A herd of pigs – stuffed pigs, ceramic pigs, pigs of all shapes and sizes – wallow on Runelle Shriver’s desk at University Laboratory High School. During Shriver’s more than 20 years as a librarian at Uni High, she has collected hundreds of pigs – many of them gifts from students. A senior library specialist, Shriver clearly adores the school’s students, and keeps in contact with some who have graduated and gone to other universities or to jobs.
Tell me about your career here at the UI.
I started working at the Labor Library – which doesn’t exist anymore – in 1987. I had run the library in Villa Grove for a few years. I worked at the Labor Library several months and then came to Uni.
I had to quit MacArthur High School in Decatur during my senior year to work to support my family. That was very hard for me to accept. I later earned a GED. When I got married, my husband was in the military and we bounced all around Texas until he left the military in 1974, then we moved to Villa Grove.
What are your job responsibilities?
I’m a jack-of-all-trades. You name it; I do it. I catalog books and recently redid the fiction and graphics section. I assist students with library research. Every year, I hire four to seven kids and train them to work in the library, shelving and processing books. A few summers ago, we replaced the shelving throughout the library, and had to move all the books out, and then back in before school started.
We also take care of equipment repairs and replacements for the electronic equipment in the school – TVs, VCRs, DVD players, projectors. Every summer, I pull all the electronic equipment and make sure it functions, and have it cleaned and repaired.
What has kept you here so long?
The kids. I love the kids. I’m just so entertained by them. And they are so smart. We have the best teachers anywhere; they are so talented. I turned 65 this year and was going to retire, then decided, ‘I’ll just work five more years.’
How did the pig herd start?
I don’t know. One day I just looked up, and I had all these pigs on my kitchen window. The kids bring pigs in to me. Between my desk and home, I have 400 to 500, and that doesn’t count all the ones I’ve given away. I’m just as excited about every new pig I get. I have them all over my bedroom, the living room and the dining room. When we have foreign visitors at the library, they’re always attracted to the pigs, and like to pick them up and look at them.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Read. My bedroom is full of books: westerns, romances and mysteries. I particularly enjoy Robert Parker and Nora Roberts. A few years ago, I met Nora Roberts when she did a reading at Pages for All Ages in Savoy.
I collect baskets and seashells. My sister lives in Mobile, Ala. And I go down to visit her, and it’s so much fun. They try to talk me into moving down there. If I could, I’d move to Tybee Island, Ga. Then when I die, they could just row me out in a rowboat and dump me out.
I am an eight-year breast cancer survivor. I was just talking to someone this morning who was getting ready for the surgery and reassuring her.
With my breast cancer the hardest thing was telling people. My family, friends, the faculty and students started crying as soon as I told them. I spent so much time reassuring everyone that I never had time or thought about worrying about myself. I just wanted all of them to quit suffering. I am so lucky. There are some things that I can’t do, but that doesn’t slow me down. I just wish I had more time and energy to do more for others.
Number 1 in my life is my family: my husband, Dave; my son, Bobby; my daughter, Tina, who works in the Library Business Office; my four grandchildren; my three great-grandchildren; and my sister, Justina, and her family in Alabama.
That is it. My family is the most important thing in my life. Even God knows he comes in second.