If you’ve checked out a book, DVD or even a video game at the University Library, chances are it’s passed through Beth Trotter’s hands. A library operations associate at the main library, Trotter has worked in the acquisitions department of the library for 26 years, starting as a library clerk II in August 1982. A Fisher, Ill., native who grew up on a corn and soybean farm, Trotter has an associate’s degree in child development from Parkland College. She now lives in Savoy.
Tell me about your job.
I order books for all of the libraries on campus except for the Asian, Law, and Slavic and East European Studies libraries, which means I process several hundred orders for books, maps, DVDs and video games each day.
When the really popular books come out, like ‘Harry Potter’ or the new ‘Twilight’ series, I go to one of the local bookstores first thing in the morning to stand in line and get the library its copies.
I also help sort through all the gift books the library receives. Retiring professors will clean out their offices or people will go through their houses and have boxes and boxes of books they want to donate.
How has the library changed since you first started?
Everything’s a lot more automated than it was back then. Everything was done manually – you’d have to write everything down. I started out as a serial check-in clerk, where I manually checked in magazines. It’s come a long way since then.
We also buy a lot more pop culture-related items – new and old TV shows on DVD, audio books and, increasingly, video games. The gaming thing has really picked up in the last few years.
So you’re in charge of buying ‘Guitar Hero’ for the library?
Yeah – how cool is that? I’ve bought ‘Guitar Hero’ and ‘Rock Band’ for the library. They’re so popular that we’re now trying to replace some of them because they’re either worn out or damaged.
Where do you buy the books and other media for the library? Online or at traditional bricks-and-mortar stores?
Both. I buy a lot of textbooks at local campus bookstores and I look for more obscure titles and editions online. Books go out of print really quickly, and to get the right copy is sometimes tricky. Some people want a certain edition or a specific volume out of a set that’s missing. Those are the hard ones to find, but that’s where the Internet makes things easier.
We also buy books through auction at Christie’s in New York and London for the Rare Book and Manuscript Library and the Illinois Historical Survey, and through individual collectors for the Lincoln Room.
What’s been your most interesting request?
Someone recently wanted a handbook for a board examination. (After numerous phone calls, I was given) the author’s home phone number. I called, left a message and kept my fingers crossed. The author called me back the next morning and put the revised edition in the mail the next day.
We also received a request for back issues of an Australian journal devoted to bees. We bought the entire back catalog from an Australian Web site and had them shipped here.
So, if you can’t find a book, no one can?
Pretty gosh-darn close to that! I can spend hours looking for out-of-print books. Before, we had catalogs. Now we have a lot more options with all the online booksellers.
Working in the library, are you a big reader?
I am. I like to read a lot of murder mysteries and autobiographies. Even when I’m not working, I like to go to a bookstore and get a cup of coffee and read.
What do you like to do off the job?
I like to read and go to the movies. I also like to go to Disney World and collect Disney memorabilia. My parents took me when I was 5 and I’ve been hooked ever since. I try to go at least once a year. I’m quite the fan.
I also collect antique Fiesta Dinnerware from the 1930s.
What’s your favorite park?
I enjoy all four of them, but Magic Kingdom has always been my favorite because it was the first. I love going through Main Street and going on the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and ‘Haunted Mansion’ rides. I love that they updated both of them.
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