Don Rembert is retiring from the Collection Management Department of College Library on Tuesday, December 22. In his 27 years on staff, Don has held a variety of positions, but he currently devotes a majority of his time to processing (and repairing) the library’s collection of DVDs and video games, in addition to providing research help at the Info Desk.
To mark the occasion, we sat down with Don for an interview. The questions and his responses are below.
- How long have your worked at College Library? In 1988 I transferred here from the Law Library where I was the evening/weekend supervisor. Since I’m a working musician, I was looking for a position that opened up my schedule and allowed time for performing. When I started at College Library I worked on the Student Management Team, which was responsible for training students, coordinating their work schedules, and general supervision. I also helped coordinate the training of newly hired permanent staff – organizing meetings with specific librarians, the director, etc. At one time I even made displays on the 2nd floor and worked with the recreational reading collection – the forerunner to today’s Open Book Collection. After several years I moved to serials and spent a lot of time consolidating the bound journal collection.
- How did you end up in Madison, Wisconsin? After graduating from NIU in DeKalb with degrees in Philosophy and Anthropology, I wanted to get out into the world. I applied to the Peace Corps and while waiting for the application to be processed, I moved to Madison to join some of my college roommates. After living in Madison, the desire to leave waned and I considered other options. I got a glimpse into the white-collar lifestyle when I took a job as a Claims Representative for Hartford Insurance. While investigating claims on all of their insurance lines (home, car, property, workman’s comp, product liability, etc.), my preconceptions about corporate America were confirmed. Although I was grateful for the opportunity, I realized that having an expense account and a company car were not strong enough enticements for me to stay in that position. The kind of conformity and assimilation required for my corporate role led me top reconsider my options. I have to say, I did meet a lot of fascinating people – from line workers to captains of industry – but too often the cases ended up in the hands of lawyers.
- What was the name of your first band? My first band in Madison was called “Jasflower.” It was based on the band leader’s last name, which was Jasmine. Our repertoire included, but was not exclusive to reggae, R & B, and pop music. Since then I’ve played in a number of bands including the Tony Brown Band, the Gibraltar Rockers, and Tate’s Million Dollar Blues Band (before O’Cayz Corral burned down). Around 1992 I stepped away from the music scene and focused on my family. I have a wife and two daughters. I did freelance stuff for a while and then connected with Natty Nation, a reggae band of regional renown. Unfortunately, I was the only band member with a day job and didn’t really want to be on the road. In the last decade, I was recruited to play in a new reggae band that eventually called itself “Roots Collective Reggae Band.” I was with that band the longest and we played many clubs and a few festivals over the 6 to 7 year period I was with them. We played Milwaukee Summerfest two years in a row. In this band I played guitar, keys and provided vocals. In the course of my music adventures, I had the great fortune of performing with some world class musicians and bands as a guest artist. With the Gibralter Rockers, we opened a show for Jimmy Cliff. I have performed with reggae artist Justine Hinds and the Dominoes. I have played with a number of Chicago Blues musicians, like Lonnie Brooks, Carey Bell, Luther Allison, Kenny Neal, and Lucky Peterson. I played with Madison legend Clyde Stubblefield at a Barrymore show a couple of months ago.
- Do you have a favorite instrument? I actually enjoy playing sax, which was my first instrument, but when performing, I have to say guitar and keyboard. Over the years I have had a lot of different guitars – Les Pauls, Stratocasters, Washburns. My favorites have probably been a PRS, Washburn, and a G&L – from the designer of Fender guitars. I also consider amplifiers a critical aspect of my sound and I’ve used everything from solid state to tube amps. Currently I have a Fender Mustang III modeling amp, a Fender Hot Rod DeVille Tube Amp, and a Vox VT30 solid state amp.
- What is the most satisfying aspect of your work here at the library? The most satisfying part of my work is interacting with the public, delving into the library’s online resources, and, of course, the people that I work with. I believe that everything in moderation makes any task enjoyable. I admit, things are more complicated with electronic resources; they add a layer of complexity that can be confounding at times. Also, I enjoy being able to direct students to the library resources they need. I also like that new students of color get to see someone they can relate to and possibly be seen as a “role model”. With our mission to be welcoming and inviting, I’ve discovered being multi-lingual in two other languages ( Spanish and Portuguese) helps to contribute to that mission.
- What are your plans after retirement? I’m looking forward to spending time with my grandkids. I plan to play more music and take some time to get stuff in the house in order. It’s time to deal with all of those things I’ve been putting off for years. My wife Sheri has a two-page “Honey-Do” list waiting for me – it might be three pages by now. I also have relatives all over the country and I look forward to visiting them. I really want to enjoy my retirement so I plan on getting into shape and staying healthy.
The staff of College Library wishes Don every happiness in his retirement.