johnson: (laugh) Well Arlene uh... Sue and Arlene and I were going to uh... a meeting in Providence, Rhode Island. And uh... originally, it was just me and Arlene, but they found out that if we flew to Boston and took the bus to Providence, that the three of us could go for the same-- for less money than the two of us, so we did that. And Arlene-- so we're sitting all together on the plane, you know, and Arlene wanted to entertain us, and so she had been saving these titles from country and western songs. And she thought it was a joke, you know, that she thought was funny, and then so she was going to read them to us on the airplane as jokes. And so Arlene was reading the names of these country and western songs and Sue and I knew the words. We were singing.

Riggins: Yeah, you actually enjoyed, you like the music.

Ron Johnson: That's right. And so- so Arlene thought it was made up and we knew the songs. And so we had the best fun fly-- uh... flying to Boston. Uh... let's see. Then when we-- when we were going back to Boston from Providence, the bus that were-- we were in-- or maybe the taxicab that was taking us to the bus station, I guess, uh... broke it's axle on the expressway on 95 up there, uh... and so they had to call somebody else and we didn't know if we were going to make it, but we did. We got back to Boston in plenty of time. And in those days, you know, you could check in your-- way ahead of a flight in some places. In Boston, were like five hours away from our flight, so they wouldn't let us check in, but at least there was storage, so we put all of our suitcases in a storage thing, and so we took the- the uh... subway into Boston. And Arlene's family used to live in Boston and so she knew the city. And so we followed the yellow bricks-- actually, they're red bricks, I think. Uh... that's the historic tour. And we uh... saw the- the uhm... the ducklings in a row in the park uh... and uh... and it- it was just uh... a great tour that we did and still had time to eat and then get back to the airport to get our plane home.

Riggins: There was a long tradition of you three going to these Innovative conferences and I think being a real leader for the company at UNCW.

Ron Johnson: Well uh... we were. We uh... we didn't mind giving presentations, and uh... and normally, since we were beta testers for something or other, then we had done things that other people had not done. Uh... and technology was advancing at these conferences. Some of them did not have internet-- fast internet access and some of them did. I remember uh... (laughs) uh... Lotus 123 had this program that used to be a screen capture program, and so you could turn on the screen capture and do the keystrokes, and then turn off the screen capture, and then it would play what you had done screen, after screen, after screen after screen. And so I was at this conference and I said, "And so now we're going to-- I'm going to show you how to do this process." And it was screen after screen after screen in Innovative. And this guy just goes, "No, no, no, we don't have internet access." And I said, "That's okay. I don't need it." And so I just turned on my Lotus program. And it's just like uh... a uhm... a DVD that- that you could pause it, or fast forward it or advance it one screen. (laughs) And so that's the way I gave our presentation, because almost always, something went wrong with uh... with the technology, you know. We had-- the lib-- we had a laptop ourselves, and so we took our laptop to the conference, uh... but it was before the days of wireless internet.

Riggins: Yeah, it's always good to be prepared.

Ron Johnson: Well we learned-- we learned that you always carry overheads.

Riggins: Oh really, the old fashioned transfers?

Ron Johnson: Right, the transfers. You always carry overheads and you always carry a uhm... printed script, because that may be what you're down to, uh... because you never know.

Riggins: And a flashlight, in case the power goes out.

Ron Johnson: (laughs) That's right. You never knew what was-- what was going to happen at one of those places. It's always adventure. I uh...-- Innovative often wanted the- the programs repeated and they asked you to do the same program two or three times. And I always avoided doing that, because what that means is, not only are you dead tired at the conference, but if you give your program three times, that means there's two programs that you have not been able to see. And- and I always felt like going to the conferences, not only me presenting something, but it's what I learned from- from other programs. And Arlene and I would sit down before we went in this conference and decided which sessions we were going to attend. And so we didn't attend the same ones, so that when we came back, we had-- if there were three of us that went, we had attended every session, every training session, uh... and uhm... which was-- uh... stood us in good stead, you know, because we could afford to send enough people to attend everything.

Riggins: Yeah, definitely. And I think that's the way people work around here. We definitely like to pool our resources. I'd like to switch now and talk about some of the people that people told me that they want you to talk about. Let's talk about some of the library folks. Ruth McCloud is library secretary. What do you think of when you think of her?

