Retiring Access Services Manager Sue Shipman Recalls Circulation Services Before Library Technology

Most patrons of WSU Libraries won’t remember a time when circulation services weren’t online, but Sue Shipman does.

“I think I’m the last circulation person left who remembers when there were no e-books or e-journals and everything was in paper,” said Shipman, Holland and Terrell Libraries’ Access Services manager. “We checked out piles of books to people all hour, every hour. Lines for the copy center were often a dozen people or more long. The copy machines took coins, and the use was so great that we had to empty the coin boxes regularly.”

Shipman retires on May 5 after 38 years of service to WSU Libraries. In that time, Shipman has been “a tireless advocate for the libraries and all their constituents,” according to Associate Dean Beth Blakesley.

“Sue has led Access Services through many technological changes and special projects with grace under pressure,” Blakesley said. “She has consistently worked to make things easier and better for everyone, and she always has a groaner of a joke at the ready. We will greatly miss her expertise and positive spirit and wish her all the best in her next chapter.”

Sue Shipman

Shipman started as a student worker in 1982 in Holland Circulation. She accepted a staff job in the same unit in 1985. In 1986, she transferred to the Veterinary Medical/Pharmacy Library. Shipman became the supervisor of the Owen Collection Development Unit in 1989.

In 1991, she took a voluntary demotion to a half-time position in the George W. Fischer Agricultural Sciences Library to care for her infant son. In 2001, Shipman transferred to another half-time position in the Health Sciences Library (now the Animal Health Library). The following year, she returned to full-time employment as supervisor at the George B. Brain Education Library. She came to Holland and Terrell Libraries’ Access Services as a staff supervisor in 2009 and was promoted to Access Services manager in 2013.

The advent of personal computers in the early 1980s didn’t make library services more efficient right away, according to Shipman.

“We did check out regular books on a computer in 1982, but the system was down for hours each day, and much of the material wasn’t in the system yet,” she said. “It made for a lot of handwriting and queues at the desk. To renew material, we didn’t just click a ‘renew all’ button. The list of checkouts was printed on a dot-matrix printer, and each barcode was typed in manually and then checked off the list. If someone had a hundred or more books checked out, it could take a very long time to renew.”

Shipman recalls the first time she used a word processor on a giant, stand-alone machine. The word processor was quickly made obsolete by Microsoft Word. Still, the libraries dealt with masses of paper and paperwork.

“I was in a meeting with the libraries’ assistant director, and she was lamenting the complaints about all the paper. I said, ‘You should give everyone an email address and make them use it.’ She did,” Shipman said.

Similarly, CD-ROM drives made finding citations and doing research easier for patrons who previously referred to paper indices.

“Librarians used to have rooms where they took patrons in, and they did computer searches for citations for a fee,” she said. “It was quite a process. Patrons were very happy when they could do it themselves using a CD-ROM for free. Then came the internet.”

Shipman’s favorite part of working at the WSU Libraries is the people she worked with and for, among them brilliant scholars/educators, world-changing scientists, dedicated professionals, and the devoted and knowledgeable library staff and faculty, she said.

“It has also been a joy to work with all the student employees over the years,” Shipman added. “You don’t forget most of them, and it is a pleasure to have social media now to stay connected with them and see their lives change with jobs, marriages, and babies.”