eNews Edition: Fall 2020
Contributed by Katherine Dabbour
Besides admiring the work ethic, loyalty, and longevity of long-term Library employees, it’s always a good idea to capture their experiences to create a living history of the major changes that have happened in American academic libraries over the years. Hai-Ling Tang, currently the Web and Digital Support Specialist in the Collection Access Management Services department, has worked for the CSUN Library since 1980 and has been a part of its rapid technological changes.
When Hai-Ling started at CSUN, the first automated library circulation system was an IBM key punch card system, which was housed in the Circulation Department on the main floor (now called Guest Services), which was used to track the Library’s inventory. Books came with IBM punch cards and users had plastic library cards, and both were fed into an IBM card reader system that produced a separate punch card linking the book to the user. Part of her job was to collect the IBM cards every day, and send them to the CSUN computer center to be processed, resulting the next day in a large green and white printout for the previous day’s book checkouts and overdue books. A copy of the printout was kept at the circulation desk where users could check to see if the book they needed was already checked out.
As the Library transitioned to online circulation systems, her next position was working with the campus photo ID system, which not only was the ID card for all students to use for campus services, but also served as the library card. Instead of a plastic punch card, student ID cards had barcodes to use to check out books. Hai-Ling was also was in charge of a team of Student Assistants who issued the first campus-wide photo IDs. It was six months of hard work, but they had a great time, and Hai-Ling still keeps in touch with many of those former students all these years later.
After working in Circulation, Hai-Ling’s next position was with the Fine Arts Service Desk, which contained music recordings in vinyl and tape, and VHS videos, along with equipment for students to listen to and watch recordings in the library. In addition, the department also had a large collection of art prints and music scores for students to check out.
After learning HTML coding through on the job training/self-instruction, one of the first things Hai-Ling created was the Library’s first reference librarian’s desktop calendar on the web. Her web skills have expanded since then to match the needs of the Cataloging unit. When asked which of her jobs were her favorite, Hai-Ling responded, “I like all of my jobs in the Library over the years, because I’m always learning new skills and I have always tried to keep work fun.” Despite the new and rapidly changing technology, her favorite part about working at the Library is still being around all the books. She shared, “It’s one of my happy places.” Furthermore, when asked what changes she felt had the biggest impact on her and other library employees, Hai-Ling responded, “The coffee shop in the library. I always thought the library should be a no food and drink environment.” Given that academic libraries went from years of strict rules about this policy, along with enforcing no noise, having coffee shops inside the library to encourage student visits and collaborative learning is a huge change, so one can see her point!
While working for the University Library, Hai-Ling has also been an active member of the CSUN chapter of the CSU Employees Union (CSUEU), including serving as the current president. She finds this work satisfying by learning to see both sides of the coin (manager and employee), how different points of view can cause conflicts, and that by helping the CSUEU member solve their differences, everyone can live with the end results.
When asked what keeps her busy outside of work, Hai-Ling mentioned photography and camping. She also enjoys catching up with her former student assistants, and how it brings her joy to know that they are all very successful members of our society. After graduating from CSUN, some went on to become dentists, lawyers, pharmacists, and engineers, and she’s been able to watch how they all grew up, and one even became the Library’s Associate Dean! While Hai-Ling said she enjoys watching the world go by and seeing how everything changes from day-to-day, she has been an active participant in those changes, too.