Ron Johnson: Well uh... Ruth guarded Miss Hagan. (laughs) She was-- Ruth was the secretary when I first came here and she was Miss Hagen's secretary and then she was Mr. Cooper's-- Lenox Cooper's secretary. Uh... and uh... and she was probably the epitome of a private secretary, so that whatever happened in the executive suite was closely held by Ruth. The other thing is that everybody always thought that Ruth read a different newspaper than everyone else, because no matter how miniscule an item was in the newspaper, Ruth knew about it. And so, you know, she read all the death notices. She- she-- uh... she read all the details of them and she remembered a lot of those things. Uh... Ruth was always well-dressed, uh... well-spoken and guarded the boss. (laughs) That's what I think about her.

Riggins: Wow, sounds like she could have been secretary to the chancellor.

Ron Johnson: Could have, and she could probably be the secretary to the president.

Riggins: Right, very, very professional. And then she worked for Lenox Cooper for a while. He was only here for a short time, right, a pretty short time?

Ron Johnson: Five or six years.

Riggins: Oh really, that long? What was he like?

Ron Johnson: Well uh... you know I went to school at Peabody and Lenox was-- at that time, I didn't know him then-- but he was uh... one of the associate librarians at the joint university library at Vanderbilt. And so Peabody, and Vanderbilt, and Scaret[ph?] and Fisk University were the joint universities in- in Nashville, shared libraries and courses and things. Uh... so he was there, so- so uh... he came here, and so we had a lot of commonality. His-- I think his dad was sick and so his family was from Wilmington, so he was coming home. Uh... well I guess I remember that we had a dispute, (laughs) uhm... because I- I thought that- that he was not uh... allowing me to do my job the way I-- the best I could. And uh... the- the-- macro managing, I guess is what they-- you would call it these days. And so one day I walked in the office and I said, "You know, if you want to be acquisitions librarian, then I'll go find another job. But if you want me to be acquisitions librarian, don't go to my people and get them all upset. If you got something to say, come to me." And so after that, we were fine. Uh... and I still see him at the Y every now and then. Uh... whenever he stopped being a librarian and took over his dad's insurance business, uh... he was my insurance agent. Uh... and uh... and so, you know, I belong to the Y and he belongs to the Y, and so I still him there every now and then. That's where I-- that's where I see him these days. Uh... but- but he's uh... retired from everything now, like the rest of us.

Riggins: Right, right, sounds like Gene was very different.

Ron Johnson: Gene was very different and- and Gene was uh... was director for a long time while I was here. Uh... Gene was a little impatient, you know, things have to be done right now.

Riggins: Oh, my goodness. That sounds like Sherman.

Ron Johnson: Different than Sherman, different than Sherman uh... at- at least with my-- because I had a short experience with Sherman. Uh... but uh... Gene would often make-- ask- ask you to do things that were clearly impossible to do today, but would want you to do it today. And so I learned to say to him, "I've taken care of that, Gene." That means it's on my agenda. I will do it. It will get done, but it won't get done today. But- but as far as he was concerned, I was taking care of it. Uh... he uh... worried about a lot of things. Uhm... I-- you know, I guess that every director has his idiosyncrasies and things. I think uh... Sherman is probably a much better uh... person for the staff than Gene was. Uh... Gene was uhm... not generous with raises, I guess. And Sherman has worked very hard, I think, to get people uh... better parity in pay. Uh... but Gene thought it was more important to- to buy additional library books or something. And- and we never had enough money for equipment, and so, you know, we worked with minimal equipment, because he always put materials budget higher than equipment budget, a lot higher. And uh... and so uh... we worked with minimal stuff, I- I think. Uh... and you know, when- when Sherman first came here and they had all this equipment, I'm like, "Come on. Ya'll people are rich!" because we never had that kind of resources, uh... at least not uh... not for-- not assistants. Well you know, we uh...--maybe a- a fifth of the people in the library could get new equipment and- and so everybody's computer was five years old, because-- and you know, five years in the personal computing world is a lot. And so people would be using two floppy drives and right next door would be somebody with 120 meg hard drive, yeah, uh... so there was a lot of disparity in available equipment and trying to decide who needed it worse. And- and we hand-me-downed, you know. Arlene would get the new computer. Her assistant would get her old one, and then you had to reprogram all of them, so it was a lot of-- a lot of systems work.

Riggins: That still happens, though, and they still talk about how that's a lot of work.

Ron Johnson: It is. It's a lot of work, because you have to take off the stuff that- that Arlene uses and put it on her new one, and- and then-- and then add-- yeah, it is. Uh... it is a lot of work to do that, uhm... but, you know, you have to do something.

Riggins: So when Sherman came, you talked a little bit about him and how that was different. As far as management styles, do you see them having different management styles?

Ron Johnson: Oh, uh... yes, very much. Uh... I don't know that I can put a finger or describe exactly what it was, but yes, very much different management style. Uh... but you know, you learn to adapt for whatever people are.

