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Best Wishes, Porter

November 30, 2015

Although she doesn’t officially retire until January 2, Porter O’Neill worked her last day at College Library on Wednesday, November 25. After thirty years at the library, she is retiring from the Collection Management Department, where she devoted most of her time to processing the library’s serial collection.

In 1985, when Porter was originally hired, her job was to process reserve materials. As she recalls, “the beginning of the semester was a real headache. We would get piles of lists, six inches high, that all had to go into binders. Students used those to look up reserve holdings and then went to the card catalog to get the appropriate call number. It was a vastly different system than the one in place today.” Seeking a less weekend-intensive schedule, Porter pursued an opening in serials when it became available and since that time has worked Sundays through Thursdays at College Library.

At one time she was responsible for processing over 400 academic journals, but with the advent of electronic access and a turn from print materials, College Library now only keeps about 75 magazines in its collection. Porter acknowledges, “I’ve seen my job disappear over the years,” but believes that, “with the use our patrons give to popular magazines, I think there will always be a place for them in the library. They’re available for people who want to take study breaks and they really enjoy having them on hand.” When asked if there were any magazines that she especially looked forward to each month, Porter replied, “I always browsed Knit Simple and Consumer Reports. I used to look forward to each issue of the Smithsonian and Wisconsin Trails but we no longer receive those serials at College Library and I still miss them. As a camper, it was always nice to have Wisconsin Trails to look at for ideas.”

In addition to her work with serials, Porter also provided reference assistance at the library’s Info Desk. One of her favorite reference interactions happened years ago, when most of the materials were still in print. As she recounts it, “I was working with parents who had spent the previous day helping their son with his research. They had copied tons of pages and then realized they didn’t have a citation for one of the articles. From working in serials, I recognized the formatting and realized that it had to be from one of the volumes I processed. Because it did have a page number, I was able to go to the shelf and hand them the correct volume.” She chuckled at the memory, “They thought I walked on water.”

Over the years, Porter has also supervised a number of student assistants, many of whom went on to work in libraries. She admits, “I will really miss working with international students; their questions and perspectives helped me see our culture in a new way. Since I was raised in a small town – Chilton, Wisconsin – that experience really helped open my eyes. It was a great gift.” Another accomplishment of which Porter is especially proud is the work she did ensuring a smoke-free environment at College Library before a campus-wide ban was implemented. She and two other library staff members submitted a proposal to the Dean of Students Office and helped create a healthier workplace for everyone at the library. To this day, she’s adamant about enforcing the 25 foot perimeter for smokers in the library’s courtyard.

When asked about her plans after retirement, Porter revealed that she is having knee-replacement surgery in December. She already has simple knitting projects lined up for her time in rehab and noted, “I have a large collection of DVDs and one of the things I’m looking forward to is re-watching some of my favorites like “Big Eden” and “The Duchess of Duke Street.” After that, she reports,”If I can keep my bones healthy, I look forward to opening my overnight infant care business. When I finish my certification at MATC, I’ll be put on a referral list which parents consult for trusted childcare services. Eventually I hope to care for two infants at a time.” In addition to starting her own business, Porter would love to travel. Her ideal vacation would be three weeks touring the Hawaiian islands. She would also love to visit some of the country’s more renowned aquariums, particularly the one in Monterey. Closer to home, she admits, “My cats look forward to spending time with me.”

A faux-magazine cover created to commemorate Porter’s retirement