WAML and My Career Path – Linda Newman
(interviewed and transcribed by Kathy Rankin)
Based on Oct 2017 interview by Kathy Rankin of UNLV of Linda Newman in response to specific questions and edited from the original transcription. Linda served as President of WAML, hosted two meetings and was a WAML rep on CUAC, serving as Chair in her last two years on CUAC. She retired as Emeritus Faculty from the University of Nevada, Reno, June 2009, concluding a 40-year career at Nevada. She was awarded a life-time membership to WAML May 2009.
I’m originally from South Carolina, born, raised, many generations there. I have a BA from the University of South Carolina in International Studies and I had no career designs on becoming a librarian much less working with maps. There was no `path’ I followed to reach my eventual career. It was an accumulation of interests, events, opportunities and good fortune, which led me there.
I worked in campus libraries when I was at South Carolina. My older sister, already at University of South Carolina, pointed me in that direction, actually. She was a huge encouragement toward college. She said, “This is what you’re going to take,’ and she outlined it, semester by semester. `There’s a new degree they’re offering; sign up for this.’ Since I needed funds, she directed me to new student loans available and said, `Go talk to so-and-so and ask him for a job in the library.’ [A professor on campus who had nothing directly to do with the library but was quite prominent.] I did and worked in the historic Caroliniana library most of the time I was there; in the manuscript department with historic materials. I liked it a lot, but I never considered being a librarian although I also had also worked in the library in high school. [There was no library school at University of South Carolina then].
I got married and we moved north and eventually west. For my husband to finish college we moved to Pennsylvania and I worked in a small Carnegie public library in a little rust belt town on the Susquehanna River. I applied because I had no specific training or experience otherwise, and I really enjoyed it. I was the secretary and did a little of everything except the children’s room. I actually walked around town and paid the bills. It was a fun job. While I was there, I learned about the requirements to be a professional librarian.
My husband graduated and we moved to Indianapolis, and, considering my experience, I applied for a staff job at the Indiana State Library in the Archives Department and eventually became responsible for a huge newspaper collection. Again, I followed a path that opened for me, and I found I liked it more and more. My experience continued to be focused on historical and archival materials. Staff at the Indiana State Library were encouraged to attend graduate library classes at the regional campus of Indiana University and were given tuition grants, so I began graduate school and had my first son at the end of the first semester; I really waddled to the front of the class to make my final class presentation. When I had taken all the classes offered at the regional campus, I circulated a petition for more classes – which they eventually offered. In the meantime, with a colleague at the library, we commuted to Bloomington—which was not easy. I attended classes at night, sixty miles each way, and very, very little interstate at that time and was at work the next morning at eight am. It was a hard year and a half, actually, and I was about to finish when my husband took a job here in Reno but he said not to worry, next summer I would return and complete my MLS. When I moved to Reno, I applied at the University of Nevada, Reno library three times, but because I told them I was returning the following summer to complete my MLS, the response was, “Then what are we going to do with you?” Therefore, the first two departments didn’t accept me. I was sorry about the one in special collections. I was not sorry about the one in cataloging.
The Government Documents Department accepted me because they knew of up-coming [but not yet public] position changes. Therefore, for eight weeks the next summer I went back to Bloomington — the only time in my education I lived in a dorm. Which wasn’t air conditioned…
Again, I followed a logical if not planned path. The Documents Department at UNR held the Defense Mapping Agency collection, and for the first time I was introduced to a real map collection – a large collection of a federal regional depository. They did not seem to be any one’s concern, but I asked about them and took an interest from the beginning. I found government documents a fascinating challenge. Certainly maps and documents fit together.
MLS, I returned to Gov Docs in a professional position and again, not specifically planned, followed a path. However, all good things must come to an end, and after having Greg, my second son, I wanted to work part-time and so was transferred to Reference where I began teaching the library science class. It was a one-credit class for which I compiled/edited a workbook. It was patterned after the UCLA library workbook, but I rewrote it and customized it for our university. I did that for six years or so. You could say I veered from my `true path’ for a while.
Mary Ansari was the Mines Librarian at this time – UNR has a School of Mines, which includes mining engineering, geology, and geography- and the Mines Library held the USGS collection of documents and maps. Mary was a member of WAML [Western Association of Map Libraries]. The Mines Library needed a lot more room and had recently moved to the basement of the main library building while waiting [12 years!] for the renovation of the historic mining building. The DMA collection in documents was brought down and merged with the USGS collection to form a comprehensive map library. I don’t recall exactly why but I kept going down from Reference and nosing around. At a faculty meeting that I recall very well, it was announced that Mary Ansari was going to go on sabbatical, after first filling in as temporary head of reference for six months. Altogether she would be gone a year and a half. I just about bounced out of my seat waiting to hear who was going to take her position! As soon as the meeting was over, I cornered her in the hall and asked, “Who’s going to fill in for you?” She said, “Well, we were thinking about you.” [I should add that in high school and college I took geology and geography for my sciences. I never took biology; I wasn’t going to chop–up bunnies and kitties or even frogs. Therefore, my Big Sister again stepped in and said, “Take geology.” As you might suppose, Big Sister eventually had a career as a teacher.] Here again was this path I unknowingly followed. I never said, from the beginning, “This is what I’m going to do.” My path evolved from my interests and choices of the available options at any given time. I became acting Mines Librarian for a year and a half and I loved it, and when Mary returned and I wanted to stay in the Mines Library, she was given the option to take charge of another branch library as a condition, so I remained in Mines Library and focused on the map collection.
Prior to my relocation to the Mines Library, Mary hosted the WAML meeting at UNR in 1979 – the first I attended. Interestingly, one of the presentations at that meeting – on Sanborn maps – augmented my final digital project, which was to identify and add all the 1923, and older Nevada Sanborn maps to our web collection – no matter who held them – none were in the Mines Library.
Mary Ansari encouraged me to join and attend WAML. Even with increasing promotions, Mary remained involved for some time and first encouraged me – read `pushed’ – into publishing. The first item was WAML Special Publication # 11 – the Nevada Directory of Maps. I recall approaching Stan Stevens [then head of publications, membership, treasurer, etc., etc., etc.] at a meeting and pitching him on our idea – and he liked it! By this time I knew how friendly and encouraging WAMLites were. It was Stan who encouraged me to be the alternate rep to CUAC with him. I will always remember how totally overwhelmed I was by the government `alphabet soup’ at the first meeting. He let me edit the only fourth issue of the IB in one year, which contained the papers of our twentieth anniversary meeting – held in Reno.
Mary Larsgaard was another person who was especially helpful in my map career almost from the beginning. I met her early on, got the first edition of her book, and read it cover to cover. She was such a huge help to me—as she was to everyone she met — and I knew immediately on meeting her that I could call and ask any question and she would be eager to answer and guide me in the right direction. Kept me steady on my path.
I worked in the Mines Library in various positions for 28 years; my final title was Geoscience and Map Librarian. I was always fascinated by the campus and public who used the Mines Library [became the DeLaMare Library] and I remain fascinated by maps – always turn on the navigation system in my car before leaving the driveway! It is wonderful if you can find what you like to do in your work and are able to make a contribution to that field. I know it doesn’t always work that way, but it did for me, and I thank WAML for the major part it played. WAML made it all fun – no end to the stories I could tell of our famous field trips – but enough!