Riggins: Especially if you want to get your work done.

Ron Johnson: You want to get your work done. You want to do a good job. And- and so for- (laugh) for instance, when Sherman came, one of the things that he wanted us to do was to have a management meeting every week. Well we really didn't have anything to talk about every week at the management level. And so after a while-- this is Sue, and Arlene, and me and whoever was head of reference at the time, Louis, maybe-- we would come in the meetings and we wouldn't say a word. Sherman would talk and we wouldn't say anything. "Do you have any questions?" "No." "Any comments?" "No." "Any new stuff?" "No." And so then he decided to stop having those. This is what we want to do. So the upper management had spoken, which was nothing. And so he stopped having those weekly meetings, and so then we started having meetings when there was something to meet about, you know, which- which made more sense, because- because we felt like, oh gosh, I could be doing my work, instead of sitting here listening to these things that- that we really could get a memo about. Yeah, and- and so, you know, in some ways, I guess, we changed the directors, and in some ways, the directors changed us, or you know, we learned to work with them.

Riggins: Let's talk about Louise, because I work with her son. As you know, she's come back and done her wonderful stints at reference. She's just such a legacy here. We have some materials in archives about her award from the state, her award of excellence. What was she like to work with?

Ron Johnson: Well first, Louise is-- if- if Louise was not a perfect person, she came real close, so that ran over into everything she did, so she was just a- a wonderful librarian. She genuinely cared about everybody. I never heard her say a bad word about anything or anybody. You-- she never told a- a joke that made anybody the brunt of the joke except her.

Riggins: She did not gossip?

Ron Johnson: She did not gossip. Uh... she uh... if people asked her reference questions, then she would go four miles out of the way to get the answer, you know, much, much better than I would do. Uh... she uh... was not real technology savvy and she realized that, and-- but-- and- and so if- if you knew something that she wanted to know, she didn't mind asking you. And-- but- but you knew that- that she had really asked you. She didn't tell you to do this. She asked you to do this. And- and so people would bend over backwards to do things for Louise, because she'd bend over backwards to do things for other people. And if- if you felt like Louise was slighting you, it was because she was helping a student, that the students, for her, were always first and their needs were always first. Uh... she uhm... was uh... in periodicals for a long time, a wonderful memory. Oh, if I just knew the things that Louise had forgotten, you know. And so uh... she could go to uh... US Book Exchange, for instance, and she knew what issues of what volumes of every periodical that we owned were missing pages, or she was missing the issues, and uh... and so without a list or anything, she could pluck these things out. Uh... she knew the history of the journals. Uh... whenever she was periodicals librarian, periodicals was her life, you know, and so she knew all those things.

Riggins: And she supervised a staff.

Ron Johnson: She supervised a staff. Everybody that worked for her loved her, uh... would do anything for Louise, because Louis would do anything for them. Uh... she was generous to a fault. Uh... she-- uh... she and Kathryn always-- uh... they adopted at Christmas a nursing home and bought everybody in that nursing home a present. Uh... what else did they do? Gosh, a lot of services stuff. But- but Louise, right, is a legacy. Uh... she just-- she just had a terrific memory for detail. Uh... she was well respected in her profession. She was loved in this library.

Riggins: It seems like it. And so she was in periodicals for a long time. We did an interview with her, too. And then she moved to reference and it turns out in public service, she just shines as well, very outgoing.

Ron Johnson: That's right. That's right. And uh... well that's right. She never put herself first, yeah. Uh... I think if there was uh... a problem with Louise, it's that she was not a great administrator in reference, for instance, because- because she didn't want to tell other librarians what to do. And you know if you're an administrator, you really have to tell other people what to do sometimes. And so she was-- she would much rather have managed by consensus than by decree (laugh) uh... because that was her personality. And see, I remember when Louise was a fat girl, and then she found out she had diabetes and so she just went off of sugar entirely and became just a skinny girl. See, I'm sure you only knew her when she was a skinny girl.

Riggins: Right. I've seen pictures.

Ron Johnson: Yeah. Uh... but some people, when they go from being heavy to thin or something, uh... change their personality, but Louise did not. She was still the same person.

Riggins: Still Louise, yeah, amazing, she sounds a bit like a saint.

Ron Johnson: Well uh... I never thought of her as a saint. I just think she was a genuinely nice, good person.

Riggins: Right, yeah, a saint in a good way.

Ron Johnson: And uh... you know, uh... Miss Hagan was one of her library instructors at graduate school, because uh... Louise went to Emory. She was a small town girl, went to Emory University.

Riggins: And that's maybe how she ended up coming here?

