23, No. 8, Oct. 16, 2003
UI’s first 50-year employee
not ready to retire
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
(217) 244-1072; firstname.lastname@example.org
by Bill Wiegand
Carolyn “Jane” Gammon is the university’s
first employee with 50 years’ service. Gammon,
who is conservation assistant in the conservation
and preservation laboratory at the UI Library, has
no plans to retire yet because she enjoys preserving
the library’s collection and passing on her
skills to students and other people in the community.
Gammon, conservation assistant in the conservation and preservation
laboratory at the UI Library, is being honored this year as the university’s
first 50-year employee.
After graduating from high school in Mount Vernon, Ill., in 1953, Gammon
joined the staff as a library clerk in the binding and preparations
department, where she rebound books and periodicals. Several years later
Gammon transferred to the mending department, as conservation was known
then, and through on-the-job experience and workshops with industry
professionals began learning how to restore and protect printed materials
against common “enemies” like light, heat, water and insects.
Over the years, Gammon has helped repair and preserve thousands of books,
maps and other documents. When minor disasters like broken water pipes
and the flooding of Boneyard Creek saturated materials in libraries
around campus, Gammon spent many long nights and weekends gently washing
materials and drying them out to prevent further damage from mold and
Gammon introduced new technologies like deacidification, a process of
chemically neutralizing acids in paper, and encapsulating pages between
sheets of Mylar to extend the lives of fragile materials and prolong
their availability to library patrons.
Gammon has passed on her skills and knowledge through speaking engagements
with community organizations and by mentoring Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts
as they pursued their merit badges in bookbinding. Through her private
work, Gammon has preserved materials for local historical societies,
museums and individuals, including one client’s cache of letters
that her grandmother had exchanged with a lover during World War I.
After half a century on the job, one might think that Gammon would be
ready to retire, but she intends to keep working.
“It’s been suggested that I could retire and then come back
and volunteer,” Gammon said. “But I still like the work
itself and like to be busy. So many people who retire then try to find
volunteer and other work to keep themselves busy. I figure, why not
just continue with the same thing that I know how to do? I feel that
I am valuable to the library and that I’m making a difference
by still being here.”