Ron Johnson: With Miss Hagan, I'm pretty sure. I'm pretty sure, because Louise was here when I came.

Riggins: And so was Betty Sue ______. Ron Johnson: So was Betty Sue.

Riggins: I interviewed her too, but it was a long time ago, about four years ago. That was a great interview, just to talk about everything she was doing in cataloging at the time, and how supportive Dr. Randall was. That could be one reason why this library has such a strong history, Dr. Randall being a librarian himself.

Ron Johnson: Uh... he always uh... when he was president of uh... Wilmington College, he uh... gave the library everything that he possibly could. Uh... Dr. Wagoner was uh... was good friends of Dr. Friday, who was president of the university. And Dr. Friday always had uh... an identity for UNC Wilmington, not just for the library, but for all of UNCW, and uh... and so uh... Dr. Friday tried to look out for UNC Wilmington. Well I think Dr. Friday was an excellent president. I don't know that we've had one before or after that was like Friday, like Bill Friday. Uh... so uhm... you know, uh... you know, there've been some personal uh... affinities that have uh... resulted in UNCW doing better than maybe it would have.

Riggins: Yeah, I think so. What was Betty Sue like to work with?

Ron Johnson: Uh... (laughs) Betty Sue was old school southern, I guess. (laughs) Uh... let's see. Back in those days, we all smoked. (laughs) And so Betty Sue was one of the smokers. Louise was not. But Betty Sue and Kathryn and uh... and Doris had. We all smoked. And uh... you know, in those days, we smoked at our desk, smoked in the kitchen. Yeah, uh... and-- uhm... but I guess I always thought-- I-- I'm not sure if Betty Sue is from Wilmington, but I always thought was, whether she is or not, you know.

Riggins: She is.

Ron Johnson: Okay, and so she seems to be-- she-- I always thought of her as Wilmington gentility.

Riggins: Yeah, I can see that.

Ron Johnson: Uh... and Betty Sue and I had disagreements, but they were always professional disagreements and not personal disagreements. And- and Arlene and I were like that, too. We could sit down and argue and people would think we were just horrible friends, and as soon as we were through with that, we would go and eat lunch together, because it has nothing to do with our personal relationships. Betty Sue was like that, too, that- that a lot of times, we didn't agree on how the library should be run, or how we should do this or that. But nonetheless, it didn't interfere with our personal relationship. It was just a professional disagreement. Uh... and with some people, they can't separate that. Uh... they think if you are uh... disagreeing with what they're doing, that you don't like them. And that was not the case at all. I- I liked her a lot and I worked with her Betty Sue a long time. She uh...-- well when Miss Hagan retired, she gave Betty Sue her cap and gown. And when Betty Sue retired, she gave it to me, so I still have it, and it is-- it is a real master's gown, so when you read the instructions-- uh... you read the uh... graduation program, it describes the bachelor's gown and the master's gown, the PhD gown. It is exactly what is written in that program. Nowadays, they-- they're much different. But- but yeah, it had the big, long sleeves with the hole. And the arms were out so that you-- so that-- so that the arms are not inside the gown, but the arms are outside the gown. I mean your real arms are outside.

Riggins: Is it from Emory?

Ron Johnson: Uh... I do not know, because its not-- it's black. It's not a color. Uh... and so with a masters, uh... most people wear black gowns and then you wear the hood, so I bought the hood for my school, but the-- but the cap and gown was Miss Hagan's, and then it was Betty Sue's and now it's mine.

Riggins: That's great. That's a great thing to pass down.

Ron Johnson: So I guess I need to give to somebody. But you guys don't have to march anymore. See we used to have to march.

Riggins: You can, it's an option? You can always give it to archives.

Ron Johnson: Yeah, you can-- okay. See- see when we were here we-- it was not an option. You marched, you know. But then we only had graduation once a year. You know, we didn't have this convocation and stuff.

Riggins: And you didn't have as many library faculty. That's for sure.

Ron Johnson: Yeah.

Riggins: Yeah, but if you would like to donate the cap and gown to archives, we can talk.

Ron Johnson: Well uh... I- I might do that, but I'm going to uh... I know that I'm going to wear it next year when my-- when my niece is uh... graduating, because she asked me to, so we'll talk about it after that.

Riggins: Well hang onto it.

Ron Johnson: Okay, I've got it. I'll hang it in my closet.

Riggins: I was talking to Debbie Price and she mentioned a few people that I believe worked in your department, Tom McCall, or he may not have worked in your department.

Ron Johnson: Tom McCall was uh... they tried various way to get faculty involved with book selection, and Tom McCall was the English department library representative for years and years. And so we devised a program to allocate money to departments. Computer programs it was, but you know, it didn't take into affect your feet at about this area. Uh... so uh... actually, Tom McCall would come over and was just a real clown and would uh... entertain the department. But he interacted with Kathryn a lot more than me, and- and with his staff more than me.

Riggins: Kathryn Walls.

Ron Johnson: Kathryn Walls and- and Debra Price, too, and me, because you know, Debra is funny. Oh gosh, is she funny.

Riggins: Great. Yeah, then you hired Debra.

Ron Johnson: I did. I did. Uh... for that job, I interviewed, you know, six or eight people. And Debra said, "Why did you hire me?" and I said, "Because your eyes sparkled." You know, I could see intelligence in there. No matter what else she said, there was intelligence there. She was alive. That's why I hired her. I hired Joyce Abernathy. Uh... I hired Joyce Johnson.

Riggins: Really?

Ron Johnson: Yeah, when I went to-- Joyce was working in circulation for me, like _____ did before. And whenever I started doing computers, Gene Ugela[ph?] gave me an assistant, so I'd have time to read that ____ manual and that stuff, because I- I said, "I don't know anything about computers." And he said, "You can read." And so I said, "Well give me an assistant then, so I don't have to do this all this everyday stuff." So he did and the assistant was Joyce Johnson. So every since we've had LS2000, Joyce Johnson was my assistant in circulation. And then at some point, I moved out of circulation and was all systems. But I still helped Joyce a lot uh... and as Sharon said, I wrote the macros that- that takes-- that takes an overdue notice in Innovative and turns it automatically into transfers for excess fines. (coughs) And- and so they are still using that thing, uh... because it takes this file here and manipulates it here and puts it out over here. And uh... how long did I know to do that? I don't know.

Riggins: Joyce is also a very positive person.

Ron Johnson: She is. She is. Uh... people that didn't know us often thought that she was my wife, you know, because we had the same name.

Riggins: Right. Ron Johnson: "Is Mr. Johnson your husband?" She said, "No, he's my brother." (laughs)

Riggins: But Marion Hariss and Kathryn Walls[ph?] worked for you. Is that right?

Ron Johnson: Yes.

Riggins: And Kathryn referred to her a lot. She liked Debra. Different personality, I'm sure.

Ron Johnson: Well uh... Debra was younger than me and Kathryn was older than me, so Kathryn was like mother and mentor and several other things.

Riggins: Oh, yeah. She's the one who showed you about the accounting.

Ron Johnson: Yeah, well you know. And uh... Kathryn had infinite patience with those of us who were young and didn't want to come to work at 8 o'clock in the morning. (laughs) Uh... and uh... and if we uh... you know, had a big night and overslept, you know, she'd call you up and say, "Are you going to come to work today?" (laughs)

Riggins: Motherly.

Ron Johnson: Yeah, motherly.

Riggins: And Marion Hariss, is that Hariss with two "R's" and "S's"?

Ron Johnson: Uh... it's two S Harriss, two "S's".

Riggins: Yeah, that's a common name around here.

Ron Johnson: Well see the Hariss family in Wilmington had a dispute, and so the family were not talking to each other, and so one of them became two "S" Hariss and one of them was one "S" Harris. Marion is from Chicago, was from Chicago. Her father was a high muckety-muck with Con Ed in Chicago.

Riggins: What is Con Ed?

Ron Johnson: Uh... it's the electric company, Consolidated Edison. And she came to school at UNC to get her MRS, and she did. And so she got uh...-- Johnson Hariss, her husband, was at school then and she met him and she married him and moved to Wilmington with him. Uh... he is uh... is Hariss on one side and Bellamy on the other. And when they first moved to Wilmington as a married couple, they lived in the Bellamy mansion uh... with- with part of his family. (coughs) And they had an apartment on the second floor in the Bellamy mansion uh... before it was run down and then became a museum, you know, when it was really a house. Uh... Marion was funny. Uh... she was tight. Oh God, she was-- her family was wealthy, but man was she tight.

Riggins: She was still married.

Ron Johnson: Yeah, yeah, yeah, to Johnson, yeah. And Johnson had uh...-- I think Johnson didn't have a real job anywhere, but he-- uh... because his family had money, you know. Uh... but he had a lot of- of play jobs. And one of the things that Johnson did is he had uh... a number of greenhouses out just beyond the airport at Castle Hayne. And he grew miniature roses, and so he shipped roses all over the United States, uh... miniature roses. So Marion often had, you know, teacup roses, and so Marion would often would have uh... a little rosebush on her desk that he gave her. Uh... they had a couple of children. Uh... Marion uh... worked in acquisitions. She also worked in periodicals. Uh... she uh... resisted automation, but then sort of took to it. (laughs) Uhm... I don't know. I don't know what to say about Marion. She's-- a- a lot of people didn't like her. I always thought she was funny, you know. And- and so uh... she could be exasperating, but in a funny way, you know, so- so I would end up being really upset with her, but laughing at the same time.

Riggins: Oh right, one of those challenging kinds.

Ron Johnson: Yeah. (laughs) I remember that she would say, "My computer's not working." ________. (coughs) But she would say, "My computer's not working." I'd say, "What are you doing, Marion," and she'd say, "Nothing, the keyboard's clicked." And so over the phone, I can hear it going click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, and I'd say, "Don't tell me you're not doing anything. I can hear it." "I'm not doing anything." But Marion was one of those people who would say, "It was already on fire when I laid down. I didn't do anything. It's just not working." It's not me. It's not me that is not doing it.

Riggins: But she obviously had skills.

Ron Johnson: She did. She did. Uh... and (laughs) uh... I don't know if-- I can smile when I think about Marion.

Riggins: Well that's good. That's good that you have those good memories of working with your staff. What about people outside of the library? You knew a lot of faculty outside the library. You must have worked on committees.

Ron Johnson: Committees and uhm... there was a chancellor's advisory committee that I was on for five or six years. Uhm... I- I don't know. I think in the early days, uh... it was easier to know everybody on campus, because there were not that many people. Uh... when- when I came here, any day, you could walk across the campus at 5 o'clock and not see a soul. The chancellor knew the names of everybody on the faculty, and would call you by your name when he saw you on the sidewalk. Uh... but the-- and- and Wilmington was essentially a commuter school. It's like an extension of uh... New Hanover High School uh... and- and so not many people lived on campus. There was only one dorm or something. Most people drove to- to school or walked. Uh... but then, as the school grew, uh... we got more dorms. There were people living on campus and it was more and more crowded. And the faculty got bigger and so those of us who (laughs) had been here when it was smaller and knew everybody then, would lament the fact that we didn't know anyone. Uh... and I would say, "Oh, look how young the freshman are-- look. They're babies." And then all of a sudden, I realized the new professors looked like babies.

Riggins: Yeah, it's always someone else looking young.

Ron Johnson: Yeah, you go, "Oh, God. Look it, he's got a PhD and he's a baby!"

Riggins: You retired in 1999 and you came in what, '74?

Ron Johnson: Seventy four, yeah.

Riggins: So you were here for 25 years, yeah that is a long time.

Ron Johnson: Yeah. I was here for uh... for like-- I worked for like 27 years or so. Uh... the- the deal is, you know, I told you I worked for East Carolina and I resigned to go into the military. And then within two years after I got out of the military, I came back to work for the State of North Carolina, not by design, it's just sort of the way it happened. And uh... and we had a really good director of uh... personnel at the time, and she said, "Do you know that if you work for the state of North Carolina for ten years, they will give you your military time in the retirement system?" And so after I had worked for ten years here, I wrote the retirement system and asked for this benefit, and I got this letter saying that I had four free years in the retirement system.

Riggins: Not free, since you served your country.

Ron Johnson: Yeah, yeah, yeah, right, uh... because I had worked for the state of North Carolina, resided with a military state, went in enlistment, came back and worked for the state of North Carolina. So that meant that after I had worked 26 years, I had 30 years in the retirement system, uh... which was really nice. Most people uh... who were in the military could buy that time, but I don't know if you know anything about buying time in the retirement system. You have to buy the actuary stuff, too, so uh... it ends up being terribly expensive. Betty Sue bought time. She did not get along Lenox Cooper at all and so she wanted to be able to retire. And so she bought time that she had removed or something or other. She bought it back and paid a fortune for it, so that she would be able to retire if she wanted to. (coughs) I think Lenox went on and Betty Sue stayed. (laughs) But uh... but she didn't go on with doc-- with Mr. Cooper.

Riggins: An opinionated professional, that's okay.

Ron Johnson: Well yeah.

Riggins: You said you were on the curriculum committee for a long time, and you knew Fritz ______.

Ron Johnson: Fritz _____ from-- that we were-- yeah, that we- we started at UNCW at the same time.

Riggins: Was he also on the curriculum committee?

Ron Johnson: Uh... for a number of years, he was, but- but the story I was telling you about was when he was making a presentation for the biology department, because they were moving into marine biology at the time, and Fritz was maybe the first marine biologist that they hired uh... and so they were moving in. Uh... David Seran[ph?] was head of the uh... biology department. David's wife, Sian[ph?] was a librarian here, uh... and uh... and she worked uh... in the library under Betty Sue. She worked for Betty Sue until she had her first child, and then she stopped working and stayed home. Maybe she only had one child, I think. So uh... yeah, I've uh...-- I- I knew a good number of faculty people, and- and it seemed like that in the old days, when you were out and about in Wilmington, you saw more faculty. But uh... but uh... maybe the last five years I worked here, I would be out and about and I would never see anyone that I recognized as faculty here. Uh... part of that, I guess, is because there were a lot more places to go in Wilmington and so the people were spread out more. Uh... and- and people started living further away from the center of town. See I've always lived either near the university or downtown, but uh... but lots of people lived like Madeline[ph?] you know, the next county. Of course I lived-- well I can't say I lived-- I lived in Burgaw for a while-- not in Burgaw, but in Rocky Point, yeah.

Riggins: Right, right, you lived at Oak Island.

Ron Johnson: I lived at Oak Island. Uh... I retired at Oak Island.

Riggins: Well now you are into all kinds of international travel, but it sounds like you did a bit of that beforehand.

Ron Johnson: I did. I did. I had a partner who was uh... into traveling and we uh... traveled a lot. Uh... maybe the first big trip we took was to Tahiti. And uh... at the time, the library had a policy of you can't take vacation when school is in session. (coughs) And Sue was acting director of the library. They moved between directors for some reason. And so my partner came and asked Sue if I could take off the time because he was giving me a trip to Tahiti for Christmas. And Sue had been to Tahiti and so she said yes.

Riggins: Very well traveled.

Ron Johnson: That's right. (laugh) That's right. And Sue likes Tahiti so much that she and Rob want to be-- have their ashes spread there, so somebody is going to get a good-- a free trip to Tahiti to- to spread their ashes on Moorea.

Riggins: What about when you traveled to Belize and did some work with the library _____ there?

Ron Johnson: Well uh... Belize has the second largest reef, coral reef in the world. You know, the Great Barrier Reef is the first one. And then running uh... Belize and into uh... up to Cancun is-- or almost to Cancun-- is another reef. And the university, UNCW wanted access to that reef. And uh... the University College of Belize-- that was their name, University College of Belize-- was consolidating these state schools and bringing them all inside the University College uh... administration. (cough) And they were looking to automate their library, and so uh... the uh... the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences offered to send someone down there to work with them with automation, if- if we could have something to something, something in return, you know how that goes. And so I went down there uh... and uh... stayed for a week and looked at their various campuses in Belmopan, which is the capital of Belize, and in Belize City and in um... Punta Gorda, which is in the southern part of-- of the uh... country. We had to fly there, it was so far away. Uh... and uh... and I wrote the report uh... and- and came back, you know. Uh... let's see. While I was there, we had a-- they had a holiday. I offered to work on the holiday, uh... because I-- you know, by the time, they was limited. But they didn't want me to work on a holiday, so I took the holiday, too. So we went out to the Keys on that day and I went snorkeling.

Riggins: And you saw the reef?

Ron Johnson: Saw the reef uh... and- and uh... and snorkeled with rays and sharks. Well they said that the sharks were night feeders, and so we were there in the day and decided it as safe. I- I didn't feel very safe. This was-- that was really the first time that I did snorkeling, and so it was-- it was uh... adventure for me, and- and it was very pretty. It was very pretty. I thought that was the prettiest thing I'd ever seen, until I saw Tahiti. (laughs)

Riggins: I remember I saw your pictures.

Ron Johnson: Tahiti has gorgeous water. Oh, it's gorgeous.

Riggins: And then you ended up writing a report and they ended up using it, I'm sure.

Ron Johnson: Uh... using it, uh... but uh...-- you know, I was not only doing automation, but we-- I was also making recommendations of the-- uh... about the consolidation and what they should do with the libraries with them. And I think they did about half of it, and half of it, they didn't have the money to do. Uh... they especially wanted to start delivering better library service to- uhm... to Punta Gorda, which is so far away from Belize City. And the only decent way they could do that was electronic, and so they were looking at electronic journals, and I taught some descriptions of things. (coughs) And they simply did not have the money to do it. So they knew what needed to be done, what could be done, but they could not afford to do it. And- and that is often the case.

Riggins: Oh yeah, in developing countries.

Ron Johnson: Well in the developed countries, too, that's often the case.

Riggins: Well we've been talking for a good while. I should ask if you have any closing thoughts, first about librarianship. What do you feel about the direction of the profession? Would you recommend it to someone, like your niece, who's graduating in a couple of years? How do you feel about librarianship in this current age?

Ron Johnson: Well uh... I went to a place that called itself, you know. You know, at first I went to- to East Carolina, and it was East Carolina College when I went and they couldn't wait to be East Carolina University. And- and uh... they'd even sent me uh... a letter saying, "For $25, we'll change your degree to say East Carolina University, instead of East Carolina College." And I thought I didn't go East Carolina University. I don't want that name. And so I went to George Peabody College for Teachers and they have been giving the PhD for over a hundred years. (laughs) And uh... and the library school was called Library School, uh... not Library and Information Sciences or any of those things. And so my degree is a Master in Library Science. Yeah, it was, uh... not Library Information Sciences or any of that. Riggins: And sometimes now it's just information.

Ron Johnson: Information. Uh... and- and so I think that- that in a lot of ways, the library world has changed, and probably information sciences is- is much better than library sciences to describe the profession now. Uh... when I graduated uh... the MLS was considered "the" professional _____ degree and it was accepted in the university system. And now you- you guys have that perpetual argument about are you faculty, are you not. If you're a professor, what are you a professor of, and you go yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Riggins: Did you know that ________?

Ron Johnson: We did. I had uh...-- I had a tenure year track appointment for my first day, though.

Riggins: Interesting.

Ron Johnson: Uh... but we-- mostly it was how do you evaluate what these librarians have done compared to what-- kind of what we-- what we give to the teaching faculty, uh... whenever they're at tenure, you know, yeah, uh... because essentially, uh... the teaching faculty wanted to get promotions in place, but they didn't want the librarians to get promotions in place, which is what titular promotions are, uhm... because they started out teaching English literature, and they ended up teaching English literature. And somewhere, they advanced with titular promotions, but they didn't change their jobs. Uh... I always said with my title of Associate Professor emeritus, and a buck-fifty, I can buy a loaf of bread. So I've never-- I've never told anyone that I was a professor. You know, they'd say, "You work at the university?" "Yeah." "What do you teach?" "Nothing, I'm a librarian. We do the library. I'm into computers." You know, that's sort-- sorta it that- that I was always satisfied for people to know I was a librarian. Uh... I've- I've always been satisfied with being a librarian, because it- it was very satisfying to me. The work is satisfying to me. I liked it. I feel like that I've contributed to society. I feel like I've contributed to the university. Uh... I don't know that I've made any earth-shattering con-- contributions, but um...--well maybe, maybe not.

Riggins: I understand it was your idea to start the university archive. Do you remember that?

Ron Johnson: Yes, uh... and actually, uh... Deb-- uh... Judy Davis worked-- worked in us-- uh... in acquisitions, and she didn't really like the work very much. And so uh... I sort of had special collections as uh... as part of my responsibility when I was in acquisitions, and uh... and so we started with the university archives about that time, and- and that was Judy-- something that Judy liked to do. And so she was very good at it, and so I let her. And so I ended up with the credit because she worked for me, but really, it was her.

Riggins: She went and got materials and talked to people.

Ron Johnson: That's right. She did the interviews and she learned how do to this. And she learned-- she taught me how to do those things, too, but uh...-- because that was her interest. You know, it's like well Louise always did that genealogy stuff. She was not as bad as some genealogists. Uh... and- and so she would teach you about it if you wanted to learn it. I didn't ever want to learn that, uh... so I didn't pay much attention. But with Judy, I- I paid enough attention to, you know, to be able to give her guidance with this and that. Uh... and uh... you know, we had some relatively famous faculty, Claude Hal[ph?] being one of them. And we had some of Claude's materials. Uh... we didn't end up with all of Claude's materials, because uh... quite frankly, when the university uh... got into you've got to have a PhD or you can't be much here mode, see Claude only had his bachelor's degree and he was ahead of-- uh... so he was an accomplished artist, but he didn't have the credentials. And so when the university moved into this era of credentialization[ph?], then they uh... they cast Claude aside, essentially. And uh... Claude was famous enough in North Carolina that-- uh... and had enough materials that I thought that was a mistake in letting Claude do that. And so-- and so he changed his will so that instead of the university getting stuff, that uh... the state library or something would get it. And then- then he changed it again, whenever uh... the art gallery started courting him heavily, and so the art gallery ended up with his stuff.

Riggins: ________________.

Ron Johnson: Yeah, a hundred thousandth volume. That's how we got our Huckleberry Finn and we got something else, uh... so yes.

Riggins: I'd like to thank you, Ron, so much for coming in today and making the trip to UNCW.

Ron Johnson: Well you're welcome.

Riggins: I appreciate it.

Ron Johnson: Okay, well I'm-- now I'm going to go do my other business.

#### End of DVD Ron Johnson Pt. 2 ####

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